Humiliating girlhood

September 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

So, there’s a bit of a tradition of veteran MLB relief pitchers making their rookie counterparts do embarrassing and unpleasant things. The NYTimes reports the latest update: “A hazing ritual that has gone on for years seems to have reached a new level of absurdity at major league ballparks: rookie relievers are being forced to wear schoolgirl backpacks — gaudy in color, utterly unmanly — to transport gear.”

“Unmanly”! “Painful”! “Torment”! “Flamboyant”! “Amusing”! “Humiliating”! And — take a deep breath — “pink”!

They’ve spelled it out for me: there’s nothing more humiliating than being a girl. It’s a trope that’s entirely undisguised, and actually entirely unoriginal.

I’M SICK OF IT.

There is a bit of girl inside everyone. Regardless of your age or gender, she’s there. She’s the part of you that’s strong, feisty, vulnerable, compassionate, and resilient. She might be at the surface but more often she’s been repressed — like a voice silenced, like tears held in. Take a page from Eve Ensler’s book and EMBRACE YOUR INNER GIRL. If we’ve all been told to suppress her, imagine the vast power she might wield if released. She’s anything but a humiliation.

Women in the Heights – Perspectives

March 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

by PHOEBE

You might remember that over the summer I interned at Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance where I worked with the beautiful, bilingual, amazing, feministy, smart, and talented women who run the organization. Since then I have tried to keep myself updated on the goings-on at NoMAA, and there’s a current exhibition that looks badass. From their website:

Time:
Thu, 2011-03-03 18:00 - 20:00
Venue:
178th Bennett Avenue 3rd Floor (@ 189th Street)
Contact Person:
info@nomaanyc.org – 212.568.4396

In celebration of Women’s History Month (March), the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA) presents Women in the Heights – Perspectives, an exhibition displaying works by 28 women artists residing in Washington Heights and Inwood, curated by Andrea Arroyo.

 

If you’re in the Washington Heights Area — or anywhere in Manhattan for that matter — I strongly encourage you to go! I mean… The show includes a curtain of cupcakes!

Profiles In Terrible Sex Education, Part 2: Well, Aren’t You Just a Pretty, Pretty Princess

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

This is Part 2 in a series of posts about the fail-tastic content on the website of a Grand Rapids MI based abstinence only program called Willing to Wait. You can find Part 1 here.

Tour the toy section of any store, and you’ll be smacked in the face by the good ‘ol gender binary. “Boy” toys include trucks, weapons, and action figures from films such as Star Wars, G.I. Joe, and Transformers. “Boy” toys, and the “Boy” section of Toys are decorated with the color blue, and many toys are blue, red, silver, and black. “Girl” toys are almost universally pink, primarily consist of dolls, doll accessories, and while some barbies adn bratz dolls are rock stars, many dolls personify one of the most aggravating tropes of all time: the Princess. Even toys such as toy tool kits, or those little electronic cars that my parents never let me have are somehow obligated to be as pink and princess-tastic as possible.

When I was 3 years old, and asked my parents for my first toy, a Tonka dump truck. They bought me one. My grandmother was evidently freaked out by my enthusiasm for digging up chunks of the driveway and dumping them on the lawn, not because I was causing landscapig related havoc, but because me playing with a truck would make me a “poorly adjusted” adult. She insisted on buying me a doll. I think I took the doll for rides on the Tonka Truck. I turned out just fine, thank you.

This weird obsession with turning girls into princesses speaks to how our society frequently undervalues girls. Politically speaking, a princess has very little political power. The most dangerous period in Elizabeth I’s life was when she was Princess Elizabeth: She was treated with a great deal of suspicion by the court, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Diana Spencer was considered a good match for Prince Charles strictly on the fact that a. she was a virgin, and b. she came from an aristocratic family. Whether or not Diana and Charles were a good match was not part of the equation. Kate Middleton, Prince William’s fiancee has a degree in Art History, has had jobs as an accessories designer and retail buyer, aspires to be a professional photographer, but the main thing that British and American news media focus on is OMG SHES MARRYING PRINCE WILLIAM! WHAT’S HER WORKOUT LIKE?

Okay, so real-life princesses face a lot of challenges, what’s the point?

