RAINN’s new PSA says “Speak out”

9 04 2009

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) recently released a PSA in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month called “Speak Out” to encourage people who are affected by sexual assault to speak out:

“Speak Out” features model and singer Krishnar Lewis and his new song, “Sad Girl.”  Krishnar said:

It’s an honor to be included in this new campaign, raising awareness for sexual violence. I’ve recently had to deal with sexual violence because of a family member who was raped, and turned to me for help. The value of RAINN and the National Sexual Assault Hotlines is immeasurable in that it allows those affected by sexual violence to get help in a safe and confidential manner, 24/7.

I am a big fan of this PSA, and I encourage those of you readers who are Tufts students to attend the Sexual Violence Policy Community Forum on Thursday, April 23rd at 7 PM in the Metcalf Lounge.  This is your chance to directly give your input to the administration on how Tufts handles sexual assault ranging from the policy to prevention measures.

If you just tap into your femininity, the sky’s the limit!

9 04 2009

In the Huffington Post recently, Patricia Handschiegel has an article called “The New Power Girls Style: More Sneaky Tips for Balancing Work/Life from Entrepreneurs and Executives”.  Before even reading the article, my two initial reactions were:

1. Girls?  Don’t you mean women?  Calling professional and successful adult women who are entrepreneurs and/or executives girls is condescending because it belittles their achievements and makes them seem less threatening because god forbid we have women in power.

2. Why “sneaky tips”?  Can’t women just have honest discussions with each other about the balance between work and life?  Balancing work and life is not an easy task, so shouldn’t it be acceptable for women to openly acknowledge that and talk about it, instead of keeping it on the DL and being all sneaky and secretive?

The article’s tips are not completely radical and revolutionary in any sense: making time for yourself to do the things you want to do, exercising,  getting organized, getting enough sleep, making sure that you look good and feel good when you go out and off to work.  (Does any of that sound new?  No, not really.  It’s not quite brand new information.)  But want to know the real secret to balancing work and life?

“When a woman taps into and owns her femininity and all of the innate qualities that make her a woman, there is no stopping the rise of her star – in career and life,” said Cindy Yates, co-author of Cashmere Glove: The Feminine Approach to Business.

So by tapping into what society conditions us to believe, and what some of us end up internalizing and accepting, as feminine will help us women be successful?  Hmm, and what does society ascribe to be feminine?  Being passive, subordinate, demure, quiet, obedient, domestic…  If only I tap into all that and owned it, then who knows how far I can rise in career and in life?!

What are the “innate qualities” that make women women?  Saying that there are innate womanly qualities is very essentialist, and makes it seem as though “being girly” is just a natural thing to do if you’re a woman.  Gender is a social construct, and we are socialized from birth into specific gender roles where we must obediently play the part.

Furthermore, why The Feminine Approach to Business?  Is it because business is just for men?  And women don’t belong in business, but if they do venture in then they must approach it in a “feminine” way?  This kind of sexist thinking is what the women’s movement sought to challenge and overcome.

Massachusetts law provides legal protection for breastfeeding mothers

9 04 2009

Beginning this Thursday, breastfeeding in public will be legal in the state of Massachusetts (reported in the Boston Globe).  This is a major step in women’s rights, even though it might seem insignificant, or possibly even unrelated to alleviating sexism.  “How the heck is that the case?” you might ask.

First of all, allowing public breastfeeding allows women to make a choice about how they’re going to feed their children.  While the “breastfeeding vs. formula” battle rages on, and each feeding method becomes the “better” one for a time before being topped by the other, what matters is that women can choose which method fits their lifestyles and their beliefs.

When breastfeeding is unaccessible, and women risk sex offender status when they breastfeed in public, that choice disappears, or at least becomes less of a choice.  And while many people argue that women could just breastfeed in the bathroom, or that workplaces should provide breastfeeding areas, they’re just making the choice to breastfeed even less accessible.

Secondly, by making breastfeeding a public action, we are desexualizing breasts.  Breasts are not inherently sexual, as seen in cultures where topless women don’t cause a sensation or make a statement by being bare.  If we shift from treating breasts as sexual objects to viewing breasts as what some people’s chests look like, we can move towards desexualizing the female body in general, and reducing objectification.  I’m not arguing that breasts can’t or shouldn’t be sexy.  After all, men’s chests can be sexy; the difference currently is that men can bare their chests in public without being arrested for indecent exposure.  And since women’s bodies and breasts are hypersexualized, if we desexualize them, they might go from hypersexual to just normal sexual.

And, once again, if we reduce sexualization of breasts, we reduce objectification.

The law itself doesn’t explicitly do any of these things.  It does not state that its goal is to reduce objectification, and I doubt that that is the goal.  But as our culture norms shift, the attitudes of the younger generation also change, which we are seeing today with the growing support of LGBT rights.  Maybe someday, topless women won’t cause such a fuss.