Why are we so obsessed with virginity?

27 03 2009

Why is this relevant?


I don’t understand why this matters.  Why do people care about how many students at Wellesley College are virgins?  And why is it necessary to break it down by major?  This just goes to show how America is so obsessed with virginity, that we need to know EXACTLY how many women are virgins and the percentage of women per major that are virgins.

Furthermore, virginity is nothing more than a social construct.  How did the people who conducted this survey define virginity?  As heterosexual penis-in-vagina intercourse?  Virginity can mean a lot of different things for different people – some women consider themselves virgins even after they’ve had intercourse, and their “first time” may be the first time they orgasm while having intercourse with a partner.  Meanwhile, others may believe that after having oral sex one is no longer a virgin.

But still, my question remains, what is the point of this study/graph?  What is it supposed to show or prove?

Tips For Snagging a Man

26 03 2009

Summary of the video’s main points:

Men like:  shiny things, five sentence emails, accessories (but only one per plane), toenails and fingernails (but only painted in neutral shades), lacy bra straps, the scent of baked goods, and carrying women’s handbags for them

Men dislike:  jingling noises, emotions, abbrevs in txt msgs, multitasking (it’s much too difficult), flat shoes, large handbags (easily mistaken by men for luggage)

Women like:  changing their appearance to try to impress men and actually wasting money on a lousy book on the topic

Women dislike:  being single, decent television programming


I don’t even have the energy to analyze how ridiculous this video is.  Not only does it make men seem stupid, shallow, and rather animalistic (claiming men are attracted to shiny things and love the scent of baked goods), but it also encourages women to attract a man by changing her appearance.  Puhlease.  I can’t believe Tyra actually did a show on this.  Well…maybe I can…


Blame feminism for murder

26 03 2009

Feminism has been  blamed for everything from “hook-up culture” to female alcohol consumption.  And now, apparently murder is also the fault of feminism.

Last week, in Toronto, a 17  year old girl, M.T. was recently convicted for “inciting” her boyfriend to “stab another girl (her rival, 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel) to death in exchange for sex.”  And of course, feminism is to blame.  

Judith Timson at the Globe and Mail, writes that M.T.’s desire to have Rengel dead is “an ages old pre-feminist scenario” in which “girls believe they don’t have a lot of real power, that it lies only in attracting or keeping a guy, and they’ll go to desperate ends to do so.”

And in response, in “Feminism’s deadly fallout,” Lorne Gunter at the National Post enlightens us with the “truth”:

Pardon me? Girls have turned to murder because they have no power? The truth is, they have turned to murder and “obsessive irrational hatred of one girl toward another, depict[ing] an emotional landscape devoid of respect, conscience or heart,” because they have too much power. I don’t mean too much power relative to boys — with whom they are now equals in every real sense — but rather relative to teens of past generations.

Ohhhhhh…I get it now – the thought of girls murdering because they have no power is completely absurd!  Instead, the truth is that girls now have too much power and that’s why they’re just going off and killing people!  And of course, I should’ve known – teenage girls are one of the most powerful constituencies in society.  Teenage boys and older men find some of them really sexy and attractive, so duh!  This gives them the upper edge.

Right, and girls and boys are “equals in every real sense”?  Hmm..so if we are equal in “EVERY real sense” then that would mean that we are equals in terms of our biology and reproduction (and it doesn’t seem to me that boys and girls have the same parts).  And that women wouldn’t be earning less than men do for doing the same jobs.  And that boys would be just as likely as girls are to be raped or sexually assaulted.

Gunter then delivers some more wisdom:

It is just possible that all of this is the logical end product of feminism, instead of, as Ms. Timson postulates, the harbinger of some return to a regressive age.

So the logical end of feminism is getting teenage girls to incite their boyfriends into stabbing and murdering other teenage girls?  Am I missing something?  Because this is not what I thought feminism was about.

Feminism’s attempts to release women from the strictures of the old sexual morality, and the movement’s encouragement for women to act like men, have produced violent girls like M. T. who use their sexuality as a tool, and think nothing of offering up– via cellphone text messages — “bj’s ” and “bang bangs” in order to have a perceived rival, Stefanie Rengel, killed. It’s not the technology that’s changed, it’s the girls.

