Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Follow Up: Enloe

“Being Curious about Our Lack of Feminist Curiosity” by Cynthia Enloe explains the importance of critical thinking.  I do agree with Enloe that often the terms  “natural”, “tradition”, or “always” imply that we do not need to further investigate a topic.  Thus, if something is natural, we should just let it be, as it must be correct and accordingly requires no further consideration.  And if something is traditional, there is no reason to assess it or question it because it is something that always has existed.  This is definitely an issue in today’s society.  If we do not critically assess the ideas and aspects of our society that we are faced with, it is difficult to make any progress. With hierarchies and patriarchies in particular, we need to critically examine what is happening and why exactly that is occurring.

I think it is important to stress this idea of critical thinking.  Often, as students, we take what we are told and simply accept it with little critique or evaluation.  It is far easier to take information and accept it as fact or as “the way it is” than to ask questions about it.  Thus, it may be both quicker and easier to passively accept this information; however, Enloe stresses, it is far more useful to actively engage with this information and decide for yourself what it is saying and why it says so.  Only by asking questions and deeply evaluating what we previously took as natural or tradition can we get to the root causes of social issues.

Follow Up: Enloe

In "Being Curious about Our Lack of Feminist Curiosity" and in "The Surprised Feminist", Enloe looks at how important it is for feminists to always ask questions. She points out that if we do not ask questions then we will never make new discoveries.
In the introduction Enloe questions the natural assumptions about life and gender that society makes. Patriarchy has seemingly always been around so it is natural in the Western world. She is challenging patriarchal systems that put masculinity first and femininity in the outskirts. If we allow ourselves to stop being curious about traditions of masculinity and femininity then nothing will ever change. There is a great danger for feminists than not being curious. This reminds me of investigative reporters who work hard to answer the questions that they are curious about and expose the truth for the rest of the world to learn. In a way Enloe's feminist is an investigative reporter, who challenges patriarchy to find the truth. Feminist curiosity is not limited to the public patriarchy that surrounds society, but also the private life. Why do women cook and clean more than their spouses? Why are women more likely to work in a sweatshop? Enloe points out how patriarchy only survives because men and women allow for it. They are not curious enough about the system to learn more about and to change it.
In chapter one, Enloe focuses on the importance of surprise and how we should allow ourselves to be surprised. She questions the assumption that being surprised means you are not qualified or creditable. There are some things that you may be able to predict if you look closely enough, but this is not always true. Enloe talks about some of the things that surprised her, such as the collapse of the Brazilian economy or the success of the U.S. Women's National Basketball Association. Admitting her surprise is the only way that she will be able to move forward. I wonder how being surprised came to be a bad thing? Why is it that if you cannot predict something than you do not know enough about it? If nothing ever surprised you than there would not be anything more to learn. People may not like surprises, but that does not mean that they are bad. Enloe concludes her chapter by saying that being surprised is vital to being a feminist and a human being.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Summary: Enloe

"Being Curious about Our Lack of Feminist Curiosity"

Enloe makes a lot of really strong points in her introductory statement that preface her essays quite well. She begins by explaining that our lack of curiosity can mainly be attributed to laziness. Being curious and questioning our assumptions takes energy. She explains that it is much easier to accept that certain structures and institutions are "natural" or certain cultural habits are simply "tradition." If we frame things in this way then we don't have to question their validity. Enloe claims that these phrases (natural, tradition, always, oldest, etc.) have helped sustain power structures at all different levels. She believes that keeping people, especially women, from being curious about these things must serve a purpose to someone. Enloe thinks that it is important to focus on all women when looking at things from the curious feminist perspective. She says that patriarchy acts in all sorts of ways and if we don't focus on all women we will miss the way it acts on everyone. Patriarchy marginalizes women and encourages them to take on a complicit role in the system. She says that women are pressed into the roles of compliance by becoming secretaries, or factory workers or other roles that allow them to elevate men. Enloe goes on to discuss examples of patriarchy in the military and politics.
Enloe also discusses her recent work on "girlhood" and her recent exploration of her own girlhood during the war in the suburbs of New York City. She questions the way the war militarized her through the songs she memorized and the games she played as a child. She also talks about research in "post-conflict zones" and how countries come out of wars and leave their militarized identities behind, much like the article about Borislav Herak.

