Students Speak: Spice Up YOUR Relationship

May 26, 2009 § 5 Comments

Spice Up YOUR Relationship – by Jennifer, a high school junior.

I can’t count the number of articles I have seen titled “Spice Up Your Relationship” or “How to Recapture Your Boyfriend’s Attention.” The various times I have looked through men’s magazines such as GQ or Askmen (admittedly to scope out the pictures of Ryan Gosling promised on the front cover), I have seen nothing suggesting ways men can fix or better their relationships. Now I ask: why does this burden fall on women?

These articles are potent in every magazine that are geared toward women and put an obscene amount of pressure on those who read them. This mentality starts early in a woman’s magazine-reading career: in the latest issue of Seventeen there was an article titled “Fun Date Ideas to Try with Your Guy” not to mention the listing in CosmoGirl’s table of contents called “How to Win Him.” The pressure to maintain a healthy relationship is unfairly thrown on women at a young age through the media and the interactions we witness. Whether we are watching a television show where the girls are obsessing over what guys want from them or we are reading a young-adult book, we repeatedly see a male-dominated relationship carried out through the woman’s actions.

This pressure extends further and affects more than who plans date night and the work associated with maintaining a relationship. Studies have shown that the power dynamic and present pressures in a relationship affect how a woman chooses to handle her own reproductive health. In a clinic-based survey of 15-30 year old women, the likelihood of emergency contraception use was elevated if the woman felt pressured to please her partner and sustain her relationship. The unequal weight of relationship responsibility is already penetrating our decisions about our bodies, which is something men already have too much control over.

So what’s the point? Do not let the pressure get to you – tell your guy to make the reservations!

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke

Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes

May 25, 2009 § 9 Comments

As some of you may know, Shira and I run a feminism club at our high school. Our big project for the year was putting together a magazine of student writing. This series, spread out over the next week or so, will feature a selection of those articles (posted with permission of the writers).  Enjoy!  -Miranda

Beware The Virtual Babes – by Luke, a high school junior.

Part of a surging industry, videogames have been met with scrutiny and criticism. Critics have carped on videogames for encouraging violence, social isolation, and academic laziness. However, there is subtler problem that plagues many videogames: the unfair representation of women’s bodies. It may sound redundant to criticize the videogame industry for being “unrealistic,” but it’s important to consider the prominence and influence of games in our culture. 80% of all U.S. children have played videogames. An entire generation is absorbing a virtual, distorted image of what women “should” look like. Although more women are becoming involved in the game industry, it is still a patriarchal industry.

The story of sexism within the videogame industry begins, perhaps, with the videogames series Tomb Raider. Featuring the adventurous, beautiful, and powerful Lara Croft (later played by Angelina Jolie in the film adaptation), Tomb Raider is one of the world’s most successful games. Lara Croft set a sexual precedent for women in future videogames: voluptuous curves, minimal clothing, and flawless faces. In addition to her beauty, Lara Croft can leap with cat-like agility, perform death-defying stunts, and wield dual pistols. Thus, videogames send a dangerous message to women: without “beauty,” you cannot be powerful.

Short shorts, tight tank top, big bust, Lara Croft is as dangerous as she looks. And I'm not talking about her guns.

Short shorts, tight tank top, big bust, Lara Croft is as dangerous as she looks. And I’m not talking about her guns.

But Tomb Raider was released in 1996. Since then, the hyper-sexualization of women in videogames has become even more extreme. Released in 2008, Age of Conan is an online game where you can create your own male or female characters. You can customize their height, weight, and even body type. However, when I tried to create a female that looked like the average American woman – size 14 – the game wouldn’t let me. At the very most, I could make a size 10 female.

One might argue that because videogames are largely consumed by male audiences, they do not damage the female psyche. Such an assumption is not supported by the numbers: the Entertainment Software Rating Board estimates that 42% of all PC gamers are girls. And even if girls didn’t play videogames, these fictional females give unrealistic expectations to male gamers. If boys grow up expecting real life counterparts to “Casilda,” they will wind up very disappointed.

Casilda.

Meet Casilda, a typical Age of Conan female.

But can we really blame these videogame companies? Like other companies, aren’t they just trying to appeal to their target audience in a time of financial hardship? The answer is yes: we can blame them. Sex may sell, but the profits reaped by these software developers come at the expense of the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women.

However, if we solely criticize the game industry, we dismiss our responsibility as consumers. We are responsible for being aware of these stereotypes, so that they do not spread further throughout society. Furthermore, society is responsible for accepting women as being powerful in their own right. After all, you don’t need to wear a bikini in order to fight bad guys.

Women’s Work In The New Economy

March 31, 2009 § 5 Comments

Another guest post by Joel, cross-posted at Citizen Obie.

I’ve been thinking about the issue of women work trends since I saw an earlier post here a while back about how feminists were reacting to the stimulus package, and what they thought it offered to support industries with greater representation of women (social work, education, health.) My concern was not so much with the sectors the stimulus emphasized, I believe that fomenting green manufacturing, construction, transportation, and agriculture is going to be fundamental to getting ourselves out of this economic mess we’re in and moving us towards an era of sustainable prosperity and equity. But where do women fit in this agenda? Green-collar jobs, the premier jobs of the new economy, are in construction and manufacturing (and I pray also urban agriculture,) sectors with little female representation. I’m going to assume that construction and manufacturing will remain important and vibrant for years to come, in which case my concern is how do we promote gender equity in those fields? How do we make sure that women share in the vision of the new economy, how do we de-stratify the sectors with the greatest potential for growth?