Okay, hold it!  First of all, feminism is NOT about encouraging women to act like men.  It’s about challenging and eliminating traditional gender roles and norms.  And secondly, feminism has encouraged women to use their sexuality as a tool?  Newsflash: patriarchy has made sexuality a tool!  Women, both young and old, use their sexuality as a tool to survive because patriarchy has reduced women to their sexuality!  And the bit about how technology hasn’t changed, but girls have.  Um, excuse me?  So the Internet, twitter, iPods, iPhones, Blackberries, HD TV, all that stuff has always been around?

And then Gunter continues:

Now before anyone flies off the handle and accuses my of being a patriarchal, barefoot-and-pregnant-in-the-kitchen reactionary, let me point out that my wife is a lawyer and we teach both our 14-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son that they can and should be whatever they want.

But you are expressing patriarchal sentiments.  And the fact that your wife is a lawyer means what exactly?  Is it supposed to mean that if your wife is a lawyer (and not a stereotypical 50′s housewife or something) then all of your claims are valid because you’re oh-so-progressive and in support of gender equality?

Now, ready for this?  Gunter, quite the expert, shares with us what feminism really is about:

But feminism at its core was about more than just freeing women and girls from stereotypical careers and winning them equal pay for work of equal value. It was also about tearing down the old morality and ethics (which the movement’s most radical members saw as yokes created for women by men) and about taking away women’s feminine choices and directing them only to masculine ones.

“Taking away women’s feminine choices and directing them only to masculine ones”?  Why are there “feminine” and “masculine” roles, activities, and choices?  BECAUSE OF PATRIARCHY!  Feminism wasn’t/isn’t about telling women to be like men and doing whatever men do.  And it certainly wasn’t about “directing them only to masculine” choices.

So when you tell girls for four generations that they are weak and should demand the kind of power boys and men have, and when you — through the pill and abortion — signal to them that sex is nothing more than a consequence-free, pleasurable act and when, finally, you remove faith-based morality from the mix, too, you should not be surprised to wake up one morning and find that you have created an M.T.

Aha.  The birth control pill (and other birth control options we have now) and abortion are bad bad BAD because having these options means that women can have sex without the intention of having babies.  Gasp!  The thought of women wanting to have sex for pleasure, or just because, and not just to reproduce?  How terrible!  And the whole schpeal about removing “faith-based morality”?  If we don’t hold onto religion and religious values, we’re doomed!

A larger underlying issue here is that yes, it is horrible that M.T. incited her boyfriend to murder Rengel, but NEWSFLASH: WOMEN CAN BE PERPETRATORS OF VIOLENCE TOO!  Society lacks the vocabulary to discuss women as perpetrators of violence because apparently violence is only a “manly” thing to do.  While masculinity is constructed in relation to violence, and violent masculinity is the norm, WOMEN ARE VIOLENT TOO, SOMETIMES!

I am not advocating to support female perpetrators of violence; instead I am pointing out that it is highly problematic that society confines women to the role of the victim.  Yes, women are victims. Men are victims too. And men are perpetrators, but women are too.  We need to expand our perception of women to include the idea that gasp, women can be violent too!

What does public transportation have to do with feminism?

26 03 2009

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has  yet another brilliant idea – to hike up public transportation fares and simultaneously cut back on service.  Effective May 31st, subway and bus fares will cost $2.50 instead of $2.

Service cuts mean that 35 bus routes and two subway lines (the W and the Z trains) are going to be completely eliminated.  Many bus routes are going to be canceled on the weekends, and trains will run less frequently during off-peak hours.  It also means that around 1,100 transit employees are going to be laid off.

As a New Yorker who is a frequent user of public transportation, this pisses me off A LOT.  Public transportation also is, in many ways, a feminist issue.  Why, you ask?

Well, women tend to use public transportation more than men do and therefore having affordable, efficient and quality public transportation is important because it enables more women to have access to mobility in and around the public sphere, which is typically defined as a male domain.  After all, we womenfolk are supposed to just hang out in the household while men go out and make the big bucks.

