September 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
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.
June 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
There’s not a whole lot going on in Michigan. The weather is pretty terrible, the politicians seem hell-bent on turning the state into one big corporation, and the economy was pretty much decimated by the Recession. The only things that I’m truly proud of in the state are the numerous awesome microbreweries, the menu at Marie Catrib’s, Calder’s Le Grand Vitesse, and Rima Fakih.
Rima Fakih was the first Muslim woman to be crowned Miss USA, and her reign has not been smooth sailing. Some questioned Fakih’s religion and ethnicity, many were “scandalized” by photos taken at a pole-dancing class in 2007 (three years before she was crowned Miss USA), and pagaent officials urged her to meet with former Miss USA Tara Conner after Fakih was caught doing the ever-so-scandalous activity of going to parties, and quelle horreur, returning to her residence at 4 AM.
Fakih has been very professional about her stint as Miss USA, and some of the issues she has encountered. Her experience only reflects the sexism and double-standards society adn the media place on women–especially women in the public eye.
Part of Fakih’s duties include appearing at public events and parties, and modeling for a variety of companies and publications (every Miss USA winner wins a contract with Trump Model Management). The Miss USA Pageant includes a required swimsuit competition, and contestants are expected to conform to a specific “look”: toned yet possessing conventionally acceptable curves, long hair, straight white teeth, and a pretty face with plenty of makeup. The Miss USA organization clearly wants their contestants to be “sexy”, but wants to impose their view of what is “sexy” on contestants and winners, rather than allow these women to define sexy on their own terms.
Hence, taking a pole-dancing class, while wearing normal workout clothes is unacceptable. The Miss USA organization is perpetuating misogynistic views on sexuality and work: Being paid to pose in Playboy (as several Miss USA winners have done during their reign), or appear in swimsuit ads is acceptable. Dong any physical activity that even remotely resembles sex work, such as poledancing, in considered trashy, inappropriate, and unacceptable. Which is a shame, because pole dancing should not be automatically associated with sex (it is a great workout, and provides great strength and flexibility training).Fakih also appeared on a reality television show about competitive wrestling, a gig which Fakih discussed the amount of physical training that goes into being a wrestler. Fakih was also criticized for taking a job that promoted herself and improved her physical fitness, because as we all know, all wrestlers are stupid/trashy/slutty/etc. Fakih has been punished because she has dared to own her career, her social life, and her sexuality, rather than simply be a puppet for the Miss USA Pageant. And because she has done that, people have chosen to insult her by doing some good old fashioned slut-shaming.
Then again, in our culture, anything a woman does is immediately associated with sex. If a woman eats an ice cream cone, she clearly wants sex. If a woman wears a skirt while bicycling, she clearly wants sex, and is a dangerous distraction to motorists. If a woman accepts an offer to appear on a show about wrestling, she wants sex. If a woman goes to a party, and stays out all night, she totally just wants to get wasted and have sex, and is a bad role model because all she ever wants is sex.
Then again, how much can you expect from a pageant organization run by a man who has called Gail Collins a “dog face”, and his been criticized for his misogynistic behavior by other Miss USA contestants. When even Carrie Prejean calls you out on your sexism, perhaps it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
June 4, 2011 § 6 Comments
I’m done with finals, and have a brief respite from school, so I can finally collect my thoughts long enough to write a semi-coherent blog post. I’ve also moved into an apartment, and two of my roomates are women who are heavily involved in SCAD’s (Savannah College of Art & Design) film department. One is a film major, the other is a dramatic writing major with a film minor. Both are amazingly talented individuals.
They both went to the Scademy Awards, which is SCAD’s version of the Academy Awards, in which individuals in the film department nominate studeint films for awards.
According to my roommates, not a single woman in the film department was nominated/won an award for their work.
There are approximately 1,000 students in SCAD’s film department. Surely there is at least one woman in the film/dramatic writing department who is making award-winning work.
SCAD loves to boast about preparing their students for the “real world”. But misogyny and underrepresentation of women within the film industry is not a “real world” quality that a very expensive institute of higher learning should be promoting.
May 25, 2011 § 1 Comment
Hey, Shorty! A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence In Schools and On The Streets by Joanne N. Smith, Mandy Van Deven, and Meghan Huppuch of Girls for Gender Equity
As a guide, Hey, Shorty! gets its proportions just right. The book fluidly combines instruction and imagination, realistic activist advice and idealistic social justice zeal. Smith, Van Deven, and Huppuch, of the remarkable organization Girls for Gender Equity, are admirably and skillfully tackling the issue of gender-based violence against youth, particularly in public schools. This is a rampant problem, one is that far too often dismissed, and one that sits at the nexus of so many social justice concerns — self-efficacy, empowerment, education, health, poverty…
I loved the rhetoric of refusal that the book offers; here is a generation of women who are refusing retrograde gender norms and refusing to buy in to a system predicated on complacency, silence, and shame. And beyond all this refusal there’s an overwhelming sense of affirmation: so many girls have found a sense of belonging and purpose through projects like this one.