"The Surprised Feminist"

In this article, Enloe discusses the need for feminist scholars and activists to admit their surprise. She believes that feminists need to stop being cynical and assuming the worst, and be open to the idea of something surprising them. She says that women have worked so hard to gain respect in their work that many women are unwilling to admit when something shocks them because they believe it will negatively effect their credibility. This is similar to Enloe's introduction and I think it really relates. Feminists need to be willing to look deeper on all fronts whether it's by being curious or by being willing to believe that something surprised them and then question why it did.
Enloe goes on to list all the things that surprised her in the past year and why. She uses the surprise she felt to look deeper and question her own understanding of the events. She believes that surprise allows women to "take fresh stock" and gives them a "willingness to think afresh" (17). She believes that women's cynicism and unwillingness to admit to surprise dulls their curiosity which Enloe believes is so important.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Follow Up: Greenstone, Attenello, and Pruce

I found these articles really inspiring. They all follow women's journeys towards leadership and self-empowerment. The different paths they each took are really interesting. One thing that really struck me, which seemed like a commonality for all the women, was the issue of bias. They all had to acknowledge and get over their own perspectives before they could understand others. Greenstone regrets that she spoke sharply to the girl who stereotyped Jewish people. Attenello had to disconnect her feelings as an outsider so she could provide resources that would be helpful to other women and Pruce had to admit to her bias as a Jewish person living in Israel towards the Pakistani's in order to forward women's issues, her other main cause.
Attenello's story was particularly interesting to me. I can completely understand her feelings of being an outsider of Unidad de New Brunswick. I can see how she would feel like she was enabling rather than empowering and I think it's really great that she had the insight to realize that. However, I thought it was also really impressive that she was able to overcome her discomfort to help women who could benefit from the resources she could provide. I think it's really important to understand what ways we can be useful to others while still being realistic about our role. Her point about representing a group that she wasn't a part of and couldn't necessarily communicate with or relate to made me think of the way men must sometimes feel of the feminist movement. I can see how it would be really difficult to relate to, or feel a part of, a group that you can't identify with.
Pruce also interested me because I had never thought so deeply about her definition of the distinction between grassroots activism and formal political involvement. When she said that activism is predominantly female, under appreciated, and not well paid while formal political involvement is prestigious, and well paid, I was really shocked. I had never thought deeply about this distinction before. It reminded me of all our discussions about women in the workforce and how women typically do the undesirable, monotonous jobs, while men are elevated in better positions.

Summary of: Greenstone, Attenello, and Pruce

"Learning the Meaning of One..." (Greenstone)
This chapter by Greenstone explores how she came into her own identity. She begins by telling the story of when she was in middle school and one of her friends made an inappropriate common about being Jewish. When Greenstone defended herself to this friend she ended up losing the friendship, and was later bullied by her. Like Pruce, she went on a trip to visit the Nazi concentration camps. This trip made her identify very strongly with her religion and it’s history of oppression. She, again like Pruce, realized that she has a responsibility to never allow something like the Holocaust to occur again. The Holocaust can never be forgotten, not only for those who suffered from it, but also so it will never be repeated. Some would say that other genocides, like Darfur, have and are occurring though.
Greenstone continues her narrative of how she became a leader and a feminist by explaining how college inspired her to follow her dreams. After college she worked for an activist organization. Her age made her self-conscious but she learned to confront her fears as well as those who did not listen to her because of her age.
She began to work closely with young women and discovered how there is a great need for feminism work with young women. Adolescents (and even younger) face a media and society that tells them that their appearance matters more than anything else. Greenstone tries to teach young women that their self-confidence should not lay in their appearance but in their actions and thoughts. By dealing with insecurities of other females, Greenstone found the importance of having self-pride. Her message of having pride in oneself is one that can apply to everyone, not just to insecure teenage girls.

