Thursday, September 30, 2010

News Flash #1

She “is J.Lo curves meets Jessica Simpson rack meets Audrey Hepburn elegance—a head-turning beauty (Bennett). The Village Voice, a New York City newspaper, described the thirty-three year-old Citibank employee, Debbie Lorenzana, as thus. Lorenzana, who was fired from her job in the summer of 2009 as a result of her cited poor “work performance,” sued the company in December for discrimination, claiming that she was actually fired for distracting her male colleagues and supervisors with her appearance. Lorenzana’s case serves as evidence of one of the many suppressive double binds, which we have read about and discussed in class, that women all over the world face.

According to Debbie Lorenzana, her bosses at Citibank repeatedly told her that they were unable to focus on their work because they were distracted by her sexually appealing appearance. They even went so far as to demand that she dress herself differently, forbidding her from wearing turtlenecks, pencil skirts, three-inch heels, or fitted business suits and suggesting that she wear looser-fitting clothing instead. Lorenzana tried to point out to them that the attire of many other women in the company was much more provocative and revealing, as they were clad in mini-skirts and low-cut blouses, allowing “anyone [to] see what God gave them” (Dwoskin) when they bent down. However, her bosses simply fired back, claiming, “their body shapes were different from [hers], and [she] drew too much attention” (Bennett). Lorenzana claimed that she shopped at the same places that her female coworkers shopped, like Zara, and thus she felt she was being punished for her body rather than her purchases and actual dress. As she reflects, other women "were able to wear such clothing because they were short, overweight, and they didn't draw much attention…but since I was five-foot-six, 125 pounds, with a figure, it wasn't appropriate…Are you saying that just because I look this way genetically, that this should be a curse for me?” (Dwoskin).

Debbie Lorenzana faces a double bind. A double bind, as defined by Marilyn Frye (author of the article we read in class, “Oppression”) is a “situation in which options are reduced to very few and all of the expose one to penalty, censure or deprivation” (Frye). Women in the workplace face a double bind in terms of their appearance: there are perils to being unattractive (especially to the male sex) as well as being too attractive. As Jessica Bennett, Newsweek writer, claims, “it's a known fact that attractive people have it easier: résumés get more favorable assessments when they’re thought to belong to attractive candidates; pretty students get doted on more by teachers” (Bennett). She even went on to reveal that attractive women on average make 4% more than, what she calls, their “Ugly Betty counterparts.” I am not exactly sure what the criteria is for determining who is attractive and who is an “Ugly Betty,” and for that matter, who makes this determination, but it is nevertheless a telling statistic. Attractive women definitely have advantages over less attractive women in the career world, especially when (sex-driven) men are primarily the ones in control and doing the hiring. Even though she was fully qualified for the job and should not have needed her looks to land the job, it appears that Lorenzana may have been hired at Citibank at least partially because of her stunning looks. After being hired by Citibank, Lorenzana was told by one of her new female coworkers that the branch was “pretty much known for hiring pretty girls” (Dwoskin), and that she was positive Lorenzana had the job as soon as she saw her when she came in for her interview.

However, from Lorenzana’s situation, it becomes obvious that there are also pitfalls to being too attractive. Even if you are not fired for being too sexy or beautiful, you have to work in an environment that is “hostile, painful, and unbearable” (Dwoskin), words Lorenzana used to describe the work settings she has faced throughout her career. While working at Citibank and other companies, she faced harassment on a daily basis. For example, when she worked at the Municipal Credit Union in 2003, her boss once called her into his office to ask her opinion of a picture, which turned out to be a picture of his penis. If that is not sexual harassment in the workplace, I do not know what is. Before Lorenzana was fired from Citibank, she faced a year of constant harassment from within the company. Her bosses singled her out every day and were relentless in their comments about her appearance and dress, as evidenced by the following statement from Lorenzana: “I could have worn a paper bag, and it would not have mattered. If it wasn't my shirt, it was my pants. If it wasn't my pants, it was my shoes” (Bennett). Lorenzana even stopped wearing makeup and wore her hair back in attempt to draw attention away from her; but nothing she did seemed to prevent her from being a “distracting force” in the office for the men. She was essentially being punished for her natural beauty and curves, as her clothes were in no way slutty or revealing, and were completely in line with the company dress code. However, as her bosses made clear to her, her body type demanded that she follow a completely different dress code—one that Lorenzana refused to comply with, as she believed she was dressing appropriately and being discriminated against. In the end, Lorenzana had to pay the price for being too hot in the workplace. Thus, Lorenzana faced what Bennett calls, a “double-edged sword”–if she was not attractive enough to her supervisors, she might not have even gotten the job (or made the high salary that she made), yet, the fact that she was too attractive ended up costing her the job. How was she supposed to win? The true answer is she cannot win and is not supposed to win. As Frye claims, in the case of double binds “you can’t win. You are caught in a bind, caught between systematically related pressures” (Frye). Lorenzana is just one example of a women caught between one of the innumerable double binds that women face constantly in their day-to-day life.

Women should not have to make themselves unattractive to be able to work in a healthy, non-discriminatory environment, where they feel safe. It should not take them being ugly for them to not be viewed as sexual objects. At the same time, women should not have to be attractive to have advantages or success in the career-world (unless they are trying to become models, of course). The story of Debbie Lorenzana clearly shows how we still live in a patriarchal, man-driven world. The man lies at the center of all things and women must revolve around him. As Lorenzana’s lawyer claimed in regards to her situation at work and the complaints she received from her bosses, “[i]t’s like saying we can’t think anymore 'cause our penises are standing up—and we cannot think about you except in a sexual manner—and we can’t look at you without wanting to have sexual intercourse with you. And it’s up to you, gorgeous woman, to lessen your appeal so that we can focus!” (Bennett). Hearing about Lorenzana’s situation led me to the question, why must women always be the ones to change to accommodate men?

Works Cited

Bennett, Jessica. "Too Hot in the Workplace? It'll Cost You." Newsweek. 4 June 2010.
30 Sept. 2010. 2010/06/04/too-hot-in-the-workplace-it-can-cost-you-your-job.html>.

Dwoskin, Elizabeth. “Is This Woman Too Hot To Be a Banker?” The Village Voice. 1
June 2010. 30 Sept. 2010. .

Frye, Marilyn. “Oppression.” The Politics of Reality. Trumansburg, N.Y: The Crossing
Press, 1983.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

As we discussed last class gender is something that is socially constructed where as sex is biological. So it is easy for one to see how decisions about a Childs gender can greatly affect their future. Doctors and parents are faced with difficult moral and ethical choices when placed in this position. Often times a decision needs to be made in a timely manner so the most important party is not included in the decision and that is the child. If the wrong sex is chosen for the child and the child identifies with the opposite sex then that can cause significant psychological damage. Children that are born with a genital abnormality are born with a cloud over their head and will often always have questions about their sexuality. Ciara is an incredible singer songwriter but rumors of her being a hermaphadite follow her. Lady Gaga also has been rumored to have a penis. As we discussed in class a genital abnormality can be as subtle as internal testes an can often go years unnoticed. Pop culture icons may experience some of these slight abnormalities but due to them constantly being in the spotlight this is just magnified. These situations need to be handled delicately and as technology and medical advancements continue to improve hopefully the situation for these children will also.

