Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

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3 interactions

June 16, 2010

1. In the mall, after work at about 10 pm, I’m walking down the hall and 4 guys are wlaking my way. I keep my head up, but don’t make eye contact with any of them and just walk straight ahead. I don’t feel like being harassed. One of them asks how I am, and I curtly say “fine.” Then I realize that these boys may have been nice people. They may have been asking to be polite, instead of to follow up with some rude comment. I felt bad for judging them instantly in such a negative way.

2. I was later in the diner, paying for my food. Andy and Ryan had already paid their share and walked outside. The owner looks at me and says, “How did this happen?”
I responded, “How did what happen?”
“When I was young, women were forbidden to pay for their own food.”
A server chimed in with, “It depends on the man. Some of us are still like that.”
I smiled and said, “Well, I like paying for my own food. It makes me feel like a real person.”

3. While walking home from DVA at the end of my evening, wearing shorts, a men’s button down, and a vest, a passing car slowed down near me. One boy inside yelled somethingunintelligible , and the other yelled “SLUT!” They sped away. I felt uncomfortable in my clothes, in my skin, and in my neighborhood. I just wanted to be inside and away from these assholes. It’s interactions like this one that make the first one happen. And the thing is that I don’t understand it at all. Why would you do that? I wish I could ask. Why would you yell something so offensive at someone just walking around in her own neighborhood? She’s a person and you’ve ruined her evening, not to mention given her another reason not to talk to anyone she doesn’t know. I shouldn’t have to feel unsafe in my own neighborhood, nor should I have to feel like I can’t dress for the weather without being attacked.

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National Punch a Slutt Day: A failure

May 1, 2010

A friend of mine recently made me aware of a Facebook event called “National Punch and Slutt Day” and I am appalled. There’s so much that is objectionable about this that I’m having trouble properly responding to it.

Let’s start with what a slut(t) is. It’s a woman who has too much sex with any number of men indiscriminately and is morally and ethically evil/bad. Slut(t) is a highly gendered term, and women attending this event are a part of the fucking problem. Slut(t) is a moral judgment, this fear of sex and objection to female sex(ulaity) comes from a highly religious culture and background. This is an ethical judgment, because even people who think they have escaped such a background still want to deem women as bad or wrong in the way they choose to be sexual.

It is not okay to pass moral or ethical judgement on an individual’s sexuality. Again, it is NOT okay. Leave your judgments out of my sex life. Do not attempt to paint yourself is somehow superior to me because you have been with one partner or have somehow escaped the label of “slut(t).” Do not wedge me into your narrow framework and then call me the one who is wrong.

I’m using the first person singular pronoun of “me.” I am not a slut(t). I refuse to label my sexual self as something so degrading. But I have been called a slut(t). I have had my behaviors judged in such a way. Most of us women have at some point, as even hinting at yourself being a sexual being is to become a slut(t) in this Madonna/whore world.

This is what my friend had to say

Second, this event is encouraging violence.
*1 in 3 females worldwide will be raped in their lifetime.
*1 in 4 females will be raped before they turn 18.

According to the National Dating Violence Hotline,

*1 in 3 teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, slapped, choked or physically hurt by his/her partner

*1 out of 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime

*1 in 5 female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Abused girls are significantly more likely to get involved in other risky behaviors. They are 4 to 6 times more likely to get pregnant and 8 to 9 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide.

*74% of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner (spouse, common-law spouse, ex-spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend). Of these, 96% were females killed by their intimate partners.

*In 2004, 1,159 females were killed by an intimate partner.

You may say I am taking this event too seriously. You may say it is meant to be a joke. It is not funny. One person wrote on the wall that 33,000 people cannot be wrong. What about the Nazis? What about Rwanda? What about the systematic murder of Native Americans in our country? What about racism? Lynching?

I work with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence every day. I have been called to the hospital to be with a 67 year old woman who had been brought in with deep gashed in her arms and bruises covering her body from the beatings she had sustained from her partner. I have also been called to the hospital to sit with a 14 year old who was gang raped while she was trying to have a fun night with people she thought were her friends. Are those two women sluts?

What if you have a friend who has been called a slut so many times she has started to believe. What if she believes that the abuse and rape from her partner is deserved because she’s a “slut?” What message does attending this event send her?

Violence has to stop. It has to stop with us.

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a position to act

April 23, 2010

There can be a very strong case made for the position that social movements are more difficult now than they were in the 1950s and 1960s because we have social taboos and legislation that masks the fact that inequality still very much exists. We have masked systemic issues with political correctness, which makes it more difficult to prove injustice. For instance, now that it is no longer acceptable legally to fire women for having families, companies have gotten sneakier about doing it, which makes it difficult for a woman to rally against that injustice. We are still fired for getting married and having babies, we just aren’t allowed to be told that anymore.