"Navigating Identity Politics in Activism..." (Attenello)
Like Greenstone, Attenello looks at how she became an activist and a feminist. She started to take classes in college that analyzed how race and gender operate in social movements, only to discover that women were mostly ignored. The gender inequality that was represented in the literature shocked her. She found her own literature about women and embraced feminism. Attenello focuses on identity politics and what this means for her and for others. She became an activist that is committed to combating gender-based violence.
How she began her activist career is really interesting. She attended Rutgers University at the same time as a serial rapist was attacking Rutgers female students and Mexican women. Attenello points how she realized that the newspapers and police focused much more of the Rutger's students than they did on the Mexican women. To do something to change how vulnerable women were, she joined a march in protest of how the rape attacks were being handled. In this she met a very important woman named, Lupe. Lupe and her exchanged numbers after Attenello expressed an interest in helping Lupe (and her organization).
Attenello worked closely with Lupe’s group because of her organizational and leadership skills. As time went on, though, she recognized that she should not be the vice-president because she did not represent the group well enough. The group was all Mexican, except for her, and she also wanted to focus more on women’s rights. She learned a lot about what it means to be a leader from her time, but moving on was the right decision. She is still engaged in activist work today for women’s rights.

"Blurring the Lines that Divide" (Pruce)
In this chapter, Pruce looks at how she identifies herself and how this results in her being a leader. She begins the chapter discussing how she grew up being told that she could do anything that she wanted to. Her identity as a Jew, a leader, and a woman is very important to her. It is her identity that has led her to where she is now. Her religious identity is very close to her. She writes how she went to Poland to visit the death camps, and realized the responsibility she feels for never allowing something like this to occur again. She goes on to write that she spent a year in Israel, before college, and how this experience made her identity as a Jew grow stronger. She gives a little of the history of Israel, but is very biased. Pruce says that she recognizes this, but in her writing does not seem to try and be more objective.
Pruce tells how when she went to college, she really began to take a role in active leadership. She founded a Jewish Zionist group, but received some really bad attention from the college and her peers. She recounts how she was called a fascist and a right-wing extremist. This did not stop her from leading though. Her identity as a woman became very important to her when she took her first women's and gender issues course. Seeing how gendered the world was made her change her own perspective on things, and she also recognized how much she wanted to change things for the better for women. She writes how she learned to protest with other women one day, and then the next protest against the same women because of their differing opinions. She says that she respects her "opponent" who is Palestinian, but never seems to give their cause much thought. At one point in the chapter she says how her opponents rally against Israel, but I have to wonder if it is really Israel they are rallying against or if they are rallying to support Palestine. At another point in the chapter she talks about not being openly a feminist in front of Christian leaders for fear of it undermining her goals, but from what I can tell from my religion class, Judaism and Christianity are very similar on their views of women. It confused me as to why it mattered that they were Christian.
She ends the chapter by looking at how her activism and her identity have made her choices for her. She is clearly a very strong woman with strong beliefs. She wants to create social change for the betterment of women and Jews. Pruce's character is one of a leader who is careful to stay true to herself.

