Good News for Members of the Hassidic Community (and everyone else)

April 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

Last night on the news, I saw an exciting piece about a new branch of the NYPD that will cater specifically to the needs and concerns of NYC Hassidic Jews who have experienced some form of sexual abuse. Breaking the silence can be particularly hard in the Hassidic community, especially when a victim is trying to implicate a religious leader. Hopefully this new department will be able to effectively navigate the complexities of our Hassidic community so that more men and women can break free of their abusers without the fear of losing their religion or tight-knit community. 

The man who pushed for this program, whose name I didn’t have time to take down, is a former Hassidic who was abused by his rabbi at age eight. Unfortunately, by the time he came forward, his abuser was legally protected by virtue of the amount of time that had lapsed between the event and the accusation. Whack. The abusive rabbi still teaches children in Brooklyn!  

But other than that disheartening legality, the story seems like good news for everyone who loves children, anti-violence, and cultural tolerance. Woopee!

Irritating Bleach Ad

March 30, 2009 § 4 Comments

So today I saw an unnerving ad for a bleach product whose name and manufacturer currently escapes me. 

This ad, which I also cannot find online to link here (I’m sucking today), features a man lecturing a group of eager-to-please, neurotic women. What have these bad, bad, ladies done wrong? They have used bleach on their clothes that specifically say NO BLEACH. *GASP*

Thank God that we have whatever-company-makes-said-bleach to shame us about our bad housekeeping habits.

But it’s not really the shaming that gets me (although that’s really lovely). What I find particularly gross about this ad is that is features a MAN telling a group of WOMEN about this heavenly new science-y detergent. Because women, with their simply lady minds (I love you, Haskins) couldn’t possibly figure out that bleach shouldn’t touch non-bleach clothes! That’s beyond us, duh.

It would be awesome if the commercial were somehow teaching people that men can also pitch in around the house (something we never see in the commercial sector), but I don’t think it is making that statement at all.

But then, of course, when I step back from it all, I wonder whether or not I’m projecting feminist issues all over the place. But I guess that someone has to spew ‘agenda’ all over the place, because that helps us get to what’s really important. I don’t know. What do YOU think?

Women in the Work Force: Quit or Throw a Shit Fit?

March 9, 2009 § 2 Comments

Today, I found myself reading a puzzling article about women in the work force. The author, Laurie Ruettimann, claims that the best way for women to make a statement about sexual harassment in the work force is to quit if they’ve been subjected to inappropriate behaviors. Raising a fuss, she says, will only expose the abused woman to damaging and insulting inquiries from HR:

Your HR representative is tasked with moving quickly to protect the organization’s image, and the system for investigating the claim of harassment is callous. The goal of a harassment investigation is to establish blame and shift liability away from your employer. The burden of proof falls on your shoulders. Rather than asking how you want the situation to be resolved, Human Resources is primarily concerned with determining if you are lying or telling the truth. Even though you are a victim and your HR rep may sympathize, your feelings will only be addressed to the extent that it protects the company.

Yeah, you’re right, victim blaming does really suck, and it must be really, really hard to face that kind of bullshit when you’re just trying to do the right thing and get a creepy person out of your life. But just because HR can be big and scary does not mean that you should just give up on the situation if you feel in your heart that it’s worth the fight. 

Ruettimann claims that quitting the job is the most courageous and active move a woman can make, which I have a hard time believing. It seems like it would reinforce the terrible trend of women not reporting abuse, but perhaps more importantly, it’s not a viable option for a woman who is struggling to support herself or a family. People need to hold tight to their jobs in this economy, and I think it’s important for abused women to know that they don’t have to move jobs OR put up with abuse in the workplace. Pushing for that middle ground — a sensitive, productive HR inquiry –is the most active thing we can do. 

I also have an issue with how Ruettimann characterizes perps. “If your employer hires…someone who thinks it’s okay to treat you like a second-class citizen, that means your company is already broken,” she says. I think it’s problematic to assume that all perps are clearly creepy people. Brilliant, Harvard grads can be abusive co-workers. Men, women, and transpeople can be perps. Black, white, Hispanic, and Asian people can participate in inappropriate behaviors. And unless someone has a criminal record from previous instances of reported abuse, the employer simply won’t know that they have an asshole on staff. That is, until someone reports their abusive behaviors. Perps don’t walk around with their privates hanging out (well, mostly). It would be great if it were that easy to recognize a creeper, but that’s not the way things work, especially in the corporate workforce. 