Response to Brittany (9/29)

While reading Thursday's reading by Anne-Fausto Sterling, I was disgusted and shocked by the way some of the ways doctors handle intersexuals. For example, when parents ask them if there is anyone else who was in a similar situation with whom they could get guidance from and speak with, doctors usually tell the parents that their child's condition is very rare and for that reason, there is no one, whom they can speak with. I'm sorry, but that is total crap. Sure, it may be a rarer condition...but not that rare. Fausto-Sterling reports that 1.7% of all children born are intersex, which means that in America (where the population is over 300 million) there are more than 5,100,000 people who have been born with some type of intersexual condition. Surely there are people with whom the doctors could refer the parents to in order to help them make a very crucial decision for their child as well as themselves. It is very sad how little psychological support the families of intersex children are offered. I was also appalled by the amount of information they withheld from parents (and the children when they were older) about the child's condition and the blatant lies some doctors told. For example, a girl by name of Angel Moreno had a clitoris which grew when she was twelve, so her mom took her to the hospital, where a doctor then told her she had ovarian cancer and needed a hysterectomy. They removed her clitoris and it was not until she was twenty-three that she discovered that she never really did have cancer, she was intersex (she was XY and did not have ovaries, but testes).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Main Post 9/29

Continuing on in our reading by Anne Fausto-Sterling’s “Sexing the Body”, Chapter 3 concentrates on how decisions about a child’s gender at birth are made and how they can affect their future. Once a child’s body exhibits sexual ambiguity, there is a multitude of issues that they, as well as their parents, face, both physically and psychologically. For parents, doctors use the most medically-technical vocabulary as possible, in order not to bring about the thought that their child is not male or female, rather that they show signs of unusual physiology. There are also many different diseases that can cause this, that are mentioned, such as CAH, AIS, gonadal dysgenesis, Klinefelter’s or Turners.

Doctors felt that their patients “required medical treatment because they ought to have become either a male or female” and warned that “freak hood” (as a result of sexual ambiguity) “will, indeed, be the baby’s fate should the case be improperly managed” (pages 46-47). The author continues with saying that the general agreement today is that intersexual children should be corrected as soon as possible, though practices for taking care of this surgically are quite variable, because there are not yet any regulations for this practice. Though it seems that doctors do want to help, they often are unaware of resources that can help both themselves and parents in better dealing with this circumstance, that occurs in 1.7% of all births (though this varies across the world and across different ethnic/racial populations), and might be on the rise as a result of environmental pollutants and in vitro fertilization. All of this technology available to “fix” these problems, has led to an even further emphasis on the fact that people fall into one of the two categories, male or female, even though there is a fairly high frequency of it.

The author describes the ways in which prenatal treatments can attempt to eliminate gender ambiguity, but these have many side effects for both mother and child, and have not proven to be actually effective. Thus, as the author refers to it, “doctors must decide, as they would put it, nature’s intention” (page 56), and surgically assign a newborn’s gender. Many of these decisions are made on social means as opposed to medical, as many families prefer male children, “you can make a hole but you can't build a pole,” etc.

The psychological piece arises with a discussion of a new “gender doublespeak” in which parents are discouraged from telling their children that they are part male and part female, and rather that they are the sex that they “became”. These doctors feel that medical honesty is of no benefit of the patient, but this is at odds with “sound medical practice”. Amongst the parents having issues dealing with this, obviously the patients themselves have exhibited problems, most notably with the John/Joan/John incident, in which a boy had a problem when circumcised, underwent surgery to become a girl, began identifying as a girl, then had difficulty fully adjusting as a female, at which point he underwent corrective surgery to become male once again. Clearly, it isn’t easy.

There has been an ongoing feud between Money and Diamond, in their theories of how humans became sexual. While Money argued that humans were sexually neutral at birth and the environment played a part, Diamond argued that it was hormones that determined sex. This led to a debate that “individuals are psychosexually neutral at birth, and that healthy psychosexual development is intimately related to the appearance of the genitals” (page 70). One more debate that has surfaced among this question of intersexuality is the issue of homosexuality versus homosexuality. “When doctors chose to assign a definitive sex to an ambiguously sexed child, then it was not enough that the child become psychologically male or female. For the treatment to count as successful, the child had to become heterosexual” (page 72), believed some scientists. Was a girl who still had testes and an XY chromosome, who fell in love with a man homosexual or heterosexual? These issues still are questioned, but Diamond argues that nature permits more than two normal types of sexuality, and diversity is okay.

Finally the author talks about the fact that “the rules for living as a male or female are strict” (page 75), that there are contradictory practices and views in our world, and our current cultural system of gender is constantly called into question.

“Should there only be two sexes?”, Chapter 4 in Fausto-Sterling’s book, begins with an anecdote about how she wrote a proposal that we change our two sex system to a five sex one, and the multitude of reactions she received as a result. Some were positive, some were not (such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, who believe that there are “but two sexes, both are which are rooted in nature” (page 78). At the very least, however, she seemed proud that the debate had started, and the lines between male and female were becoming harder to define. Fausto-Sterling states her wishes for the future of intersexuals, that being:

1. Let there be no unnecessary infant surgery

2. Let physicians assign a provisional sex to the infant

3. Let the medical care team provide full information and long-term counseling to the parents and to the child

She further talks about a utopia in which gender hierarchies have been abolished, and intersexuals have only major/life-threatening medical concerns.

Continuing on, the author makes a point about how the surgeries/“cures” for intersexuals often cause more harm than good, and includes many statistics and stories about horrific experiences of real life people. Many of these stories contain people who have gone further to try and help those in situations similar to their own, like Cheryl Chase who founded the Intersex Society of North America, and Helena Harmon-Smith who started the Hermaphrodite Education and Listening Post. These advocates support truth and nothing but the truth when discussing gender identities, amongst patients, doctors, and parents. Along with physical pain associated with the surgeries, the Fausto-Sterling once again reiterates the psychological suffering that intersexuals deal with. These surgeries have an incredibly high failure rate, and often times patients must actually undergo several surgeries. This chapter also includes many pages of a chart detailing “outcomes of reduction clitoroplasties”, including the number of subjects, age at first surgery, results, and comments.

“Dogma has it that without medical care, especially early surgical intervention, hermaphrodites are doomed to a life of misery. Yet, there are few empirical investigations to back up this claim” (page 93). There are many examples, actually, in which hermaphrodites have lived happy and productive lives, and many have assumed normal role and activities of whichever “sex” they have chosen. The author brings up an interesting (and not surprising) point that males appear more anxious to change their feminized bodies than vice versa.

The last major topic in the chapter has to do with transsexuality, and the fact that many transsexuals feel extremely strongly about having their bodies “conform with his/her psyche” (page 107), and thus often end up having surgery. However, it is the exact concept of our two-gender system that allows transsexuals to have this surgery- they are choosing one sex, versus falling into one of Rothblatt’s “shades of gender”. Although “no woman or man fits the universal gender stereotype” (page 108), transsexuals and transgenders have difficulties in their daily lives; obtaining passports, licenses, etc. An International Bill of Gender Rights was written by transgenders, and things are currently in the works to help the legal statuses of intersexuals, transsexuals, etc.

At the end of the chapter, Fausto-Sterling leaves the reader with glimmers of hope. “Perhaps we will come to view such children as especially blessed or lucky” (page 113), and there is a “general trend toward greater tolerance for gender multiplicity and ambiguity” (page 114).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Response to Olivia 9/27

gender_back.gifThe short piece “One Bad Hair Day Too Many…” by Jennifer Myhre in “Listen Up”, I found her views to be somewhat fitting of the stereotypical “feminist”. Because of this, to be honest, I felt somewhat uncomfortable and the story kind of put me off. She is somewhat aggressive in stating her points, which is, for me, what made it the most difficult to read.

Jennifer decided to get a crew cut and eventually shaved her head, and stopped caring about her appearance. She no longer shaved her legs or armpits, wore makeup or jewelry. As she said, “… but not working at looking like a woman meant that most people considered me masculine. I chose to call myself androgynous and hoped to destroy the distinction between masculine and feminine, male and female” (page 86). I understand that some people feel that they don’t fit into a gender category, per se, and I support that they should be able to feel at ease with themselves. I do think though, that in society, there are social norms, gender norms, etc. and if people are willing to go so far as to call them selves androgynous (which I feel is okay if they want to), they have to understand that as humans, we inherently feel as other humans should fit into a category of male or female, as that is how, since the beginning, God made people- male or female and nothing in between. Thus, the decision to give up one’s sexual “distinction” should be made keeping in mind that intrinsically, people are going to feel awkward around them; it’s just the way we are.

