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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 strangeness of food

April 5, 2010

Food and eating and weight and nutrition are such strange things to us and land in such a strange place in our culture. It is not uncommon to hear conversations where one party spends time belittling the food, eating, weight, and/or nutrition of another. Things like…
Why are you eating so many carbs?
Why don’t you do yourself a favor and get fruit instead of a bagel?
You need more protein, but not bacon.
Don’t complain about your weight then eat a bunch of carbs.

This is all taken from three conversations I’ve heard while reading the times and harvesting my farmville crops this morning here in Pearlstone. Why is that okay?

Let’s preform a bit of a test. Here’s two sets of phrases.
Batch 1:
You’re too stressed out, you should relax tonight.
Take a nap today, please, you’ve been awake for two days.
Why won’t you go to the health center if you’ve felt like shit all week?

Batch 2:
Why would you be religious when you know all religion is idiotic?
That shirt is very ugly.
If you aren’t going to wear make-up, then don’t complain about not getting laid.

Now, which batch seems more like the example quotes?
Okay, it’s not a perfect test, but it seems to me like there is a distinct difference in inquiring about a friend’s health and belittling their choices. The sad thing about eating, food, weight, and nutrition is that it falls under the guise of health concern. But it’s not, is it? Not usually anyway. Not here. It’s about beauty and standards of appearance.

It would not be okay for me to approach a friend and mock parts of their identity with total sincerity. Of course friends disagree with each other, but there is a difference in disagreeing and judging. Also, weight has serious stigma in our culture. To be fat is to be ugly, lazy, stupid, undesirable, pathetic, etc. so maybe it’s extremely hurtful to criticize our friend’s eating.

Food and eating are such strange creatures in our culture.

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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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Conflations of the physical kind

February 23, 2010

Why does the term “conflation” sound really sexual to me? Is it because we’re currently entrenched in a study of Freud for my psychoanalysis class? Maybe. Is it because I’m secretly 8-years-old and have trouble with mature humor? Probably.

So I’m really into acceptance movements and studying oppression and everything, and something that continuously bothers me is the conflations of two movements. There is the Body Acceptance movement and the Fat Acceptance movements. They are not the same thing. To be honest, I’m confused as to how people can justify using them interchangeable, because they deal with fundamentally different aspects of humanity. However, I will argue that they have huge impacts on each other, which is probably why people confuse the terms

Body Acceptance is a movement that has to do with learned to accept your physical self. This is a personal movement, and a process that people go through on a very individual level. Not so much that we’re getting all Kantian Unified Self (I tried to find a wiki or something to link, but everything’s way to complecated) up in here, but enough that it’s a personal choice to accept who you are as you are and not feel so dismal about your body. There are, of course, extreme social and political pressures for us (regardless of gender, but I’d argue more so for the feminine or women of the bunch) to change our physical selves. And if you change, I’m not going to tell you that you’re a horrible woman who is playing into her own oppression because, let’s face it, you can’t live outside the system and everything we do reinforces the system, so we’re always perpetuating our oppression. Sorry, I’ll admit that was a tangent (see? Words totally happen).

Anyway! Body Acceptance is about learning to be friends and make nice with this fleshy, physical vessel that we travel around in everyday. 5’4 and 110 pounds or 5’2 and 200 pounds, we need to stop looking at our bodies as the enemy. After all, we’re stuck with them. We can’t go out for a little while and get some space when they piss us off. There is a certain level of satisfaction that we must have with ourselves before we can really make and changes or deny the limitations that society puts on us because of our bodies. Once I accept myself as a fat girl, and accept that chunky does NOT equal worthless, stupid, unattractive, lazy, [inster other stereotype here] on a personal level. Everyone needs to go through this process, I think. We are all told that our physical selves are not good enough to some degree, and we internalize that into a self-hating that leaves us feeling quite trapped in out skin.

