Students Speak: Spice Up YOUR Relationship

May 26, 2009 § 5 Comments

Spice Up YOUR Relationship – by Jennifer, a high school junior.

I can’t count the number of articles I have seen titled “Spice Up Your Relationship” or “How to Recapture Your Boyfriend’s Attention.” The various times I have looked through men’s magazines such as GQ or Askmen (admittedly to scope out the pictures of Ryan Gosling promised on the front cover), I have seen nothing suggesting ways men can fix or better their relationships. Now I ask: why does this burden fall on women?

These articles are potent in every magazine that are geared toward women and put an obscene amount of pressure on those who read them. This mentality starts early in a woman’s magazine-reading career: in the latest issue of Seventeen there was an article titled “Fun Date Ideas to Try with Your Guy” not to mention the listing in CosmoGirl’s table of contents called “How to Win Him.” The pressure to maintain a healthy relationship is unfairly thrown on women at a young age through the media and the interactions we witness. Whether we are watching a television show where the girls are obsessing over what guys want from them or we are reading a young-adult book, we repeatedly see a male-dominated relationship carried out through the woman’s actions.

This pressure extends further and affects more than who plans date night and the work associated with maintaining a relationship. Studies have shown that the power dynamic and present pressures in a relationship affect how a woman chooses to handle her own reproductive health. In a clinic-based survey of 15-30 year old women, the likelihood of emergency contraception use was elevated if the woman felt pressured to please her partner and sustain her relationship. The unequal weight of relationship responsibility is already penetrating our decisions about our bodies, which is something men already have too much control over.

So what’s the point? Do not let the pressure get to you – tell your guy to make the reservations!

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke

Rhyming Revenge

May 1, 2009 § 2 Comments

By some very cool and strange coincidence, it seems to be spoken word weekend here at Women’s Glib. I just got back from the Urban Word NYC Poetry Slam at Cooper Union where I saw Zora from Bi-Racial Hair perform, as well as other dizzyingly talented artists.

I left the slam inspired by the last line of the second brawl: “Femininity does not equal negativity.” On the train home, I used that line as an opener to write my own thoughts into rhyme. Miranda and I must have been sharing a brain today because when I got home to finally post about my bad-ass inspiration, I found the spoken words illuminated on the surface of feminist action.

And so begins this weekend series, Rhyming Revenge. This is my first post, but every weekend, watch out for some feminist-configured words to combat the sexism we face daily. This first Rhyming Revenge is dedicated to anti-feminist lawmakers who believe women are not capable of making their own choices.

And so the rhymes begin…

Can we realize femininity does not equal negativity

when we grasp the power 

which is rightfully ours

from selected white men in black suits

who carry a void without truth

in soulless laws which embody the flaws

of patriarchal bile from which we defile

and run amock because we need not a cock

to know use of our tongues and heart of our minds

to claim our bodies for ourselves;

we find they heed possession of no one else

yet our beliefs are not felt 

without slaps on the wrist or a metaphorical fist?

We are put in our place and perpetually abased,

yet we have the same skin and are not considered equal kin

due to fragility of our hearts,

going unrecognized for other parts;

we have fists 

that can slap these laws on their wrists,

our choices no longer yonder:

hear our voices thunder!

Should Sexting Be Illegal?

April 20, 2009 § 1 Comment

Common Sense Media (a media watchdog group for and comprised of parents, from which I inexplicably receive emails about once a week) asks the title question in a recent newsletter, and THIS TEEN SAYS NO!

“Sexting”—a word which, by the way, I’ve never heard any real-life teenager use without a hefty dollop of irony—if you haven’t heard about all this madness, is essentially “the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones,” which I’ve lifted from Wikipedia’s brief primer. Supposedly, one in five teens is doing it, and the recent rise in high-profile cases has sparked fascinating legal and moral debates. In Pennsylvania, six high school students face child pornography charges for their involvement.

The female students at Greensburg Salem High School in Greensburg, Pa., all 14- or 15-years-old, face charges of manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography while the boys, who are 16 and 17, face charges of possession, according to WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh, which published the story on its Web site on Tuesday.

So the girls are being punished for taking and passing on pictures of themselves, and the guys are being reprimanded for possessing photos purposefully shared with them within a consensual exchange?