I thought about it even more when the news got out that the White House vegetable garden is Michelle Obama’s initiative. I love Michelle Obama, I love organic vegetable gardens, and I love children’s health and nutrition, but I was intrigued by the historic association between first ladies and health (specifically children’s health) advocacy. I wouldn’t call it anything as strong as a major concern, but what does it mean for powerful, fiercely intelligent women (in Michelle Obama’s case, a lawyer) to be relegated to work with overtones of domesticity? On the other hand, maybe I ought to rethink my own gendered assumptions about what it means to work with children and health. Maybe it is my own male bias and set of assumptions that I imply above that children and health issues might be ‘beneath’ a fiercely intelligent woman. In this case, how will we encourage (assuming we want to) the disassociation of particular fields with the different genders? And if such associations remain tenacious, what opportunities are available to women in the revolutionary restructuring of the educational and health care systems, as called for in Barack Obama’s agenda? Energy, education, and health are the major focuses of Obama’s agenda. Is it okay for energy to be a primarily masculine field, with education and (to a lesser degree) health to be primarily feminine?

Finally, here are a few articles on the immediate effects of the recession on women’s economic lives. The first is on the likely increase of domestic disputes as a result of male unemployment. It suggests that recessions, with major job loss for male-bodied individuals, breeds resentment as males fail to fulfill their ‘breadwinner’ roles, compounding the other stresses of over-worked women struggling to fulfill their roles as double-time workers and mothers. The second is on women losing their jobs and moving into the sex entertainment industry. And here’s one on the unfortunate likelihood that pregnant women and new mothers may be more likely to face unemployment, despite the illegality of discriminating against mothers. Overall, it looks as though the recession and the vast restructuring of the economy (I hope) will have major effects on perceptions of domesticity and women’s work roles. I hope some of you are as interested in these broad trends as I am. I think they definitely point to a very particular landscape in the contemporary feminist movement.

First Lady in the Garden

March 19, 2009 § 6 Comments

This is Joel‘s second guest post on Women’s Glib. Read his first post here.

Welcome news to environmentalists, the sustainable food crowd, and those concerned over rising levels of childhood obesity: the White House plants a vegetable garden.  As a climate movement head and sustainable food advocate, I am thrilled that the first family is sending this message.  Michael Pollan and many others had called for an organic garden on the White House lawn (now we just need some solar panels on its super-insulated, green roof, but I digress) and I think it is a great symbol, a living manifesto of eating healthy, green, and locally.

I am curious though, about what message it’s sending that this is Michelle Obama’s initiative (granted, the article makes clear that the garden will mostly be worked by White House staff, and Sam Kass, an assistant chef, but the symbolism is there).  Let me first say that I love Michelle, I thought her speech at the convention was one of the most moving things I saw this election cycle (and there was a lot to be moved by) and I’m very impressed by her as a woman who has managed not to give an inch, in my estimation, in her self-determined image as an incredibly strong woman and independent individual.  As a role model to women (and black women no less) and an embodiment of the ‘modern-woman-who-has-it-all’ image: she’s a mother, she’s a professional, she’s intelligent, she’s funny, she’s gorgeous, she has incredibly-well-sculpted arms. I am amazed by her story, her crafting of image, and in a less crass sense, her strength and resilience.

So what does it mean that she’s taking on this debatably domestic role?  I’m not trying to stake out a point – I don’t have one – but I am curious as to the interactions between these images and messages.  I’m glad that the Times included the line about this project being something the whole family will contribute to (including Barack), but what are the ramifications of the first lady as a figurehead, as an advocate of health (particularly children’s health) and a home garden?  The garden is as much about Michelle’s attitude towards Sasha and Malia’s (and by extension, the nation’s) diet and lifestyle as it is about the environment, probably more so.  This goes kind of beyond the garden thing, first ladies are often called on to advocate for health and children’s issues, as though only women have the authority to speak on children, and as though it’s their particular issue.  I don’t think anybody can deny that highlighting sustainable, local, healthy food is a worthy goal, but I guess in general I’m curious about the role of the first lady.  How do you behave, knowing the symbolism of your actions and image, as a strong woman in the White House but without an official executive position?

Peace y’all, it’s good to be pitching something here at Women’s Glib.

- Joel

Bristol Palin on Abstinence-Only Education

February 25, 2009 § 4 Comments

Hey folks! This is our very first guest post, contributed by Joel, who we hope will return soon. Joel is an anthropology major in his senior year at Oberlin. He’s also the creator of Citizen Obie, and Ruth’s brother. Show him some love.    -Miranda

At the risk of making more of this particular individual’s experience than one ought to, I thought it was interesting to see both Bristol Palin’s perspective on abstinence…

…and the rest of Fox’s bending over backwards to emphasize that what she really meant is that abstinence is in fact possible…

Thanks for the elucidation, Fox.

Also kudos to Fred Barnes of Fox and friends for finding the most trivializing, horrific characterization of abortion (“convenient”) possible.  Thank God, whom I happen to think may well be out there, that Fred Barnes doesn’t have to deal with the “inconvenience” of considering whether or not he has enough money and effort in him to support and do right by another child, because he is a uterus-less insensitive idiot.  Oh well, at the very least we have a progressive, black president with a mandate.

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