So maybe it is the case that groups of people who are openly discriminated against have a much better place to push from. When a woman is told she’s not as good as a man, she can push back. When she is told that her performance is lacking, and nothing more specific, she has little footing.

If this is the case, then the fat population is in a great position for social change. This is a population of people that is openly hated by the vast majority of both men and women across Western cultures. Examples can be found everywhere: in the health care bill, in the movies, in television, in magazines, in malls, in education, etc. Not only are examples of fat-hate everywhere, but the mentality is quite encouraged. If you even date a fat person, you’re often met with some form of ridicule or disbelief. We talk about fat and lack of control in the same breath without anyone bothering to do a double take. The hate is everywhere and it’s blatant.

So we are in the perfect position for a body revolution, yeah? We have the proof that we’re being treated poorly and we have a strong and very present mind-set to oppose. The fat are in a position to change American society in a way that has not been possible in decades. While the details about the how need hammering out, the overall ability and potential is remarkable.

Neato.

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An Important message from the communications department

April 16, 2010

As some of you have heard me frequently complain, I feel quite unsettled in my major. Communications classes have, thus far, been almost totally devoid of interesting, new, or useful information (with the exception of 132). When I read the books, I of course learn things, but it hasn’t been anything too revolutionary or anything practical enough for me to take out into the “real world.” And I’m quite disappointed.

In addition, the people in my classes primarily come from a much different, less challenging place than I do. Which I mostly wouldn’t care about. Except that they tend to say things that I can’t help but get angry at, like that the domestic sphere is almost equally divided between men and women. Or that there’s more pressure on men to be sexually thrilling than there is on women. Or that Goucher students are just like students you’d find anywhere else, so our immediate personal experiences clearly reflect the rest of American culture. And they’re wrong. And I know they’re wrong. But I can’t seem to get anyone to agree with me. So I thought that maybe I was wrong. But I can’t honestly buy that.

So what do I do?

Well, after going to my psychoanalysis class yesterday, I think the answer is pretty clear.

We read Luce Irigaray’s ‘The Poverty of Psychoanalysis’ and discussed it, and this line, which I marked my first time reading the text, was expounded upon by Rochelle.

Most of you will therefore be unable to interpret it. And you will be prevented from listening by at least two systems of screens, of censorship or of repression.

Irigaray was addressing a group from the Lacanian school of psychoanalysis, which she had at one point been a part of. She was addressing them after her friend had committed suicide after being so disheartened and annihilated by the theory that she just couldn’t really go on. And Irigaray is mad. And she is emotional. And her theory is a part of her. And it’s beautiful.

Rochelle talked about how much Irigaray attacked the Lacanian school and its students and, well, Lacan himself. And how nobody would listen to her. She knew nobody would listen to her or even understand her. But she kept talking and attacking and refused to be quiet.

And when Rochelle was saying this, I felt so connected. And I felt so much better. And I feel more determined to not give up on speaking in my communications classes, even if everyone rolls their eyes when I do it. Even if I’m the “token feminist.” Even if no one understands me. Because I know I have something to say and because that something feels so important. Not that I’m going to be too Antiochian about it (okay, I’ll be a bit Antiochian) and just make noise about everything for the sake of making noise. But I fully intend to raise concerns and issues with the standard nonsense that is frequently espoused in these classes.

I’m no Irigaray, by any means, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shut up just because my opinion is unpopular.

It was a very inspirational class.

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The angry feminist: justified

April 13, 2010

So, I think it’s safe to say, officially, at this point, that I am a feminist. And I admit it freely. And I handle the fucking stupid stereotypes that come with that admission, like that I’m hairy and loud and hate men and am against cooking and abarrage of other insightful tidbits. But there is one stereotype that I think I live up to.

I am angry.

I am an angry feminist. When sexist things happen to me and those around me, I get mad. When I see horrible advertisement on TV, I get mad. When I feel afraid to speak, I get mad. And you know what? I think I have every right to be angry and to get mad. The world is a mess. And it’s messier if you’re a woman. And why shouldn’t my blood boil? Why do I have to be nice and sweet to people who are belittling and incorrect or tell me I can’t lift a box because I’m a girl?

Really, I think we should all be a bit angry.

Maybe because we make 83 cents to the male dollar.
Or because we wear clothing designed almost exclusively by men.
Or because we have to live up to a feminine ideal that has been created by men.
Or because we are afraid to walk alone at night.
Or because we can’t be in the “in” crowd in HvZ.
Or because our bodies are commodified.

I’m angry because I’m passionate, and I know that my passion won’t produce much change. It’s hard to look around and know that you can’t change their minds. It’s hard to know the depth of your ownhypocrisy that comes from the inevitable concessions you have to make. And it’s a reason to be angry.