GGE will celebrate its tenth anniversary this September. The work of their staff and supporters is certainly impressive, but what most inspired me while reading this book were the voices of the young women who work with GGE through initiatives like Sisters in Strength. I’ll end with their thoughts:
“School is not just a place to gain knowledge but also a place where students can easily be affected by sexual harassment. What a disgrace. How can we progress in our schoolwork if we are impacted and distracted by sexual harassment?” — Cyndi, youth organizer
“I had just given birth to my daughter, who is now three years old, and Sisters in Strength gave me the courage to let everyone know that I stand for something, that I’m not just some statistic. I learned that I am a smart and beautiful young woman who doesn’t have to let having a child end my life. Life goes on and I am going on too. I am a fighter who will succeed and become a great member of society. I have a lot more confidence than I had before this experience.” — Jazmine, youth organizer
Women’s Glib is part of the Hey, Shorty! Virtual Book Tour. Check out this link to see other Tour stops and spaces that are supporting this project and find out how you are able to support it too!
December 17, 2010 § Leave a Comment
More than 20 years after his film Roger and Me, about Flint’s connections to General Motors, and how the city is affected by outsourcing, Michael Moore still has strong geological and emotional ties to the eastern side of the state of Michigan. He mentioned Flint in Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11, and was clearly passionate about shedding light on the disparity of wealth within Flint. Hell, his Twitter handle is @MMFlint. In his films and interviews, he frequently is seen wearing apparel with the logos of several Michigan colleges, including Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University. I wonder if Moore has visited Eastern Michigan University, or spoken at the school recently. If he did, he may have heard about what happened in 2006 to Eastern student Laura Dickinson.
Laura Dickinson, a student at EMU was raped and murdered in her dorm room in December 2006. EMU originally told her family that she died of natural causes, and it was only after a suspect was arrested that the school informed Dickinson’s family that her death was a homocide. EMU was fined for violating the Beverly Clery Act (which requires colleges and universities to report felonies that happen on campus), settled with the Dickinson family out of court, and the President, Vice President, and Public Safety Director were fired. Dickinson’s death, EMU’s cover-up, and the murder trial were on the news constantly, and brought the kind of publicity that a small town in West Michigan does not want. At the same time, the Dickinson family held several benefits, with proceeds going to causes that Laura supported. Friends and neighbors stepped in to help run the family coffee shop during the months after her death.
It was hard to hear TV and radio reports about Laura’s death, because I knew her family, spent numerous hours in their coffeeshop, and it was sad that instead of being in the news because State Grounds supported the community by letting musicians perform in the space, or raised money for important causes. They were on the news because their daughter had died, and the institution that should have been looking out for her safety failed to protect her, and decided to lie to her family.
When I hear the phrase “travesty of justice”, I think about how EMU treated the grieving Dickinson family. I don’t think about Assange turning himself in, being jailed for a short period of time, being released on bail, and spending his holiday in an English mansion. It isn’t so much Moore posting bail for Assange (it’s his money, he can waste it however he wants to) that pisses me off, it’s Moore’s going on “Countdown With Keith Shouts-A-Lot”, and claiming that his donation stems from a belief that Assange was “set up” and that his complainants are merely upset groupies/”honeypots”/CIA informants/otherwise hell bent on destroying WikiLeaks. This is a criminal case, and instead of trying Assange and his accusers in the Court of the Internet (which is highly susceptible to severe cases of trolling), we should let the courts do their job. And we should reserve judgement about the veracity of the accusations until all parties must testify under oath.
Moore and Olbermann have been silent about their fantastically insensitive comments. I understand that having to explain their justification behind saying that Assange’s work was more important than having to do something as pesky as answer for a crime he has been accused of (and spreading misinformation about Assange’s accusers) must be hard. How about they meet with the Dickinson family, and ask them what it was like to not only have a daughter die after being assaulted, but to have a university lie to them about her death? If Moore doesn’t particularly care about the whole “sexual assault is bad” thing, it would at least provide another example of why cover-ups, and the spreading of lies, by any person or organization, can be devastating and hurtful.
And then maybe, just maybe, Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann will realize why dismissing rape accusations comes off as hurtful, insensitive, pompous, and a slew of other unpleasant adjectives. And then oh, I don’t know, donate at least a little bit of their fortunes to RAINN?
November 29, 2010 § Leave a Comment
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?
