Tuesday, December 7, 2010

post 12/7

Enloe’s chapters are basically a summary of our course. I think Enloe is spot on when she says that we do not question gender roles because we are lazy. Some women have started to become complacent with their current status in society. Many gender inequalities were unaware to me prior to taking this class. I am certainly more aware of the disparities between men and women. Due to the fact that people do not question their current roles in society makes it easier to keep certain social structures in place such as patriarchy. Enloe feels like patriarchy shapes our whole society yet it is hardly ever challenged. People do not question the social framework we have in place because it is easy. It is difficult to go against the grain

Monday, December 6, 2010

Response 12/7

Enloe's introduction chapter, "Being Curious about our Lack of Feminist Curiosity," really hit home for me. I think it is definitely true that words such as "tradition," "always," or "natural" have become cues in our society not to question what is being said and just accept it for what it is. Enloe claims that, as a result, "we can just feel sympathy with women working in sweatshops, for instance, without bothering to figure out how they got there or what they think about being women sewing there" (1). After reading this, I realized that before taking Women's Studies, I never, for example, thought about why women were raped. I obviously knew rape was a huge problem and is extremely prevalent everywhere, even at "safe" places like Colgate, but I never thought to look behind the statistics and think about what sort of society creates such a prevalence of rape and sexual assault.

Friday, December 3, 2010

We live in a patriarchal society where women are expected to play second fiddle to men. Often times men are intimidated by a women who is smart and has power in the corporate world. When women are seen equal as opposed to someone who is socially inferior this can cause tension. As we have discussed many times in class women are placed in a difficult position. They are suppose to be intelligent but not to smart because then they will intimidate men, they are suppose to be sexy but not to sexy that it takes away from their intellect. They are suppose to have an established career but not at the expense of their family life. If women cannot do all of these things then society tells her that something is wrong with her. In KATRIN BENNHOLD article Keeping Romance Alive in the Age of Female Empowerment. Benhold explores the correlation between educated women and romance.

The article starts by recalling a Sex in The City episode where Miranda goes speed dating “She wastes her eight-minute pitch three times by giving away that she is a corporate lawyer. The fourth time she says she is a stewardess and gets asked out by a doctor.” Why did it take Miranda down playing her occupational status for her to get a date? Society tells us that women are not suppose to be as successful as men in the business world. The ironic part is that later in that same episode that it is revealed that the man that Miranda went out with had also lied about his occupation he was not a doctor but he worked at a shoe store. This is a double-edged sword men also feel the pressure to be successful in order to reaffirm their masculinity. “Now, as more women match or overtake men in education and the labor market, they are also turning traditional gender roles on their head, with some profound consequences for relationship dynamics.” (Benhold) In most relationships men’s are expected to be the breadwinner with the woman taking care of the house. When the roles are not clearly defined in a relationship or differ from what we consider to be the norm this can be a source of conflict. Men often define themselves in material things as a way of proving their masculinity. So the man's self worth is diminished by the event of earning less than his woman. This isn't his mate's fault, but his! This has everything to do with how he sees himself and how he sees the world.

The identity crisis for too many men comes from seeing themselves in what they have and what they possess. So losing a job, possessions, a mate, not being good in bed, or even earning less money than their woman makes them feel less of a man. Men have egos and they are easily damaged. “Men don’t want successful women, men want to be admired,” she said. “It’s important to them that the woman is full of energy at night and not playing with her Blackberry in bed.” (Benhold) As much as I hate to admit it but I think that I would have a problem being in a relationship with a women who makes more money than I do. Johnson talks about how patriarchy is perpetuated by everyone’s constant acceptance of it. Johnson explains that patriarchy is expressed through the media as well as our language. He defines patriarchy as “system of inequality organized around gender categories” Men for the most part embrace patriarchy because it empowers them and gives them many privileges. Men are unaware of most of these privileges. Johnson also talks a lot about “social relationships and the unequal distributions of power, rewards, opportunities, and resources, that appear in everyday life” It is because of the imbalances in these areas that many men have trouble accepting powerful women. Patriarchy plays a large role in men feeling the need to reaffirm their masculinity. Men who earn less than their partners struggle with two main insecurities “They feel socially and personally vulnerable. Socially, they go against millennia of beliefs and stereotypes that see them as the breadwinner. And the success of their partner also often gives them a feeling of personal failure,” (Benhold) The article talks about how educated women who use the dating website match.com have trouble acquiring dates. Johnson would argue that this is one of the ways in which we as a people perpetuate patriarchy in society.