Friday, April 22, 2011

News Flash: NYC To Impose Restrictions on Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Five years ago, Carolyn Maloney, a representative for New York, proposed a bill that she called the Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act (Stevens). She believed that many anti-abortion pregnancy centers throughout New York were deliberately misleading women who were seeking the services of a legitimate medical clinic like Planned Parenthood. However, only last November was this bill put to the test. During a hearing in New York City hosted by the women’s issues committee of the New York City Council, the members of the council tried to gauge people’s reactions to the potential bill (Jensen). Many of the people who spoke had strong opinions one way or the other. However, it seemed that those opposing the bill far outnumbered those in favor. The line of people who had signed up to speak, aside from the professionals and experts who were asked by the panel to appear, stretched all the way out the door and down the block. This is clearly a heated issue that people have strong convictions about. The regulation of crisis pregnancy centers, or CPC’s, would be a local law, similar to one that passed in Baltimore, Maryland last year. According to Maloney, the law would require crisis pregnancy centers to be more transparent about the services they actually offer. The centers believe that this unfair because the law would not demand similar standards by pro-choice centers. Supporters of the clinics believe that the law is unconstitutional and would infringe upon their rights to freedom of speech. The real questions to focus on are what the law would ask of the centers, why these demands are being made in the first place, if it is constitutional to force crisis pregnancy centers to be more transparent, and what the greater implications will be if the law eventually is passed.
The Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act, is a law that would have serious effects on the pregnancy centers throughout New York City. It is referred to as Bill 0-371 A and would require 10 different disclosures in both English and Spanish. The disclosures would have to be made in person, in advertising, in signage, and on the phone. The disclosures would essentially tell women that they do not provide abortions, contraception, or have licensed medical personnel available (Jensen). It would also hold the pregnancy centers to a new standard of confidentiality. They would not be able to report cases of child molestation, child prostitution and child trafficking through these new confidentiality practices (Christian Newswire). Essentially, these new restrictions would force crisis pregnancy centers to specify that they are not, in fact, able to help women medically. They would keep women from seeking things that cannot be provided by crisis pregnancy centers and being confused from misleading signs or advertisements.
The main reason these demands are being made of the pro-life pregnancy centers is because many people believe they intentionally try to mislead women into thinking they provide services that they do not and then the women are “indoctrinated with anti-abortion propaganda” (Jensen). Although this is probably a bit of an exaggeration and most clinics are likely just trying to help women, there have been many cases where the centers remain rather ambiguous in their services. In one case, a center “set up shop in the same building and on the same floor as a Planned Parenthood clinic” (Jensen). When women are pregnant, scared and confused, it can be extremely misleading to see two centers claiming to help pregnant women right next to each other. One specific example that Carolyn Maloney refers to is a center in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. The Robbinsdale Women’s Center, an anti-abortion, religiously affiliated operation, is directly across the street from the Robbinsdale Clinic which is the actual medical facility. Joyce Johnson, the office manager of the Robbinsdale Clinic reported that at least three or four patients a month are “confused by the center’s proximity and vague name” (Stevens). She believes that this is a deliberate tactic by the Robbinsdale Women’s Center and claims that the “patients who go there are not told that they may be in the wrong place” (Stevens). This is part of the reason why city officials are lobbying for transparency because these types of delays infringe on pre-natal care and abortion services (Jensen). If women are not told explicitly what type of care they will receive at the pregnancy centers, they may be misled until it is too late to seek the services they require.
However, pro-life crisis pregnancy centers are arguing that these laws are unconstitutional and infringe on their right to free speech. Jor-El Godsey, the vice president of affiliate services at Heartbeat International, in response to the Robbinsdale issue said he believes that “All advertising is designed to lure somebody into something. Crisis pregnancy centers operate on the same strategy that competing grocery stores do; they open up near a rival to draw their customers” (Stevens). The main issue many people have with the bill is that pro-choice clinics are being left completely untouched by any such restrictions. Mark Rienzi, who led the fight against Baltimore’s similar restrictions on crisis pregnancy centers, argued that the bill “certainly cannot target pro-life speakers for special sign requirements and fines while leaving speech by abortion clinics entirely unregulated. This new regulation violates every core principle of freedom of speech” (Christian Newswire). He definitely has support in his conviction and many people feel similarly that it is unjust to only require pro-life organizations to meet these standards. Councilman Daniel Halloran agrees that the law is particularly unbalanced. He said he “wouldn’t mind if we had a bill that talked about regulating both Planned Parenthood and crisis pregnancy centers” but the fact that both parties aren’t regulated is unreasonable (Galdi). The thought is that it places pro-choice clinics at the advantage.
On the opposing side, pro-choice groups that would like to impose these restrictions, argue that all that matters is transparency and truth in advertising. An attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union was asked to speak before the council as to the validity of the law under the First Amendment. He believed that the bill passed the First Amendment test because under the amendment the government can require truth in advertising which is essentially what the bill would be doing (Jensen). Councilwoman Jessica Lappin says that it is simply about transparency. “We want women to know and to make sure it’s clear walking in the door,” that they are in a place that cannot offer them medical services (Galdi). The law would be the device that ensures women know exactly what they are signing up for instead of being deceived by misleading advertising or information. If the information or advertising they are projecting to the public is untrue, it is the government’s responsibility to regulate it until it is honest.
The implications if this law is passed are extensive. We discussed in class that women are often deceived in these centers and often being misled for even a few days can change the outcome of a pregnancy. Abortion is a very time sensitive procedure. If a woman were misinformed by the crisis pregnancy centers, by the time she realizes her mistake it could be too late to have the procedure done. Along with that, we have discussed how many states have very strict regulations for abortion anyway. Many places require women to go to bias counseling which preys on young, vulnerable and sometimes uneducated women. Some of the crisis pregnancy centers seem to be applying the same tactics. As Arcana discusses in her article, no woman wants to get an abortion. It is a difficult choice for any woman to make and once she chooses that route she should be respected for making the right decision for her unborn child. There are enough wires around the birdcage of female health services without women being purposefully misinformed.
Although the regulations on crisis pregnancy centers would be a change, it is one that is necessary to cancel the ambiguities that have long been confusing women who are already in difficult and sensitive situations. The laws would ask a lot of pregnancy centers, but if they are already clear in their objectives, it shouldn’t be very much to ask. It is understandable that it seems unjust that pro-choice centers have no such regulations. That is something that I believe needs to change. If pro-life organizations are asked to state their goals and services, then pro-choice organizations should have to comply as well. It will be interesting to see where this heated, and clearly personal to some, debate goes in the near future. The implications of laws on transparency are great, and could have a serious impact on women’s healthcare.


