Humorless Feminist?

February 18, 2009 § 1 Comment

After recent posts about Courtney Martin on the O’Reilly factor and Amy Sedaris’ racist comments I’ve been wondering about where we draw the line with sexist and any kind of -ist humor. It seems to me that the excuse that O’Reilly used for his sexist and ageist comments about Helen Thomas were that they were “humorous.” I didn’t find any of his comments funny, and I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. I didn’t find Amy Sedaris’ racist comments funny either. I thought Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin was pretty hilarious, but I also think that the way Palin was portrayed by the media was often sexist, as is the portrayal of female politicians in general. So where do we draw the line between funny and wrong?

Sometimes it is easy to tell when something is done in bad taste. But often, people seem to disagree on whether or not something is offensive. I think it is extremely important to be conscientious when it comes to what we see and hear on t.v., online, etc. I think we should all have the ability to discern for ourselves what we consider funny or offensive, but at the same time, we can’t let jokes that we feel are based on stereotypes and even malice go by unnoticed.

After watching Courtney Martin on the O’Reilly Factor, I was really impressed by her poise and eloquence in defending Helen Thomas and calling out O’Reilly on his sexist and ageist comments. O’Reilly’s responses to Courtney Martin’s points were all relying on his assertion that his comments were “humorous.” This relates to the notion of the humorless feminist–one of the biggest stereotypes and a damaging one. Portraying feminists, or anyone who dares to call someone out on the use of offensive “humor”, as humorless is a way of silencing them. Similar to portraying feminists as uncool and angry, portraying feminists as humorless makes us seem less relatable and unnecessary to listen to. Calling people out on jokes or comments that are offensive does not make you humorless. In fact, my feminist friends are some of the funniest people I know.

Hilarious (Terrifying)

February 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Zoe, Silvia and I had a lovely dinner party with our mothers and somehow this video came up in our conversation:

I wish I could truthfully say, “Golly, things sure have changed!” since this video is riddled with sexism, misinformation and overall corniness. However, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of horribly dramatized and insulting health videos which make me wonder how far our health education system has actually progressed… but that’s a topic for a whole other post. For now, just have a good laugh at Molly and her period do’s and don’ts.

Girl Soldiers and the Struggle Against Violence

February 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

In honor of V-Day, which is a day dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women, I have been thinking a lot about the issues that young women our age face all over the world. One issue that has stood out to me is the stories of the girl soldiers in the Ugandan civil war. Uganda has been entrenched in this extremely destructive civil war for the past 21 years. Women and girls have been greatly affected by the violence. Thousands of children, including 60,000 girls have been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the militia group that is fighting against the Ugandan government.

The war has been tearing through Northern Uganda for the past 21 years, despite several attempts to cease the fighting. The LRA has operated by abducting children, mainly from the Acholi people. When girls are abducted from their homes, they are usually forced to be the “wives” of older soldiers. The girls are raped, beaten and many of them are murdered by the soldiers. What most people don’t know is that the girl soldiers were sometimes forced to fight in combat, and were often forced to pillage the villages that were being destroyed by the LRA.

The reason why I wanted to address the stories of the thousands of girls and young women that have been abducted is because of this story that I read recently that is very inspiring. The story is about a young woman named Lucy, who is a former child soldier. Lucy’s story is awe-inspiring, and it reminded me that we can’t forget about the violence that women face every day all over the world.

Feminist and Latina? No Way.

February 9, 2009 § 11 Comments

There have been so many times when I have told someone that I am a Latina and I have received the response, “Wow, but you don’t look it at all,” or even, “You don’t act it.” I have often been confused as to what these responses could mean. At first, I believed that it is based on ignorance. Many people do not realize that Latin America is an extremely diverse place in terms of culture, religion, and race. When I tell someone that I am a Latina, I often get confused looks because of my fair skin, sometimes I even get responses that doubt my Latin American heritage. I really don’t think that these comments are coming from a place of malice. I think that these responses are a result of the pre-conceived notions that many people have of what Latin Americans look and act like, which does not take into account the extreme diversity of a large region in the world.

This may seem a little off-topic, being that this is a blog that is primarily about feminism. There’s a connection, I swear. The confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone of the fact that I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants, that Spanish is my first language and that I am the first person in my family to be born in the U.S., is very similar to the confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone that I am a feminist. When many people hear the word “feminist,” their minds immediately jump to the pre-conceived notions of what a feminist looks and acts like. For example, I recently had a conversation with a peer who checked my legs for stubble immediately after I told him that I am a feminist. Hmm…This got me thinking about where these confused, surprised and doubtful reactions come from. Is it really just ignorance?

Perhaps we should examine the way that the media portray both Latinas and feminists. When a classmate tells me I don’t look or act like a Latina, what exactly does he or she have in mind? This is the second image that comes up on Google image search when you type in “Latina.” This is the third.