Frye talks about how we often misuse the word oppressed. Frye talks about women being in a loose loose situation in terms of their sexuality. If they are sexually active they run the risk of being called a slut if they are not sexually active then they run the risk of being called a prude or a tease. Frye would argue that women face this same dilemma in the corporate world. If a woman wants to enter the corporate world, and she is successful she runs the risk of intimidating potential suitors. Frye would argue that men have a problem with successful women because they believe that women should be oppressed. According to Frye every action, regardless of how harmless it may seem, is done with the intention of oppressing women. Women are made to think that it is their fault for not fitting into a male dominated society. Miranda from sex in the city feels the need to lie about her occupation in order to secure a date. This relates to Liz Canner’s film Orgasm. Women are led to believe that something is wrong with them if they cannot achieve orgasm during intercourse. Instead of educating men or even further educating women, women are simply told that there is something wrong with them.

Women are placed in a difficult position they are almost forced to choose between love and corporate success. Due to the fact that we live in a patriarchal society women are expected to make less than men. When these gender roles are not displayed it is a source of conflict. I read an article in Time magazine that married men whose wives make more money then they do are more likely to cheat on their wives then men who are the bread winners. This is a huge problem until we start to empower women and start seeing them as equal instead of inferior this will continue to be a problem. The sex and the city episode end with Miranda finding happiness with Steve, a waiter-turned-stay-at-home dad who doesn’t mind her success one bit.

Newsflash 3 "Birth or Not?"

As we have discussed at length, technology has helped the human race accomplish more than ever thought possible, between computers, televisions, other machines and even cars. They have made our lives easier, at times more simple, and facilitated jobs that used to take weeks into tasks that can be completed with the click of a mouse or the push of a button.

It is not always that simple, however. Technology can complicate decisions, be taken advantage of, and plainly be used irresponsibly. Recently, CNN discovered a website called “birthornot.com” run by a Minnesota couple, and Dan Gilgoff wrote the article; “Wesbite takes votes on whether woman should get abortion”. Alisha and Pete Arnold created a blog in order to poll websurfers regarding their opinion on whether or not they should give birth to a child or have an abortion. This has obviously caused controversy, and the media worldwide has gotten wind of it. The Arnold’s state that “voting is such an integral part of the American identity. Why not vote on whether to continue or abort an actual pregnancy? Your vote can help a real couple to make a decision on this issue”, however it seems that this is a simple way to get publicity. Why broadcast something as intimate, private and emotionally draining as a decision of whether or not to keep one’s child? The motives of this couple are certainly questionable, and I can't help but think that they are just trying to benefit from media hype, rather than realize that this is a real and serious subject matter. The ease with which the choice is being made is alarming, and the Arnold’s decision to make this website further trivializes abortions by showing more people that don’t take the pain, cost, and ethics into consideration or appreciate the fact that this is a choice available to them that is not to many others around the world.

On the blog there are biographies of both Pete and Alisha, where you can see that both graduated from college, and learn about their “relationship history”, including the fact that the couple has had two miscarriages. Seemingly harmless enough, then you look into their entries and discover that you, and millions of others across the world, can see the ultrasound images of their fetus as well as updates on its measurements each week.

17-week-wave.jpg (birthornot.com)

They write, “We would like to keep you informed on our pregnancy as if it was your own; posting our thoughts and feelings as we struggle to make this decision”.

