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!
December 31, 2009 § Leave a comment
Is it just me, or have there been less guilt-inducing New Year’s Resolution ads than usual this holiday season? Usually, late December media is racked with advertisements and stories (aimed disproportionately at women, of course) that first try to convince us that we’re fat, unhappy, or somehow insufficient, and then tell us how a certain diet/dating service/car will fix all of our woes and help us reach our (read: their) goals for the New Year. But I have (happily!) noticed a deficit this year in these stupid, often sexist attempts to make people feel bad about themselves.
According to a piece at Sphere News, Resolutions for 2010 have been radically altered by the poor, poor state of the global economy. 10% more Americans than usual are pledging to change their ways in the new decade, a Marist poll suggests, but the nature of our promises has shifted; the same poll reports that most Resolutions this year are centered around saving/spending money more wisely, becoming more engaged in the political process, being patient as the world gets back on its financial feet, and keeping/getting employment. These more serious Resolutions definitely reflect the scary, sort of shitty times that we’re living in, but I’m definitely happy to see politics, work, and retirement prioritized over hitting the gym and landing a husband (not that love and health aren’t important- but we all know that gyms and dating sites don’t really give a shit). The recession has definitely made life harder for women and children, and that blows. But maybe the hardships will eventually refocus our priorities, and we’ll emerge from the crisis with a better understanding of what’s important to us a country. Maybe.
Have a great New Year’s Eve, and an even better 2010! I hope it brings you and all the people in your life empowerment, equality, and whatever else you may be looking for!
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?
November 19, 2009 § 1 Comment
This week we celebrated “Love Your Body Week” at Grinnell, hosted by the Feminist Action Coalition. Yay! There were (and still are) a ton of great events including a film screening and discussion, a fat activism workshop, open mic night, Grinnell Monologues (comparable to the Vagina Monologues), queer sex-ed, and my personal favorite, two masturbation workshops! It really was very comforting to see how well-attended these events actually were. I think the week did a lot to dispel the myths of apathetic college students across the country.
I think one of the best things about the week (and, coincidentally, about this blog) is that most of the events weren’t strictly serious, stuffy, or overzealous. Who says learning about your vagina has to be uncomfortable or boring? Basically, congratulations to all the humorous feminists on campus, and all of those who got over their fear of humorous feminists. Let’s keep on dispelling more myths (and yes, I probably will use this term several times. Sorry).
Finally, I really appreciated the atmosphere of communal learning that was pretty apparent in all the workshops I attended. Obviously, most people came from different backgrounds. Some were really familiar with all of the ideas being bandied about, but some, particularly at the very well attended masturbation workshop, had received very little education on such taboo topics. The fact that students who knew more were completely willing to help out those who didn’t was super refreshing. What was more refreshing was the fact that women (who attended the female identified masturbation workshop, I have no idea what went on at the male identified one) were not helping each other out of obligatory sisterhood, but out of actual desire.
I do have one question though. It seems as if I am encountering a barrage of social justice-y causes, open dialogue, and fun terms like “doing gender,” “dispel the myth,” and “social construct” just in the nick of time- before I enter the real world. Why does it have to be that way? What If we taught these terms, habits, and ideals before having them hurriedly shoved in our faces? This has been bothering me a lot lately. Obviously this isn’t going to happen any time soon given the other pressing problems in our educational system, but what is so wrong about introducing the concept of loving your body to grade school students? What if these so-crazy-they-just-might-work ideas had a place in every elementary school curriculum? We would probably live in a much more understanding environment, where no one would need to ask in a college class what “the gender binary system” is.
I am so sorry for the above display of crazy.
October 11, 2009 § 6 Comments
Did you know that the makers of Kellogg cereals (we’re talking about the original makers here), were super anti-masturbation and actively campaigned against it? The first Kellogg cereals were actually designed specifically to be super bland because J. H. Kellogg thought that a bland breakfast would decrease sexual arousal throughout the day (huh?). Kellogg and his buddy Graham (of Graham crackers, yes) wrote lots of books on the evils of masturbation, even suggesting that carbolic acid be placed on the clitoris to keep girls from touching themselves.
I never liked those Kellogg cereals anyway….
Source: Abnormal Psychology, Hansell and Damour.
September 20, 2009 § 6 Comments
I have been a little uneasy for a while about one aspect of Grinnell (and, I assume, many other colleges across the country). For the past several weeks, every big dance party at Grinnell has had titles like “Students Get Ass” (with the acronym SGA, a clever pun on the acronym for our student government association), Red Light Green Light (where you wear a color according to your status: green for single, red for taken, yellow for neutral), Gerbil Fest and Cougar Fest (where freshmen notoriously get scammed on). What is the deal with these explicitly sexual parties? How do they influence the sexual scene on a college campus?
Here are my two thoughts on the matter:
I think it is great that we can be so open about our sexuality here. These parties are supposed to be fun and lighthearted, and not necessarily taken seriously. They can also be used as a way to build up the courage to pursue someone, with the “hey, she’s green, I should go for her” mentality. For many of us, our partying goals do involve some sort of sexual behavior. But not necessarily… which brings me to my next point.
I think that the drawbacks to these sexually explicit parties far outweigh the benefits. Basically, we have Grinnell, as an institution, saying, “you have to get laid tonight, because that is the theme of this week’s party.” This is not really acceptable. I am sure that there are several people who just want to have a good time dancing. Or, there are people who really do want to engage in sexual behavior, but can’t because no one will consent to doing it with them. They walk away from the party not thinking, “well, I had a good time and I danced, so that was a fun night,” but rather, “I couldn’t even get some at red light green light?”
