January 1, 2010 § 4 Comments
I’ve seen some atrocious new ads pop on subway platforms, as part of a marketing campaign for Spike TV’s new television series Blue Mountain State. According to the network:
The football-themed series focuses on what it’s like being a freshman at national champion Blue Mountain State, but there’s much more to it than football… there’s also girls, partying, hazing and of course, class. “Blue Mountain State contains four key ingredients to being a guy…football, partying, women and hazing,” said Spike TV President Kevin Kay.
Hear that, dudes? Kevin Kay just told you everything you need to confirm your manlymanhood. So get on that.
The first ad is a gross display of the objectification and dehumanization of women and their bodies. Of course, the woman whose legs are featured is thin, white, and hairless. Anyone else repulsed by the idea that donning a varsity football helmet will automatically get you between girls’ legs?
The second ad — what can I say? It’s disgusting.
(I’d rather not hear any protests of, “Oh, the show is trying to call attention to damaging norms of masculinity! You’re so silly, you don’t understand their edgy humor!” Maybe that is what the producers are hoping the show will do. But using blatantly sexist advertising imagery doesn’t clue your audience in to that hope. Misogyny, in these ads and countless others, is not edgy; it’s all too common.)
November 30, 2009 § Leave a Comment
ESPN’s Outside The Lines has an interesting and angering profile of Mackenzie McCollum, a Texas high school student and volleyball player who faced discrimination from her coach and school administration. (I’m not allowed to embed the video, but I highly recommend clicking through to watch it. And I apologize, I have not been able to locate a transcript of the video.)
Mackenzie found out she was pregnant, and still wanted to participate on the volleyball team. The administration of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas told her family it was their strict policy to obtain a written doctor’s note to clear pregnant students to play. (They never provided physical evidence of that policy to Mackenzie’s family, though.) Her physician sent in a note, which they rejected, and a second one, which they deemed acceptable.
When Mackenzie returned for her first game, she found out that her coach had “outed” her to the rest of the team, making her fodder for school-wide stares, gossip, and judgment.
Despite the horrible treatment she’s faced, Mackenzie seems like a badass girl who’s not taking discrimination laying down. Her mother, Barbara Horton, has filed formal complaints with the United States Department of Education in reference to Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in school sports communities on the basis of sex or gender.
Keep up the good work, Mackenzie!
September 25, 2009 § 2 Comments
In this first semester, I am taking a class entitled Abnormal Psychology, which is all about the philosophy, diagnoses, and treatments that surround the field of mental health. It’s been really baller so far, and my love for the class only increased when my professor lectured this week on the psychopathological effects of sexism on both men and women!!!
Overall, the sexist gender norms that men and women are expected to emulate have been correlated with post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, attention deficit disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder across both genders. All us feminists know that sexism hurts everybody, but I just think it’s so interesting and enlightening to see that stupid stereotypes actually have the power to make us psychopathological. That means that some of us are altered on literally a biological level by all the oppressive bullshit out there.
My professor (who happens to be a man, makes this even cooler) also lectured on the five stages of feminism as a means by which individuals can avoid and overcome sexism-linked psychopathology. Seriously cool. Here they are:
1. Passive acceptance of gender roles.
2. Questioning of gender roles — anger at self and others for allowing sexism and inequality.
3. Reaching out to a network for connectedness — “sisterhood.”
4. Synthesis stage — own sense of identity is solidified and and the individual can make decisions about sexism by themselves on a case to case basis.
Those stuck in stage two are most likely to suffer from phobias, a feeling of alienation, depression, and anxiety.
Those who make it to stages four and five are least likely to suffer from those ailments, and are at lower risk for developing an eating disorder.
You think feminists are crazy? Think again.
September 19, 2009 § 5 Comments
I’m applying to college in the next four months!
I’m thinking more and more about gender as a factor in applications and admissions. I remember reading an op-ed by the dean of admissions of a small liberal arts college, titled To All The Girls I’ve Rejected — but now it’s that much closer to home. The author gives us a tour of the admissions process, and explains that holding women applicants to a higher standard of excellence is commonplace and in some eyes necessary in today’s culture of do-it-all.
