Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
In “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving,” author Lila Abu-Lughod examines the lack of ability to accept differences of women of different cultures. The events of 9/11 has permanently changed our country and they way we view those of Middle Eastern descent. The veil that Muslim women where is part of their culture and a deep seeded tradition. While we may see it as oppressive it is simply a part of there culture. My Aunt is Muslim and where’s a hijab, or head covering. You can use a lot of words to describe her but oppressed is not one of them she is very independent but insists on wearing the hijab whatever the social repercussions may be. Abu-Lughod talks about how different experiences social, political and historical shape who we are and how we assimilate into society. Basically this means that people are product of their environment. Just because someone has different beliefs than we do we must learn to respect other religions and cultures and not condemn people for being different. In our effort to help others a lot of the time we actually do more harm then good.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The New York Times articles by Steven Lee Myers I felt were really enlightening. We often forget that just like in America, there is a chance for abuse, pregnancy and even marriage. Firstly, in “A Peril in War Zones”, the sexual abuse that goes on between soldiers is discussed. I find it interesting and even sad that the author describes that there are ‘conditions for abuse’ that exist in combat. There should not be any excuse for abuse, regardless of “remote locations, tension and even boredom”. When women and men serve side by side, these issues, while I understand are newer than ever, there should be a code of conduct that is enforced and the punishments imposed and taken seriously. It is disappointing to learn that there is an extremely low rate of rape and abuse cases reported, because supposedly “acceptance and respect for women in uniform is now more common”. As the other article “Living and Fighting Alongside Men, and Fitting In” states, women in uniform have had a “transformative” effect on the army. There are condoms, birth control and gynecological services available to women soldiers, and it is clear in many other ways, such as separate living quarters and bathrooms, that army bases have been “reshaped”. It is encouraging that people feel that both the contributions of women and men have been needed and that the military has begun to accommodate women’s needs, however many females are advised to travel in pairs, and are often the aim of slights and derogatory remarks. Furthermore, I think it is sad that women have found acceptance “not by emphasizing their sex but rather by displaying their toughness, their willingness to adjust to conditions that are les than ideal” rather than by embracing the fact that they are inherently different but that’s what makes it even better to have women and men working alongside each other for a common goal.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Steinem's article dealt with stereotypes that I am familiar with. Many comedians often joke about serial killers linking them with “crazy white men”. They would tell jokes like When black people have a problem with someone they shoot that person when white people have a problem they shoot the whole school. A couple years ago when the DC sniper was going around shooting people I would have bet my last dollar that he would have been a white male. I was shocked to find out he was black as I’m sure most of the country was. The scary the scary thing is that a vast majority of these crimes are done for no apparent economic or rational gain and are classified as senseless acts of violence. So in theory everyone is susceptible to these violent acts. Steinem talk’s about how society correlates these murders by their age and not by their race or gender because they are considered the norm. If a majority of these crimes were committed by men of color that would be the first thing mentioned by those who talked about it but since these crimes are committed by white non poor males the main thing focused on is their age.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I thought that Emilie Morgan’s story, “Don’t Call Me a Survivor” in Listen Up was really powerful and upsetting. The most chilling part, in my opinion, was when she wrote, “maybe the word no wasn’t enough”. To me, every person should have the ability to say no and have their voice heard, especially women. For men, sex is not as big of a deal, if you can say that, because biologically they are incapable of getting impregnated. The consequences for women, therefore, can be life-long.
I decided to research the “Take Back the Night” march as a result of this story. As a national foundation, they began holding marches and rallies with the “mission of ending sexual violence” in states across the country in 2001. Their slogan is “shatter the silence, stop the violence” and at the bottom of the site says “welcome to take back the night. A place free from sexual assault and abuse. We invite you to become part of the solution, part of the end of sexual violence. Here is a place to take a stand, a place to break the silence. Here we can Take back the night!” This website has resources, from a number for counseling to paraphernalia to a forum to share stories. Furthermore, they have an area to help plan events and even sponsored tshirts. There is even a link for donations. I feel that this as an amazingly powerful way to bring people together who have been effected and/or know someone who has been sexually assaulted. It seems that Morgan was helped by the march, as it seems like a very supportive and successful charity, in that many women's lives have been bettered (or helped to be on the right path) by their work.
