Intersectionality Saturdays: Why, oh why must high school students be deprived of life-changing literature?

January 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here’s why (although the reasoning is truly flawed):

Only two days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, only two days after President Obama spoke of Auschwitz before the SOTU, the South strikes again. With what? This time, a Virginia school system has banned the latest version of The Diary of Anne Frank – a young girl’s account of Nazi Germany up to her death – from being taught. And their reasoning just really tops this all of: homosexuality and sexually explicit content.

According to WaPo:

The diary documents the daily life of a Jewish girl in Amsterdam during World War II. Frank started writing on her 13th birthday, shortly before her family went into hiding in an annex of an office building. The version of the diary in question includes passages previously excluded from the widely read original edition, first published in Dutch in 1947. That book was arranged by her father, the only survivor in her immediate family. Some of the extra passages detail her emerging sexual desires; others include unflattering descriptions of her mother and other people living together.

Anne Frank was a young girl with a tragic life, a life that she documented. I do not know if Anne Frank intended to write for a worldwide audience. I do not know if she even wanted her writing shared. I also do not know if Anne Frank thought that she, along with 11 million others, would die before their time. At least the life of Anne Frank lived on through her written words.

Emerging sexual desires are actually normal for a teenage girl to experience. This was perhaps the one normalcy Anne Frank experienced during her time in hiding. And treating them as inappropriate furthers a taboo on discussing sex, especially in the schools, where students are beginning to have sex or have unanswered questions concerning it. As for “homosexual content,” how dare a school ban a book on that premise? How dare a school make sure that the only books students read are heteronormative? How dare a school do such a thing when there are bound to be homosexual students around who are wondering why a book which only hints at sexuality would be regarded as taboo? This is blatant homophobia and license for it to continue within a legislated school system.

This young girl has changed the hearts and thoughts of millions who have read her, many of whom have been assigned her diary as school assignments. The Diary of Anne Frank is tragic and accessible and it is not meant to be cut short because her life was cut short enough.

This is cross-posted from from the rib?.

Intersectionality Saturdays: Choice in a Cultural Context

January 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

It’s been a really long while since I’ve posted on here, but I’m back for a weekly cross-post between Women’s Glib and my new blog on Jewish feminism, from the rib?. This column will focus on intersectionality – the connection of oppressions and liberation movements – and how it affects my life. Here’s edition #1:

Yesterday, I was talking to a girl in my Biology class who just returned from a semester abroad in Israel. She asked me the broadest yet incredibly popular question: “What do you think of Israel?” After living in various parts of Israel for five weeks this summer, I left more confused than when I arrived. When I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, I was ignorant. I left realizing just how many diverse and seemingly unrelated topics there are to be ignorant about. Because of that ignorance, I like to gently lead people away from pre-supposed political answers and into topics I feel comfortable forming opinions about. These usually concern sexism and feminism.

Academically and socially, I feel authorized to speak on sexism and feminism. At times, I feel like I live and breathe books, blogs, and performances of feminist work. I am also a woman and recognize the exploitation of my own gender in the media, as well as what “society” (the largest abstraction of all) expects of me. Culturally, however, I feel like a feminist without a cause. Growing up as a white member of the middle class in liberal New York City with a mother whose income is greater than my father’s, the education of my choosing, and occasionally attending egalitarian synagogues, I am privileged and, on a superficial level, I have nothing in my own life to fight for.

So back to the conversation that got all these thoughts whirling. I redirected it to the treatment of women in ultra-Orthodox Israeli societies. While I was supposed to be researching viral causes of cancer cells, I spoke of the horrible treatment of women in education, in synagogue, and in the home. The girl in my Biology class responded that she does not see suffering amongst women in the ultra-Orthodox communities she has visited. Their roles are what they have been brought up with and it is what they want to continue with because they have never known anything else. It is their lifestyle.

My immediate response was that it is because they have not been shown an alternative. These women do not know they are oppressed because they have never experienced having equal opportunities. And then my Bio buddy threw at me one of the most provocative questions I could be asked: “How do you know your way is better?”

How do I know my way is better? I believe I know what equality is. I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be a feminist and fight not only for my rights but for the rights of us all that are so interconnected. My way is what I have grown up with and has stemmed from the privilege I was raised with and the beliefs I have had the freedom to foster. I believe in choice and I believe that all women should be able to choose their own way in life, be it sexist or feminist through a traveler’s eyes. If a woman is happy and fulfilled singing lightly in the background of a synagogue or receiving an education different from her husband’s or forgoing occupational opportunities and chooses to do so, that is not sexist. She has chosen it for herself.

What does choice mean in a cultural context? Where is the line drawn between advocacy and – I’m going to make up a word here because we are speaking in a feminine lexicon at the moment – maternalism? How can we enforce a right to choose in communities where women do not know what choice is? And who on earth am I to say they do not know what choice is?