A few days ago I watched my daughter Madalyn open a thin envelope from one of the five colleges to which she had applied. “Why?” was what she was obviously asking herself as she handed me the letter saying she was waitlisted.
Why, indeed? She had taken the toughest courses in her high school and had done well, sat through several Saturday mornings taking SAT’s and the like, participated in the requisite number of extracurricular activities, written a heartfelt and well-phrased essay and even taken the extra step of touring the campus.
She had not, however, been named a National Merit finalist, dug a well for a village in Africa, or climbed to the top of Mount Rainier. She is a smart, well-meaning, hard-working teenage girl, but in this day and age of swollen applicant pools that are decidedly female, that wasn’t enough. The fat acceptance envelope is simply more elusive for today’s accomplished young women.
I have a complicated relationship with this concept. One part of me says that it’s blatantly sexist to expect more from women applicants than men. I’ve heard this called “affirmative action for boys” — which is ridiculous, it’s women who have been denied access to education throughout history. The comparison of men as a group to, say, African-Americans, who rightly benefit from real affirmative action is less than logical.
But another part of me sees the need for a balanced student body; in fact, it’s one statistic I’ve made a point of noting for each school I research.
We have told today’s young women that the world is their oyster; the problem is, so many of them believed us that the standards for admission to today’s most selective colleges are stiffer for women than men. How’s that for an unintended consequence of the women’s liberation movement?
The elephant that looms large in the middle of the room is the importance of gender balance. Should it trump the qualifications of talented young female applicants? At those colleges that have reached what the experts call a “tipping point,” where 60 percent or more of their enrolled students are female, you’ll hear a hint of desperation in the voices of admissions officers.
Your thoughts, students and other readers?
August 2, 2009 § 7 Comments
This summer I have been a tiny bit addicted to watching Netflix instantly from my computer. Their eccentric collection has, um, forced me to watch some pretty weird TV. Kindly, Netflix automatically organizes my viewing options into some categories to help me navigate their website. The categories include stuff like “TV sitcoms,” “romance,” “thriller,” “TV show with a strong female lead.”
Wait, what was that last one?
Am I the only one who finds that just a little bit weird? Don’t get me wrong, I love that they suggested shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dead Like Me. Those shows are pretty great, and I think they are great precisely because they have strong, quirky, entertaining females at the center of them. But it seems to me that making an entire Netflix category out of them is just highlighting how odd it is in the movie/TV industries to have such shows. I didn’t see any “TV shows with a strong white male lead.”
Perhaps Netflix is simply reflecting a larger issue, but I can’t help but think that their method of categorization, in some small way, is helping to perpetuate that issue. Then again, perhaps I’m overreacting. Still, it struck me as a little weird, slightly more disconcerting, and entirely blog-worthy.
July 24, 2009 § 4 Comments
It’s summer, and though I’m busy working my tail patience off as a camp counselor, I also have quite a bit of downtime. I’ve seen a bunch of movies lately: some silly ones with my family (The Proposal and Year One) as well as films that I actually wanted to see (Away We Go and, last night, 500 Days of Summer — both excellent, the latter mostly because of my enormous crush on Zooey Deschanel). But one movie that I’m certain I won’t spend $12.50 on is The Ugly Truth, starring part-time feminist Katherine Heigl as a “romantically challenged morning show producer” and Gerard Butler as a professional douche. I’ve seen some previews that warned me of its knee-slappin’ “humor,” and then this morning I read the excellently scathing New York Times review by Manohla Dargis, fabulously titled Girl Meets Ape, and Complications Ensue.
When it comes to the old straight-boy-meets-straight-girl configuration with big-studio production values…the romantic comedy is nearly as dead as Meg Ryan’s career. In the best of these films, the women aren’t romantic foils, much less equals: they’re either (nice) sluts or (nicer) wives, and essentially as mysterious and unknowable as the dark side of the moon.