The chapter from Susan Brownmiller’s book about rape was very eye opening. Rape is a topic that is not really talked about it makes those who are not involved uncomfortable and those are embarrassed. Rape is one of the worst things you can do to someone Brownmiller talks about how rape is more than just sex but it is about power. I know a lot of girls that have been raped or at least claim to have been raped. I would never blatantly accuse a girl of lying but this subject hits close to home for me. I knew a girl in high school who told everyone she was raped but later it came out that she was lying and only wanted attention. I also feel like sometimes-promiscuous girls who may have had a night that they would like to forget may also call rape. Rape is such a masculine thing that I think that some woman take advantage of their position. Having said that I know that a vast majority of these women claiming to be raped are telling the truth but I don’t think people should be naïve to think that sometimes women do lie about this for one reason or another.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It is no secret that there are many differences between men and women. These differences are talked about everywhere from schoolyard playgrounds to Oprah. Even though there are fundamental differences between the two sexes should annual income be one of those differences? Gender inequality refers to the obvious or hidden disparity between individuals due to gender. Gender is constructed both socially through social interactions as well as biologically through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences. While we live in a progressive society we still have a long way to go in terms of equality. We live in a male dominated society; women are still fighting stereotypes about how they should remain in the house. This is a significant social problem to understand because we live in a society that is constantly striving towards equality. Whether that is race, gender, or sexual equality we are constantly striving to create a level playing field. It appears that job opportunities and ones career path comes down to more than just credentials and resumes. The glass ceiling effect is also considered a possible contributor to the gender wage gap. This effect suggests that gender provides significant disadvantages towards the top of job hierarchies, which become worse as a person’s career goes on. The term glass ceiling implies that there is an invisible barrier that exists which prevents women from advancing within their jobs or receiving promotions. This is not right, job opportunities should be based solely on how qualified the applicant is, the applicants sex should not come into play.
The article Salary, Gender and the Social Cost of Haggling in the Washington Post HYPERLINK "http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/07/29/AR2007072900827.html" www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/07/29/AR2007072900827.html
Women make only 75.5 cents for every dollar that men earn. Crittenden talks about how the most disadvantaged people in the workplace are women with children. This trend is called the “mommy tax”. Corporations are not sensitive at all to women with children. Crittenden also cites the example of Virigina Daley Daley was fired from her job as an interior designer after she had a baby and attempted to create a more flexible schedule. Women are told that they are supposed to have a successful career and be a homemaker. Yet when they attempt to do both they are penalized. This sends mixed messages to woman and to a certain extent makes them have to choose between the two.
I am a firm believer that ones mindset has a lot to do with determining their end result. A lot of times you can speak things into fruition and in order to speak it you have to believe it. According to "Gender Differences in Anticipated Salary” Women go into jobs with much lower expectations then men do. Women, on average, ask for 30 percent less money than males. Women do not feel like they have as much leverage as their male counterparts so therefore they are less likely to negotiate. 20 percent of women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary. Why is this? It is because of the social framework that we have in place tells women that they should expect to be subordinate to men. Naturally with men and women being different it is natural to think that they have different values. This article “examined the relationship between endorsement of two work-related values (family and power), anticipated work commitment, and expected peak pay among 229 undergraduates at a southeastern U.S. university.” For both genders, valuing power predicted higher expected peak salary and valuing family predicted lower anticipated work commitment. A majority of the undergraduate students that were interviewed who valued family were women, linking to the social framework that tells women that they should value family over their career.
Women often get the short end of the stick. In Orgasm Inc women are made to think that they have a medical condition if they are not able to have an orgasm during intercourse. When in fact a majority of the women that had trouble-having orgasms had mental issues, body image problems or physical abuse, not physical issues. Instead of educating men on these issues doctors and financial advisors diagnose women with this disease that is neither proven or researched. Many of the times in the corporate world women are jus as qualified if not more qualified than men are but are often over looked when competing for the same position as a man. Recently we read several pieces that dealt with Abortions. As Arcana describes in her article titled "Abortion Is a Motherhood Issue", the decision whether or not to abort a "fetus” is a decision that should be left up to the mother. This goes back to the two conflicting images women strive to attain, CEO and homemaker. This is very difficult but it is proven that not only to women make less money than men but women with kids make less money than women without kids. Women who are considering abortions have to deal with the social stigmas and opinions and judgments of others when making their decision.