THIS GOES FOR THIN PEOPLE, TOO, which is another aspect of Body Acceptance that is frequently forgotten about. When we conflate Body and Fat Acceptance, it really just serves to neglect a whole huge section of the population that feels trapped or limited by their physical appearance. I work in a Forever 21 in a mall. I see the girls who are smaller than I’ve ever been poking and sneering that themselves in their soon-to-be-new clothes. They feel the pressure, too. they feel the self-hate, too. They are luck enough to be the culturally accepted, but that does not mean that they are personally accepted.

As a bit of a side note before I rant discuss what Fat Acceptance is, I want to talk about a big, gapping flaw I see in Body Acceptance. This movement does not to me seem to be concerned with the gendering of the body. It is about accepting our bodies in a physical, usually weight-related way, but not in terms of how our bodies force us into gender scripting in ways that we can find just as limiting (maybe more so) than size. This is something that I have watched others struggle through and something that I have (and continue) to battle with myself. I can’t speak for others who feel limited by their bodies in a very gendered way, but I know that I have been frequently frustrated with the fact that I have big boobs and big hips and the only real way I feel I can diminish their overt appearance is to wear ill-fitting men’s clothes, which make me feel fat in a negative way, which makes it impossible to rid myself of that physical self-hate anyway and accept my body in the first place. I have since embraced my femininity in terms of style, and wear fairly girly, femme clothing. I still struggle with the way my femme-appearance limits my character in social setting (not that my character is less, but that it is perceived as less), but have decided that, basically, in the war to accept my weight, I needed to focus on how I feel in my clothes in a very aesthetic way. I think I look better in femme clothes, and so when I wear dresses and such I feel better about the way my body looks, and feel better about myself as a physical being. I’m still not accepting the limiting of my femme self when I can work to avoid it, but I decided that I needed to be okay with my body as an object in the society before I could make other personal development.

Now Fat Acceptance, that’s a bit of a different issue. This, to me, is more about the public perceptions and discrimination against the overweight. The general views of society inform how we are or are not able to accept ourselves, but that does not mean that one term can be substituted for another. The Fat Acceptance movement deals with the issue of wide-spread (pun so intended) fat hate, which is obvious in places of employment, the health care industry, and, you know, the general dirty looks and insulting comments made by so many every day. The movement is not about accepting unhealthy lifestyles or about forcing everyone to find fat people attractive, which are two rather common misperceptions. It is about de-conflating (is that a word? I don’t know…I just like ‘conflate’) ’thin’ and ‘healthy’ and making the fat body something that is not associated with disgust, but with the same humanity as a non-fat body.

I think that the Fat Acceptance movement is fairly short-sighted in some ways. i think it focuses too much on the fat body of the middle class and not enough on the fat body of the lower class. Because class matters a lot in relation to weight and issues of obesity, as well as issues of humanity and disgust. There’s so many tie ins, I’m surprised i have yet to come across anything fully expounding upon them yet. When I’m in the process of becoming an embittered academic, I think I’ll write a big project (book? Paper? movie?) about this sort of thing.

Wow…BA has a lot more about it here than FA, and that’s my bad. I have a lot to say about them both, and it all can’t be covered here. Both movements are, I feel, much too short-sighted and have yet to come up with much to actually change the way that the older generations (my generation, too, but in particular the ones before me) look that their bodies and the bodies of those around them. A lot of damage has been done and is still being done to people in terms of instilling this self-hate for the body, and we’re no where near where we hope to be. But I guess the same thing can be said for feminism or queer studies. I hope BA and FA widen their scopes in the next few years and that people can really start believing the things both movements promote, instead of ‘beauty is on the inside’ and other such maxims that everyone can spout off. Sorry. I’ve been a wake for a long time, and now I’m just rambling.

Cheers.

Edit: Also, I have tumblr now, which will contain the same stuff as here plus a bunch of other stuff that I think it probably too little or silly or dumb or off topic to go here. Or, better explained, it has everything I feel like posting in a day, while only the stuff I think is most well-thoughtout or interesting will end up here.