Which leads to “The Ugly Truth,” a cynical, clumsy, aptly titled attempt to cross the female-oriented romantic comedy with the male-oriented gross-out comedy that is interesting on several levels, none having to do with cinema. Katherine Heigl plays Abby, a producer for a ratings-challenged Sacramento morning television show, the kind that specializes in empty smiles, cooking tips and weather updates. She’s single and therefore, in the moral economy of modern Hollywood, unhappy. Her life goes into a tailspin when her boss hires a professional ape, Mike (Gerard Butler), who delivers loutish maxims on camera about the sexes that basically all boil down to this: Men have penises, and women should accommodate them any which way they can, preferably in push-up bras and remote-controlled vibrating panties.
…Ms. Heigl doesn’t do perky all that persuasively, but she does keep her smile and relative dignity even in scenes in which Abby is forced to play the fool, which is often, as when she’s hanging upside down from a tree in her skivvies. She even survives the scene that finds Abby writhing spasmodically during a dinner with her corporate masters, because, well, she’s wearing those pulsating panties, the boy at the next table has the remote, and there’s nothing funnier (or, really, scarier) than the spectacle of female pleasure.
I am SO. TIRED. of media that portrays women’s minds as murky, our bodies as property, and our desires as hilarious. A woman’s sexuality is not so damn difficult to understand — if you talk to and listen to her, which society is apparently loath to do.
And another thing: no one seems to get that these movies are as offensive to men as they are to women. Commenters on IMDB rave that it’s a “comedy for both sexes,” one you can “bring your boyfriend” to. Men should not be like Butler’s skeevy character; and what’s more, they aren’t. But movies like this convince the public that guys are practically children, and we shouldn’t expect to hold them accountable for atrocious sexist behavior.
“The Ugly Truth” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).
The language is consistently crude and includes the apparently now requisite antigay slurs.
Yeah. Because straight = manly, manly = asshole, and asshole = sexy.
June 6, 2009 § 3 Comments
V*gina – by Ilana, a high school junior.
2005-2006: I was on the young end of the spectrum as an eighth grader. I had turned thirteen in 2005 and would stay that way until high school. Even as the baby of the grade, I had 34 B breasts that seemed to pop up over night, literally. Along with the breasts came hips and a shape that was not meant for my age. As my body changed, so did the attitudes of the people around me — both of boys and girls – but I couldn’t figure out why. As my perspective of my body was impacted, I felt obligated to adjust how I dressed. I began to cover up my body, which had previously never caused me discomfort. In addition, once I became involved with boys, I was suddenly labeled a slut for reasons I did not understand. But wait, I can’t possibly be the only one who felt like this. There must be some rationale. Let’s look back at the perception of women in our society…
1999: A scantily-clad Britney Spears, age 17, is on the cover of Rolling Stone, almost naked. The picture of young Britney shows her in a school-girl’s outfit lying on a bed with her white shirt unbuttoned completely, exposing a black bra. The photo is suggestive, provocative, and potentially perceived as slutty. 17 may be one year away from adulthood but why is this young pop star exposing herself like this? Many considered this photo inappropriate and as setting a bad example for Britney’s younger fans. An association to sex quickly accompanied her fame. This caused an uproar by many who saw Britney as representing all that was wrong with women. She was exposing a part of her that was meant to be kept secret from all. Women are not supposed to be as explicit with their bodies because this leads many to believe they want sex and will engage in it readily. A woman who is free with her sexuality is one who does not respect herself, and thus is labeled a slut. Such comments have been made about other teen pop stars like Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens. These two girls were seen as young and innocent. However, the moment both of them exposed their bodies, a Britney cycle ensued.