I don’t yell a lot. I keep a lot of opinions to myself. I try and listen to people when I disagree with them. I don’t argue when the merch boy who is much smaller than me is told to carry a box, when I’m closer and less busy. And yet, still, when I come out as a feminist, people assume I must be awful somehow. And I have the responsibility of proving that I’m not loud and angry, but that I’m “rational” and agreeable. But I do get angry, and I’m sick of feeling guilty about that. I’ve been angry for a while and I expect I’ll remain angry for quite some time. And that doesn’t make my opinions invalid. And that doesn’t make me a bad employee. And that doesn’t make me difficult to get along with.

I’m a feminist. I’m angry.
What’s wrong with that?

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The token feminist

February 26, 2010

I am the token feminist. I don’t try to be most of the time, and I keep a large amount of my comments and observations to myself, but I remain the token feminist in most class situations. In fact, a lot of us do.

Who’s us? The women at Goucher College who study philosophy. I’m a communications major, but I have been taking courses in philosophy since I entered college, because, well, all of my friends were using words like “simulacrum” and “transient self” and “objective Truth” and I wanted to know what all the fun was about. And I’ve found that I quite enjoy philosophy, and that we have a stellar philosophy department here.

But I find that I am always the token feminist. There maybe be a lot of us in the class, but but, really, only a few of us speak. And it really bothers me. I do not want to be the token feminist in a philosophy class at a college that has been historically a women’s college.

The current Goucher women to men ratio is 7:3. That’s right. This is a school where 70% of the students are female. But there are departments that are fairly male dominated, and philosophy is one of them. Not only are the majority of philosophy students male, but most of the professors are male. John, Bob, Steve, and Rochelle are the current line up of professors. So, it’s a bit of a boys club, but this really follows the pattern visible in history.

There is a strange divide in philosophy classes here, I have noticed. You have your history of philosophy and general “philosophy of” classes, that are attended heavily by the men in the department, usually having a more even gender (sex?) split, and then there are classes on women’s issues and race issues and sexuality issues that, really, only the ladies in philosophy take. Some boys, of course, venture into these areas, but, mostly, it’s ladies.

In the classes where there’s a decent sampling of men, feminist issues are not usually discussed all that much. I do not think that everything should be about feminism, but I do think that we are at the point in our social and philosophical lives that we should be good at being aware of the silences in both history and philosophy. A friend of mine took a class of philosophy and art. You know what they didn’t discuss even a little? Women. The female in art. Hello? i feel like this is such a no brainer in terms of “things a liberal arts college should talk about when discussing art and thought” that I was quite literally stunned when my friend told me this. (In addition, there wasn’t anything about race, but that shouldn’t surprise you. If women didn’t make the cut for topics to be discussed, race most certainly wouldn’t. After all, we’re all white kids here. No reason to talk about anything crazy like race issues. Save it for an African Studies class)

Women in philosophy have been silent players forever. Can you identify Socrates? How about Hypatia? If you can identify both, do you know one theory from each? probably not. We’ve remained silent players and, even today when amazing theories are being published and put forth by women, we skip over them when talking about “non-women’s” issues. How difficult would it be to throw in a week or two near the end of term acknowledging these silences? I don’t expect every course to suddenly become rooted in feminism, but I think that, especially at a historically women’s institution, it should be something that is at least mentioned in each class. And it should not be up to the students alone to mention it.

That being said, why the fuck aren’t students mentioning it? Why do I, the woman, have to be the one to bring it up? Not just in philosophy, now, but in any class. And why are the reactions when I bring these issues up more of a collective groan than a thoughtful “hmm?” I mean, it seems to go back to issues of privilege to me. The boys don’t have to seem the women’s silences in the course, because they are boys. They dont’ have to be aware of it in their everyday lives, so they don’t have to be aware of it in class. Like I said, some guys are exceptions to this. Not that they have managed to relinquish their privilege, but that they try and stay aware. But the majority don’t. There is still a distinct separation between what real philosophy is and women’s philosophy. The silences in this field have to be relegated to their own field, which enables them to continue being ignored.

There’s a strange pressure being a woman and a feminist in a philosophy class. There is the thought that I must always really know what I am talking about before I speak (even before I ask a question about what I’m seeking to understand) and that I am expected to bring up being a woman, which is typically irrelevant.

In my feminst philosophy class last year, there were 4 or 5 boys and about 12 girls. For my communications class, I counted for two weeks how many times men spoke versus how many times women spoke. On every day, the number of male comments were at least double (usually more) than the female comments. In a feminist philosophy class. What? We women aren’t even speaking in a class that is about “our issues?” If you ask the silent women why, usually they say that they don’t feel qualified to speak, regardless if they have done every page of their reading or not. Why don’t we feel worthy of speaking in class, when there is always that one guy who never really reads anything but spouts of useless bits of information anyway? (Note: I’d rather be the token feminist than that guy.) 