The author goes further on to say that “women are expected to comply with standards set by society” (page 87). I feel that society also has standards set for men- tough, strong, somewhat emotion-less, etc. While I agree that in many senses women are oppressed in our society, I think she does not admit the fact that other people face issues with being stereotyped and being called names as well (minorities, etc.). I do however appreciate that the author comes out and says, “I am a feminist with whom even other feminists are sometimes uncomfortable” (page 88), because I am certainly uncomfortable with her story, and I do consider myself somewhat of a feminist, now that I have been enrolled in this course.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Main Post 9/28

Man or woman? ...who cares!

In the first chapter of the book, called "Dueling Dualisms" Anne Fausto-Sterling's begins by discussing how the differences between the social expression of gender as well the physical underpinnings of gender have been intensely debated over the last few decades. Sexologists, Money and Ehrhardt introduced the now popular idea that gender and sex are two different and separate categories, with sex as signifying "physical attributes and is anatomically and physiologically determined" and gender as a "psychological transformation of the self" or the "conviction that one is either male or female...and the behavior expressions of that conviction" (3). The 1970's second-wave feminists, for example, believed in these two separate categories and thought that social institutions created and maintained gender equality by producing differences between men and women. They would claim that having a vagina vs. a penis is a sex distinction, but boys supposedly being better at math is a gender difference (created by society, not inborn). Fausto-Sterling then goes on to say how scientists have created truths about sexuality, our bodies then confirm these truths (which are shaped by the scientists' social environment), and these truths then, in turn, shape our social and cultural environment. However, it is important to note that ideas and facts about sexuality and the body change with history and different social and political climates--they are not static. Fausto-Sterling for the remainder of the chapter talks about dualisms (pairs of opposing beliefs or philosophies), which many people use to analyze sexuality: sex vs. gender (as already discussed), real (we are born with certain sexual inclinations and desires) vs. constructed (the environment in which we grow up in shapes our sexual inclinations and desires), and nature vs. nurture. Unless I missed something or did not understand part of the reading, I came out of reading this chapter, thinking that real vs. constructed and nature vs. nurture were essentially the same distinctions (i.e. real=nature and constructed=nurture).

In the second chapter we read, titled "That Sexe Which Prevaileth," Fausto-Sterling focuses on how European and American culture has insisted on a 2-sex dichotomy. Our language even refuses the possibility of having more than 2 sexes (we are restricted to he or she). Determining one's sex has huge consequences in our societies politically, socially, and legally.
Surgeries are often even performed to maintain this 2-sex system so that intersexuals have become decreasingly acknowledged. While society may wants to maintain 2 sexes, many people's bodies resist this distinction, as there are some people (known as intersexuals and sometimes hermaphrodites), who have anatomical parts that are conventionally attributed to men and others, which are attributed to women. Throughout history different cultures have viewed and "handled" intersexuals differently. However, even if there was more acceptance in certain cultures, differentiating between men and women and maintaining the 2-sex system was at the core of social, legal, and political systems and structure in Europe. As biology began to emerge as a prominent field in the early 18th century, it was given the authority of deciding who was a hermaphrodite or intersexual and who was not. In doing so, it claimed that hermaphrodites were natural in that there were medical explanations for their state, however they were also declared abnormal and needed to be corrected. Soon medical technology allowed for this correction of "nature's mistakes" to be possible. In what Fausto-Sterling calls the "hermaphrodite vanishing act," scientists placed narrower restrictions on who truly could be labeled a hermaphrodite--gonads become the only defining factor for sex. As Fausto-Sterling claims, "people of mixed sex all but disappeared, not because they had become rarer, but because scientific methods classified them out of existence" (39). And furthermore, in order to be participants in legal and political systems, hermaphrodites were told they had position themselves within the 2-gender system by choosing to be whichever sex "dominates their personality" (36), and once they chose there was no turning. Into the 19th century, politics insisted that there be 2 distinct sexes and political inequality continued as "scientists defined some bodies as better and more deserving of right than others" (39). The 20th century and an increased understanding of the physiological bases of intersexuality as well as strides in surgical technology, allowed for doctors to "catch" the majority of intersexuals and surgically make them one sex. While on one hand they simply wanted these individuals to be able to fit into society better, the sudden desire and need to physically place them within the 2-sex dichotomy reveals the assumptions that only 2 sexes should exist, only heterosexuality was normal, and that specific gender roles were defining characteristics for the "psyhcologically healthy man and woman" (44).

In the chapter we read for "Listen Up," we hear the story of Jennifer Reid Maxcy Myhre, a feminist who decides to get a crew-cut (and later shave her head), stop shaving her legs and armpits, and stop wearing makeup, jewelry, and girly clothes. She talks about how in her daily life she faces stares, deterred or offended by this treatment--she simply finds it completely illustrative of people's views about gender and appearance and how the two are wound so tightly together. She claims that we judge people to be male or female based on their physical appearance, and for this reason, she makes people feel uncomfortable as she does not easily fit into either of the two distinct gender categories that people have engrained in their minds. Jannifer Myhre does not need the approval of society (and primarily men) to live a fulfilling life. She has no desire to waste her time and money primping herself and transforming herself into society's ideal vision of what a woman should look like. She advocates that we should not be afraid of being called words such as "masculine" and "butch," for their only true meaning is that we "take control of our bodies and lives" (88) and that we are indifferent to the male gaze. These words, as she claims, are simply used to keep women down and silent them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Response to Sterling (9/23)

I thought this week's readings were very enlightening, particular Peggy McIntosh's article on white privilege. When i read the list she made of 50 "daily effects of white privilege," it really opened my eyes and made me realize that I definitely take these privileges for granted, as a white woman. They are things that can significantly change and shape someone's life, but I don't even think of them. For example, Peggy says one of the effects of white privilege that she experiences is that she can "go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assure that [she] will not be followed or harassed." I would never even think of this as a privilege. However, if you put yourself in someone else's shoes, you start to realize that shopping without being harassed is not an assumed privilege whatsoever. It makes it even more difficult to recognize your privilege, when you are mainly surrounded by people very similar to you in terms of their backgrounds. Colgate, for example, is made up predominantly of white, middle-upper class to upper class students. We live in a sort of a bubble, where we sometimes do not even have the experiences, which would really helps us to notice that we are extremely privileged or that others in our community are extremely underprivileged. I really liked this article because it is one of the first things we've read that those who are not oppressed to take action to help the oppressed (whether it be women or people of non-white races). It urges them to acknowledge they are living in a world, where they are privileged, and that the myth of meritocracy is a smokescreen.

Response 9/22

I couldn’t help but think of the movie “Mean Girls” while reading White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh. I don’t know exactly why, however. While reading the text, based upon the privilege that whites experience in our culture, while others are disadvantaged, I found myself amazed by the list that was made of the ‘daily effects of white privilege’; there were a lot of conditions that I honestly had never thought of or perhaps had taken for granted. But still, what came to mind first was “Mean Girls”. Whether it was the fact that the racial/religious/class/popularity/sexual (in)activity, stereotypes are blatantly, overtly stated (see the clip below, including: cool Asians, Asian nerds, varsity jocks, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, burnouts, sexually active band geeks, etc.), the girl fight and subsequent mediation session in the gym of the high school, or just the fact that the only major important male character is there because girls are fighting over him (Aaron Samuels), I felt like as soon as I saw the word “hierarchies,” for some reason all I could do was think of this movie. Perhaps it is because all of the members of the Plastics are white, beautiful, and skinny. One of the friends that Cady abandons for the “cooler kids” is gay, and the other had been misconstrued as a lesbian, and were just plainly not as good looking. Karen (even though she is dumb as bricks) asks Cady “So if you’re from Africa… why are you white?” (to be followed by, “Oh my god Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re white!”. Perhaps it is this strange, maybe even mocking racism/sexism, etc. that draws people to the movie, and made me think of it. I’m not sure. And, while I understand that the movie is called “Mean Girls”, I think that the emphasis on purely female characters plays into some of the things we have spoken about in this class, and things that the author mentions. It is such things as the fact that the principal (male) is always trying to get with Ms. Norbury, the math teacher; we have spoken about how females are very often seen as sex objects, and while it is somewhat awkward in the movie, this is definitely somewhat underlying their interactions. It is also things like Cady wearing a slutty dress to the party she hosts, the extreme fake-ness of Regina’s mother’s breasts, or even the three way calling, Regina not fitting into dresses at an imaginary store called “1-3-5”, and more.