Clearly, it is not just Latinas and feminists that are portrayed in stereotypical and unfair ways. These are just the stereotypes that I have experienced personally. The media play a significant role in creating the preconceived notions that lead to the responses of confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive. We should be fighting these stereotypical and unfair representations in the media, as well as meeting misled preconceived notions on an individual basis with information and challenges to those notions. Not to mention the fact that the way women are portrayed, especially women of color, is a hot button feminist issue.

Why aren’t you smiling?

February 5, 2009 § 6 Comments

I experience street harassment practically on a daily basis. In the morning on the way to school, I often hear comments like ‘hey baby’ or ‘good morning, beautiful.’ Not to mention gems such as the one I heard recently, ‘I love the way you walk, but I’d bet I’d love you even more lying down.’ Mmm…I love my coffee with a side of harassment in the morning. However, the most obnoxious form of street harassment in my opinion is the kind that is not outwardly sexual, yet equally invasive and unacceptable. I’m talking about the comments I get when I don’t respond to the first come-on. For example, sometimes I just get a ‘hello’ or a ‘what’s your name?’ When I don’t respond, I get a comment like, ‘why you gotta be so mean?’ or ‘come on baby, I’m just trying to be nice.’ As if I’m supposed to respond to every sketchy man that approaches me on a sidewalk when I’ve clearly got more important things to do. Another extremely annoying comment is ‘why aren’t you smiling?’ I know a lot of young women get this one all the time.

The problem with these seemingly innocent comments is that they are a classic expression of the rape culture that we have created in our society. We make it acceptable for men to catcall women without fearing any punishment. Hell, I’ve been hit on by police officers! With comments like ‘why you gotta be so mean?’ or ‘come on baby, I’m just trying to be nice,’ these men expect us to not only passively receive their come-ons, but to thank them. Thanks sketchy man drinking beer at 8:30 a.m. for harassing a minor on her way to school!

I think that the blame can’t solely be placed upon the men that harass women on the street, in the subway or anywhere really. There has to be something wrong with a society that tells these men that the only way they can assert their masculinity is by catcalling women. That’s rape culture, folks! Men are expected to assert their masculinity in this damaging way, and women are expected to endure it. Fuck, we’re even blamed when we don’t endure it passively; ‘why you gotta be so mean?’ ‘why aren’t you smiling?’ Maybe it’s because I’m being hit on by a gross, much older man first thing in the morning and he expects me to be into it.

Stimulus?

February 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

President Obama’s stimulus package has been all over the news lately. There have been many debates about the plan, especially from the conservative side. One of the biggest issues that had many conservatives crazy was the family planning aid. This program did not become part of the package that passed the House last Wednesday with no Republican votes. Now the stimulus has made its way to the Senate, where it’s being debated over and poked and prodded by Republicans and Democrats. I’ve found myself somewhat lost in the midst of the media coverage of the stimulus package and I want to know how the stimulus package will affect young women. The family planning aid would probably have directly affected the lives of young women the most out of all the programs in the stimulus package. From what I understand about the stimulus, which, granted, is not a lot, I haven’t seen any other programs meant to directly affect the lives of young women.

The goal of the stimulus plan is to save and create jobs which are being lost rapidly, in fact, Obama predicts that about 3.7 million jobs will be created. However, the Republicans are finding fault with almost every single part of the stimulus plan. One major issue they see is that there is not enough attention being paid to the housing market. At this point it’s difficult to tell how the stimulus package will affect the lives of young women, but if programs as important as the family planning aid are not going to be included, we are going to be in trouble. I hope that as the Senators of both parties work on the stimulus package in the next couple of weeks, they think of groups whose interests seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Keeping Away From the Kardashians

February 1, 2009 § 5 Comments

So, last night while I was sick and flipping through channels, I came across a commercial for the E! network’s reality show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” The premise of the show is just that this rich family, whose reason for fame is ambiguous, gets followed around by┬áTV cameras. While I find this inherently creepy, the commercial I came across last night was even worse. The commercial consists of the three Kardashian sisters, and even their middle-aged mother, looking at each other with mean, but “sexy” pouty faces as we hear their voices bad-mouthing each other in the background. Lately, I’ve been more and more aware of these messages telling me that I must be a bitch, as long as I’m a sexy bitch. Competition amongst women is often discussed by feminists, but I’ve seen it become a greater part of my life lately. One example that really bugs me is the t-shirts that are sold in the Juniors’ section of almost every major department store that say things like “Blondes have more fun!” or “Brunettes do it better!” Even these inane, yet ever-popular slogans are damaging to all of us. As if we weren’t already receiving messages from society that we weren’t good enough, we also have to hear it from each other.

Clearly, the media play a huge role in planting the bitch-seed in young women. Going back to the creepy Kardashian commercial, how are we supposed to be supportive of each other when we are being fed with images of sisters that aren’t? With this commercial, young women are being shown that in order to be successful and sexy yourself, the proper response to another woman’s success is to talk about her behind her back, even if she’s your sister. These messages leave us with nothing but gossip, jealousy and guilt, which make them such an effective tool for silencing us. After all, why would young women want to aspire to be successful if we should expect resentment and even hatred from our friends and sisters in return? I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to keep away, far away, from the Kardashians and E!.

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