Sounds like a fucking shame-based waste of time and resources.

And it certainly is, considering another case in which a student forwarded pictures of his ex-girlfriend to his friends without her knowledge. In other words, sexual assault. Isn’t it more important to address this violation of boundaries than to tell girls to keep it covered? Sure seems like we’ve misplaced our “concern.”

Cara points out that the real problem with sexting isn’t that teens are taking sexual pictures of themselves and purposefully sending them to people with the consent of everyone involved. The problem is that people are forwarding those pictures to others without the consent of the photographed. And sadly, I’m not at all surprised that my peers are confused about what consent means.

Why? Because we’ve gotten so damn many opposing mandates about attraction and desire that our heads are spinning almost as fast as our hormones.

Young people are simultaneously not allowed to be sexual and pushed to conform to a hypersexualized, stereotypical idea of what it means to be desired. We’re told that engaging in any sexual act sex is a dirty, dirrrty decision, despite the widely accepted fact that the vast majority of adults are doing it in some form or another. From there, we’ve got three basic paths to navigate – and I’ll tell you right now that none of them end well:

a) If we don’t have The Sex, we’re prudes, geeks, goody-goodys. We’re abnormal and utterly devoid of passion. We’re the four-eyed nerd, not the bikini-sporting cheerleader. We’re pathetic.

b) If we do but fail to use the right precautions – which is hardly surprising, given the ghastly prevalence of health curricula that 1) omit lessons on preventing pregnancy and STIs; 2) rely on blatantly sexist stereotypes and even flat-out lies about the purpose and efficacy of condoms and contraception; 3) fail to address the very real sexual health concerns of folks who are getting down with a partner of the same sex; and/or 4) skip right over the Sex chapter in the manual – we “should have known better.”

c) If we do and use the right precautions WE GET SUSPENDED.

What the fuck?

Conveniently, we are also shamed for sexual acts whether or not we consent to them, and this is especially true for young women. Think about it: if a girl is raped, she is often told that she was “asking for it” because she had the audacity to walk through the park alone/wear a short skirt/get drunk at a party (read: the audacity to live). And if she has the opposite experience, if she purposefully and insistently seeks sexual pleasure, then she is a laughable, desperate caricature. She’s a slut.

There is shame literally everywhere we turn. So is it any wonder we’re experimenting sexually through phones, in the dark, in secrecy, instead of out in the world? The media talk about sexting hastens to turn young women from keepers of our own sexual power into victims. Sure, texting pictures of yourself naked is a stupid choice in our media-saturated world where everything – everything – can and will come back to haunt you, but that’s cause for reflection, not a criminal record.

Cross-posted at Shakesville!

Sexism: Historical Edition

April 19, 2009 § 4 Comments

Hey everybody!

So… I was just minding my own business, attempting to get through my history homework on one of those depressing Sundays when one side of you is fully aware of the fact that you have school tomorrow and the other side of you just wants to sit watching that Law and Order: CI marathon while eating left-over Easter candy (have I shared too much?), when I came across this gem in my textbook:

Immigrants with chalk marks were herded to the left, while most went to the right, filing by a matron who searched the faces of women for evidence of “loose character.”

If such evidence was found, the woman would be turned away and sent back to her country of origin.

No such test was given to men.

Gotta love that good old fashioned 1890’s sexism.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

April 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Not this girl’s.

Last night, as I was helping my cousin pick out a new background for is iPhone,* I stared enviously at all the cool thematic options. That is, until I spotted one not so cool: “Girly.”

The icon for this set of  screen savers was (you guessed it) a diamond. A tiny, shiny diamond that I find upsetting. For all the gender stereotypes that demean women (and girls to whom the title for this background tailors to), I find diamonds one of the most offensive. Here’s why:

They are used as heteronormative objectifying persuasion devices that men give their love interests/girlfriends/fiances/wives as material apologies/marital contracts/ownership/representation. Sure, they might be giving these diamonds out of love, but what can women give men to match up to these diamonds they are supposed to love oh-so-much? Why do men do the buying and women do the receiving?**

AND

They are oh-so-shiny it is oh-so-abasing to assume that women view shiny objects (what toddlers and animals are rumored to be attracted to) as their signature mark.