I also found that Audre Lorde’s The Master’s Tools, related to “Mean Girls”, in the sense that at the meeting in the gym, the girls all come together and embrace each other as a group. As Lorde says, “But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist”. It is at this point in the movie that the girls come to realize that even though they before had been very separated by their races/ethnicities/sexual preferences, etc. that they could all get along. This is also rehashed at the very end when Cady shares her ‘Spring Fling Queen crown’ with many of the girls at the dance, saying that every girl “looks like royalty tonight”.,,95000,00.html (this is a clip of the cafeteria map from "Mean Girls")

main post 9/23

The reading “The Masters tools will never dismantle the Master’s House” by Audre Lorde is one of the few articles we have read that takes a critical look at feminism. Audre Lorde is a black lesbian. She spends a majority of the time talking about how feminism is really only from the wealthy white women’s perspective. She explains that” Differences in race, sexuality, class, and age. The absence of these considerations weakens any feminist discussion of the personal and the political.” A prime example is the conference that she is speaking at only has two black women and they were found at the last hour. Lorde also talks about the conference lacking the perspective of lesbian women and women from third world counties consequently leaving a serious gap in the conference. In order to make a real change women have to unite if they really want to see results. “ As women we have been taught either to ignore differences or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change.” Why are wealthy white women the only ones to attend feminists conferences when poor women and women of color clean their house and take care of their children. When seeking political change it is important to garner the perspective of ALL women. Larde talks about how white feminists have educated themselves a great deal the past ten years but no time was spent educating themselves about black women. Black and white women have fundamental differences, which is “key to our survival as a movement.”

The article “White Privilege” by Peggy Mcintosh was the other reading for class. This article states how whites and males are taught to not recognize their social status and privilege. Judging by this then most oppressive behavior is unconscious, which is why women of color sometimes feel, oppressed by white women. I found the quote “ White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes tools, and blank checks.” To be hilarious obviously this is an exaggeration but gets the point of white privilege across. I shared the quote with a few of my white teammates and they automatically got defensive and said that they to had endured hardships and life was not all peaches and cream for them. I found the list to also be very interesting and as I was reading through I couldn’t help but think about how many of these did not apply to my family or me. I think the last one sums the list up well “ I will feel welcomed and normal in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.” I cannot say this is true for me I can think of a number of examples where I have felt uncomfortable or out of place many of those examples coming while I have been at Colgate. In order to “ Redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions.” We cannot begin to change as a society if those who are in power a have privilege do not even realize it. These people are faced with a difficult task if life is easier for them and most of the people that are close to them then what is their incentive to change?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Response to Brittany (9/20)

I thought Frye's comment about how some people say that "oppressing is oppressive to those who oppress as well as those they oppress," particularly referring to men, was very interesting. She goes on to say that some men say their are oppressed by how they have to act out a certain concept of masculinity (the tough, unemotional guy, who should not ever cry). I found this point really interesting and something I never really thought about. While it may be too intense to say that men are "oppressed" to the same extent that women are, men are also definitely "caged in" in a certain way. They too face double binds. Men are also "in a bind where neither sexual activity nor sexual inactivity is all right." If men are not "sex-crazy" they are often viewed as emasculated, unmacho, and lame (mainly by fellow men). However, if they are extremely active sexually and essentially "man-whores", they are viewed by women as shallow, disgusting, and "not boyfriend material."

Frye's discussion of the double binds that women face made me think about the sticky position, which we have talked (and read about) that women feminists are in. If they dress extremely sexily or femininely, people might say that they are either presenting themselves as sexual objects for men or playing their part in continuing gender stereotypes (for example, that women must wear skirts, dresses, lots of make-up, pink, etc.). Or in general, if they care about how they look, people might think that they are validating the belief that women only care about their looks. However, if feminists do not give much attention to how they dress and look, they are viewed as manly, butch, and lesbian. How can they win?!

Post 9/20

Out of the two articles assigned for class I found he article titled Oppression by Marilyn Frye to be the more interesting of the two. I tgought the article did a good job highlighting the many conflicting images that women struggle with. I think the most prevalent one is the one regarding women’s sexuality. Its like women are in a loose loose situation if the engage in sexual behavior they risks being called a whore and being treated as a “ easy lay by men”. She also risks being scorn by her female friends and is forced to lie to her parents. On the other hand if she does not engage in sexual behavior she risks being called names like uptight, manhater, and cocktease she even runs the risk of being called a lesbian. I cant imagine having to deal with these social stigmas when deciding whether or not to become sexually active. I saw on a website that the average American Women has five sexual partners in her lifetime being in college, with the “hook up” culture almost makes this seem as an impossible task for most girls so to many these girls would be labeled sluts. Is this fair absolutely not, I have this debate with my female friends all the time while this is not fair you need to be cognizant of it. You cannot go around sleeping with everyone just because guys do it and not be expect to be called a slut. I think sometimes women use being oppressed as an excuse to why they are not as successful or able to do the things that they would like. I think that if women were truly oppressed there would not be the kind of social mobility for women that exist in today’s society. So I would have to say that I agree with Frye in that I to also believe that the term oppressed is often misused.

Main Post: 9/20

Two documents comprised the reading for class on September 21st. The first was an essay by Marilyn Frye, entitled “Oppression”. In this piece, Frye begins with stating that this strong word is often used inappropriately, and is used so frequently that it has become meaningless in many occasions. The use of this word has also come to be associated with a feeling of insensitivity and prejudice for those that it is being used to describe. Since women often feel oppressed ourselves, and we are widely defined as sensitive beings… well, there is a difficult situation here; as Frye describes it “our situation has been drained of meaning and our guilt mechanisms tripped”. The double bind referred to here, where women must act a perfect mix of “sexually active” or “sexually inactive”, has clearly caused some perplexing and difficult feeling of always being on the losing end of things. Frye uses a metaphor of a bird in a cage, comparing viewing one individual bar on a cage as barring to a bird, to one reason why oppression can be so hurtful to women; it is not until one looks at the entire picture (cage, bird, etc.) that the problem can be seen. Finally, Frye discusses “gallant gestures”, and how they hold very little real meaning, and are only there to really show that women are insignificant and incapable. They similarly can show the “contempt” that men have for women in that they need the help that these gestures “give” them, when in reality, women are perfectly capable to open doors; it is almost a mocking gesture.

The other document, a chapter out of a novel by Allan G. Johnson, entitled “Patriarchy, the system: an it, not a he, a them, or an us”, begins with addressing the “common confusion” that people face when confronted with the word ‘patriarchy’. He mentions that patriarchy is a system, but not a system of individuals because such a system “ignores that we are all participating in something larger than ourselves or any collection of us”. Johnson states that it is the roots of society that has created and perpetuated the problems that we see in the world today, specifically with patriarchy. It is something that people don’t realize they are doing, but as members of society, we are all perpetuating it, just through being participants in society. As he says “It is a system, which means it can’t be reduced to the people who participate it. If you go to work in a corporation, for example, you know the minute you walk in the door that you’ve entered ‘something’ that shapes your experience and behavior, something that isn’t just you and the other people you work with”.