I am concerned about these parties, but not sure exactly what I should do about them. I think it’s a problem that primarily affects first years, who are desperately trying to prove their coolness, sexiness, and fun-ness. Maybe after my first year I will realize that it IS all a big joke, and if I don’t want to go to such a poorly-premised party then I will stay home, or have an alternative party (which is actually how cougar fest got started, in reaction to the rather morally reprehensible gerbil fest). Over all though, I think the student body really enjoys these parties. Should I take these in the spirit of fun, or should I make a fuss about the institutional pressure to be sexually active during the first few months of college?
September 9, 2009 § Leave a comment
HAPPY 200th POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was going to save this one for Miranda but I’m in the library right now and thought I’d take a little study break.
Hi everyone! My new obsession at Grinnell is becoming a peer counselor at the Sexual Health Information Center. I’ve been working really hard on my application, so I figured I might share it with you all. That way if I don’t get it (ewwwww) I will have SOMETHING to show for it:
(I’m not posting the questions, but most of them you can figure out.)
1.As a result of having experienced several badly-executed sexual health classes in high school, I am familiar with examples of how not to approach sexual health education For instance, the classes I attended have all been centered on heterosexual issues, usually skirting the topic of gay sex entirely. Classes were entirely fact based, with homework assignments requiring students only to fill in the blank with one or two word answers. The lack of discussion was counter-productive. My goal, should I become a peer counselor, would be to foster as much open discussion as possible. Students can be educated about sexual health only when they’re asked to think about the issues and consider them in personal terms. I think this is in line with Grinnell’s approach to education (both academic and social) in general.
Although I have never participated in a program as a counselor or peer educator I have some experience communicating ideas of sexual health education reform through my contributions to the blog Women’s Glib (http://www.womensglib.wordpress.com). This experience has proven quite useful in forcing to me to think about how best to communicate about sexual topics.
The blog, started by my good friend, has become quite successful in a short time. It has received attention from feminist authors (such as Jessica Valenti, and the bloggers for “Feministe”) The blog was also recently featured in Mother Jones magazine. Connections to these resources could be extremely beneficial to SHIC.
2.I am interested in becoming a peer counselor because I have become interested in exploring the field of public health as a career. I firmly believe that health and medicine are important social issues, and that everyone should have access to information on these subjects. My interest is partly due to an eye-opening experience this summer, attending an amazingly successful sexual health class which took a very different approach than classes I had attended previously. Student participation made all the difference. When teenagers opened up to each other the fear and the stigma of “the sex talk” disappeared. We even got to a point, as a class, when we were debating heavy ethical issues passionately and quite comfortably. I think that peer counseling helps create a much more laid back atmosphere in an otherwise notoriously uncomfortable (though it mustn’t be) situation.
Before I found out about SHIC, I had been planning my own sexual health education club for Grinnell. It was my intention to partner with a local hospital and high school and have Grinnell college students teach sexual health classes to teenagers in the community. When I heard about SHIC, it seemed like an obvious choice for me. I would love to gain experience as a peer counselor, helping students at Grinnell first and then to taking my knowledge to the community. Perhaps at some point later on SHIC can expand to the community level.
Another project I would like to pursue is to create an SHIC blog, with as much sexual health information on it as possible, as well as discussions about health education reform, etc. This could be in conjunction with Women’s Glib, or stand on its own. The internet is too good of a resource to neglect, and SHIC could probably benefit from utilizing it if it has not already.
(Skipping 3 because it’s about my schedule. Boring.)
4.Confidentiality is obviously of the utmost importance for an organization like SHIC. Without the promise of confidentiality, no one would come for help. Confidentiality is the basis of trust and respect between counselors and students, values which SHIC could not exist without. I see confidentiality as somewhat black and white. Anything that is said in the SHIC stays in the SHIC. Obviously, I will adhere to any SHIC or Grinnell College rules about reporting violence or any other kind of sexual misconduct, but ultimately I believe that as adults, we are all entitled to make our own decisions.
5.I think I am a strong candidate for a peer counselor position because I am a very open and talkative person. I would imagine that my primary role as a counselor is to listen and assess, but I think I can make people very comfortable with talking about whatever they need to discuss. I welcome new people quite well, and really love to discuss sexual health. This, I think, shows in most of my conversations on the topic. I think my biggest weakness is the fact that I wouldn’t ever want to give people advice or information that they don’t want to hear. This is obviously something I would have to do, and I’m fully prepared to deal with that. With time it may get easier, but it can be pretty heart breaking sometimes to be the bearer of bad news. My only method of compensating for this is to grit my teeth and deal with it in as sensitive a manner as possible. This weakness should really only affect my comfort level, not whomever I am counseling.
6.I think the hardest counseling session would be with someone who is unwilling to make their own decisions, and unwilling to divulge important information. A counseling session should, in my opinion, be a dialogue. When it is one sided it is impossible to tell how effective a counselor you are. A counselor’s job is not to make decisions for their peers, but to talk things through, listen, and aid the student being counseled in his or her decision making. I would assume that that as a counselor, my primary goal would be to aid my peer in the whatever way he or she needs, within reason. If that means, talking about stuff other than sexual health to break the ice a little, or listening to them vent about their relationships, so be it. I would also try to stimulate the conversation by asking the student to come in with a list of possible solutions, or questions he or she might have to get things moving.
7.I think that the most important thing to learn about sexual health is that it should in no way be a taboo topic! Obviously all the facts about STIs and birth control methods etc. should be available. However, I think discussing the societal aspects of sexual health is equally important. Lastly, I think it is absolutely necessary to convey the idea that sex is fun, and you are supposed to feel good when engaging in any sort of sexual behavior. Sex should not be a commodity under any circumstances. These values are absolutely necessary to pass on to anyone who is willing to listen.