So really, iPhone? Why does such a cool gadget have to produce such gross features? And why, oh why, do mainstream companies insist on forcing gender stereotypes to objectify girls on these seemingly innocent screens?

 

*After countless google searches, I have yet to find the aforementioned “girly” background online. I believe it’s a standard one that comes on the iPhone, but if anyone can find a picture of it, please post it in comments. Same goes if anyone can find the application designer so we can file some feminist complaints!

**This is not to say there is necessarily something wrong or sexist with men giving women diamonds. It’s simply important to recognize where this practice comes from and to stop love from turning into objectification via ignorance.

I’m Guilty

April 2, 2009 § 5 Comments

Get ready for a slightly nonsensical and very therapeutic rant.

High school students are under a lot of pressure. But that’s not why I feel guilty almost all the time.

My mom works really hard. She works, providing for me and all, and she is a mom. I respect her, and women like her, so much because I know the shit she has to put up with on a daily basis. We all know the kind of guilt society places on women, particularly working mothers. My mom gets guilt from our family for not staying home, she gets guilt from the people she works with for leaving work early on parent-teacher conference night. If she works, which most of us need to do, she’s a bad mom, but if she doesn’t…well, that’s not really an option for her. It’s a pretty pervasive lose-lose situation.

Sometimes I feel so stressed that it feels like my body is breaking. A big part of this stress is because of the guilt I constantly feel. I feel guilty if I’m not doing my homework. I feel guilty if I’m running late to a rehearsal. I feel guilty if I don’t go visit my grandmother one Sunday. Almost every girl I know has expressed similar feelings to me. Of course, there are plenty of guys that are also constantly juggling three thousand things. It’s just that lately I’ve become really aware of how big a factor guilt is in running my life. What am I so guilty about?

There is constant pressure to be flawless. But what does that even mean? Sorry if this sounds like a whiny self-pity session, but it’s true, and it’s true for all of us. There are these unattainable standards that all women are expected to live up to, that just don’t make sense. I’m supposed to be smart, but not too smart or else boys won’t like me. I’m supposed to be pretty, but not too pretty, or else girls won’t like me. I’m supposed to be innocent, but naughty.

We’re faced with these unattainable standards and expectations to be flawless everyday. Obviously no one can live up to them, and yet the way they’re presented, it seems like you’re the only one who can’t. So many of the girls in the movies and on t.v. seem to fit this definition of what we’re all supposed to be. No wonder I, along with so many young women, constantly feel guilty.

“I’ve got a bitch of a headache”

April 1, 2009 § 2 Comments

(Not to be confused with “I’ve got a Monster headache.”) An obnoxiously misogynistic ad from Dubai for Emami pain balm. Because, you know, us bitchez get sooo loud when we’re angry about sexism and shit.

headache-ad

Ad and excellent title via Copyranter.

Dressed in White: The Media’s Assault on Black Women’s Humanity

March 28, 2009 § 2 Comments

I wrote this thesis paper on the media’s sexist and racist objectification of Black women for my Junior Inquiry research class last semester. It’s 12 pages of what I hope is feminist and anti-racist empowerment so please continue reading below the fold if you’re interested. Enjoy!

« Read the rest of this entry »

Bathing suits and impossible perfection

March 23, 2009 § 3 Comments

We’ve had some gorgeous spring weather in New York recently, although it’s been depressingly sporadic (lookin’ at you, global warming). Sunshine and warm breezes are something I look forward to all winter long, but like many celebration-worthy events, they can be ruined by a little old-fashioned sexism.

Misogyny and sizeism take warm weather as an opportunity get down and dirty, as Kate points out in her excellent post about the difficulties of buying a bathing suit when you’re fat.

The magazines have started. We are now in the pre-season — the “unless you’re already quite thin, it’s time to start losing weight if you want to show your body in public this summer!” phase. (If you are quite thin, please wait for our May issue, when we’ll tell you you’re too pale*, hairy, blemished, and unfashionable, your boobs are too small to go with your butt, you could still stand to tone up those muscles, and your body insecurity is a real turn-off.)

*If you’re a woman of color, you’re probably exempt from this one, but on the downside, we have no idea you exist. 