Many comparisons are made in this reading; between patriarchy and the popular board game Monopoly, capitalism, soldiers going into war, poverty, and even talks about the how the show Everybody Loves Raymond perpetuates this “system”. Defining the ‘path of least resistance’, Johnson takes his argument a step further in saying that our partaking in social systems forms the choices we make, conscious and unconscious. Since we all have grown up in some type of society, we will tend to “accept, identify with, and participate in it as ‘normal’ and unremarkable life”; more or less, since this is how we grew up, this is how we have been ingrained to act.

He makes a point in saying that, even though we don’t like taking money from other competitors when playing Monopoly, we do it anyway, because the game is about winning. Thus, we cannot explain individual behaviors, or individual people for the reason that patriarchy exists. Patriarchy exists, “because it I more than how people think, feel and behave… it is a way of organizing social life…” This social life is one in which mistreatment, disappointment, force and violence can be perpetuated.

It is not until at least halfway through the chapter that the author defines patriarchy, as a “system of inequality organized around gender categories”, and as such, society being comprised of genders, we are all involved. He also makes clear that words that were previously used to describe women as powerful or positive beings, such as bitch, witch, crone and virgin, have in current times taken on a negative connotation.

Johnson pushes his readers to examine “social relationships and the unequal distributions of power, rewards, opportunities, and resources, that appear in everyday life”. It is this unequal distribution of all of the above, and the ongoing nature of this ‘system’ that makes patriarchy and male opportunity in general, possible. It is a privilege because, some people have it and some people don’t.

While patriarchy as a subject is uncomfortable, to men often times, and occasionally even to women in powerful positions, the UN has even addressed men’s violence against women as “the most pervasive form of human rights abuse”.

In the end, empowerment is all that can be done to outlaw the “tradition” (you may say), of patriarchy, a system that we have come to be accustomed to in our society.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Response to Olivia

I found Douglas discussion of female portrayal in “chick flicks” and African American women to be particularly interesting. An important concept that Douglas explores is the need for women to have a man to feel complete. This is very prevalent in today’s society On campuses across America from junior high all the way up to college you will find girls who will do just about anything for male approval. This new trend of girliness must of been confusing for young girls, because this is around the same time that shows such as Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer became popular. These are two very different images this is an example of women having to choose between being girly and sexy to appeal to men or being tough and powerful like Xena. In the second chapter Douglas focuses on African American women in the media. These women are portrayed as sassy and ghetto. African Americans made their way into the main stream through the popularization of rap music. Many Rappers do not get signed to major labels because they will not tailor their style to the white suburban kid, who is the leading rap consumer. White suburban kids enjoy hearing stories about rappers running the streets, selling drugs, and being in violent encounters. Thug life is appealing when you do not actually have to live that lifestyle. An example of this is the movie Malibu’s Most wanted. The movie stars Jamie Kennedy he is a white suburban kid who try desperately to “act black” he sags his pants wears jewelry and is an aspiring rapper. In an attempt to scare the black out of him his parents hire two actors to play thugs and take him to the ghetto to straighten him out. Jammie Kennedy keeps with the tough guy act until he realizes that he is in a real situation that ended up being more then he intended it to be.

Response to Olivia, 9/15

I found Susan Douglas’ 4th chapter, entitled “The New Girliness” extremely interesting. As she said on page 124, “all of these TV shows, films, and books offered a compelling fusion of female accomplishment, girliness, and antifeminism”. Having seen several of the movies and shows that Douglas discusses, I felt like I could strongly make connections with the concepts and ideas that she was bringing up, and I could see all three of the concepts she refers to above. In particular, I found that her description and analysis of Ally McBeal was incredibly correct, but I had never thought of it in this way before. As she said, “Watching Ally McBeal was like jumping on a roller coaster; it shot up and delighted you with its narrative innovation, depictions of female confidence, and attacks on patriarchal oafishness, an the very next second it hurtled down, plunging you into a sea of female incompetence, insecurity and stammering” (page 107). You couldn’t really tell which way the creators wanted the viewers to feel- maybe multiple ways- but it still offered, as no surprise to me, the concept that women must be sexy or at least painfully thin, and are constantly searching for love/lacking love, at the cost of their professionalism and success.

I also thought that the Legally Blonde commentary, as it is one of my favorite movies (I will guiltily admit), brought up some thought-provoking questions. Are girls and women, even if they are extremely intelligent and powerful, still obsessed with hair, nails, love and makeup? Will sexual harassment in the workplace ever be phased out? Is it really that big of a deal to dress in pink and use a pink fluffy pen, if you still get the job done? I think that all of these questions and the movie in general push viewers to really think about feminism and whether we are really in a “post-feminist” time. I do agree that the fact that Elle Woods sent in her application video with her in a bikini, swimming in a pool was a bit excessive, but when you think about it, the voting board, as you can see in the following link, has their mouths dropped and are clearly intrigued. This just perpetuates the “powerful but must be sexy at the same time” concept that we have discussed in class. I agree that the video itself is ridiculous, and her entire desire to go to law school was for love, to win back her boyfriend who said he needed a “Jackie, not a Marilyn” (page 120), but at the same time, she actually did do well on her LSATs and ended up being a very successful lawyer when it came down to it, and thus the fact that Elle is such an extreme character, who ends up dressing more conservatively, kind of bothers me, because I think women can be successful and wear bright pink (or whatever it is that they feel like wearing).

Main Post 9/15

In the first chapter we read Susan Douglas talks about how in the mid-1990's there was a turning point in the way the female sex was represented in the media. This new girliness, which Douglas refers to as "girl power in a mini-skirt and pink boa," reflected the idea that true power was attainable through purchases and making yourself look irresistible and beautiful to men. Enter, the chick flick. In these films (as well as tv shows) girliness and femininity were "both celebrated and mocked." In all of these movies and shows, enlightened sexism was pervasive. The idea was that since men and women obviously now had equal rights (yeah..right..), that women were free to embrace their femininity. In the shows and movies that have emerged in the past 15 years, such as Clueless, Ally McBeal, Bridget Jones's Diary, Sex and the City, What Women Want, and Gossip Girl we've seen the emergence of the female voice-over, or in other words, the story told from the viewpoint of the woman. We were now given access to what women were really thinking about, and what their true concerns were: shopping, dieting, having children, and most importantly, finding that perfect man. These films and tv shows proclaimed that these were the innate desires and concerns of women. As John Gray says in his book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, women value "love, communication, beauty, and relationships, while men value "power, competency, efficiency, and achievement" and furthermore, men are goal oriented and women are relationship oriented. So while Ally McBeal was a successful lawyer, her inner thoughts, which narrated the show, almost entirely consisted of her female insecurities and her relationship and sexual desires. And she never really could "have it all." While she had a good job and friends, she was (for the most part) always single and for that reason displayed as pathetic. The generational gap between mothers and the daughters also started to form, as these films and movies (geared to a younger generation), gave off the message that feminism was outdated and should be avoided at all cost. For who wanted to become like the grumpy, feminist Enid, for example. in Legally Blonde.. As Douglas claims, feminism was represented as a "musty, petrified ideology that didn't represent women's innermost desires, but rather made women shrill, silly, and intolerant, and it repelled men." Thus enlightened sexism had taken over sexism in the media. In conclusion, even if women were successful in the work world, they could not be truly happy if their innate desires (i.e. to find a man) were not satisfied. Douglas sums it up perfectly when she states, the 'power' part [of 'Girl power'] had now shriveled and the 'girl' part inflated as the new girliness took hold. Girls and women, to be happy, had to be supergirls who, with the precision of surveyors, located the perfect coordinate between Janet Reno on one end and Cindy Crawford on the other end so they could have love and success. That these coordinates had to move even further away from the Reno model and snuggle ever closely to the Crawford model was the undisputed moral of the new girliness." And, as Douglas claims, it wasn't even that women had to become more "girly" and pursue their "feminine" desires, they naturally wanted to.