What do abortions and orgasms have in common? They both have to do with empowering women. And that is basically what the article is about. There is no doubt that a glass ceiling for women exists. I do not think that complete equality for men and women will ever be reached at least not in my lifetime. There are to many social constraints placed on women and the social framework that we have place in today’s society makes it very difficult for women to be successful in her career and have a family they almost have to choose which is more important to them. It shouldn’t be like that but I do not see this changing in the near future.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
For me, Atul Gawande’s “How Childbirth Went Industrial” was absolutely fascinating and relates to something that I am very passionate about. The summer before last, I worked as a clinical researcher and volunteer assistant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at my local hospital. Through this job, I was allowed to attend morning rounds, watch births and surgeries, sit in on bioethics debates and even attend meetings where difficult cases were discussed. In a nutshell, it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had and it has changed my life goals, to hopefully some day work with premature babies in a NICU.
While I understand and agree that childbirth and pregnancy are both “romanticized” and risky, and even the language that Gawande used describing the process of C-sections and use of tools was extremely methodical/technical and practiced, having been in the operating room, first hand, to watch births of premature and extremely sick babies, I cannot help but think that what doctors do to keep these children alive are nothing short of miracles. I saw many infants who were born at only one pound and 24 weeks (normal babies are 36 to 40 weeks) survive and thrive. The project I specifically worked on was also a way to help ameliorate treatment of very low birth weight babies. I saw the APGAR score used in real life, every time I went to watch a delivery… and it was explained to me then the history of the score. All in all though, I find it truly is amazing what has been developed to help both mothers and their babies, not to mention the fact that it was a woman who created the APGAR score which is used in hospitals everywhere.
Finally, I do have to say that I understand that Elizabeth Rourke did not end up following her childbirth plan, but who really follows their life plans exactly anyway? In the end, I agree with her, however she should have been happy that her child was born as healthy as she was, not reprimanding herself for the choices she made along the way. As long as both mother and child are safe and well, there should be no regrets.
The Apgar score was implemented in order for doctors to do their best job when delivering new borns. Gwande even states that even if the doctors did not care about delivcering a healthy baby they would care about their score which was a direct reflection on them. Rourke ended up having to abort her plan of an all natural birth and took epidurals she ended up having a C section her baby was successfully delivered. Gwande then goes into detail explaining the risks of such a procedure. Was the goal to make money or deliver the child safely? Natural births no longer seem like a viable option to women with medicine being the number one option.
In The article how childbirth went industrial Goer criticizes Gwande’s article. Goer’s main argument is that obstetric packages offered in hospitals has not decreased infant mortality rate, but has instead increased fatality. Goer also attacks C sections stating that in most cases there are lower fatality rates associated with vaginal births than with C sections. She also argues that not only are C sections safer for the child but they are also safer for the mother. I thought it was interesting that Goer calls Rourke foolish while her pregnancy did not go as planned I feel like she was placed in a difficult position and did a good job managing her stress and adjusting to what needed to be done. While I do believe that child birth should be somewhat standardized I also believe that it should be handled on a case by case basis. I do not believe unregulated risky procedures should be implemented just because the doctor feels it is in the women’s best interest. All of this just goes back to taking the power of decision from women.