Most people (men and women) work outside the home now and they don’t all work within walking distance from where they live.  Taking the train or the bus is often the cheapest and quickest way for them to travel around.  For working moms living in cities who rush from home to work to their child’s school to pick them up and back home, public transportation is usually the most convenient way for them to travel.  Not only does it avoid local traffic (driving around New York City is always a nightmare), but it is cheap and fairly quick too.  After the fare hikes and service cuts (this is not the first time the MTA has done it, but these are some drastic cut backs), this will no longer be the case.

Moreover in some families where paying for school bus service is just not practical, children take public transportation to school.  All of these service cuts and fare increases will be harder on children and their families.  Like many other New Yorkers, I’ve valued the accessibility, flexibility and reliability of our public transportation to be on time and quick to get me where I need to be.  The impending changes are going to hurt the reputation of NYC’s public transportation system.

It’s been said before but it’s worth reiterating that in times of economic crises and when companies lay people off, those hardest hit tend to be lower-class women and children of color.  Therefore, all of the MTA employees who will get laid off as well as the people who have already been laid off yet need to commute via public transportation to try to scout out employment wherever/whenever they can, will suffer from the upcoming changes.

Also, if public transportation is going to be reduced, this may lead to an increase in people driving to get in and around the city.  This raises an environmental issue as well – one of the main benefits of having a cheap and reliable public transportation system is to reduce the amount of cars driving out there, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  However if public transportation begins to fail people who utilize it, they may resort to less green methods of transportation, like driving.

Here again we are confronted with the issue of access: Who has a car and can afford to drive in and around New York City?  Not everyone has that liberty.  So for those of us who don’t drive, don’t have cars, don’t have friends who have cars, don’t have the money to take a cab everywhere, mass transit (which is supposed to be a fast and easy service) will no longer be quite as reliable as it once was.

Why feminism matters

26 03 2009

If you’ve ever wondered how to explain clearly and concisely why feminism is important and relevant, then do I have a resource for you! I discovered a speech given by Dr. Sylvia Tamale for The Refugee Law Project at Uganda’s Makerere University. The speech is titled “Gender and Forced Migration,” but it also addresses, in general, the difference between roles and traits that are gender-determined, rather than sex-determined, the different values applied to men’s roles and women’s roles, and how that affects men and women’s positions in society, and leads to marginalization of and violence against women.

Dr. Tamale talks specifically about Ugandan refugee and IDP camps, but I think what she says applies to the United States, and every other country on Earth. A quick, stimulating, and clarifying read, so find the the speech on the link I gave you, and take a few minutes to check it out!

Be sure to check this out!

25 03 2009

For those Tufts students who read this blog, we strongly encourage you to attend the SAFER Teach-In at Tufts this Saturday March 28th from 2 – 4 PM.

Ashley, a trainer from SAFER: Students Active for Ending Rape will be coming to Tufts on Saturday to help students who are interested in improving Tufts’ sexual assault policy. She will walk participants through Tufts’ existing sexual assault policy and response programs, from student orientation programs (like In the SACK) to crisis response services.

Participants examine the ways that different communities both on- and off-campus are affected by the policy. They will:

- Learn how to sift through the convoluted “technical language” of their policy to find the real human impact behind dense, legalistic terminology.

- Bring together the perspectives of members of different campus groups to discuss the many ways various campus communities are affected by the policy.

- Strategize winnable changes to the policy that would make real improvements in the lives of students.

- Develop concrete next steps toward winning a better policy.

This is a great way to educate yourself and prepare for the upcoming Sexual Assault Round Table Discussion that will occur towards the end of April. More to come on that later…stay tuned!

Amazon, stop selling shit like this!

25 03 2009

If you’re looking for a travel guide, here’s which guide to NOT get: The World Sex Travel Guide: The Adventurous Man’s Guide to Sex Tourism by someone who goes by Naes Draw (aka a sick and twisted person).  A more accurate name for the book would be The Guide to Finding Sex Slaves, The Guide to Getting the Most out of Human Trafficking, or The Guide to Being an Inhumane and Misogynist Pig in a Foreign Country.