In the second chapter we read, titled, "You Go, Girl," Douglas talks about the "talk-to-the-hand, sassy black woman archetype" in the media and the fearless power she seems to possess, as she expresses her concerns about sexism and the day-to-day injustice in her life. Women of this type "code-switch" or in other words, switch between "Black Speak" and "white-bread English." As a society, we love the character of the sassy black woman in films, television, and even comedic acts. White middle-class and upper-middle class women are "not supposed to be tough, have sharp tongues, point out sexism, or express anger"so instead, we live, in a way, vicariously through these sassy African-American women, who express for us our rage about the injustices, we as a sex, face. However, as Douglas points out, the media tells us that being a sassy, powerful career woman, as an African American woman, has its perils. Take for example, Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Bailey--a fearless, sassy, outspoken, yet highly respected, African American surgeon. However her career success must come at a price, as she ends up losing her husband as a result. She can't have it all. Embedded feminism is at work here, as the media creates the illusion that any African American woman can be anything she wants to be and that gender and racial equality have been achieved. However, the truth is that they are continue to struggle in society, making much less money than men (obviously) as well as white and Asian disproportionally women. They have some of the highest poverty rates, they have higher odds of getting certain diseases, they are disproportionally victims of both rape and sexual harassment, and they are much more likely to end up in prison than other women. Now tell me that these women have reached a state of equality and have nothing left to fight for. The media further clouds the reality of what being an African American women is like by showing essentially zero portrayals of middle or lower class black women. Contradictions concerning African American women abound in the media. On one hand where you have the successful, powerful, almost asexual, career-driven Dr. Bailey, and on the other hand you have the sexualized and objectified African American who "were defined entirely by shaking their butts" in rap videos.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Response to Sterling, 9/13/10

Susan Douglas writes, in her chapter entitled ‘Castration Anxiety’ “The adamant insistence that women constantly perform femininity suggests that somehow the world as we know it would come crashing down if we all stopped marking and announcing these sex distinctions between men and women”, on page 73, referring to Janet Reno. I think that exactly what we need to happen in order for the world to see a change is somewhat of a ‘world crashing down’ situation. Throughout the novel, we can see that through powerful warrior women like Buffy, women who defy ‘femininity’ like Janet Reno, and ‘sex goddesses’ like Cindy Crawford, we still haven’t come to a point where feminism reigns, or at the very least, sexism is not so incredibly prevalent.

Douglas also writes on page 84, “… [Xena] was powerful and could actually kick butt in her miniskirt. If you made the mistake of thinking that Xena even remotely wanted your attentions because of what she wore, you would be Hamburger Helper, instantly. What woman doesn’t want to pretend for an hour that the world is like this?” It is not hard to understand the point that the author is trying to make here- of course these kind of shows would be popular for all audiences, from men who enjoy watching women dressed provocatively, to hardcore feminists who see women fighting crime, to lesbian women enjoying a potential female-female relationship, these television shows can be appealing to all. Even for young girls, I could understand how seeing a powerful female like this can be inspirational, and allow girls to feel like they can some day hold influential positions/jobs.


Follow Up: Responding to Sterling's Post (9/13/10)

In Douglas' chapter, "Castration Anxiety," she discusses a 1992 scandal in which a 17-year woman named Amy Fisher shoots the wife of her lover, Joey Buttafuoco (a man in his later 40's). Douglas talks about how this affair "insisted that we take sides, invited us to be the morally superior judge, while asserting that the whole mess was much too tawdry--beneath us--to follow (63)". This statement reminded me of what had previously read in her Introduction as well as what we've talked about in class concerning shows like Laguna Beach, Jersey Shore, and the like. Almost everyone watches a show like this...a show that they might consider their guilty pleasure. Part of the appeal of these shows is that we enjoy making fun of them and the people and drama within them. We like feeling like we are superior to these people--whether it be morally, mentally, or emotionally. We would never behave the way they do, think they the way they do, talk the way they do. Nevertheless, we can not take our eyes off of these shows, their characters, and their incessant drama. Just as we are by these "reality" shows, Douglas claims that people were simultaneously entertained and empowered by the Amy Fisher scandal: "viewers could be shameful voyeurs, titillated by the videotapes, and then upright moral guardians, condemning either Joey or Amy or both" (63). The important question is whether the absorption of this media influence subtly, even if we insist that it does not.

In her chapter titled "Warrior Women in Thongs," Douglas discusses how many of these sexy, crime-fighting females used their sexuality and femininity to seduce and trick their male enemies and thereby gain power over them. Douglas claims that the resulting message is that "true killer power comes from hyperfemininity" (93). I mentioned this in class the first week, but this reminded me of how the women in Homer's "The Odyssey" are portrayed. In this epic, the only way in which women gain power is ultimately through their beauty, sexual appeal, and seduction powers. I think this is a very bad message to send to women. It does not in any way confirm that women are equal to men. Women should not have to use their body and looks to get what they want. There's nothing wrong with being beautiful and sexy, but when this is a woman's true source of power, this is a huge problem.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blog 9/13

Chp 2 starts with Douglas highlighting different examples in history of women exemplifying violence in an attempt to gain power. America became obsessed with icons of femininity: the female predator, the female victim, and the career women; between the media soap operas and the box office hits such as: Lethal Weapon, A Few Good Men, and Single White Female we as a society had more then enough to fuel our ridicule of feminism. An interesting question that Douglas raises in conjunction to the Joey Buttafuco case is in regards to teenage girls and sexual power “how much they had, how much they should have, and what should be done about it.” Here we begin to see women in a light we are not used to seeing them in, the predator as opposed to the victim. Douglas goes on to talk bout Janet Reno and how and how she created a crisis of intelligibility. This woman could care less about sexual display and what people thought about her appearance. This worried men that a woman could be successful without glamorizing herself. There concern was “what was to stop other woman from following suit.” Reno seemed to be the bud of every late night talk show host jokes even so she refused to conform to what we believed she should look like. The Media strived to tell us that if feminism were not halted then girls and women would turn into ridiculous unlovable freaks such as Lorena Bobbitt. The chapter ends with a statement about it being acceptable for some women to have power such as Janet Reno and Hilary Clinton as long as they did not threaten existing regimes.


Chp 3 begins with two conflicting images that women strive to obtain one being that of Janet Reno and the other being Cindy Crawford. Women wanted the power that Reno had but they also wanted the sex appeal that Crawford had. Consequently shows like Xena and Buffy became popular because they embodied “the accomplished and powerful but always slimand beautiful” woman. Xena and Buffy were huge hits in the 90’s these shows helped spawn other shows and movies such as Charlie’s Angels. These shows hit the spot for women they were “no longer victims but champions, no longer muted but mouthy… no longer trapped by patriarchy but challenging it.” Douglas says warrior women were both transgressive and conformist they had both characteristics of Janet Reno and Cindy Crawford which is what most woman were striving for.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Follow Up: Responding to Brittany's Post (9/9/10)

What stood out most to me from the three readings was the idea that women have to go to battle on sexism on their own. Standing up for their rights is not just something a women ought to do, it is their "duty" and an absolute "necessity," as claimed in the "Declaration of Sentiments." For whatever reason--whether it be that they don't fully understand the oppression that women live under or that they simply don't care enough to really take action and do anything about it--men are not going to fight this battle for women. Even the most radical liberals, who claimed they were fighting for equality for all in wanting a complete social and political revolution, did not step up to the plate for women and practice what they preached. It is really disgusting to me how hypocritical the members, and even more so, the leaders of the "New Left" were. This movement, which had "dedicated itself to equal justice for all" had inequality right under its nose, as the women involved in the movement were given the "shitwork," not involved in decision-making, and never given any public recognition. Were men and society, as a whole, just so conditioned to the subordinate roles of women that they didn't see it as a serious problem to be dealt with? The poisoned society had to be saved by the oppressed--the women. As Ellen DuBois claims,"we work in women's liberation because we are not permitted to function fully in other movements for social change and because, if we don't demand our liberation, no one will."

post 9/9

I found the reading for this class to be interesting, in all of them the women’s voice is very evident. I found the piece entitled “Aint I a Woman” to be particularly powerful. Here you have a black woman who is saying that men talk about how women should be treated yet that’s all it is talk. She has been through just as much as any man if not more yet she is not treated with the respect she deserves. The line that stuck out the most to me was when she says “ If the first woman god ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” despite her situation she still feels that woman have the power to change their current situation. In an attempt to use the new vocabulary we learned last class I would say that Sojouner Truth is a radical feminist. Analyzing the line I just quoted it seems as if she is almost calling for a women’s uprising, because women are not getting the respect they deserve. Both “feminism old and New Wave” and “The Declaration of Sentiments” focus on the oppression of women. An unalienable right to all mankind is the pursuit of happiness and how women are being denied this despite their allegiance and loyalty to this country. During the first wave women learn that they cannot count on male reformers because the oppression of women was not a top priority for anyone but women.