One of the posts on the Willing To Wait website is “Ladies: Release your ‘Inner Princess’“. The author vaguely compares being abstinent until marriage to being a princess, who is “rescued’ by her prince. The photo accompanying this piece says more about the gender binary (girls are princess, who wear a lot of pink. They must be rescued by boys, who are princes) than I could possibly type:

The text isn’t all that better:

I wonder if most little girls pretend they are princesses at some point in their childhood. Something inside us longs to be special and beautiful. We long for an honorable champion to fight for us.

Actually, I didn’t pretend that I was a princess much. Besides dumping various sundry items with my Tonka Truck, I pretended that I was a Queen (and would bonk classmates on the head with my “scepter”, much to the consternation of the recess lady), that I was a leader of a roving band of orphans who had to scrounge from the city (aka refrigerator) to survive, that I was an explorer who discovered a magical new world, that I was Margaret Bourke-White, and would go around taking pictures of everything. I also didn’t really need some sort of prince figure to “save” me, though fellow queens/orphans/explorers/photographers were always welcome. I don’t know if I was born with some sort of “princess immunity”, or if my parent’s unwillingness to buy me lots of pink crap that I didn’t really want in the first place had an effect on my creative playacting as a child.

Is this just child’s play or does this resonate in our hearts as being more than that? Maybe we played like that because in our deepest emotions we want someone to see that we are worth fighting for.This deep-seated emotion does not go away as we grow up. We still want to know that we are of great value and are cherished. This is not to say that wanting to be treated like a princess is to be needy or helpless or a victim. No! Princesses are strong, and courageous too. We fight dragons, too, after all. I just think it means, for many of us, that we just don’t want to have these adventures of life alone…we would rather have a prince for a soul mate.

My child’s play was focused on having fun, and exploring my habitat. Not wondering why no prince was going to rescue me. Because, I could find very creative ways of rescuing my self. And while I do have my moments where I can get self-critical, I don’t need someone else to tell me that I am “of great value/cherished”. This piece isn’t just about abstinence, it was about reinforcing the gender binary, and reinforcing the belief that women need men to feel complete/protect their princess-like loveliness. This piece is implying that if we “kiss frogs” (ie, have sex with men), we will no longer be pretty, pretty princesses, and no “prince” will want to take care of us.

Please pardon me while I vomit in a pretty pink Dixie Cup.

When I spent a summer volunteering at a weeklong musical theatre camp hosted by a Baptist church, I had to endure some truly nauseating “morning devotionals” about different women in the bible. The main theme was that the young girls hearing the devotional should be “Princesses For Christ” The most ironic lesson was the one about Ruth, and how she married Boaz because she was such a good clean vessel for God.

Here’s the thing:

In Ruth 3:4, Naomi tells Ruth to  uncover Boaz’s feet. “Feet” was a slang term for a man’s genitalia. So Ruth’s uncovering of Boaz’s feet, and her telling Boaz to “spread your cloak over me” is not nearly as innocuous as may interpret it. Ruth marries Boaz, and has a son, Obed. The main idea behind Ruth is that God loves and values strangers, and that Ruth’s devotion to her family is rewarded with a happy marriage and son*

I don’t want to be a princess. I want to be able to slay dragons on my own, because the last thing I want is wind up becoming dragon food because my prince didn’t save me in time. While relationships are enjoyable, having a boyfirend/finacee/husband isn’t something that will miraculously make me feel loved, valued, or compelte in life. And I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only young woman with little interest in the Princess Myth.

And finally, why doesn’t Willing to Wait have a post titled “Gentlemen: Release Your Inner Prince”. Evidently the organization does not believe in being an equal-opportunity oppressor.

*I’m not pulling this out of my ass, and the connotation behind “feet” comes form the book Don’t Know Much About The Bible, which is an excellent and informative read.

ATTENTION LADIES: Your merit doesn’t matter

November 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Just, you know, FYI.

Deborah L. Rhode’s research shows that conventionally attractive people receive special treatment and privileges throughout all spheres of life:

Less attractive children receive less attention from parents and teachers. In higher education, attractive students are perceived by their teachers to be more intelligent, and good-looking faculty get better student reviews. At work, unattractive people make lower salaries. In politics, good-looking candidates get more votes. Résumés and essays get more favorable evaluations when reviewers believe attractive people wrote them.

If attractive people receive benefits, then unattractive people are necessarily punished. And — surprise! — women are disproportionately affected by this bias. The systematic practice of “holding only women to sexualized standards diverts attention from competence and perpetuates [regresssive] gender roles.”

But, pretty ladies, don’t fear: You, too, can be judged and punished according to your appearance!