My two cents on abuse in the workforce: throw a fucking shit fit. If your company doesn’t pull out all the stops to make you feel safe on company time, THAT’s when you quit. When it’s clear that you’re working for, not just with, fucking pigs. But I also recognize that abuse can change your whole mindset. I don’t wish to criticize women who have left their unsafe workplaces, I just want to point out that there is a feasible course of action that, in my opinion, would really expel abusive behavior from the workplace. 

But what do you think?

Womanly Sports?

March 4, 2009 § 3 Comments

Check out this article that ran in the New York Times today about women’s soccer in a distant country I hold dear: Turkey. 

Journalist Yigal Shleifer writes on the emerging prominence of women’s soccer teams in Turkey, and the challenges that the movement faces. 

Because soccer is viewed as a man’s sport, many Turkish parents are hesitant to let their daughters participate at any level. Turkish gym classes, which are usually split according to gender, often do not even include the sport in their girls’ curriculum. One worried parent of a 20-year-old female soccer player remarked:”In the beginning, we didn’t want our daughter to play…We were worried that it would affect her posture, her character, even her sexual orientation. We put her in volleyball, in track, but nothing could stop her.” Players sometimes face shouts to the effect of “go home to the kitchen” when they play, even as the sport picks up popularity and acceptance across the nation. 

Aside from the obviously sexist sentiments that emerge from the article, I noticed another important thing: the idea that sports have genders. 

So, what the hell is a woman’s sport? We already have track and volleyball….What else are us damsels fit to play? Is it stuff that won’t jiggle our wombs around too much? And what do you think defines and sustains this idea of feminine and masculine sports?

Compliment v. Harassment: Where’s Your Line?

March 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

In response to some of the great posts written recently about street harassment and inappropriate comments, I’d like to share one of my own stories. 

I was in a deli on Friday when a young man said “Miss, you have very nice eyes.” I thanked him and continued on with my day, not phased or annoyed at all. 

Had he picked a different body part, particularly a female-specific body part, I probably would have freaked out. But he picked my eyes- a body part that everyone (hopefully) has. He could have said the same thing to a man or to a transperson. Is the difference between a compliment and harassment that a compliment is gender- neutral? 

I also appreciated the tone he used. I obviously couldn’t gauge his intentions, but from what I could tell, he really just wanted to tell me that he thought that my eyes were nice. I guess I’m saying that I didn’t sense guile or malice in his voice, and it didn’t make me feel degraded or self-conscious. But how do we define a tone that makes us comfortable v. a tone that makes us uncomfortable? 

Ultimately, all of this is personal. Some people argue that no person should ever make a comment about your body, regardless of their intentions, tone, etc. 

But what do YOU think? What is a compliment and what is harassment? What makes you feel comfortable and what creeps you out? Where is that line? 

Have a productive Sunday night and a painless Monday!

Second Life: A Dream World?

February 17, 2009 § 3 Comments

For a research project for my Seminar class, I had to create a Second Life account. For those of you unfamiliar with Second Life, it’s a virtual world in which users’ avatars can fly, ski, dance, ride dinosaurs, etc. Second Life’s motto is “Your World. Your Imagination.” 

The first thing you do when creating a Second Life account is pick an avatar. There are about 12 initial avatars from which to pick, 6 women and 6 men. There are no transavatars, and all of the female avatars have that Barbie-esque hourglass figure that all us chicks are JUST DYING to have. You can edit the skin color, hair style, weight, height, etc. of you avatar, but only once you have arrived in your Community. Personally, I couldn’t even figure out how to do it once I arrived at my Australian beachside Community. But that’s just me. 

And so right away I was skeptical. Yeah you can change your appearance, but the website basically assumes that the ‘norm’ for female avatars will be the tiny waste/huge boobs look. 

My skepticism concerning Second Life only grew. As I wandered around the Australian island that I selected as my Community, I saw literally hundreds of virtual billboards. Because my project is largely about advertising in Second Life, I paused to look at them all. I was horrified to find that every single one featured a scantily-clad hourglassy woman.

I guess I’m just disappointed. Second Life bills itself as a utopian fantasy land where you can choose your looks, friends, setting, and everything else. But I would rather see equality than ride a unicorn.

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.

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