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.