Reading Response, 9/9/10

The three posts for class on 9/9/10 continue with our theme of learning about women’s rights and feminist history.

The first piece is a speech entitled “Ain’t I a Woman?”, delivered in December of 1851 by Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Convention. Here, Truth brings about issues regarding gender equality (with perhaps a bit of race equality mixed in). She talks about how women should be helped and treated politely, according to men, and yet she has never been treated this way. She works as much and eats as much as a man, has birthed 13 children and gone through extraordinary pain from that, and yet she is still not treated with respect. Some people say that woman are lesser than men because Jesus was male, but Truth argues that Jesus came from Mary, and thus everyone should have respect for women. And, she brings in the Bible by alluding to the fact that Eve “turned the world upside down all alone” and that women should be able to turn it back all together. Now that women are now asking for privileges, women should have rights. Finally, Truth shouts to everyone at the convention that a change needs to happen, “obliged to you for hearing me…”, now that they have heard her word.

The second piece is called “Feminism Old Wave and New Wave”. Ellen DuBois, who wrote this in 1971, begins with defining feminism in three parts; an analysis explaining why and how women are and have been oppressed, a view of society where women are free and stereotypes no longer exist, and plainly the idea that oppressing women is contradictory in society. She then goes further to explain the two feminist waves that have existed in the United States, the latter that began with the women joining the “radical” political movement “the New Left”. Though this movement was supposedly radical, women felt that they were not being treated equally and still were being left to do the “shitwork”. Most of her attention however is towards the first wave, which began around the same time as abolitionism. This arose when women realized that politically, they were not equal, and rather did “the shitwork”, just like those in more recent years. While these women in the 19th century did the dirty work, the men received the recognition.

The Grimke sisters are credited with “generating 19th century feminism” for while speaking against slavery to groups of men, they brought up women’s issues. Some men supported them, while many remained quiet. Once again in 1840, at the World Anti Slavery Convention, the “women question” was addressed when Mott and Stanton were not allowed to be delegates, even though they had been allocated those positions. The two later planned the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.

The Civil War was also an important milestone in the history of women’s rights, because it was then that women fully realized that even their devout patriotic acts during the war would not be rewarded. Another blow came after the Civil War, when both the 14th and 15th Amendments, which prohibit prejudices based on race, color or previous condition of servitude, did not address gender issues in any way. This once again proved that men did not have the backing of women and would have to move forward on their own. The moving forward went on in the late 1800’s and also can be seen in the second wave as well.

The third reading for class is entitled “The Declaration of Sentiments” and was signed by both women AND men at the Seneca Falls Convention, headed by Stanton and Mott, in New York in 1848.


This piece of writing demanded that US women had rights and should thus be respected by society. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Sentiments reaffirms that women should equally have the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and that it is women’s right as equal citizens to refuse allegiance to a government if they are not treated as should be. This document lists all of the ways that men have lessened and even taken power away from women, including having the ability to take female property, take all of the “profitable employments”, denied education, allowed secondary positions in church and state, etc. At the end, there is a demand for equal rights and privileges, as women do comprise half of the nation.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Response to Main Post (class on 9/7)

Although I found all of the readings for this class interesting, the one that I feel was the most compelling is “The Future That Never Happened,” following the evolution (or lack thereof) of feminism. One paragraph that I found most forceful says “Many of the conflicts between the women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution and within the women’s movement itself were left unresolved thirty years ago. What we are seeing today is the residue of that confusion. CAKE is an example of the strange way people are ignoring the contradictions of the past, pretending they never existed, and putting various, conflicting ideologies together to form one incoherent brand of raunch feminism.” I think that we are seeing this played out in the world all around us. From television shows such as Girls Next Door, following the escapades of Hugh Hefner (a “feminist’s”) girlfriends as they plan extravagant lingerie parties, to racy advertisements of naked women, I can’t help but agree that this new feminism is a little twisted. It seems that much of the progress that the feminist movement worked so passionately for has disintegrated when you look at it straight on. Reading further, I do have to agree that this new raunch feminism, as weird and distorted as it sounds, could have a point. If women feel just as empowered through stripping as they do to marching for rights or supporting rape victims, than I am somewhat in agreement that this could be an (albeit strange) new way of demonstrating feminist feelings. I however find it a bit paradoxical that groups like CAKE, who says that their mission is to “change public perceptions about female sexuality” have as their insignia the following:


Similarly, I felt that while reading all of the assignments, most particularly Betty Friedan’s excerpt, that all I could think about was the movie, The Stepford Wives. While this movie is meant to be satirical (in that a new wife to the block becomes suspicious that all of her female neighbors happen to be robots controlled by their husbands), I somewhat think that this is not a matter to joke about; it’s a fairly creepy movie, personally. There are still communities and women out there who are expected by their husbands to wait on them hand and foot. And I do realize that the original novel was written in 1972, and at this time, in the midst of a lot of feminist work, etc. so it could have been comical. However, I maintain that now even knowing much more about the history of the movement, and the fact that two movie adaptations have come out, that it, while supposed to be amusing, it may have had (and still have) deeper implications and undertones than I originally thought—because there is still some resentment from women for having had to act this way, as a housewife, and especially the fact that some women are still expected to be acting this way in the 21st century.

Follow Up: Responding to Shannon's Post

I found Echol's prologue discussing the emergence of women's liberation movements within the civil rights movement very enlightening. One part that specifically stood out to me was the idea that, as Naomi Weisstein (a women's liberation activist) claimed, women were being "simultaneously silenced and empowered" by the civil rights movement. The mere fact that they were given a role in helping in the movement and part of a cause was empowering to them, but the type of jobs they were being given and the influence they had within the movement were leaving them feeling silenced and discriminated against at the same time. As sociologist and movement activist, Wini Breines, claimed, "'the fantastic amount of personal and political growth experienced by the women' blinded them initially to the Movement's sexism" (26-27). Hearing this statement reminded me of what we've been primarily discussing in class: embedded feminism and enlightened sexism. While in this case the illusion of powerful women is not being created by the media, it seems as if women were getting so lost in what power they had gained, that they forgot that there was still a long way to go and that they were still being discriminated against based on their sex. The progress they had made as a sex gave them the illusion that they had "made it" when they really hadn't. Fortunately they were able to see through this illusion of power and realize they had a lot more progress to make and fight for.

The excerpt we read by Betty Friedan made me come to a realization: in the past women were frowned upon for wanting to have a career and not just be a housewife, now, women are conversely frowned up for wanting to be a stay-at-home mom. There now seems to be a negative stigma attached to a woman wanting to simply care for her husband and children and not join the work-force. I admit, rather ashamedly now, that I am guilty of looking upon this life-choice negatively. One of my friends who goes here comes from a family with very traditional views and she always tells us that she does not want to get a job and instead wants to be a stay-at-home mom. Of course I've never said anything to her, but I also found myself thinking negatively of this decision. But I realize now that this a completely unfair judgment. Feminism, I think, is about women having the power to do whatever they want to do or be whoever they want to be; rhis is what we're truly fighting for.