I was also shocked by how in the mid 1900's, "babies who were born malformed or too small or just blue and not breathing well were listed as stillborn, placed out of sight, and left to die" (Gawande). I was repulsed by the fact that doctors could give up on babies so quickly and easily. Thank goodness the "Apgar score" was invented, which allowed the condition of newborn babies to be rated on a zero to ten scale and "required observation and documentation of the true condition of every baby" (Gawande). However, Gawande then goes on to say that "even if only because doctors are competitive, it droev them to want to produce better scores--and therefore better outcomes--for the newborns they delivered." I was once again disgusted--if doctors are only properly caring for and evaluating newborn children in order to be "top doctor" and "win," we have some serious problems.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Abortion is a sensitive topic. If you talk to ten different people your are likely to find ten different views on it. Personally I am neither for nor against abortion I believe it should be handled on a case-by-case basis. On one hand I believe that people should take responsibility for their actions, having said that I am not naïve to the fact that unforeseen events happen (rape, failed contraception) but all in all I think people need to be responsible for their own actions. On the other hand I believe that it should be up to the woman since it is her body she should be able to decide what she wants to do with it. This is such a sticky situation because the woman is dealing with more than just her body. I think many of the people who are strongly against abortion would look at it differently if they were placed in the situation. We live in a very judgmental society many of us are quick to point the finger before garnering all of the necessary information. When these situations arise they should be handled delicately and without judgment. Judging by the readings it does not seem like women have much control or enough over something that should be completely up to them.
For this class, the readings focused upon women’s health and reproductive rights, most specifically, abortion.
In Judith Arcana’s “Abortion Is a Motherhood issue”, she writes that often abortion and miscarriage, contraception and adoption are all talked about separate from motherhood. There can be many reasons for this separation, but she says that we forget that abortion is one way that mothers are taking care of their children. She discusses the difference between “baby” and “embryo/fetus” as the difference between “accepted/wanted” and “accident/rejected”. As she says “choosing to abort a child is a profoundly made life choice for that child… and whatever our religious teachings or spiritual commitments, we have never not known that choosing to abort our babies is a dreadful responsibility”. She has all of this experience as not only someone who has had an abortion, a miscarriage, and a son, but as someone who worked in the Abortion Counseling service in Chicago. As she writes, we need to accept and recognize our abortions, talk about them and our feelings, but ultimately take responsibility no matter whether we are happy about it or regretful.
“And So I Chose” by Allison Crews, discusses the job of a woman who works on a feminist teen mothers website. She herself grew up in a pro-life home and used to go and protest in front of Planned Parenthood, etc. with these pro-life sentiments. However, there was one point where she saw a young girl go in and out of the center and her life changed forever. Crews herself became pregnant in her sophomore year of high school. Though she was scared and had scheduled several appointments for abortions, she never went through with them, and decided to keep the baby. She figured that she would find acceptance and encouragement on websites such as the one that she works for now, yet was made fun of as an irresponsible teenager. Everyone around her thought she was too young and girly to give birth without help or drugs and she proved them wrong, and similarly a couple was chosen to adopt her child. She now is pro-choice, supporting the idea that women should make decisions for themselves when it comes to having children and getting abortions; she believes that as women, we have many rights.
Inga Muscio wrote “Abortion, Vacuum Cleaners and the Power Within”. She is adamantly against abortion as someone who has gone through several of the procedures and refers to it as a vacuum cleaner; useful for cleaning up messes. She tried many organic ways to abort her baby, and they actually worked. As she said, “healing starts from within” and as she went through all of her experiences came to believe that “the real fight for human rights is inside each and every individual on this earth”. And, while she thanks the people that worked so hard for women to have this choice available to them, she feels that female discussion groups, one of the focuses of the women’s health movement, would really be beneficial, because then “abortion would be a personal, intimate thing among friends” rather than us having this ongoing abortion debate.
Finally, in Feminism in Our Time, there is a section devoted to the Roe vs. Wade Court Decision. In Texas in the 1960’s, abortion was illegal except in the case of saving the life of the pregnant woman. Three women, McCorvey, Coffee, and Weddington got together in an abortion lawsuit. In 1970 they filed a suit challenging Texas’ constitutionality on their antiabortion law, and other states similar laws. In the end, it was decided 7 to 2 that women indeed do have the right to an abortion during the first trimester and have mildly limited rights in the second trimester. It has ever since been called “a major contribution to the preservation of individual liberties”. The rest of the section includes details about the Constitution and the amendments, as well as a history of abortion laws, among them the question of when a fetus is recognized as a “person”.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Most people applaud the growth of technology and the wonders it has done for our society, and frankly, who wouldn’t? Where would be today without technology? As Freeman Dyson, the famous physicist and mathematician, claims, “[t]echnology is a gift of God. After the gift of life it is perhaps the greatest of God's gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences.” However, the negative effects, which have resulted from the outburst of technology in the last century (and particularly the last ten years), are often overlooked. The “deadly” repercussions of our society’s obsession with technology are manifested in the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, who killed himself after a video of him kissing another boy was broadcasted on the internet by his roommate. Tyler is just one of four teenage boys, who committed suicide this September—within days of each other—as a result of excessive gay bullying and harassment. In this paper I hope to show how technology has intensified bullying. In addition, using Susan Douglas’s book, “Enlightened Sexism,” I hope to illuminate how the media, through shows such as Gossip Girl, fuels this “cyber bullying” and how, through the media, our society has come to think it acceptable to taunt and harass homosexuals (particularly gay men).
