"Hungry Girl": Snack your heart out!

Published in Broadsheet, May 2, 2009

Looking to chow down on “Sweet & Cap’n Crunch Chicken,” “Cheeseburger Quesadillas” or “Swirls Gone Wild” cheesecake brownies and still fit into your skinny jeans? Well, now you can, thanks to “Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories.” The recipes come drizzled with cheeky editorial and smothered in ooey-gooey corporate interest, all for the low price of $19.95 plus tax. And, as a bonus, you get all the health dangers of overly processed food and energy crashes from depriving yourself of your caloric needs.

Apparently plenty of women think this is quite the diet quick fix: The book debuted at No. 1 on the current New York Times bestseller list. Author and mastermind Lisa Lillien, also known as Hungry Girl, has made quite a dent in the so-called guilt-free dieting world by dishing up tips on eating convenience (read: processed) foods redeemed by their low caloric value. Artificial sweeteners, liquid egg substitutes and canned goods galore are some of the ingredients used to make these shame-free mini-meals.

The queen of processed food has nearly 700,000 subscribers to her daily e-mail newsletter, can bring about a manufacturer’s biggest sales day by hyping a product on her Web site and, apparently, can sell 200,000 copies of a book. Calories may be negligible in the food, but what fills the void is America’s big fat disordered relationship with food. Hungry Girl’s mantra is, predictably enough, “I’m hungry!” Well, then eat some real food, damn it!

New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle told the Washington Post that she’s skeptical about the Hungry Girl approach and all the “pink freneticism and exclamation points.” The truth, she says, is that there are two different kinds of American food consumers: Over half are like Hungry Girl, and the others fall in the sometimes-snobbish foodie camp. Of the latter, Lillien says: “They say, ‘Shop the perimeter of the store, never eat anything that’s not organic,’ but it’s B.S., because people can’t live like that forever.” True, not everyone can follow Alice Waters’ strict gastronomic regimen, but instead of a mini happy meal, how about a happy and healthful medium?

Getting negative on sex positivity

Published in Broadsheet, April 7, 2009

The female orgasm may be in danger. The culprit: the over-sexualization of the feminist movement. At least, that’s according to a blog post on the Sexist by Amanda Hess. She declares that, if forced to suffer through one more boring essay on the mysteries of the female orgasm in the name of feminism, she may never climax again.

The anti-sex-positivity ranter was set off by the 2009 Visions in Feminism Conference, a yearly symposium held Saturday at American University. Or, more specifically, it was the keynote speaker that rankled her: None other than Annie Sprinkle, a second-wave feminist performance artist who infamously spread her legs onstage and invited spectators to observe her nether regions. Since the theme of this year’s conference was “pushing boundaries” and “unfixing definitions of feminism,” Hess “humbly” proposed “that we unfix this ‘sex-positivity’ shit from the entire praxis.”

It isn’t that she thinks the porn industry, sex work and human sexuality aren’t relevant to feminism. She just thinks it’s “condescending to the feminist movement that we have to bring orgasms in to be taken seriously.” Her insinuation is that sex-positivity is an attempt at making feminism seem “less prude and scary and icky and straight-laced and serious and anti-man.” Since when is talking about the importance of female pleasure a shortcut to being taken seriously as a woman? If anything, claiming a version of sexuality that doesn’t include bunny ears and a fluff tail — meaning one that isn’t base solely on male fantasy — is the express route to being considered “serious and anti-man.”

Hess snarks: “So you’re a feminist, and you like sex — well, that’s normal. So do a lot of people, including a lot of non- and anti-feminists. So what does that have to do with feminist identity?” In other words: It’s totally passé for a woman to talk about sex without shame. She also believes that the movement pretends “to be totally outrageous,” but is “actually very, very boring.” Apparently, Sprinkle’s vaginal flashlight adventures leave Hess yawning, but that’s an awfully privileged position to hold. We wouldn’t be where we are today without that kind of once-daring work.

Like most things, sex-positivity taken to the extreme (for example: the conferences’ “live demonstration with rope restraints”) can be problematic — or in Hess’ case, a libido buzz-kill. But discrediting sex-positivism on that basis is to throw out the baby with the bath water — or, in this case, throw out the female orgasm with the rope restraints.

Antiabortion stunt girl strikes again

Brianna is 13 years old and seeking an abortion after getting knocked up by her 31-year-old boyfriend. Lizzie is 15; the father of her unborn baby is 27. The twist: These girls aren’t who they say they are. Instead, they’re college-age pro-life activists who fake pregnancy at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country in order to reveal that the organization isn’t following minor abuse reporting laws. Uh-huh, they’re still at it.

Read the whole post at Broadsheet