2009: I must ask, how can it be that society so rejects women’s display of their sexuality? Britney was sexy and not afraid to show it, nor ashamed of the associations that accompanied her Lolita-esque photo. If Britney was comfortable with the photo shoot, and Miley Cyrus is not concerned with how she looks why is everyone else? Why must we demean a woman’s choices of how she handles herself if she is comfortable? The same applies to a woman’s sexual experiences. Women are seen as sluts if they are “too loose.” Let’s look further back…
1973: Erica Jong’s book Fear of Flying is published. This is a tale of a woman who recounts sexual experiences with an openness that had previously only been associated with men. Its release caused a huge uproar, which indicated that society was not ready to hear the truth about women’s sexual desires. Women had been, and continue to be, seen as having a more passive approach to sexual desire and action. In Fear of Flying, the untraditional character, Isadora, defies sexual conventions as she describes “the zipless fuck.” This is defined as an entirely sexual encounter that is based solely on desire and pleasure. Isadora states that it the “purest thing there is” and that she has never had one.
2009: But why has Isadora never been able to have a “zipless fuck?” Is it because she is afraid of the judgment she will receive? Has she internalized the notion that this feeling is unfeminine and forbidden? Or is she afraid of rejection because this approach too forward for a woman? Though for women today a “zipless fuck” is no longer “rarer than a unicorn,” the subject is still provocative. Women are not taught by society about their sexual essence and power, and struggle to learn through experience. Our sex drive is just as strong as men’s; however, we are expected to suppress it. This duplicity in society, praising men’s exploits while condemning women’s sexual freedom, presents women with an identity crisis. In addition to this, the way that a woman dresses or acts is a reflection of her sexuality. How can I feel comfortable with my sexuality when I am being told it diminishes me as a person? How can I feel comfortable with my sexuality when I am told that my comfort in my body and my desire to show it is wrong? Who will offer me much needed guidance, beyond fictional characters? Women are too easily intimidated by other’s judgments and thus become uncomfortable with themselves and their sexuality. A woman’s desires are just as valid as a man’s. Women should embrace their sexuality and not believe that their natural instincts and desires deplete their integrity.
Unfortunately, society will not change as fast as us. We will not wake up tomorrow to a world that promotes our sexuality as part of our femininity, or that allows us to dress as we please. However, we can assume the power ourselves. Every woman who can find strength in herself and her sexuality and can achieve happiness through it will lead a more complete life. I am not advocating rampant sex, or random nudity, I am simply saying the sex you chose to have and the clothing you chose to wear is yours. As long as you’re comfortable with the choices you have made, you are no slut.
May 30, 2009 § 1 Comment
Inequality – by Sasha, a high school junior.
If you’re like me, school takes up huge amount of your time and energy. Before you started reading this article, you were probably thinking about school. Maybe you’re worried about an upcoming math test, or thinking about how little sleep you got last night because you were up so late doing homework. Or maybe you were just thinking about someone who you’re hoping to sit next to in your next period class. In New York City, going to school isn’t really a choice and it is easy to think about all the trouble school causes. However, without the education that we are provided, we couldn’t be prepared to lead the life we want to live.
Nearly 66 million girls around the world (two-thirds of the world’s children) do not have access to education, leading to a higher illiteracy rate among women than men. 70 percent of the world’s poorest individuals are girls and women, meaning that a huge amount of the female population does not have the money to go to school. There are many factors other than extreme poverty that prevent girls from achieving access to education, such as childhood marriage and safety concerns like sex trafficking, domestic abuse and hate crimes.
The United Nations defines extreme poverty as living on less than two dollars a day. Many girls do not have access to clean water, resulting in sickness that prevents them from being able to work. Doctor bills result in cutting back even more. Their poverty impacts their educational opportunities as well. They can’t afford the required school uniforms, transportation, or the basic supplies. Unable to afford transportation, they are forced to walk miles to get to classes.
Marriage is a wonderful opportunity to commit your life to someone you love and receive their love and commitment in return. Unfortunately, many women and girls not only have no control over whom they marry, but they also have no control over when they marry. Despite many countries enacting marriageable age laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 to 18, child marriages are still widespread. Poverty, tradition and conflict make the incidence of child marriage very frequent, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2006, there were more than 60 million child brides who were married or in union before age 18. For most of those girls, their marriage equals a death sentence to their education because either their husbands don’t allow them to go to school, or they are simply overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a wife.