Call for Participants

January 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am thrilled to announce that my Senior Keystone project — a culmination of my high school work — is underway. I have decided to focus my project, tentatively titled Beyond Juno: The Birth Mother Project, on how social stereotypes about birth mothers compare with their identities and lived experiences.

Beyond Juno: The Birth Mother Project
Call for Participants

SEEKING: Birth mothers, first mothers, women who have placed a child for adoption from the New York City region, TO BE INTERVIEWED AND PHOTOGRAPHED for a feminist art/activism project.

PARTICIPATION REQUIRES: A physical meeting with me (roughly an hour and a half long), where I will conduct an informal interview regarding the participant’s life and experiences with adoption, as well as capture some portrait photographs. The final product will be a compilation of transcripted interviews and portraits. The aim of the project is to give voice to birth mothers and to encourage discussion around their experiences and identities.

PLEASE NOTE: It is certainly possible for a participant to remain anonymous; a woman’s name can be changed and her face obscured if she prefers.

All prospective participants should CONTACT BirthMomProject@gmail.com. You can also contact me there if you have any questions about the project.

Please forward widely. Thank you!

Speak Out for Student MetroCards

January 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

I wrote last week about the Metro Transit Authority’s truly frightening proposal to cut funding for student MetroCards.

As I said before, this is an extreme act of classism and environmental racism that threatens to make each kid’s human right to education even less attainable than it already is for many children.

The proposal would also eliminate 2 subway lines and 21 bus routes, cut service on many other bus and subway lines, and phase out the Access-A-Ride program, a vital resource for many New Yorkers with disabilities.

Sign this online petition, sponsored by the New York City Council, to demand that the MTA continue to fund these important programs and implement a more transparent budget process.

Sign now.

MTA May Cut Student MetroCard Funding

December 14, 2009 § 13 Comments

I am one of 550,000 NYC students who currently has a free or discounted MetroCard for bus and subway access.

But this may change in the next few years. Because of budget troubles, the MTA is considering a plan that would force schoolkids to pay half fares next year, and full fares by 2011.

THIS SHIT IS FUCKED UP.

This would be a financial blow to my family, but truthfully, we would have it the easiest by far. We’re privileged; we have money for MetroCards. Many, many families don’t.

If the MTA cuts free student MetroCards, low-income kids will drop out of the “public” school system because they can’t afford the ride. This is not difficult to understand.

“It’s stupid,” said Brittney Rojas, 13, as she walked down Bushwick Ave., in Brooklyn, with her three sisters. “If you live far away it means you can’t afford to go to school.”

“Some kids just won’t go to school,” her sister Chelsea, 12, chimed in. “Or some might have to walk outside in the winter and get sick.”

…”It would be a catastrophe,” said Nateria Cannon, 17, an 11th-grader at Manhattan Village Academy who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I think it’s crazy. Parents are losing their jobs and the fare went up. They would have to work overtime.”

Kids understand this intuitively. You’d think the city would, too.

I suppose I don’t need to mention the implicit environmental racism that’s also present in this plan: students who live in affluent neighborhoods that have great public schools don’t need a MetroCard to get to class. It’s the underprivileged students, who often live far from good schools (or, because of calculated zoning efforts, live just outside of a district with good schools), who rely on the subsidized rides.

Yet again, I’ll ask: where the fuck are your priorities, government?

Pregnant High School Athlete Faces Blatant Discrimination

November 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

ESPN’s Outside The Lines has an interesting and angering profile of Mackenzie McCollum, a Texas high school student and volleyball player who faced discrimination from her coach and school administration. (I’m not allowed to embed the video, but I highly recommend clicking through to watch it. And I apologize, I have not been able to locate a transcript of the video.)

Mackenzie found out she was pregnant, and still wanted to participate on the volleyball team. The administration of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas told her family it was their strict policy to obtain a written doctor’s note to clear pregnant students to play. (They never provided physical evidence of that policy to Mackenzie’s family, though.) Her physician sent in a note, which they rejected, and a second one, which they deemed acceptable.

When Mackenzie returned for her first game, she found out that her coach had “outed” her to the rest of the team, making her fodder for school-wide stares, gossip, and judgment.

Despite the horrible treatment she’s faced, Mackenzie seems like a badass girl who’s not taking discrimination laying down. Her mother, Barbara Horton, has filed formal complaints with the United States Department of Education in reference to Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in school sports communities on the basis of sex or gender.

Keep up the good work, Mackenzie!

What the Fuck? History Class Edition

November 26, 2009 § 5 Comments

So, the history elective I’m taking this year is US History since 1945. It involves lots and lots of reading (yuck), but also lots and lots of interesting debates in class (yay). Already we’ve had intense thought-provoking discussions on the use of the atomic bomb, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. This new unit we’re covering is all about gender and the return to domesticity in the 1950s. As you can imagine, I’m really excited.

The assignment for Monday is to read an excerpt of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.

A page and a half actually of The Feminine Mystique… followed by fourteen pages of a man’s take on The Feminine Mystique. There will be no more Betty Friedan reading after that.

Seriously. What the fuck?

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