October 24, 2010 § 7 Comments
“In my first book, Full Frontal Feminism, I opened by asking readers what the worst thing you could call a woman is (slut, bitch, whore, cunt), then what the worst thing you can call a man is (pussy, fag, sissy, girl). In both cases, the answers were some variation of ‘woman.’” — Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth
The word “slut” first originated as a Middle English word meaning a physically dirty woman, and has now evolved to mean a metaphysically “dirty,” or sexually promiscuous, woman. But how exactly do we decide who should be considered a slut? If sexual promiscuity is the mark of a slut, it would make sense to measure a woman’s sluttiness by the number of men she has slept with. In my experience, however, this is not actually the deciding factor. For example, when I was in high school, two of my best friends were considered “slutty” to some extent, but one was considered more of a slut than the other. I’ll call them A and B.
A was a white, thin girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, pearls and polo shirts. She lost her virginity when she was fourteen and had thirteen sexual partners before she entered college. She had several one-night stands and “friends with benefits” type of relationships. She never considered herself a sexual being and had little to no sex drive. Most of the boys she slept with were in the same social circle which we dubbed the “AP Boys”: a group of boys who were good-looking, athletic, popular, usually rich, and smart enough to get good grades without trying very hard. She didn’t particularly like sex, but she continued to have it for a variety of reasons, including to gain social approval from the AP Boys in order to continue to be invited to their parties, and because they wanted to and she “didn’t care.”
B identified as Middle Eastern; she was curvaceous and exotic-looking, with long black hair and darker skin than anyone else in our milky white high school. She often wore low-cut, tight black shirts and short denim skirts. She was visibly comfortable in her sexuality; she was unashamed of her body and unafraid to flaunt it. She lost her virginity when she was sixteen, and had six sexual partners before she entered college. She generally slept with the “bad boys” in our school, both because she liked the excitement and because she didn’t want to hurt a “nice” boy’s feelings as a result of her lack of interest in a serious relationship. Although she didn’t have serious relationships with these boys, she never slept with someone she wasn’t dating and she never had a one night stand. She enjoyed sex immensely and regarded it as a simple physical act which brought her and her partner pleasure.
Throughout high school, B was considered much more of a slut than A. A remained well-liked and still retained most of the respect she had before she had sex, and it was generally accepted that the girls who called her sluts were simply jealous of the amount of male attention she monopolized. B, on the other hand, was more often than not written off as a trashy whore. Not because she had slept with more people (A actually slept with more than twice as many people as B), but because she was comfortable enough with her sexuality to integrate it into her self-image and her public image. Essentially, B wasn’t being punished for having sex, but rather for enjoying sex. Sluts are not “proper women” because a “proper woman” is not supposed to be a sexual being; she’s supposed to be prim, proper, and repressed, and have sex because it is her duty. In the Victorian era, when sex within marriage was considered a patriotic duty for a woman, women in loveless marriages and brides frightened of the wedding night hijinks were told, “close your eyes, open your legs, and think of England.” Things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think they have. Women are, to some degree, still expected to passively accept the sexual advances of men (especially of the men that will improve their station in life, such as the AP Boys) and fulfill their duty as hollow-eyed sex objects.
B was an easy target because she was precluded from living up to society’s ideal for a woman as a result of her race and body type. The archetype of a proper woman — pure, white, dainty, delicate — conflicts with society’s schema for women of color. Women of color are expected to be louder, cruder, and more sexualized — in body and demeanor — than white women. Where A was subtly pressured to live up to the archetype of the proper woman, B was pressured to live up to the stereotype of the exotic, oversexualized woman of color. People used to tell her she looked like Kim Kardashian all the time. Let me tell you, she doesn’t at all. The only things she and Kim Kardashian have in common are their black hair, big boobs, and Middle Eastern descent. Their eyes, noses, mouths, smiles and face shapes are drastically different. When I reminded people of this, they would say, “Yeah, that’s true, but they just have the same… look…” Many would go so far as to admit that their shared “trashiness” was a point of comparison.
Essentially, the idea of a “slut” is a myth told to women to keep them in their place. Just as Santa will not actually bring you coal on Christmas if you break a few of the house rules, you will not actually turn into an intrinsically tainted, unpalatable creature if you break one of society’s rules and have sex with one too many men. The word “slut” isn’t a criticism for having too much sex necessarily, but for being a woman: a real, living, breathing woman with quirks, foibles, normal sexual feelings, and personality; and failing to live up to the societal ideal for a woman: the passive, pliable, perpetually innocent, and sexually available Barbie doll.
October 21, 2010 § 1 Comment
Remember all that hoopla about Male Studies? The “debate” — you know, the debate between progressive gender equity and anxious protection of sacred manly manhood — is still a topic of attention. Still a topic, in fact, at my school. So check out my friend Molly’s article in The Stanford Daily, exploring what she calls “John Wayne’s Masculine Identity Crisis?: A dance-off between feminist studies and the newly emerging male studies.” (Bonus: there may or may not be a quote from someone you might know, in the online sense of the word? Maybe it’s me? Perhaps? Because goodness knows I love to talk about the ladies and the studying.)