The description of the book says (Bold emphasis mine):

Travel as a sex tourist to 13 exotic yet very inexpensive countries to meet the most incredible women. This guide – updated monthly – covers Thailand, the Philippines, Bali and Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Aruba, Cuba, Curacao, Saint Martin, and the Dominican Republic.

Learn where to meet the hottest women and how inexpensive it is to live out your sexual fantasies. The guide also covers travel information on visas, taxis, exchange rates and hotels. It teaches you what to pay and how to stay safe. Saves you time, money and trouble.

Read: for only $9.99 get the scoop on traveling to foreign countries where you’ll find sexy, exotic women (or prostitutes who were coerced into sexual slavery) and engage in illicit sexual activities.  I really don’t get why Amazon sells this kind of crap!!  It’s also listed as the 15th most popular travel book about Bali.  Why people?!! WHY?!!!!   THERE ARE BETTER TRAVEL BOOKS OUT THERE THAT ARE LEGIT TRAVEL GUIDES, NOT BULLSHIT TRASH ABOUT HOW TO FIND A(N UNDERAGE) SEX SLAVE!!

Sexual slavery is a real and growing problem throughout the world.  Young children, both boys and girls, get kidnapped, sold, or coerced into sexual slavery where they work in brothels.  As prostitutes, they are often physically and verbally abused, starved, raped, and god-knows-what-else.  Many customers who buy them to play out their sexual fantasies tend to be wealthier western men.  As far as I (and most educated and humane people) am concerned, this is NOT okay.  It’s wrong to support the (may I add, illicit) sex industry.

The 13 “exotic” countries are “third world” countries where non-white women there are exoticized and otherized.   What makes these women the most incredible and the hottest women you’ll get to live out your sexual fantasies with is the fact that because they are non-western women, they are fetishized as an exotic other.  It is racist and therefore problematic to otherize an entire ethnic group based on racial/ethnic stereotypes about that group.

Moreover, the constant emphasis on how inexpensive it is – “13 exotic yet very inexpensive countries”, “how inexpensive it is to live out your sexual fantasies” and how inexpensive the book is (only $9.99! And it’s updated monthly too! What a bargain!) -  simply reinforces sexist and misogynist objectification of women.  Having sex with these women is just a transaction, an inexpensive transaction too!

Bulimia is not just a “rich white girl’s disease”

25 03 2009

There is a misconception that bulimia, and other eating disorders, are generally only problems that rich, white women or teenagers have.  However, a new study debunks that myth and reveals that black women and low income women are more likely than white women to be bulimic.

Girls and young women from schools in California, Ohio and Washington, D.C. between the ages of 9 and 20 were surveyed about their eating habits and their body image.  There were an equal number of black and white participants.

Black girls are 50 percent more likely than white girls to develop bulimia, and girls from low income families are 153 percent more likely to develop bulimia than girls from wealthier families.  Why is this so?

Lead researcher Michelle Goeree said the misconception that eating disorders are a “white woman’s” problem comes from previous studies that focused on hospital admission data, which wouldn’t include girls who don’t seek professional help for their illness. In most states, treatment for eating disorders isn’t covered by insurance.

“Who goes to the hospital? Those who have insurance. Who tends to have insurance? Wealthier, better-educated people,” said Goeree, an economist at the University of Southern California.

Goeree said minority parents also may be less likely to recognize bulimic behavior, such as purging in their children.

Goeree is right on point.  Eating disorders aren’t specific to wealthy white women.  It may seem like they disproportionally affect wealthy white women, but it’s more about who has access.  Who has access to education about eating disorders and treatment services?  Who can afford to seek professional help/treatment?  Mostly, it’s people pertaining to higher income brackets in society.

This study also has very important implications on education and policy-making.  Instead of designing education about body image and eating disorders specifically for wealthy white women, what was thought of as the most vulnerable group, it is necessary to also reach other populations, other populations who need it more and can benefit from it most.