In fact, women also can pay a penalty for being too attractive. “Although less common, it tends to happen in formerly male professions, high-status jobs in which too sexy or too attractive an appearance is a negative characteristic,” Rhode says. “It’s just assumed that those women aren’t too bright.”

Where beauty hurts women, size hurts too. George Washington University researchers found that “obese women lose out on $4,879 per year because of their size, almost twice what it costs men” — and this is caused almost entirely by discrimination. Rhodes addresses this too, citing Hillary Clinton and Elena Kagan as cases where a woman’s size was picked on in lieu of substantial conversations about her professional qualifications. (And let’s be honest, the idea that someone’s merit is in any way related to her physical appearance is really troubling.) “I think that’s a form of punishing pushy women…It’s an easy way to take down someone who is delivering a message you find unwelcome or threatening.”

Another researcher, Deborah Gruenfeld, demonstrates that no matter a woman’s body type, her body language has an immense effect on the way she is perceived in the workplace. She says, “When it comes to leadership, there are very few differences in what men and women actually do and how they behave. But there are major differences in perception.”

And as with beauty, the question of body language puts women in a tricky double bind:

When women behave in dominant ways, they are seen as unlikeable because they violate norms of female niceness. Alternatively, women displaying feminine traits are judged as less competent and capable.

Women aren’t allowed to exhibit femininity, but we also can’t act “like men.” So just how, really, are we supposed to be?

A Feminist Haircut

October 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

by SARAH

For a pretty good portion of my life, I had strawberry-blond,  can’t-get-it-in-a-bottle hair that went almost all the way down to my hips. It was thick and long, and I would get constantly complimented on its length and color. As a chubby, socially awkward, relatively insecure preteen, it was one part of myself that I was the most proud of.

Two years ago I cut it off up to my jaw. A week ago I dyed it dark brown. After both drastic changes, I felt different. Different in a really, really good way. Somehow renewed, as if I had taken a step in reclaiming and reshaping my identity.

One pervasive gender stereotype that’s used to differentiate girls from boys is hair length. Long hair is feminine, short hair is masculine. The butch lesbian stereotype includes a short, choppy haircut, while in this day and age, long, shiny, straight hair is equated with traditional feminine beauty.  Talking about hair as a way of self identification and external expression may seem slightly superficial, but considering the strongly gendered implications it has, hair can matter if one chooses to make it matter.

I like to think that my short hair distances me slightly from traditional femininity, while helping me create my own femininity. For me personally, the choices I’ve made with my hair – to cut it short, to get rid of its oft-complimented color, to shape it so it suits me more – have all been a part of constructing my own queer, femme identity. Being 18, I’m naturally in a different place than I was two years ago when I chopped off my locks, but I think the desire to make that drastic change was fueled by the same motives that caused me to dye it. Although two years ago I may not have been able to tell you what a “queer femme identity” was (I probably just barely could now), I think I had some recognition of gender’s fluidity, about both the power it can give you and the power it can take away from you. As someone who is femme, yet strives not to let the boundaries and limits of traditional gender roles define me, I found myself naturally drifting towards a physical expression that includes many traditionally feminine aspects, with a few kinks.  I wear makeup, my closet consists of mostly dresses, what my hair looks like matters to me. But I wear bright red lipstick and green eye shadow, much to the chagrin of any Cosmopolitan reader. I couldn’t care less what the current fashion trends are, and instead I get my clothes, most of which are pretty retro or vintage, at dusty thrift stores. And I care what my hair looks like because I want it to be different and to express my own personality, not because I want Giuliana Rancic to give me her gold seal of approval.

When I was proud of my long, red-blond hair, it wasn’t because it represented me. It was because I was young and a little awkward, and the attention people paid to it was a substitute for the lack of attention I paid myself – for my lack of identity. As I grew up, transitioning from a pre-teen, to a teenager, to where I am now at 18 years old, I became more self-assured. How I choose to express myself physically is no longer for anyone else’s benefit, but to truthfully express myself. My short hair actually makes me feel more feminine, simply because I feel it’s a physical manifestation of my personality – a personality which includes femininity. But it’s my own, reclaimed, personal version of femininity. A version that includes my feminism, my pansexuality, all my individual quirks, and short, dark hair.



Women are Gamers; Casual Games are Games

September 12, 2010 § 5 Comments

by ADI

For those who don’t follow that strange beast that is video game journalism, the last couple weeks have been full of surprises. Among those: 1990s throwback Duke Nukem is (theoretically) actually getting released, and tons of games news has gotten unveiled at the booth-babe-free Penny Arcade exposition. And serious business not-lady gaming is coming to mobile phones.