When talking about sex crimes, rape, and domestic abuse, it is difficult to articulate the traumatic impact it has on the victim’s life. While researching the reality of sex crimes, I was immediately shocked by the numbers. In South Africa, a sex crime happens every 20 seconds. (How long have you spent reading this article?)
- In Southeast Asia, 40% of girls are being sold into prostitution to feed their families.
- In 65% of the cases reported in Cambodia, rape victims were younger than eighteen, and 12% of the perpetrators were closely related by blood or marriage.
- 1 out of 3 women in Asia agreed with at least one reason to justify a husband beating his wife.
Do you believe that there is any reason to justify a husband beating his wife? These beliefs are the result of cultural norms such as preference for males and strict gender roles which allow for this behavior.
Let’s just say, to be optimistic, that a girl is provided with enough money to get to school, have the supplies and the uniform. She has never been physically or physiologically abused, and her parents haven’t made her marry and they allow her to go to school. The issue should be solved, right? Wrong. In November, girls on their way to school in Afghanistan were attacked by two men on their motorcycles who were repulsed by the thought of girls going to school, and thought it was appropriate to throw acid in their faces. 19-year-old Shamsia and her 16-year-old sister Atifa were on their way to Meir Weis Mena School in Kandahar, Afghanistan along with several other teachers and students who were similarly attacked. Unfortunately, hate crimes like these are not unusual.
Education is the most effective means of protection and empowerment for girls living in developing countries. Girls who are educated lead healthier lives, have greater involvement in the social and political life of their communities, marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and play a substantial role in the economic stability of their families. When girls are educated, the world is rewarded by achieving the engagement of an articulate and informed group of women.
Education means learning skills such as mathematics so you can tell if someone is trying to cheat you out of your money, or learning about history so you can try to avoid the mistakes that our ancestors made. Education means being able to read what other people have written, whether that is a fantasy book to allow you to temporarily escape reality, or an instruction manual to teach you how to put together a shelf, or philosophy to stimulate your mind, opening the door to literally endless possibilities. Education means learning how to express yourself in words and speak professionally so that you can become a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher and help others in your community.
Girls Learn International Inc. (GLI) is an organization that was designed to specifically tackle this epidemic. In their own words, “GLI pairs American middle and high school-based Chapters with Partner Schools in countries where girls have been traditionally denied access to education. The GLI Program gives students the opportunity to explore issues affecting girls in relation to global human rights, promotes cross-cultural understanding and communication, and trains students to be leaders and advocates for positive change.” Here, at our school, we are very proud to be part of this program. This year the GLI club has raised over $700 for its partner school in Vietnam for orphans with HIV/AIDS. Along with featuring our partner school in a documentary film on AIDS Action day, the GLI club has sent over care packages such as a scrap book with home decorated pages of each of the members as well as a care packages with mix tapes, friendship bracelets and Disney DVDs. Next year the GLI club is excited to make new, fun, creative projects to support the children in our partner school. You, too, can become involved with this cultural exchange by joining the GLI club next year and contributing to providing girls with an education worldwide.
Filkins, Dexter. “Afghan Girls, Scarred by Acid, Defy Terror, Embracing School.” The New York Times. 13 Jan. 2009.
The World Bank. 2009. The World Bank Group. 18 May 2009 .
Welcome to Girls Learn International. 2008. 18 May 2009 .
May 27, 2009 § 3 Comments
Letters From Kartini – by Nia, a high school junior.
Schools were named after her, books were written about her, songs were composed in her name, even a national holiday was dedicated to her; Kartini was the Indonesian symbol of women empowerment and self-determination.
I remember when I was still in elementary school, we had annual celebration of Hari Kartini (Kartini Day) where the students had to dress up in traditional clothing from different provinces and walk down a runaway. We sang her songs and went around trying to guess which province our clothing came from. Although the students seemed oblivious of the tradition’s relevance to the celebration of Kartini and saw it just as another free day, I thought it was intended to remind the students of the diversity we have in our country, which Kartini truly embraced.