In terms of policy-making, it’s important to revise policies or construct them with consideration to who the vulnerable groups are – lower income minority women.  The Chicago Sun Times notes:

Based on their findings about the persistence of bulimic behavior and who is afflicted, the researchers argue that bulimia, which is currently classified as a disorder, would perhaps be more accurately described — and treated — as an addiction. As with drug and alcohol addictions, this would mean more federal, state and local treatment programs and fewer out-of-pocket insurance costs.

Replacing out-of-pocket insurance expenses with more federal, state and local treatment programs will enable treatment for eating disorders to be more accessible for lower income populations.  It would address the health care disparities and break down some barriers to access to health care.

What I’m wondering about is how eating disorders affect men as well.  Women aren’t the only ones affected by eating disorders, even if they make up a larger portion of the affected population.  Furthermore, in diagnosing and treating eating disorders there is so much focus on eating disorders as a physical disease but there needs to be more focus on the emotional/psychological side of eating disorders.

Kim Kardashian’s photo “error” “fixed”

25 03 2009

I know I should be used to this by now, but I’m not. It fucking pisses me off. We *all* know that magazine photos get the shit airbrushed out of them. We hear incessant talks about how bad this is and how it is unrealistic and is negative for the self-esteem for women. SO WHY IS NO ONE DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS? It’s all talk talk talk talk, but there is nothing being DONE.

Kim Kardashian is going to be the cover girl for the April/May issue of Complex Magazine. Kim is known as a beautiful woman who has been appreciated for her fuller figure. It’s great to see someone with a more realistic size be embraced by the media, but of course we can’t have someone too voluptuous appear in a magazine! That’d be just bad. To supplement the cover that Kim has done, Complex offered an “exclusive online gallery” of more pictures of her. Okay, cool. I mean, it’s annoying enough that all the photos I’ve seen are so unnecessarily sexualized, but the PHOTOSHOPPING they’ve done! UGH.

This morning someone made a “mistake” and posted up an unairbrushed photo of Kim. For fear of disgusting the masses, the “proper” and “better” photo replaced it. Let’s look at the comparison, shall we?

UM, EXCUSE ME. The FIRST thing I notice is that THEY MADE HER LIGHTER! WTF? THAT SHIT IS UNNECESSARY. Why does she have to lighter? How is that more attractive? Is this ANOTHER subliminal message that I have to endure that is ONCE AGAIN telling me that my darker skin is not attractive? Do I have to go buy some skin bleaching cream so society will accept me? It’s really annoying. Take a picture of a celebrity in a mainstream magazine and then find another photo of them in a black magazine. You’ll notice that in the black magazine they’re darker–closer to their ACTUAL skin colour. I thought we were past this. Honestly… making someone so much lighter is just offensive. There was no necessity.

Then they made her boobs and body smaller. See, I hate all this “big breast” hypocrisy. There’s this rumour out there that society is telling you to have HUGE BREASTS! There are many more subtle messages that are saying smaller is better. Her thighs were evened out into a paler tone. They also made them smaller. Honestly, the first picture isnt bad at all! She’s gorgeous and her thighs look REAL. Very few women (especially at her age of 28) have smooth, perfectly even thighs.

It honestly would be so encouraging and empowering to see women in their natural form. Perhaps if more people are able to see unphotoshopped pictures they can slowly begin to shed their unrealistic standards of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…it comes in all colours, shapes, and sizes. Someone needs to break the mold and just stop perpetuating these unrealistic and racist standards of beauty.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

25 03 2009

Dos Equis has an a Most Interesting Man in the World campaign (click here to see one of their commercials), where the “most interesting man” (played by actor Jonathan Goldsmith) gives advice on various topics, such as “packages” (how men should leave wearing tight pants to the ladies), careers, mixed nuts (not sure about that one…) and grooming.

Here is one of their ads where the Most Interesting Man imparts his opinions regarding grooming:


So men who shave below the neck have too much time on their hands and aren’t manly enough?  “Real” men aren’t supposed to shave below the neck?  Goldsmith, as the Most Interesting Man in the World, has a lot of facial hair. So is that to say that in order to be a real man, and an interesting one too, one has to have a lot of facial hair?