I’m talking about the Unreal Engine, which was unveiled last week for the iPhone, a console which has already been derided as too feminine by marketers for competing phones. In an interview with gaming site Gamasutra, Epic Games head Mike Capps talks about his vision of “core games” for the iPhone. What are “core gamer” games? Well, the kind played by men:

Gamasutra: [iPhone game Broken Sword is] definitely a high-power, high-3D kind of experience.

Capps: Yeah. It’s a game for guys. Or folks who enjoy it.

G: People who like Xbox.

C: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it’s a core gamer game, right?

I don’t mean to excoriate Capps unduly about this. It’s not a large part of the interview, and I don’t think his intent was to deride female gamers or to imply that women are less capable of playing “core” games than men are. But it’s part of a larger trope, one about the femininity and dispensability of casual games, and now I’m in a bind. « Read the rest of this entry »

Genderqueer

July 27, 2010 § 12 Comments

by CHAD

I’ve been on vacation a lot lately, but I also have been on tumblr a lot, and a common theme I notice (even among the LGBTQ community) is what is genderqueer? Being as I am genderqueer I would like to explain what it is, in hopes of giving a better understanding.

Genderqueer is a gender, as stated in the name, and is completely dependent upon the person that defines themselves as genderqueer. Think of gender as the social construct that it is, there are “boy” clothes, “girl” clothes, “boy” toys, “girl” toys, “boy” colours, “girl” colours, and many assortments and roles that are subconsciously (or not) assigned to each gender. For those who define themselves as genderqueer, they’re a gender outside of “boy” and “girl”, they are both, neither, or a third gender that isn’t presentable in the current western system.

Being genderqueer is a way of labeling yourself as no label. Personally, I use it to say that I like things and do them because I like to, not because it’s the boy or girl thing to do. Socially speaking, there are very very few people that exclusively occupy one social gender. I use it to say I’m me, not a “boy”, and doing “girl” things doesn’t make me any less me. However, it is completely dependent on the person.

Those that are genderqueer also might have a pronoun preference, it’s rare, but still a possibility, so I’ll quickly brainwash you with English gender-neutral pronouns (pronouns that do not specify a gender)

  • Her/Him – Zir/Zem
  • S/He – Ze
  • Her/His – Zir/Zes
  • Herself/Himself – Zirself/Zemself

What ones you use (Zir/Zem) does not matter, as the idea is that they do not have gender.

If you have any questions on genderqueer I’m more than willing to take any via the comments :)

Loud Silence

July 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

Silvia has returned to grace us with yet another amazing post! Rejoice with me. –Miranda

I am supposed to be loud. When people find out that I am the daughter of immigrants from Latin America, they expect loud. They expect sass and then some. Maybe they get that from me and they are satisfied. I am supposed to be loud, but I am not supposed to be heard. I am supposed to provide the right kind of Latina loudness. The kind that is laughable, almost comforting to the people who can be assured that they are of a higher, more polite and less loud, class. They question my Latinaness, they wonder aloud why my English is so good. They exclaim: “But you don’t look Latina!” So where do I begin my lecture, my crash course on the history of Latin America and the presence of Latinas in the U.S.? How do I begin to discuss the politics of my very existence?

There are things I’m not supposed to be. Sometimes I take pride in my sass, my loud laugh and bursts of enthusiasm. Most of the time, though, I think about what these things cover up. The silence that is louder than the laughs and the Spanglish. The silence that we are forced to carry with us and use as a response to the injustices and the inequality we face everyday. Our silence is supposed to meet the overt sexualization we are subject to, the sass and volume stops when it is time to discuss the conscientious exclusion of our cultural contributions. The brazen charges of “show me your papers” are meant to go without a response.

That’s what’s been bothering me lately, this pressure to move away from the stereotypically contrived notions of what I’m supposed to be as a Latina. Not to mention the pressure to end the silence that I can feel weighing on me. This is why I particularly hate the unfortunately pervasive loud Latina label, or the similarly infuriating sassy Black woman stereotype. This isn’t to say that loudness, sass and enthusiasm aren’t wonderful, but I’m sick of ignoring the silence that we are relegated to. I am especially sick because of the atrocities we are supposed to be silent about. I will not stay silent about the murder of Oscar Grant and I will not stay silent about Embarizona. So I’m trying to learn to speak as loud as I laugh and live outside of the loud Latina paradox that social notions have created for me.