It baffles me that anyone would honestly ask strangers for advice on such a touchy subject. And both Alisha and Pete have spoken to the media saying that the “blog is authentic” and that “it’s not a hoax—that’s for sure. We put a lot of time into this before posting”. I find it especially controversial as the heading of the site says, “Help Us Decide, a Real Abortion Vote: You can vote and choose whether we abort or keep our unborn child. For the first time, your vote on the topic of abortion can make a difference”. It’s as if the Arnold’s are trying to make a political statement rather than considering the fact that they are asking random people to make a huge life decision for them, not to mention the life of their unborn child. Regardless of whether or not you are pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, this should be a real and serious personal determination.

Others seem to agree. As CNN reported, Ted Miller, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America wrote in a statement, “This website gives the impression that making this profoundly personal decision is akin to voting on a reality TV show. It is an insult to women and couples who have struggled with making the decision. Most people will dismiss the site as a sad attempt to get attention”. With the polls closed, the total amount of voters has reached over two million, and the number of comments is huge at 4,233 and growing. While the couple said they would originally close the poll two days before the last day they could legally get an abortion in Minnesota (which seems somewhat responsible) recent media coverage and debates on the morality of the poll itself, as well as spam and fraud, have ended the vote. The results, though the couple says they will be “analyzed by a third party and published as soon as we get them” thus far stand at 77.63% to get an abortion and 22.37% to have the baby.



I can't help but think about the strides that have been made in our society since the Rowe vs. Wade court case in 1973, when women officially got the right to make the abortion choice for themselves, and how the Arnold’s seem to be taking advantage of all of our liberties. Maybe they are even completely disregarding the fact that abortion is a freedom that many people have died for, not to mention one of which women all over the world day after day wish they had the choice.

The decision to have an abortion cannot be made lightly, as it is both an expensive and extraordinary painful process as described in “Abortion, Vacuum Cleaners, and the Power Within” by Inga Muscio. As someone who has gone through several of the procedures, Muscio encourages that “the real fight for human rights is inside each and every individual on this earth” and that a crucial way to discuss abortion would be “personally and intimately with friends”. My feelings on the matter couldn’t be more similar. Though I have not had to deal with this issue up to this point in my life, I think that many solutions to our problems should mostly come from looking within oneself instead of outside. Especially in a circumstance so private and delicate as abortion, the conclusion should be debated at length amongst those involved (i.e. spouses) as well as close friends. I don’t think that abortions are necessarily something to be ashamed of, but I also feel that publicizing them gives the impression that it is something that is not taken seriously, and can be taken for granted. What the Arnold’s are doing, seemingly taking the advice from two million strangers, is shocking and honestly disappointing for me to see as someone who is actively learning about feminism and women’s studies.

Many of the thousands of comments that were made are compelling and well thought out. Firstly, someone wrote in, “Of course you have a right to do this, as it's a free country, but I find it very distasteful that you would allow people to vote as to whether you give birth to your baby or not. It's a baby!! It's a human being!” This person has touched upon both the freedom to choose (and to vote) but the questionability of their decision to allow others to come to a choice for them. Another person posted, “if you guys are so ****** dumb to post some **** like this, and rely on it to tell you what to do, don’t spread your seed, we don’t need any more idiots to have kids. That being said, you have no reason to have an abortion…” And also, “What a pathetic and disgusting ploy to get your 15 minutes of fame. You should be ashamed of yourselves. A poll where strangers vote on the life of an innocent child? Seriously? If you choose to have this baby, please think about adoption so the baby will be raised in a good, stable, a loving home, which is something you obviously cannot provide.” As these strangers show through their comments, whether they are pro-life or pro-choice (and there are many on both sides) it is not only embarrassing but also irresponsible that this couple has created this blog and poll. I find it amazing that so many people took the time to give the Arnold’s advice. Most advised them against keeping the child, for the sheer reason that the couple felt that this media hype would be a positive thing for them. Most of all however, it goes to show that despite all of the ways that technology has helped us, the use of it immaturely (or stupidly) and/or simply taking it for granted, can backfire and actually complicate the achievement of our goals.

Works Cited

Findlen, Barbara. Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. Seal Press. Copyright 1995.