On September 19, eighteen-year-old Tyler Clementi was captured kissing another boy by a hidden webcam, which was set up in his dorm room by his roommate Dharun Ravi, and Ravi's friend, Molly Wei. The video was then posted on YouTube for the entire student body (and world) to see. Ravi “tweeted” that night, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Unfortunately that would not be the most disconcerting social media post of the week—three days later, Tyler Clementi set his Facebook status as “jumping off gw bridge sorry” (Bennett), and he did just that, ending his life by throwing himself off of the George Washington Bridge in New York City. Tyler’s story serves as an example of the dangerous power that technology has in intensifying bullying, and the consequences that could follow from such publicized and invasive harassment. The rapid growth of Internet and phone capabilities has provided more avenues for bullying. As Jason Fulford, Time writer, claims, “the technology of bullying has advanced much faster than efforts to stop it ever could. If you have a cell phone, you can post to your entire school that a girl is a slut or a boy is a fag— and you can attach an unflattering photo or video of them to try to prove it. At least bullies of previous decades had to hold you down before they could spit in your face” (Cloud). Rumors, insults, and gossip can now be spread instantly (with a click of a button!) to the entire world (in the case of YouTube) or at least to a very large group of people or your friends and peers. If you want to reveal someone’s secret, embarrass or make fun of someone, or start a rumor, you have many ways, in which you can do so: post it on Facebook or MySpace, email it to people, write about it in a blog, text it, “tweet” it. The avenues for bullying are now endless, and even more damaging and hurtful to the victims. Not only can insults, rumors, and secrets spread faster and to more people; they can now be accompanied (once again, with a simple click of a button) by pictures and videos, to “back up” the gossip. As a result, bullying has become much more personal, encroaching, and hurtful. Newsweek writer, Jessica Bennett, comments on the dangerous power, which technology has when it comes to bullying: “[c]yberbullying has indeed added a new and potent threat—it can be more invasive, further-reaching, and harder to wash away than hurtful comments scrawled on a bathroom. And the medium for some of these cases—like with Clementi, the young Rutgers student—is often video or images distributed far and wide, making the torment all the more detailed and excruciating” (Bennett).
Of course many people are bullied and taunted—but one of the most ridiculed and tormented groups of people are homosexuals. In 2008, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network released a study that found that about 9 out of 10 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) students experience some form of harassment at school, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, LGBT teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than non-LGBT teens (Bennett). I cannot help but believe that there is a strong correlation between these two statistics. How has gay bullying become so prevalent, and hence, acceptable in our society? Susan Douglas sheds some light on the issue through her idea of “enlightened sexism.” While in most of her book, Douglas uses this idea to talk about women in particular, enlightened sexism can also be broadened and redirected to talk about gay men. In terms of gay men, the idea of enlightened sexism might go something as follows: the media (primarily through television and film) creates the illusion that gay men are socially accepted and treated well in our society and face few impediments and struggles. In light of this “fact”, it is okay for us to “harmlessly” joke about and ridicule homosexual males because they are actually treated wonderfully.