This is interesting because it also speaks to social norms relating to masculinity and body hair.  It seems that in today’s day and age, it’s more socially acceptable for men to remove hair on their bodies – on their backs, their chests, their stomachs, even their eyebrows, etc.  However, is hair removal for men considered a feminine thing to do (especially since women are supposed to be hairless)?  Does getting some part of your body waxed compromise your masculinity?

Aestheticizing the male body (getting one’s nails done, hair removal, wearing makeup, etc.) tends to be perceived as a very effeminate or a “gay” (or “metro”) thing to do.  This Dos Equis ad campaign doesn’t challenge stereotypes. Instead it seems to highlight and support the construction of a rugged masculinity – a “real” man has facial hair and body hair after all.

Right…aren’t men quite the expert on PMS?

24 03 2009

Jordan Eisenberg, a 28 year old entrepreneur living in Denver, invented PMS Buddy, “a free Internet-based service that tracks the monthly cycles of a subscriber’s significant other and offers e-mail reminders about the impending deadlines.” (Major eyeroll.)

As the website says:

PMSpremenstrual syndrome – can be a difficult time of the month for many women and those close to them. Since discussing PMS is not exactly welcomed dinner table conversation, and may lead to dinner plates being hurled across the room, we want to take the unexpectedness out of this recurring occurrence so that those affected by PMS can be prepared and aware.

Eisenberg says that after growing up around women, he knows how difficult it can be fore men to deal with the “volatile emotions” of PMS. PMS… you know, it transforms us into even more of an emotional mess than we normally are. All those raging hormones make us more unreasonable than usual.

Which is why Eisenberg so cleverly created PMS Buddy whose slogan is “Saving relationships one month at a time.” Men, now you’ll know precisely when to steer clear of your PMSing girlfriends or wives!

Here are some things Eisenberg has said:

“The whole notion [of PMS Buddy] is that you’re being considerate. Obviously, it’s funny as well.”

Apparently he thinks it’s more considerate because instead of asking women if it’s that time of the month, their significant others can just go online and check! How thoughtful! Isn’t it quite romantic, to check up on a woman’s menstrual cycle secretly without her knowing?

And somehow he finds it funny…I find it creepy, condescending, insensitive, and simply insane. It also pathologizes PMS.

“Just having that awareness [of when a woman's menstrual cycle is], we hope, will lend to fewer arguments.”

Because of course women are the only ones who are driven by their hormones. Men aren’t influenced by their hormones at all! And when women are PMS-ing, men need to lay low and get out their shields because who knows what can come their way?! And of course the way to avoid further arguments is by creepily tracking a woman’s menstrual cycle online (or on your iPhone – you can download the application for 99 cents).

Better yet, if you go on the PMS Buddy site, you will see more outrageous stuff, like PMS Stories and PMS Tips. I didn’t have the patience to look through the PMS Stories but the PMS Tips are absolutely absurd. Some tips include:

- buying her flowers, “the kryptonite to PMS” (How typical. Of course ALL women love flowers, especially while she’s PMSing!)

- scoping out other singles at match.com (Ditch your girlfriend/wife when she’s PMSing. There are other fish in the sea who aren’t PMSing.)

- buying her sexy underwear at the Playboy store because “during PMS women can feel bloated and unattractive. Show her how you really feel with some sexy lingerie”. (Ahh. Aren’t you quite the understanding, sensitive boyfriend/husband?)

Of course, if these remedies don’t work and fail to alleviate your suffering because of PMS, just remember that women are not in control of their emotions during this awful time of the month. Be gentle and understanding. And of course, use PMS Buddy! It’ll be your new BFF that’ll help you through those rocky times when it’s time for her you-know-what!

Gay Marriage For Vermont

24 03 2009

In an overwhelming vote, Vermont’s state Senate has just voted to convert their civil unions law into a civil marriage law.  The tally was 26-4 in favor of same-sex marriage.  The bill is now moving on to the House, where it is expected to be passed.  

In 2000, Vermont was the first state to allow civil unions.  If the bill is passed, Vermont will become the third state to allow gay marriage.  Vermont will also be the first state to legalize marriage equality by legislative action.  The bill would allow same-sex couples to begin marrying in September.