In "The Future That Never Happened" by Ariel Levy I found it most interesting when she discussed Hugh Heffner and his views on women. He has a clear cut double standard built into his philosophy. "Socially, mentally, I enjoy being with men. When i want to speak, to think, I stay with men." Here Heffner is basically stating that women are incapable of having an intellectual conversation. While Heffner did a lot towards liberating woman sexually he has created an entire empire exploiting them. This double standard is still very prevalent in todays society. A girl and a guy could have the same amount of sexual partners and be viewed completely different by their peers. The guy would likely be deemed "the man" by his friends while the girl would be labeled a slut. Betty Friedan talks about how women were trapped in their houses, they felt like their sole purpose was to be a housewife. So on one end of the spectrum you have women that feel the need to be sexually liberated and free to do what they want with their bodies. While on the other end of the spectrum you have these women who strive to be the ideal housewife, to a certain extent society still tells us that a women's place is in the home. These are two conflicting roles and can cause confusion for women. An example of this in popular culture is Montana Fishburne, the famous actor Lawrence Fishburn's daughter has recently gotten into porn. Someone on the outside may say why is she doing this she comes from a wealthy family and probably had plenty of other career options. She was quoted in an interview saying " Its my body I can do with it what i want". This I think is the attitude of many women today.

Long Response to 9/7 Reading

In "The Future That Never Happened", Ariel Levy begins with describing the life of Susan Brownmiller, one of the earliest members of the women's liberation movement. Brownmiller is quoted as saying, "we [women] want to be neither oppressor nor oppressed. The women's revolution is the final revolution of them all". Between 1960 and 1964, numerous steps were taken in the direction of women's rights including the approval of the birth control pill by the FDA, Congress's passing of the Equal Pay Act and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, which specifically ade it illegal for businesses to reserve specific jobs for men or women or to fire a woman for getting pregnant. The early 1970's saw the Supreme Court case that extended the right to birth control to unmarried people in Eisenhadt v. Baird, the Equal Rights Amendment being passed by both houses of Congress and the famous court case Roe v. Wade in 1973. Levy describes how these events were considered victories by both the women's liberation movement and the sexual revolution. One of the main goals of the women's liberation movement was to advance women's sexual pleasure and satisfaction, an issue that ultimately proved to be political. Hugh Hefner, who we all now know as the founder and Playboy, was actually a proponent of the women's sexual liberation movement and funded court cases to challenge laws that hindered his vision of healthy sexuality. Hefner's philosophy, however, had a clear double standard between women's sexual freedom and his expectations of total fidelity from his "special girls".
Another one of the topics Levy specifically discussed was pornography and the two primary women's movement reactions to it. In the late seventies, many activists formed a group called Women Against Pornography and argued that "porn is the theory, rape is the practice". Against Our Will was the first complete history of rape published. "Sex-positive feminists", on the other hand, wanted to distinguish themselves from the antiporn group. CAKE, an organization that threw monthly sexual parties, was a group that allowed women to "explore female sexuality" and "experience feminism in action". CAKE parties, as described by Levy, were a reaction to the anti-porn feminists and had themes such as stripping and porn. These two responses to pornography brings up the question of how to publicly express the idea of sexy without relying on the traditional "hot-chicks-in-panties formula". One of the important aspects of the feminist movement during Brownmiller's time was that in addition to being essential and revolutionary, feminism was considered cool. Since then, however, feminism has become more and more of a negative term. Girls now watch tv shows like "Girls Next Door", which tracks the lives of Hefner's three girlfriends on television. Feminism is no longer considered cool or acceptable in today's society as it was during the seventies.
Echols' prologue titled "The Re-emergence of the 'Woman Question' links the emergence of women's liberation movements with the civil rights movement of the 1960's. By giving women more power and responsibility in the civil rights movement, Echols argues that they began to realize that they could make a difference in other issues as well as well as getting the opportunity to develop skills to break out of their traditional roles. As women began to acquire political skills and became community organizers, they began to demand more equality and responsibility in the activist movements. As the civil rights movement progressed, however, the african americans leading it shifted towards a black power emphasis and therefore started to exclude white women more. Although white men appeared to be eager to apologize and atone for their racism, they resisted women's attempts to bring up the issue of sexual inequality. Black power often contributed to the trivializing of women's issues . Echols ends with describing how many radical women "wanted the new movement to remain closely tied to the new left both organizationally and ideologically" (50). The question of the relationship between the women's liberation movement and the larger "Movement" resulted in a divide between women in the early years of the movement. It had a large effect on the developing feminist theory as well.
In the excerpt from the book The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan discusses the how there existed a campaign to convince American women that they could only be happy in life by getting married and having kids. This "feminine mystique" aimed to put women back at home and fill their jobs with the men who had previously had them and intended to instill in women a continuous need and desire for new consumer goods. Friedan describes how the problem of identify is what drove the feminine mystique. She pointed out how girls were getting married earlier, and going to college less. Women who had once had career aspirations found themselves simply having babies and being housewives, with the goal of being a perfect wife and mother. Women, however, were increasingly finding themselves discontent with their simplistic and repetitive lives. This unhappiness was sometimes termed the "housewife syndrome" but was commonly dismissed by telling the woman that she didn't realize how lucky she actually was. This problem, as called by Friedan the "problem with no name" affects women of all socio-economic levels. Friedan argues that the women reading her book can not ignore the nagging voice within any longer and urges them to say "I want something more than my husband and my children and my home". (67)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Women's Studies: Day 1

Embedded feminism and 'enlightened sexism are both two new terms to me. While woman have come a long way in the fight towards equality they still have a ways to go. Nowadays it is not uncommon for women to be portrayed as successful in the media. Shows like Grey's Anatomy and SVU have women in positions of power. While i am not familiar with either show from our discussion in class these shows portray women as successful but as a consequence their family life suffers leading the viewer to believe that women can not do it all. While i do not watch Shows like sex in the city I do watch jersey shore and the Bad Girls club. These shows appeal more to men because they objectify women and show them in a more sexual light. while these images are sexist and somewhat degrading people cant help but watch. In a similar type of media portrayal African Americans are often shown in stereotypical roles. Like woman African Americans have come a long way in their fight towards equality but they still have a long way to go. While we are all in control of our own thoughts the media plays a large role in the way we think and how we portray people.

Response to 9/2 Reading

After reading Susan Douglas's introduction titled "Fantasies of Power", I found myself thinking about feminism in an entirely different way than I ever have before. I realized how true her concept of "Enlightened Feminism" is: that every day we, as a society, are made to believe women have actually come so much farther than we actually have. Douglas mentions how the girls of Sex and the City, for example, "prove" that women really can have it all (that they can be successful career women by day and "kama sutra" masters by night). This reference made me start to think about my own life and experiences. This past summer I had an internship in finance in NYC. Since women are still clearly the minority in financial careers, the women at my bank had organized a sort of support group for all of the female associates. As I attended the networking events they had organized, I would always ask the question of what the most difficult challenges were that the senior women had faced so far in their careers. Many of the responses were typical, such as balance of career and home-life and getting men to treat you equally in the workplace; however one woman told me that she was frustrated by the fact that after working until three or 4 am the night before, she was always expected to come to work the next morning looking put-together and perfect. Men could show up looking tired and frazzled from the lack of sleep, but women had to look refreshed and happy to avoid the stereotype of Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada that Douglas mentions at the end of the introduction. Society re-enforces the expectation that women should not only be successful in the office with respect to the work they do, but that they also need to look put-together and attractive while doing so. The girls of Sex and the City are supposed to give hope to women everywhere, but in reality they are simply re-enforcing the unequal expectations put on men and women to be "successful" in the world today.