The media provides us with countless examples of gay men (as well as gay couples) who are treated with respect and fully integrated into and accepted by society. One of the most popular and prevalent images of gay men in the media is the lovable, fun-loving, silly, flamboyant, gay friend. A few examples include Will & Grace’s Jack, Sex and the City’s Stanford and Anthony (who actually get married at the beginning of Sex and the City 2 in elaborate showing), and She’s The Man’s Paul (BFF of Viola). Gay men are incessantly portrayed as the sensitive, fashion-expert, endearing friend of the female protagonist in films and television. They are “one of the girls” and they win our hearts over with their charm, colorful personalities (and outfits), and their “you go girl” talk. According to the thought process behind enlightened sexism, since gay men are portrayed positively in the media as fitting into society seamlessly, and therefore are also completely socially accepted and treated with the respect in real life, it is okay for us to make fun of and even “playfully” harass gays, right? However, the truth is that the lives of gay men are not as carefree as the media portrays them to be: they are constantly facing obstacles and discrimination in all arenas of life. The media simply sugarcoats and stereotypes what the life of a gay man entails. As Douglas claims, “[t]his is the mass media—exaggerating certain kinds of stories, certain kinds of people, certain kinds of values and attitudes, while minimizing others or rendering them invisible” (Douglas 19). The media, for the most part, renders the struggles of gays invisible. While, I am certainly not claiming that the media’s unrealistic representations of gays are the sole reason for why gays are made fun of, put down, and bullied, I do believe that they subconsciously play a role in how many people treat gay men and I think we need to be aware that these media representations are illusions.
The media has also helped bring on the cyber-bullying epidemic that has emerged in recent years, and which is epitomized in Tyler Clementi’s situation. The hit show Gossip Girl is probably the biggest and most obvious culprit. Gossip Girl, as Susan Douglas so aptly puts it, follows the “warrior Queen Bees’ attempts at Web- and text-based mutually assured destruction” (238). The show revolves around the newest and juiciest gossip and secrets of a group of privileged young adults from New York City’s Upper East Side, which are posted by the one and only, omniscient and anonymous “Gossip Girl”. Each episode opens with an image of the Gossip Girl blog page and the voice of “Gossip Girl” saying, “Gossip Girl here, your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite." Each episode centers on a specific rumor or piece of gossip, which the entire Upper East Side will find out about immediately via text or the online blog. The gossip is almost always accompanied with an image or video as evidence, which is sent in by the petty and up-to-no-good Upper Eastsiders, always on the lookout for material to create drama or a scandal.
We, as viewers, get sucked into the show, but at the same time, we know that we are supposed to view many aspects of the show as somewhat of a joke. While the characters may be beautiful (or handsome) and have clothes, accessories, and penthouse suites, which we make us drool, we recognize that they are catty, superficial, and selfish. We consider ourselves morally above these characters and we get a certain pleasure from judging them and making fun of them (and the ridiculous plotlines). As Douglas claims, “the people on the screen may be rich, spoiled, or beautiful, but you, O superior viewer, get to judge and mock them, and thus are above them…you can look as if you are absolutely not seduced by the mass media, while then being seduced by the media while wearing a knowing smirk. Viewers are flattered that they are sophisticated, can see through the craven self-absorption, wouldn’t be so vacuous and featherbrained as to get so completely caught up in something so trivial” (14). We even see this mocking, self-righteous tone in the anonymous “Gossip Girl,” whose voice is “dripping with sarcasm, and seeming to look down on the mere mortals from her perch on Mount Olympus” (Douglas 239). While we may have convinced ourselves that we watch shows like Gossip Girl purely for fun and entertainment, and that we would never act as a Blair Waldorf or Chuck Bass might, at what point do these shows begin to actually seep in, shape our views, and govern our behavior? And as Douglas asks, “what creeps in through that shield of irony?” (15). Whether we choose to accept it or not, it is almost inevitable that these shows will make an impression on us in some way or another. Many viewers will certainly try to adapt qualities of the characters or behave as they do, whether consciously or subconsciously. The case of Tyler Clementi reveals the dangerous power that the media can potentially have in shaping impressions of viewers. Gossip Girl takes the cake when it comes to cyber-bullying, and its catty insults and incessant gossiping (and methods and means to do so) is bound to have sunk in to some degree with its viewers.
