March 2, 2009 § 2 Comments
I’m a feminist who is a vegetarian and loves to knit, bake, do yoga, and be around babies.
I have been told by numerous people (both male and female) upon mentioning any of these habits, “You’re such a woman!”
“You’re such a woman” is not an offensive statement. Far from it, I am proud of my womanhood. I, however, am offended by the tone that accompanies this statement. It is usually said as an accusation or as a fact that belittles my feminism.
When I ask the accusers why these parts of me make me such a woman, they have responded by saying:
“Because you’re so domestic,”
“That’s what housewives did in the ‘50’s,”
“You’re caring,” and, my personal favorite,
“It’s stuff you do for others.”
These are all sexist. Blatantly sexist. How?
- They take (mostly) positive attributes and apply them only to women, thereby implying that men are incapable of caring and doing for others.
- They make both women and men who practice vegetarianism, knitting, baking, doing yoga, and/or baby-loving feel guilty for pursuing their own happiness.
- They narrow the definition of what it means to be a woman/man in a society that has questionable values.
- They narrow the definition of what it means to be a feminist in today’s world.
My personal definition of feminism is the promotion of everyone’s right to choose, as long as an individual’s choice does not interfere with the prosperity of others. Only if that freedom of choice exists can we have equality. When I am told I am “such a woman” in a condescending, volatile tone, my choice to do these “domestic” activities is taken away. The difference, my accusers, between me and a reluctant “’50’s housewife” – besides the obvious – is that I choose to do these things because they make me happy.
I choose to be a vegetarian because I am much happier knowing exactly where my food comes from. I choose to knit because it takes my mind off of the day-to-day drama of my life. I choose to bake because I love the simplicity of following a recipe. I choose to practice yoga because it makes me strong and my body empowered. I choose to be around babies because it makes me happy seeing new lives blossom.
So you know what? I am such a woman (and proud of it), but not for the reasons you, my accusers, deem.
Doesn’t everyone deserve the choice to their own happiness without sexist connotations/criticism?
February 9, 2009 § 3 Comments
Valentine’s Day is this Saturday, and you know what that means! Tons of ads that encourage us to celebrate the relationships and love in our lives buy lots and lots of useless stuff. Everywhere I look this season, I’ve seen chocolate – mostly in ads that remind women it’s okay to indulge (though it’s still not okay to be single).
The incredibly hilarious Sarah Haskins takes on the chocolate monster in her latest Target Women segment. Watch it, seriously. Just a warning: if you’re anything like me, you’ll be really craving chocolate afterwards.
February 8, 2009 § 5 Comments
For my FIRST EVER POST ON WOMEN’S GLIB (wooohoooo), I wanted to get some information up about Obama’s $825 billion stimulus package and what it will do for us ladyfolk. I snooped around some blogs and newspapers, and here’s what I’ve come up with. Feel free to add anything you’ve noticed about the plan in a comment!
Joan Entmacher, VP of family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, says that the package will work on “Expanding health for them [women], child care, unemployment insurance, direct help in higher food stamps and energy assistance.” Additionally, the package “protects a lot of jobs for women in education, early education and social work services.”
This all sounds pretty sweet, but I do have to wonder about the job protection detailed by Entmacher. Education and social work? Those sound like ‘typical woman’ jobs to me. I am all for protecting positions in these fields, but what about women with jobs closely tied to the manufacturing industries, agriculture, etc? Lindsay Beyerstein from the Washington Independent says that the stimulus is “expected to create or sustain significant numbers of jobs in female-dominated sectors of the economy, like teaching, nursing, and social work.” Again, that sounds really awesome, but what about women who already have a hard time in the work-force because they belong to male-dominated labor sectors? Will they be overlooked because they’re pursuing careers that aren’t considered feminine?
My suspicions are somewhat confirmed by Linda Hirshman from the New York Times, who stated in an article that ran this past December that a package primarily aimed at building automatically excludes women because women make up such a small part of construction labor forces (9%, to be exact). To make the plan more woman-friendly, she suggested that it also include money for human capital jobs (social workers, educators, librarians, etc.), because these are the kinds of jobs that women are more likely to hold. Hirshman ends the article by saying that “maybe it would be a better world if more women became engineers and construction workers, but programs encouraging women to pursue engineering have existed for decades without having much success.”