Gilgoff, Dan. "Website takes votes on whether woman should get abortion". CNN. 11/19/10. http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/11/19/minnesota.abortion/index.html?iref=allsearch

Thursday, December 2, 2010

News Flash #3: "Caged In" the New Airpot Security


Man verses machine. This is the choice American flyers now have to face when they arrive at an airport’s security checkpoint. On October 29 the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) put their new screening policies into action. Gone are the days when metal-detectors are sufficient to hold off terrorist attacks and prevent dangerous items from coming aboard planes. As Nick Kimball, TSA spokesperson, claims, “in an era of plastics-based explosives, metal detectors aren’t sufficient” (Dailey). The TSA has instituted new scanner machines that use backscatter x-ray technology, which allows them to see each passenger’s naked body (albeit, semi-blurrily). There are also many concerns that this new x-ray technology could have harmful health effects. Furthermore, if you object to going through this new scanner, whether for privacy or health concerns, you are forced to undergo a thorough “pat-down” by a TSA official. This pat down is not like it predecessor, where a metal scanner is simply run over the curves of your body—this new “enhanced” pat-down essentially involves being groped by a TSA official, as they grab and run their hands across your genitals and other sensitive areas. In this paper I will show how these new security measures relate to Marilyn Frye’s idea of being caught in a “double bind” or being “caged in.” The new airport screening policies and the stress of airport travel combine to put people in situations where any choice they make has pitfalls and is uncomfortable for them.

There are currently 385 backscatter x-ray scanners in action in 68 airports across the country (Dailey) and this number is expected to rise to 1,000 by 2011 (Altman). These scanners operate as follows: “low-intensity radiation is absorbed a few millimeters into your skin and then reflected back, creating a reasonably accurate contour image of your body and anything else underneath your clothes” (Park). There are many causes for concern with these new scanners, one of which is the concern of the possible health effects of this radiation. While the TSA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have informed worried fliers that the amount of radiation from the scanner is “negligible” and that they absorb much more radiation from a simple chest x-ray and airplane travel, itself. After conducting multiples measurements, the FDA issued the following statement: “[w]e are confident that full-body-X-ray security products and practices do not pose a significant risk to the public health” (Park). It is disconcerting that they simply claimed that the scanner does not pose “significant” risk—this word choice certainly leaves the door open for some type of danger. Despite these administrations’ assurance of the scanner’s safety, many scientists still have their concerns, as they believe that the government has miscalculated the amount of radiation absorbed by the skin (MacAdam). If scientists and researchers are still unsure of the technology’s safety, it is reasonable for us, the public, to still have some reservations about passing through the scanner.

Other causes for complaint concerning the new scanner center around privacy issues. Many people have voiced their concerns and discomfort with the idea that the scanners allow the TSA to see their unclothed body. While the TSA insists that the pictures are automatically deleted after each passenger and that the screeners never see the passenger and the agents (who are in contact with the passenger) never see the pictures (Dailey), many are still very uncomfortable with the situation, and who is the TSA to tell them that they should not be? These privacy issues are speculated to be particularly a concern with past rape or sexual assault victims. After having such a horrific and scarring experience, I would imagine it would be difficult to be at ease with a stranger being able to see your naked body, even if this image is blurry and is being used for the sake of airplane safety. As Shannon Lambert, founder of the Pandora Project (a nonprofit organization, which offers support and information to rape and sexual assault victims) claims, “[w]e’ve had a number of survivors who have had their pictures taken and put online. So for them, even though [the TSA photo is] deleted, even if the person is in the other room, the idea that the photo’s being taken can be difficult to handle” (Dailey).