Bullying was bad enough when it was simply the “take your lunch money routine.” However, the growth of technology has led to a recent onslaught of cyber-bullying, which has the potential to be much more powerful, damaging, and invasive. The suicides of teens in the past few months have shown some of the people, who stand to suffer the most from this intensified bullying—homosexuals. While the rapid growth of technology has been a marvelous thing to witness over the last century, the case of Tyler Clementi reminds us that while technology may solve many problems, it creates just as many problems. In the words of Albert Einstein, “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
Bennett, Jessica. "Is the 'Bullying Epidemic' a Media Myth?." Newsweek. 1 Oct. 2010.
Cloud, John. “When Bullying Turns Deadly: Can It Be Stopped?”. Time. 24 Oct. 2010.
Douglas, Susan J. Enlightened Sexism. New York: Times, 2010
Once I started taking Introduction to Women’s Studies, I immediately began to notice examples of feminism, enlightened sexism and oppression and even successes of women, all around me in the media and the news. I found it difficult to pick one piece of news that I felt related most to aspects of this course, as every time I open the newspaper or watch television I see issues and stories that directly relate. However, recently I found an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled “The New Momism: Momism as a Clever Political Strategy” by Judith Warner. This article seems particularly relevant in that it was written on October 29th, 2010, right before the 2010 Midterm Elections. As we have discussed in class, right now females make up about 17% of each the House and Senate (mostly Democratic seats). And though this is “the Year of the Woman”, it appears that females will actually be losing spots this year, as Republicans take over. As someone who is not intensely involved in politics, yet curious and fascinated by women’s issues, this piece is quite eye opening. Warner writes about women politicians who are connecting with and trying to win over voters via their “momism”. While in the past, femininity and motherhood have not been qualities that are looked upon with respect and admiration; this group of candidates is using their womanliness as a platform.
Using examples of Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, Linda McMahon (Connecticut Senate Candidate) and Sharron Angle (Nevada Senate Candidate), Warner reiterates the many situations in which these powerful figures in American politics have used their womanly and motherly power and identities to their advantage. As she writes “each is doing the mom thing – big time – tapping a vein of sentiment and belief, practicing a special form of political sympathetic magic, hoping clearly that by invoking the image, inveighing the glorious beloved power of all that’s maternal, they will warm and rally the hearts of voters…” I find it intriguing that while once upon a time women were not allowed to vote, let alone run for office positions, they have made these kinds of strides. As Susan Brownmiller points out, the very newspaper in which this article was written had “help-wanted ads, which were once arranged by gender to distinguish ‘women’s work’ from real careers” (Levy, page 50) in the late 1960’s and 70’s. Evidently, we have come an extremely long way to even consider women as politicians—there is no doubt in my mind that this was certainly not considered as ‘woman’s work’ a short 40 years ago. I further wonder if, since women are now holding these respected positions, does this mean that women are no longer feeling the strain or the gap between the sexes. While this is not discussed specifically in the article, I feel that based upon what we have talked about in class, there is no doubt that in general a divide still exists.
Warner writes about how being a mom is “synonymous with being one of the people”, and how Linda McMahon posted special advertisements towards the “moms of Connecticut”. While this all seems positive and reaffirming for women, at the same time I could not help but think that it is a little bit twisted. Does it really need to be this “motherly” identity that gives women the capabilities to run for office, or that pushes voters to want to vote for these women? Warner has an answer to this in her article.
“The mommy brain is now considered a greatly superior organ—uniquely suited for multitasking, specialty schooled in the challenges of diplomacy and budgeting, grounded in the can-do here and now rather than in the hopelessly abstract or esoteric—being a mom (the “just” has been dropped) is now frequently spun as a prime career asset, particularly in the world of politics”. So, it seems, women are finally being appreciated for their innate capabilities and qualities. It is not even “motherliness”, according to Warner that is important here. It is, “ a certain idea of womanhood; woman as earthy, concrete with her view of the world bound by personal experience—by ‘immanence’”. This is how, apparently, Christine O’Donnell has seen successes in her pursuit of candidacy, despite not being a mother. Furthermore, Michelle Obama very often publicly announces her daughters as being influential on her decisions and actions. Overall, therefore, it appears that nowadays people feel that women can do a great job in politics, because they have all of these attractive and respected skills. How the world has changed.