DoSomething should be encouraging us to DO something, not just WEAR something

24 03 2009

This new (triggering) video, 1 in 3 Teenagers is Abused in a Relationship, by the Do Something campaign was released recently. It reenacts the violence Rihanna endured from Chris Brown and is meant to raise awareness and promote activism. So far it’s stirred a lot of controversy:

At the end of the video we are told that 1 in 3 teens are abused in a relationship and we are encouraged to go to DoSomething.org/Abuse to get three free bracelets: one blue and two black in order to raise awareness about teenage relationship violence.

Womanist Musings has a great post on this and says, about the bracelets:

These bracelets have become the symbol of our so-called concern for diversity and tolerance, and yet they function just like any other fashion appendage.  Does anyone really know what each one of the multi colour bracelets and ribbons even means anymore?   We have this social idea that putting on a symbol of an issue somehow means we have performed some sort of activism. The bracelet or ribbon allows us to profess a stated belief without making any concrete efforts for change.   It functions more as a badge of inertia than anything else.

I completely agree with this. These bracelets don’t necessarily raise awareness or make a radical statement. Instead, they’re just a fashion statement that makes people think and reassures them that for wearing these bracelets, they’re quite the activist. So many different causes distribute bracelets to wear in different colors with different messages on them, and it’s hard to keep track of all them. The ubiquity of bracelets also obscures the meaning of the bracelets and the causes they’re supposed to raise awareness and mobilize activism about. It all started with the Nike Live Strong yellow bracelets. And after that, I lost track. Activism is way more than just putting on a bracelet. Or in this case, 3 bracelets.

The post also has very interesting critiques of the video and why/how it should not be endorsed by the womanist/feminist community:

This video is not the least bit groundbreaking and in fact plays on racism and false images of violence to promote hipster activism.   We live in a society that believes that problems can be solved through capitol rather than engagement.  We wear our so-called causes around like latest fashion accessory happily moving from issue to issue, as each social problem comes in and out of vogue.  Though this model has failed to produce any tangible results, we continue to embrace it because we like our activism life McDonalds; fast, cheap and full of unidentifiable ingredients.

Again, well said. Other critiques of the video include that it exploits, re-violates and co-opts the experiences of survivors of relationship violence (like Rihanna); it privileges white female bodies therefore devaluing other racial bodies (since it’s reenacted by two white people); it fails to start/engage in dialogues about race and masculinity; and it plays into bourgeoisie ideas of activism where we are activists if we simply obtain three free bracelets and wear them everywhere we go. Way to change the world!

Definition of Feminism

24 03 2009

There’s an interesting discussion going on at Slate’s the XX Factor about women who have broken gender barriers in their careers, but who don’t identify themselves as feminist, namely Sandra Day O’Connor, who shied away from the term “feminist” in a recent interview for the New York Times.

One line of argument says that it doesn’t matter whether women call themselves feminist, if they advance women’s opportunity, equality, and power through their actions. That is definitely true, but I think their actions have the potential to be more powerful if they identify themselves as feminist, and attribute this label as a strong motivation for what they do. If more women (and men) identify themselves as feminist, it can present a strong united front towards putting “women’s issues” on the forefront of public servants’ political agendas, as top headlines in the media, as a regular topic of conversation. Okay, I’m somewhat exaggerating on what the feminist identity can do, but like it has in early 20th century and in the 60s and 70s, it can crystallize a movement. It’s great that there are women who are advancing rights that feminists themselves would support, but I’m not sure if people look at Sandra Day O’Connor or even Sarah Palin and say, “Wow, we need more women to be like that. Or, “We need to continue the work they’re doing.” People might not think about whether a majority of women are as empowered as they are, and why or why not.

The XX Factor speculates that O’Connor did not want to identify herself as feminist because she didn’t want to be associated with (for lack of a better term) “bra-burning.” Another blogger speculates that most women today might not adopt that label because they are not clear on what feminism means. In my experience, this idea could be true. Until I came to college, I pretty much had no idea what feminism was, besides gaining voting rights and other civil equality, which was pretty much over and done with by the 1920s.