For some reason, this seemingly pragmatic sentiment makes me really nervous and uncomfortable. I just don’t like the idea that we should give up on eradicating the idea that women, if they are working, must be doing something that is directly nurturing. And maybe all of the construction work proposed by Obama’s plan could help break down some of the barriers that women face in the manual labor industries!
In short, I’m glad that Hirshman got her wish and that Obama’s plan will protect woman-heavy industries, but I am worried about the women in the male-dominated sectors. And I’m worried about how this might all reinforce the idea that if a woman is ballsy enough to leave the home, she must be doing some sort of caretaking.
February 7, 2009 § 2 Comments
Last Thursday (thanks to the sheer beauty of Regents week), I finally went to the Brooklyn Museum’s Center for Feminist Art to see Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. This provocatively educational installation features the most powerful women throughout history through displaying what portrays women as powerless: their vaginas.
Judy Chicago, a widely published creator of bad-ass-ness, sets The Dinner Party on a triangle table (the universal symbol for equality). On each wing of the table, different eras of women are represented. One wing features goddesses, the next early historical women like Elizabeth I, and the last women pioneers and the famous suffragettes.
Each featured woman has her own table setting and her own vagina-plate (a 4th grader on a field trip asked his teacher “How does someone eat on this?” when staring dumbfounded at Ethel Smyth’s piano-vagina, but that will be another post entirely). Each vagina is unique in that it represents the possessor’s place in the feminist movement. Some were made of penetrable fire, others unfurling flowers, and some swords and weaponry that lead to mysterious corridors.
My friend and I treaded through the exhibit at a slow pace, writing and absorbing the mystery and stab to the patriarchy each vagina radiated.
Then, I saw Emily Dickinson’s vagina.
The delicate flower with its pastel pink petals repulsed me. It was the color of that really sugary medicine that makes you want to throw up. My friend described it perfectly as “cakey.” Each pink petal unfurled to the nothingness that is her hole of penetration. What didn’t make sense was that Emily Dickinson was a woman of substance, bad-ass in her own right. Didn’t she deserve some type of vagina-art recognition for that?
I think I didn’t like her delicate flower vagina because it did not look passionate. Dispassionate means submissive…powerless. I wanted the vaginas to be flaming with power and determination for equality.
Maybe Judy Chicago’s point was to portray all these powerful women using society’s most vulnerable body part.
But who am I to judge someone else’s vagina?
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.
February 1, 2009 § 3 Comments
Having been in many musicals, I’ve definitely noticed some trends in the way women are portrayed, and these trends are rarely good. My main qualm is this: there is a disproportionate amount of female characters who sing entire songs about living luxuriously by marrying rich. SO MANY gold diggers in musical theatre. Here is a list off the top of my head, with some favorite quotes from each:
Buddy Beware- Anything Goes
When invited to dine I can’t eat without wine, So, Buddy, Beware
Always True To You In My Fashion- Kiss Me Kate
There’s an oil man known as “Tex” Who is keen to give me checks And his checks, I fear, mean that sex is here to stay!
Don Juan- Smokey Joe’s Cafe
Don Juan, your money is gone And when your money is gone, Don your babe is gone
Freddy My Love- Grease
Thinking about it, my heart’s pounding already, knowing when you come home we’re bound to go steady, and throw your service pay around like confetti, Freddy, my love
Ok… so this list turned out to be less expansive than I thought, but I still think it’s worth mentioning. I honestly wouldn’t mind if this kind of song occurred in one musical. In isolation I find each song rather catchy and witty. The fact that there are so many (which I stand by, even though I couldn’t think of them) is upsetting. What’s even grosser to me is that all of these songs are written for altos. Because apparently only women with low voices can be conniving sluts. The sopranos, with more conventionally feminine voices, are generally more pure-hearted.
I’m sorry that this rant is so specific to musical theatre, but it’s something that’s been bothering me recently. Next time I can talk about how there are no stoner movies with female leads!!