Finally, it appears that many Americans feel that the “intimidation” factors—Linda McMahon, for example, is a co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment—of these women could lead to them being disliked by citizens. These women are powerful with a lot of public and business influence. This itself breaks normal gender stereotypes. Using the fact that they are motherly, however, shows that these women are sensitive, authentic and use common sense; it reaffirms them and places them back into the stereotype. After Hillary Clinton said (and no less offended many in the process), “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies” in 1992, in response to her possible first lady position, many politicians, including our current secretary of state, have learned their lesson. This past summer, even in the midst of an intense and tense Pakistan visit, Clinton made sure to sit down with Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC New Anchor, to discuss how excited she was to be the “mother of the bride” (and obviously show her softer side) in reference to Chelsea’s upcoming wedding. Furthermore, this brings up the question of who the targets of these “womanly reaffirming” platforms really are. It seems that females are not actually the ones being drawn in by this decision, especially because it is men that identify women as mothers. Additionally, Warner writes, “multiple surveys have shown, women may be disproportionately sitting out the midterms”. So, interestingly enough it is actually men that are being addressed.
It now seems that being female, and a mother, is all of a sudden a good thing in choosing our country’s power. But when we think about it in terms of real, average people, this is not necessarily the case and women aren’t always respected (and as seen by the results, actually neither McMahon nor Angle were elected). As we read in both “Knowledge is Power” and “Reality Check” in Listen Up, many women with children, no matter how educated they are, face enormous challenges, between Welfare, job availability and segregation, and more. Being a mother comes with a huge cost, that Aisha Kahim-Dyce discusses- does one choose the welfare of oneself over the welfare of one’s family, such as in the case of being a go-go dancer to bring in income? How do you make a decision on something like this? While it seems all fine and dandy now that women are esteemed in our political society, in many other places in America being female is just not even close. It remains today that women are only earning about 80 cents to a man’s dollar for the same type of work. It is obvious that women, in general, still have a long way to go to actually become equal in our society, but this is one baby step that could perhaps get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Findlen, Barbara. Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. 1995. Seal Press.
Levy, Ariel. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. 2005. Free Press
Warner, Judith. “The New Momism: Momism as a Clever Political Strategy” New York Times Magazine Online. October 29th, 2010.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
In “The Lady and the Tramp (II): Feminist Welfare Politics, Poor Single Mothers, and the Challenge of Welfare Justice” Gwendolyn Mink writes “Especially for women of color, wage work has been a mark of inequality: expected by the white society for whom they work; necessary because their male kin cannot find jobs or cannot earn family-supporting wages; and exploitative because their earnings keep them poor. Thus, the right to care for their own children-to work inside the home-has been a touchstone goal of their struggles for equality. The fact that women are positioned divergently in the nexus among care giving, wage earning, and inequality separated feminists one from another on the welfare issue and separated employed middle-class feminists from mothers who need welfare” (page 61).
Her points in this piece as a whole, published in Feminist Studies, I feel really made me think. She has observed a real life problem, that anyone can see in their daily lives, whether or not they are poor or of color, or even female. I personally cannot imagine being in a situation where I felt that I was being exploited and at the same time was going all I could to make ends meet. While I understand that people have issues with women staying home with their children (and having perhaps many children to ensure that they have this right), therefore not working when impoverished and thus relying on taxpayers, etc. for money, Mink reiterates that we do pay teachers, psychologists, nurses, chauffeurs, housecleaners, cooks, etc. and these are all jobs that stay at home mothers do on a daily basis. Single mothers or not, all women should be recognized for the hard work that they do at home. It is certainly not easy to care for children, as, Mink acknowledges, it is many occupations combined into one.
That said, perhaps we should all reconsider what has been done recently with welfare, or at least come up with a better system in which our country can begin to accommodate single mothers and the difficulties that come along with falling in this category. Once again, as I have brought up before, how does one choose between the welfare of oneself and the welfare of ones family? It is not an easy choice, but I feel that the government should not be making decisions that families themselves should be primarily responsible for. What it comes down to often times is the love that mothers have for their children, the wanting to be there for when they are growing up, and I honestly don't think that someone can be penalized for that.