So I came to identify myself as feminist after defining it for myself. And I think that’s what people today who commonly think or say, “I’m not a feminist, but…”, should try. How does feminism relate to your personal experiences and beliefs? Feminism is enjoying confidence, independence, and security in whatever choice you make, whether that choice has to do with your profession, your sexuality, when and how many children you want to have. Feminism is freedom from poverty, rape, and domestic violence. Feminism is being able to say “no” to friends, sexual partners, authority figures and the like, and it is being able to advance a career without also having to do the lion’s share of the child-rearing. This definition might be all over the place, but these examples and issues are what resonates with me, when I think about feminism.

One last thing. There is a perception that feminists have to be pro-choice, or look down on women in certain “unempowering” professions etc. To me, that’s not necessarily true. I’d respect a pro-life feminist if she was committed to other aspects of women’s empowerment, or could justify her view from such a perspective (though, to be honest, I’m not holding my breath).

So, what does feminism mean to you?

No one should be forced to strip and then searched in middle school

24 03 2009

I just read an article in the New York Times about how Savana Redding, now 19 years old, was forced to strip six years ago when she was a 13 year old eighth grader at a school in Safford, AZ. Her case has reached the Supreme Court and will be heard on April 21st. Six years ago, assistant principal Kerry Wilson suspected Redding of possessing prescription-strength ibuprofen pills with her in school and ordered her to be searched, enforcing the school’s anti-drug policies.

Redding was never asked if she had pills on her prior to being searched. Imagine that – waking up and going to school, thinking it’d be any regular day, but instead being forced to strip and then searched by the school nurse and the secretary without being asked or told anything. This is degrading and dehumanizing. Imagine how traumatized she must’ve felt!

Redding was an honors student and did not have any pills with her. (She says that a “friend” who was found with ibuprofen pills blamed her for them instead.) However, she was forced to strip and was searched methodically and intrusively by two female school staff members, Peggy Schwallier, the school nurse, and Helen Romero, a secretary. She says that it was humiliating and once she stripped to her underwear, “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side. They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

WTF?!!! Did they think she’d be hiding drugs in her bra or in her underwear? She was also 13, a minor, at the time! Was it really necessary to subject her to this violation of rights and dignity? Clearly these school officials violated Redding’s constitutional rights and should be held accountable for it.

In a sworn statement, Schwallier said that Redding “’never appeared apprehensive or embarrassed.’” Meanwhile Redding contends that during the search, she kept her head down so the women wouldn’t be able to see that she was going to cry. She didn’t want to be further humiliated by being caught crying in front of the women.

Okay Schwallier, even if Redding “‘never appeared apprehensive or embarrassed’”, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she wasn’t completely fine with it! People can appear calm and collected on the outside but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t “apprehensive” or “embarrassed.” It just means that they look very poised. Have some sensitivity! Anyone who was being forcefully searched after having to strip without being questioned or offered an explanation would feel uncomfortable.

Furthermore, subsequent to the search Redding stopped going to school and studied at home because she was so humiliated. She eventually transferred to another school. “The experience left her wary, nervous and distrustful, she said, and she developed stomach ulcers.”

In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled that school officials had violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. The article says:

Writing for the majority, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said, “It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights.” “More than that,” Judge Wardlaw added, “it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

In a friend-of-the-court brief in Ms. Redding’s case, the federal government said the search of her was unreasonable because officials had no reason to believe she was “carrying the pills inside her undergarments, attached to her nude body, or anywhere else that a strip search would reveal.”

Yes – Exactly! A nude search of a 13 year old girl is a violation of constitutional rights and human dignity! It’s not rocket science! It goes on to later say:

Adam B. Wolf, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Ms. Redding, said her experience was “the worst nightmare for any parent.”

“When you send your child off to school every day, you expect them to be in math class or in the choir,” Mr. Wolf said. “You never imagine their being forced to strip naked and expose their genitalia and breasts to their school officials.”

The fact that the two school officials who searched her were females does not make it any better. It’s still a humiliating experience that was completely uncalled for. And Mr. Wolf is right, 13 year olds don’t go to school expecting to be forced to strip naked and searched! No one goes to school expecting to be forced to strip naked and then searched!


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