Thus, you can see that there are many possible reasons why someone may be hesitant about walking through these new airport scanners. The TSA, to an extent, recognizes these concerns, and therefore gives fliers the option of undergoing a thorough pat-down instead. As mentioned previously, this pat-down is very aggressive and invasive. As one frequent flier claimed, “[i]t was a horrifying experience. I was touched in my private parts, in my genital area, without consent and without warning” (Dailey). Just like going through the x-ray scanner, these new pat-downs can be especially upsetting and uncomfortable for rape and sexual assault survivors. As Kate Dailey of Newsweek claims, “the new screening rules—or just the threat of these rules—present a very real danger” to these people. Many victims find it very difficult to have their body touched by others after their horrific experiences—“a lot of survivors do not want to be in positions where they’re vulnerable. They put up defenses so that they can be in control of their body” (Dailey). In the case of this kind of pat-down, this control is being grossly violated, and as Dailey claims, the result can be “more than hurt feelings,” as “there’s a physical reaction associated with a triggering incident.” Jennifer Marsh, director of the National Sexual Assault Hotline for the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, asserts that these invasive pat-downs “could lead to a person shutting down and becoming noncommunicative, it could result in a person becoming emotionally upset, it could trigger flashbacks, not just the thoughts and feelings they experienced, but perhaps other sensory experiences” (Dailey). One rape survivor recounted her traumatic feelings during her pat-down experience: “I started crying. It was so intimate, so horrible. I feel like I was being raped” (Dailey). These pat-downs have proven to be extremely uncomfortable and troublesome for many other people. For instance, one breast-cancer survivor was asked to remove her prosthetic breast, while a bladder-cancer survivor had his urostomy bag (used to hold urine) burst when a TSA agent disregarded his warnings.

Now you might be beginning to see how people may feel “caged in” by the new airport security practices. A “double-bind,” as defined by Marilyn Frye, is a situation “in which options are reduced to a very few and all of them expose one to penalty, censure, or deprivation” (Frye). In the case of airport security, people are being forced to choose between two options, both of which might very well be uncomfortable and distressing for them. As Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative office, claims, “[n]obody should be forced to choose between naked scans and groping by strangers in order to keep our airports safe” (Dailey). Furthermore, is it really just that people should have to surrender their right to fly if they refuse to undergo either of these screening procedures? Should they be punished because these procedures cause them deep discomfort and pain? The fact that they are punished shows how they are caught in a double-bind, in which “[y]ou can’t win. You are caught in a bind, caught between systematically related pressures” (Frye). Sometimes fliers do not even get the choice of which security procedure they would like to go through: many are randomly selected for search and must undergo a pat-down, and whenever the scanner cannot capture a good image on the first try (which happens more often than you would think), the passenger is compelled to receive a pat-down (Dailey).

Lambert and Marsh both believe that the negative reactions of many rape and sexual abuse survivors—as well as people in general who are highly uncomfortable with the new security procedures—to either pat-downs or the scanners could be potentially alleviated if TSA agents were better trained, communicated more clearly with fliers, and if relaxation exercises and therapy were performed prior to the screening procedures (Dailey). Unfortunately, as Kate Dailey points out, such exercises and therapy are not exactly realistic for the hectic airport scene. Wendy Maltz, author of guidebook for sexual abuse survivors, describes the intense stress people face in airports and how it is not conducive to a calm mentality: “[e]verything’s happening so fast, there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of people expecting you to, don’t take too long, don’t demand special privileges, don’t ask questions. You have to catch your plane. You don’t have the opportunity to employ techniques that could enhance a sense of calm” (Dailey). These pressures magnify the trauma that many may experience in this new screening process. Once again, Frye would describe this experience as being caged in: “all avenues in every direction, are blocked or booby trapped”—a situation which “catch[es] one between and among them [forces and barriers] and restrict[s] or penalize[s] motion in any direction” (Frye). If, for instance, you are not comfortable with having a pat-down performed in public, you can ask to have it done in private in a side-room. However, when are you frantically rushing to make your flight, this may not be a viable option since it undoubtedly takes more time. If fliers are uneasy about the scanner and the pat-down, and they want to find a way to make themselves feel more comfortable—whether it be through some type of relaxation exercise, questions for the TSA, private pat-downs, or simply calming themselves—they are unlikely to be able to do so due to the stress of the airport, the frazzled states of mind it often produces, and the self-consciousness that could derail people from asking too many questions or requesting special privileges, which slow down the security lines. Thus, for many, it is likely that any choice they make will have its pitfalls.

