WTF: Kellogg Edition

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.

WTF?!

I never liked those Kellogg cereals anyway….

Source: Abnormal Psychology, Hansell and Damour.

[Insert witty party name here]: You MUST Get Laid Tonight

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?

Just for Funsies…

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.

Quoted: On Being Surrounded by Young Women

September 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

“I’ve had some really beautiful moments with some really amazing girls. We’re working on a presentation right now called “accepting yourself for who you are” and the girls are so insightful and mature and I can’t take it. Most of the time being a counselor just makes me feel like my best self. It’s great. I feel my most appreciated and confident and beautiful and talented and capable. I wish I felt like this all the time!”

– Lovely friend of the blog Lil, who spent her summer working as a sleepaway camp counselor for pre-teen girls.

Grinnell Fun Facts

August 23, 2009 § 2 Comments

Since I haven’t been doing anything remotely intellectual for orientation, this is going to be a baby post. Here are some funny facts I learned about Grinnell campus:

  1. Formerly the section of campus where only women lived, South campus has some pretty hysterical architectural differences from all of the other sections. For example, the loggias (covered walkways) are not open air like the all the others on campus. They have beautiful glass windows. Know why? Because women should never have to walk in the cold Iowa winters. Haha, guess what. No one should have to do that. Ever.
  2. All of the kitchens on South campus come equipped with ironing boards. For us womenfolk to do the ironing.
  3. Just learned this one, it may be my favorite so far: the Loose dorm (holla!) was notoriously the hall for “loose women” because the window locks are the easiest to break for late night collegiate trysts.

I found those details pretty amusing when I first heard them, I really hope you enjoyed!

Packing Delirium

August 6, 2009 § 9 Comments

Right now I am undergoing the laborious (and ridiculously exciting!!!) task of packing up my belongings to take to my first year of college. I’ve noticed that, like many young women my age, I have a lot of fucking clothing. Not just clothing. I just have a lot of stuff. When comparing packing notes with my future classmate who happens to be a guy, I learned that he is packing way less stuff than me.

While this opening could go in many directions, I’ll probably choose the least rational, least evocative and least coherent one because I am that tired of packing. Here goes:

I’m sure many of you feminists are familiar with the theory about the implications of female and male standards of beauty- females are encouraged to be thin, to disappear, while males are encouraged to take up as much space as possible. This is how society wants us. In my packing, I cannot help but wonder- is the reverse true for material goods? Are women supposed to take up as much space as possible with our belongings? Are we making up for society’s pull for us to be nothing by having as much stuff as possible?

My packing delirium leads me to believe that a lot of the reason women tend to have more clothes, accessories, etc. is a tie to domesticity. Perhaps society wants us to take up a lot of room, not with our bodies, but with our stuff at home. Maybe we are bound with more strength to our homes because of all of these belongings. Do our clothes mark our territory? Do men often ‘travel light’ because, according to our culture, they should not be tied down to one town, and certainly not to one household?

Obviously it would be a stretch to draw very many conclusions like these without researching properly, and even then it probably wouldn’t make much sense. I just thought I’d let you in to see my packing-induced crazy talk.

On Celebrations, On Difference

July 22, 2009 § 2 Comments

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Provincetown, a small beachside town in Cape Cod, MA that has a really bustling queer scene. Though I wasn’t there during their annual celebration, Carnivale, I have been to P-Town in the past during that festive week. Individuals flaunt deliciously glamorous drag costumes, men walk around naked promoting various community theater ventures, tourists can be seen hugging the huge Y-shaped statues that read ‘Discriminate’ down the side. My gut reaction to Carnivale has always been a positive one; I think it’s great that individuals who might normally feel like outsiders have a safe space to show that they love who they are. Expression and pride are wonderful things that I wholeheartedly support. But something about celebrations like Carnivale — Earth Day, the Gay Pride Parade, Black History Month, Women’s History Month — always give me pause. I just can’t get over the feeling that when we designate something as a a celebration of difference or our ideals, we actually end up creating a vacuum that ignores some of the bigger complexities at hand. I think that the celebratory weeks, days, and months that spot our calendars can actually work to stunt dialogue; we devote a certain chunk of time to an issue and then feel okay about ignoring it for the other 364 days, 51 weeks, or 11 months. This is not to say that I think we should do away with any of those aforementioned celebrations. I just don’t really know why we can’t make the celebration permanent. Why isn’t every day an affirmation of the importance of women, transgendered individuals, immigrants, homosexuals, our earth?

One of my biggest confusions pertaining to Carnivale is the very common practice of posing for photographs with individuals dressed in drag. When I was younger, I loved finding the most outrageous looking drag queens, sidling up to them, and getting a ‘hilarious’ snapshot. And now I look at these pictures and sort of cringe, without even knowing why. The strangers in these pictures totally agreed to be in them; indeed, they were standing in the middle of the street precisely to be noticed, photographed, and talked about. And that’s obviously a personal decision that I respect entirely. Maybe it just complicates my idea of pride — pride in the genders, races, religions, and isms we all align ourselves with. I am proud of being a woman! I am actively trying to create a world for myself that includes a lot of consideration for the condition of my sisters, my femininity. Should I put on my most womanly (?) outfit and head to the streets to pose with strangers? Should I vamp up my feminism in March to correspond with Women’s History Month? I genuinely don’t know the answers to these questions. What are your thoughts?

Two P-Towners, me, my rabid ginger afro, my friend Molly.

Two P-Towners, me, my rabid ginger afro, my friend Molly.

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