Gentlemen…Err…Ladies and Gentlemen…Err…Drivers, Start Your Engines!

July 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

This is a guest post by Julia Landauer, a competitive racecar driver.

Image: Julia, wearing a racing suit, sits in front of a red racecar with a helmet on the ground beside her.

If you were to ask the average person on the street what they think of when they hear the words “woman” and “racecar,” many would first think of umbrella girls, and then: “That chick that races, what’s her name? Danica Patrick.” Though this might seem like a gross generalization, I’ve found it to be the case. My name is Julia Landauer and I’m a professional racecar driver. I am a NASCAR-licensed stock car driver, racing late models in Virginia. And I am a Stuyvesant High School graduate, raised in Manhattan, headed to Stanford in the fall. I am not what you think of when you hear “woman” and “racecar.”

I have been a woman in a man’s world since I started go-karting when I was ten. The funny thing is that I never saw myself as “the girl racer” – instead, I saw myself as just another racer. That is, until I was around fourteen, when I became the youngest female winner in the Skip Barber Series, and later that year I became the first female champion of the series. It was than I realized that I was getting publicity not because I was a racer that won, but because I was a girl that won. And such a title is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, I get more immediate attention because of my gender. On the other hand, I have to fight rampant biases against women. “Women can’t drive.” “Women aren’t athletic.” “Women should be nice.” Well, let me tell you something, you can’t be nice on track and expect to win.

Image: Julia signing autographs.

By the time I was fifteen I had established myself as a championship-winning racer, both in karts and in cars. But that didn’t mean people weren’t still seeing me as “the girl racer.” At a national go-kart race in Pennsylvania, a fellow racer who is a year younger than me was a little over-aggressive, so I returned the favor. He and his dad were both furious, but in reality I just returned the bump, and that’s how everyone except those two saw it. His dad later said to me, “You know, no one’s going to want to be your friend if you bump people like that,” in a condescending tone fit to address a five year-old. I laughed in surprise and responded, “Well, I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to win races.” The answer surprised him, but I think I made my point.

That being said, being a woman does gives me a better chance of being successful. There are lots of male racecar drivers, but only so many female ones, and NASCAR is looking for their first successful female. I know this and other people know this, so I have to use my femininity as a tool. (But I will steer clear of the ever-assumed sleeping-with-the-team-owner-for-a-ride plan. I’d rather earn my ride.)

I don’t like that people always focus on the differences between men and women, especially in racing. Heck, if the names weren’t on the cars, you’d never be able to tell if the racer inside was male or female. At the end of the day, I just see myself as another racer, gender aside. There was an article recently in The Atlantic called The End of Men, talking about how in many fields, women are actually surpassing men with their achievements. This was interesting to read because it still is sexist, just this time in favor of females. I see no reason why women and men should be treated or rewarded differently, but for some reason, they are.

I would love to see the day when there are as many females in the field of racing as there are males. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll see that day. My greatest wish for my sport is for competitors and audiences to disregard the gender of the racer, and acknowledge the talent of the driver. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen any time soon either. Until then, I’ll continue developing my tough skin, and charge to the front because I am a champion, not because I am a female.

On Shakespeare’s Ophelia

June 12, 2010 § 11 Comments

In my Shakespeare class, our final paper was on Shakespeare’s epic Hamlet and out of all the choices of topics we had to write about, I chose Ophelia. During our unit on Hamlet I found myself surprised over and over again by how intensely many people seemed to hate her. (And I don’t use the term hate lightly, I mean they despised her!) “The play would be the same without her!” “She doesn’t DO anything.” “She’s way too passive!” At one point, I ended up in a very impassioned debate outside of class against five other classmates. Guess who the one person that liked Ophelia was?

To be sure, Ophelia is a passive character, but for some reason that fact doesn’t cause me to loathe her. Weird.

I wrote this paper as a sort of defense, if you will. I think that Ophelia’s passivity stems from her environment and that the truly tragic thing about her is that she knows no other way to act. She is one of only two females drowning (forgive the pun–I’m tired) in an overpoweringly large cast of males. She has no support system that encourages her to act on her own and every man around her somehow feels the need to tell her how to behave. But I won’t lay out my thesis right here and now. You can click below to read the full paper.

I figure at least one reader must be a Shakespeare buff. Enjoy!

« Read the rest of this entry »

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