And this is precisely why I adore Shapely Prose. I’m a thin person, but I still read this hilarious, down-to-earth, morally radiant blog daily. Why? Besides the obvious – that our society’s rampant hatred of fat people is, uh, wrong – there’s the fact that it’s not just fat people’s bodies that are available for public commentary. We get mixed messages from mainstream culture: on the one hand, there is always something to be “fixed,” which means you’re naive to like your “imperfect” body – but on the other, confidence is sexy so don’t let your man see you feeling insecure. 

As women, we are constantly dealing with the immense moral weight that’s placed onto our bodies. If you’re fat, you’re lazy. If you have big breasts, you’re a slut. If you have body hair, you’re dirty and masculine. If you’re thin, you’re probably anorexic – and you could definitely still lose some weight.

We must all take up arms in the fight for fat acceptance, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because all of us whose bodies are seen as indicators of moral worth will benefit from a world where our physical selves are celebrated and accepted without critique. As Kate points out on the Shapely Prose comments page:

If you’re still not getting it, think about the difference between these two people:

Skinny Person A: You know, I really respect what you’re doing here, because people comment on my body and my eating habits all the time, and they assume I’m unhealthy just because of my weight. I don’t know what it’s like to be fat in this society, but I know what it’s like to have my body treated as public property and be judged negatively because of my size. It fucking sucks, so the Fat Acceptance movement resonates with me, and I hope I can be an ally.

Word. Allied action is where it’s at.

Why is the masculine androgynous?

March 18, 2009 § 2 Comments

Warning: This post is a bit of a wordy stream-of-consciousness rant. Read at your own risk.

Pants are androgynous; they are worn by both women and men. Women, however, have the options of wearing pants, skirts, or dresses. According to a gendered society, men may wear only pants. Thus, pants are both masculine and androgynous. While a woman is socially permitted to wear pants in a setting that is inclusive of both genders, when she wears pants in a setting in which she is the only woman, she is ostracized, called “butch,” “revolutionary,” or even — goodness forbid — a feminist.

Hillary Clinton is famous for her pantsuits. A few years back, I saw the First Ladies exhibit at the New York Historical Society. There was a clear definitive statement made by juxtaposing Dolly Madison’s petticoats next to Hillary Clinton’s infamous pantsuit (the only one black fashion item featured in the exhibit, I might add). 

My mom works for a community center and she wears a pantsuit to work almost every day. I have not heard anyone comment on her clothing choice, let alone name her a member of “the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.”

I realize that my mom works in a coeducational facility, when Hillary Clinton, a US senator and former presidential nominee works in an old boy’s club. The pantsuits, a symbol of both masculinity and androgyny (i.e. social and political power). Pantsuits are androgynous; they can be worn by both men and women on a regular basis yet there is an exception when women enter “men’s clubs.” These include patriarchal institutions such as government, the military (America’s eyes have not gotten used to seeing women in uniform), and Wall Street. In these “men’s clubs,” the androgynous becomes masculine because there cannot be androgyny when only one gender is represented in these institutions.

Then, when a woman finally discovers the password to one of these men’s clubs, the masculinity that can be construed as androgyny is so deeply rooted that anyone (like Hillary Clinton) who invades that men’s club as an non-accepted member becomes a source of shock. This shock factor does not stem from the fact that she dresses like men; it happens when she dresses in a way that men happen to dress in as well.

Men do not have an exclusive claim on pants. They have no claim over this piece of clothing just as they have no claim over the institutionally sexist occupations they may inhabit. 

The patriarchy sets up a society so that what men do/wear/customize is the standard. For women, this standard is fooled into being androgynous, though it is in fact a patriarchal setup to make women feel included. However, whenever women include themselves in this standard, they are considered impostors, the only ones in costumes at a sexist Halloween party.

Michael Kimmel, in “Masculinity As Homophobia,” writes “We think of manhood as innate, residing in the particular biological composition of the human male, the result of androgens or the possession of the penis.” 

Androgens are the hormones that control the development of masculine characteristics. The common root of this hormone and the term “androgynous” is not a coincidence. Androgens literally contain everything that, without society’s interference, biologically differentiates male from female. Androgynous, the embodiment of both male and female characteristics, is in its social reality the comparison of female characteristics to the standard of male ones. 

Is this comparison fair? Must masculine be the standard for women to live up to and then be ostracized by? Can’t all people be accepted for who they are and with the choice to be who they want to be?

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