The birdcage analogy that Frye uses in her writing to discuss the double-binds women face, can easily be translated to people’s experience with the new airport security. As Frye claims, “[i]t is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.” In this same way, the x-ray scanner, invasive pat-down or airport pressures by themselves do not cage people in, but when they are all working in conjunction, they can force people to suffer in some way. Just as the cage prohibits the bird from flight, if someone chooses not to undergo the discomfort and anxiety that these screening procedures can invoke, he or she too will be prohibited from flight.

Works Cited:
Altman, Alex. "TSA Scrambles to Combat the Outcry Over Body Scanning." Time. 23
Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.

Dailey, Kate. "For Survivors of Sexual Assault, New TSA Screenings Represent a
Threat." Newsweek. 17 Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.

Frye, Marilyn. The Politics of Reality. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing, 1983.

MacAdam, Alison. "TSA Head Defends 'Enhanced Pat-Downs' And Safety Of Scanners."
Web log post. NPR. 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2010.

Park, Alice. "Strip Search: How Safe Are Airports' New X-ray Scanners?" Time. 9 Oct.
2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.

Long Post 12/6

Cynthia Enloe’s Introduction and first chapter focus upon “curiosity” and how it relates to feminism. She begins by defining words like “natural”, “always”, “tradition” in relation to asking questions, which can start one on their path to taking women’s lives seriously, something that she claims is “a crucial first step”. In discussing ungendered terms, she says, we aren’t acknowledging patriarchy, because often patriarchy and/or misogyny are hiding here. Many societies are patriarchal, and what is “masculine” in them she says, “is most deserving of reward, admiration, etc.” and can be found everywhere. They are systems, however and not just made up of men. It is an old system, but one that is complex. She also says that feminist curiosity extends to formal and official matters but also those less public.

Furthermore, Enloe talks about her coworkers, the feminists in Japan, Korea and Turkey who have been expanding he curiosity. She gives them as well as many others credit for pushing her though process and helping her “dig”.

In the “Surprised Feminist”, chapter 1 of her book, she says, “I have come to think that the capacity to be surprised and to admit it is an undervalued feminist attribute.” In admitting to being surprised by many of the occurrences of the 20th century, such as the NATO-ization of human rights, she felt that though underestimating consequences she could build upon it. These issues she discusses are deeply gendered and have different effects on the identities of the people involved, because gender is often a key component. In teaching her students, she felt that surprise is often a key component of discussions. Overall she believes that when new events, surprising and patriarchal happenings in the world around us, we should be curious. We should be ready to be surprised and then ready to move forward and “make our strategies more savvy” in order to become better, or at least more confident feminists.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Response 12/1

I thought that Lila Abu-Lughod’s article “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” was well written and interesting. The author discusses whether or not we can be justified in our intervention of Afghanistan with the purpose of “liberating and saving” women. She points out that we are trying to “reify” other cultures and it can be messy and somewhat insensitive. I think that one of the most fascinating points that she made was that “we must take care not to reduce the diverse situations and attitudes of millions of Muslim women to a single item of clothing. Perhaps it is time to give up the Western obsession with the veil and focus on some serious issues with which feminists and others should indeed be concerned.” I have to say that I am not sure if our actions in Afghanistan were really well-intentioned or not, but I think that Lughod makes an incredibly strong point in that what is important is trying to listen and understand other cultures rather than trying to thrust ours onto others. Though there is now somewhat of a divide between us and the Afghan women, by “critically exploring” the problems of the Afghan women, and accepting their differences, we can be cultural relativists and become respectful of their culture and their way of life.

Furthermore, I thought her discussion of the burqa relevant to what I learned while I studied abroad in France in my Sociology of France class. At the time, there were debates going on regarding the subject, but recently the country just passed a law in which burqas and other Islamic face coverings in public places is illegal, and those who break this law face a fine of up to 150 euros. According to an article by CNN, “The ban pertains to the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes”.



It is interesting to note, however, that France has also banned wearing or displaying “overt religious symbols” in schools, such as headscarves. This last point makes it a bit better that France has made the ban, but I still think that as Lughod says, we should just “explore and respect” culture rather than what I feel is trying to make everyone more similar/mainstream. The differences between us is what makes the world an interesting place.