Raden Ajeng Kartini was born in 1879 into an aristocrat Javanese family, in time when Java was still part of the Dutch colony. During this time, women and girls received little or no education; only some and those with the status were allowed to go a Dutch school. Kartini’s father, Raden Mas Sosroningrat, who was the mayor of Jepara, allowed her to go to a Dutch elementary school with her brothers. Here she met her Dutch friends and learned Dutch, which was highly unusual for Indonesian women. Kartini continued her education until she was twelve when her father prohibited her from continuing her studies. According to Javanese tradition, daughters must be kept at home after finishing elementary education. A noble girl was not allowed to have a higher education; she had to be secluded at home. This was a common practice among Javanese nobility, to prepare young girls for their marriage. The girls were not allowed to go out at all until they were married, when authority over them was transferred to their husbands.
Kartini was kept home for four years, she poured out her despair through letters to her friends in Holland. In her letter to her friend Stella Zeehanderlaar, she explained how she was not proud of her privileged status. A “modern girl,” in Kartini’s definition, is proud, independent, self-reliant, enthusiastic and warm. Most importantly, one who works for her own happiness and the greater good of humanity. The majority of her letters protest the tendency of Javanese culture to impose obstacles for the development of women. She wanted women to have the freedom to learn and study.
On 8 November 1903, Kartini was married to Raden Adipati Djojoadiningrat. With his permission, she opened the first women elementary school near their home. The school taught women and girls to read and make handicrafts. Kartini’s school was a breakthrough in Indonesian education field. It was the first school open to Indonesians regardless of their status and gender. The school put moral education above the mind’s education.
Sadly, Kartini passed away a year later after giving birth to her first child. Inspired by Kartini, the Van Deventer family, friends of Kartini, established the Kartini Foundation which built schools for women, Sekolah Kartini (Kartini’s School) were established in Semarang in 1912, followed by other women’s schools in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebon and other areas.
Although now Kartini is merely remembered as the Indonesian feminist who struggled for women equality, I remember her as the brave and intelligent woman who struggled in a society with a tremendously strong intellectual tradition, where women had no voice, even in family affairs. Kartini’s “fight” may not be comparable to the long, hard struggle that American women had to go through to attain their right to vote during the same period of time, but I find it intriguing how Kartini was able to promote women equality and empowerment for all Indonesian women simply through letters. I have not found a single speech that Kartini publicly delivered, but found dozens of letters, even documented in a book, that inspired her friends, young and elder women all over the country to fight for their freedom, starting from getting educated.
Because of Kartini and other heroines who fought for Indonesian independence, like Cut Nyak Dien, Indonesia was able to grow as a country that already had women equality and democracy engrained in her principles. The reason that my grandmother, my mother, and I were able to freely attend school without gender discrimination was because of the courage and confidence that Kartini had for Indonesian women, that we have the power to make a change. Although Indonesia is still considered a “developing” country, I am still proud that the girls in Indonesia have equal amount of rights to receive the same level of education as any other boys. Moreover, even with some traditional norms and economic struggles still fighting against education for girls, it is still relieving to acknowledge that our core foundation as a nation believes that women have the power and voice to make change.
May 26, 2009 § 3 Comments
Hannah Berner is a peer of mine at school; she is in a few of my classes. She is smart, hard-working and an outstanding tennis player. Recently, my school (The Beacon School) played Cardozo High School in the PSAL finals, and won. Hannah plays on the boys’ tennis team, and she competes right alongside them. There is no girls’ team at my school because of lack of funds, but Hannah gets by just fine with the boys. The coach said,
”Hannah [Berner] is great, but she’s a girl on a boys team. They need a girls team. This is the boys championship. B-o-y-s.”
Read the full article here. His reaction after losing in the final is disgraceful, setting a terrible example for all the boys playing on the team. While I agree that my school is in need of a girls’ team this is not the appropriate way to go about it. Sometimes I forget that there really are people like this, who even think it is acceptable to say such misogynistic and sexist things, especially as a high school tennis coach. Anyway, there is a poll towards the bottom on the right of the article, please vote and show your support for Hannah!