I think it’s time we take our classes. I think it’s time we female philosophers speak up (out) in class. We have the questions and we have the analysis. We have the background and we have the drive. There is no reason for us, especially here at Goucher, to feel so silenced. There is no reason for us to be the only ones noticing the silences. There is no reason for us to feel like all we can speak about is “women’s philosophy.” Come on, Goucher. Let’s figure this out.

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Bright blue, lacy controversy

January 27, 2010

Sorry fot the lack of updating. The end of break involved a lot of visiting friends and the start of term involved a lot of trying to make sure that Goucher doesn’t take away my scholarship because they can’t figure out how to look at my transcript correctly. But I’m back, and when I have a spare hour or so, I’ll be in the library, keeping you all informed of my oh-so-exciting life and the thoughts that occure to me throughout the days.

Remember a few weeks ago when ladies all over facebook posted the color of their bras with no explanation to the men-folk of the interbutts? The point was to raise awareness of breast cancer, which is the second most common cancer among women (second only to lung cancer). Personally, I thought that this was a really cute idea. It’s a cheap (maybe even free) way to use the massive internet community that is Facebook to promote awareness for an issue that all women are at risk of facing (and some men, too).

So I was very surprised by the outcry of men (more so by the outcry of women, but I’ll focus on the men for now) against this status altering fad. I know that I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that when women act like a unit striving toward one goal that men feel hurt and confused and angry, but I always am, since I like the view us all as reasonable people. (Sidebar: I’m not going to turn this into an “all men hate women and all women want liberation,” because that’s very not true, but sometimes a lady’s gotta generalize for the sake of coherency) The most intelligible negative response I read to the bra color phenomenon came from an acquaintance of mine through a Facebook note. And to be honest, this fellow had at least one decent point. He was still very, very wrong and targeting the incorrect group of people, but he did have a point.

Basically the argument went like this: We all know about breast cancer, so we can stop raising awareness. It is not the most deadly or dangerous cancer out there, and so it should recieve less attention and other forms of cancer should receive more. For instance, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer found among men. It is more treatable when found early, but has a higher mortality rate than breast cancer. He attributes this in part to a lack of awareness about prostate cancer (something one of my Aussie friends also spoke to me about once). We should, thus, stop doing so much to raise awareness of breast cancer, and start raising awareness for other cancers (maybe put in place a smoking ban, since lung cancer is the most common cancer among all sexes).

The general point that other cancers deserve awareness is a good one, I feel. Prostate cancer is a serious concern for men, and if they could rally the sort of awareness and support that breast cancer has, fewer men would probably die from it. And the same can really be said for any cancer. I’m all for people being aware of how their bodies work and going to the doctor when the sense something is wrong so that they might catch a big issue early. However I fail to see why we need to decrease the awareness of breast cancer to increase the awareness of anything else. Awareness isn’t a singular thing for most people. For instance, I try and remain aware of gay rights, envirnmental concerns, the relief effort in Haiti, fat discrimination, and women’s rights daily. Some days I devote more attention to one thing than another, and some days I think about something out of the ordinary. But that doesn’t mean that I am any less concerned on the whole with the other issues that I feel strongly connected to. To be honest, I almost never think about breast cancer, because I’m young and don’t think about my health as much as I think about my coursework or most other things. So when I’m reminded about breast cancer and the fact that I am at risk for it, I’m pretty grateful. When I see a reminder in a college shower about how to give a self examine, it reminds me that I should probably give myself one soon. Breast cancer is something that we can detect on our own some of the time, and reminding women to keep on checking is just soemthing I cannot view as negative. I agree that men should be more aware of prostate cancer, but I just can’t understand why we should be less aware of breast cancer to accomplish this goal.

A lot of this seems to come down to a hostility I’ve noticed towards women whenever we feel the need to talk about our issues as a collective unit. Some men feel that it is sexist for us to focus on our probalems and shove theirs in the background. This is another thing that doens’t make sense to me. When I’m supporting a cure for breast cancer or working to raise awareness by posting a Facebook status, I am not telling everyone to ignore the concerns of males and prostate cancer. I don’t have a prostate, and so don’t feel the need to be as aware about it personally. I am not trying to turn the system of oppression upside down, so that men are suddenly the oppressed group when I wear a pink ribbon. I’m not telling men to rally behing woman kind and ignore their bodies because they aren’t as deserving of health as we are.

This Facebook status thing should have been a really positive effort. It was an exercize in uniting women under a common goal in a really cute, easily accessable way. But the male sense of entitlement and feeling of being bullied by woman’s rights movements stood in the way of the positive feelings that the act produced. Usually I try and sympathize with the arguements of both sides, but this is something that I feel shouldn’t even have sides.