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Pity party of 1

February 16, 2010

Shocker! I’m bad at keeping up with something I enjoy keeping up with because I’m busy attempting to keep up with things I’ll never be able to keep up with. Usually I’d post something quasi-intellectual here, but for now, I’d rather explain my horrible inability to write something for this blog.

I’m taking 6 classes this term totaling 17 credit hours. 6 Classes, kids.
Writing in Communications
Research Methods in Communications
Consumerism and the Environment
Wellness (or Bullshit. You know, whatever)
Making Sense of Popular Culture
Topics in Philosophy: Psychoanalysis

I know, the fun never ends. This is one class shy of what we took in high school (before this eight class crap), and it’s leaving me both a bit fried and a bit apathetic. I think if it was coursework alone, I’d have few problems, but I’m also holding down two jobs. Here are my hours:
Monday: Freeeeeeee!!!
Tuesday: 4am-8am Library
Wednesday: 12pm-6pm Forever 21
Thursday: 4am-8am Library
Friday: 8am-10am Library, 4pm-12am Forever 21
Saturday: 4pm-12pm Forever 21
Sunday: 12pm-7pm Forever 21
That’s roundabout another 40 hours of junk I do a week that is not school-related, which is plus or minus depending on the fickle Forever 21 scheduling gods.

In addition, I’m very active in the Women in Philosophy group we have here. Most of my time not in class or at work has been spent reading and designing for this group, which has been amazing. I love these parts of my days more than any other. They make me feel more intellectually stimulated than an entire Tuesday of classes, and I wouldn’t scale back my involvement one bit.

I’m not trying to win sympathy. I quite enjoy working in this stressful state, because it typically makes me more efficient and effective with everything in my life. Well, except for social aspects, which basically disappear with each new obligation I take on. I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to do much when I don’t feel completely overwhelmed. The down side is that I am near to panic attacks for a large amount of my day, and that makes me less empathetic and sympathetic than usual. If I end up offending you by being cold, please tell me to shove it and/or start acting like a person again. I promise I need the reminder every now and then.

And now I’m off to research about fatphobia and it’s perpetuation by the health care industry via it’s unethical use of surveillance systems. Fun times, bro.

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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.

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I don’t wanna go

January 9, 2010

Well, I finally saw it. Doctor Who: The End of Time Part 2. The last Doctor Who episode with the beautiful, amazing David Tennant. The only Doctor I really cared to watch, although I’ll probably dog back through the Doctor Who annals because I’m going to miss him so much. I mean, I was never a Doctor Who fanatic, but since I’ve been home for this break, I’ve been recording and watching all of the David Tennant episodes I could find, and find myself quite hooked on the show.

The Doctor’s final words were “I don’t wanna go.” Chills. Seriously, I got mad chills. It was so fitting and honest. He didn’t face his “death” with open arms and total nobility. He tied up his loose ends in a restless, sad sort of way, dreading what was to come next. And when it came, he wanted to avoid it, to continue living. I love that! I’m so sick of the accepting death thing that everyone things is so great and right. Death is not so cool. It’s the end that doesn’t necessarily have a new beginning. Religion, After Life, Karma, Cycles, whatever. If I was facing death, I wouldn’t want to go, either. And it only makes my nerdy fan crush on this Doctor grow to see that he’d rather continue living than complacently accept passing into nothing.

Okay, sorry. I’m just really pumped after watching that episode.

Another cool thing about this Doctor Who is Donna Noble, his last female traveling companion. Donna is different that the other ladies on the show because she is older and bigger. She is not too big, nor is she even above average, but she is not like Rose Tyler or Martha Jones, who are both stunning and slender. And you can tell that the Doctor loves Donna, and that even though he still loves Rose, she’s special to him. And for someone as strangely attractive as the Tenth Doctor to fall for Donna, it means that TV did something really cool and mature. It’s not like every single other TV couple that looks like this.

When I find money, I’m so going to invest in the Tenth Doctor seasons, DVD style.