"NYC Mayor Bloomberg Unsure Whether Pregnancy Center Bill Signed is Constitutional" by The Christian Newswire

"NYC Tests Brakes on Crisis Pregnancy Centers" by Rita Henley Jensen

"Crisis Pregnancy Centers Face Potential Regulations" Marisa Galdi

"Maloney Calls for Truth in Clinic Advertising" by Allison Stevens

Thursday, April 21, 2011

News Flash: Save Money. Pay Women Less.

Save Money. Pay Women Less.
The largest employment discrimination lawsuit in American history is Dukes vs. Wal-Mart. This case is being fought on behalf of 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart employees over discrimination in pay and promotion. What connects these 1.5 million people? They are all female.
The case began in 1999 when Stephanie Odle was fired from Wal-Mart after complaining of sexual discrimination. This New York Times article explains how women from across America have joined together to fight for their rights: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/opinion/07thu1.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=women&st=cse. Wal-Mart denies the discrimination, but that is not their main defense. Wal-Mart’s lawyers argue that there is not enough “cohesion” among the women to justify treating them as a single class. The plaintiffs may have differences, but all of them have experienced sexual discrimination at the hands of Wal-Mart, and they are tired of it. Together these inspirational women are trying to prove that if their sex is enough in common for all of them to be paid less than men in the same positions as them, they have enough in common to sue for sexual discrimination. Their fight to stop sexism in the workplace is surely a case for all womankind.
Christine Kwapnoski is one of the main six women suing Wal-Mart. When she told her boss that she wanted a promotion he told her to, “blow the cobwebs off your makeup” and to “doll up” in order to advance. Kwanpnoski joined the other women suing Wal-Mart for practical reasons. Filing a suit against one of the world’s largest corporation would be too costly and stand little-to-no chance of ever being heard.
Sexism in the workplace is nothing new. Since the founding of America (and it seems the world) discrimination against women has perpetuated. Wal-Mart’s sexual discrimination is also common. Many large corporations exploit women, “Nike, the largest athletic footwear in the world, posted a record $298 million profit for 1993” uses women globally to make a profit (Enloe 44). Wal-Mart and Nike use similar techniques in how they treat women. Nike might exploit women more globally compared to Wal-Mart, who in this case, exploit women in the U.S.; the connection is women being exploited. Women are vulnerable to sexual discrimination in the workplace because jobs are so competitive, thus women are afraid if they complain they might get fired.
Society today says that women are separate but equal from men. Sexism is supposed to be dead, but as demonstrated in Wal-Mart’s case this is incorrect. In Leading the Way, author Anuradha Shyam writes about the sexism that South Asian women face. She is speaking of South Asian women when she says, “It is expected that we behave with deference and modesty at home, but it is imperative that we demonstrate assertiveness and decisiveness in the corporate world” but this statement can be applied to most women living in America (179). The fact that women have consistently earned less to a man’s dollar in America proves sexism is not gone, but Wal-Mart claims to be the exception.
Wal-Mart might be arguing that it does not discriminate, but the evidence speaks for itself. The sheer overwhelming number of women claiming to have been discriminated against cannot be a coincidence. This picture shows the difference between men and women’s income:

The evidence is clear, but the judges' decision may not be. To side with the plaintiffs the Supreme Court would need to go against the largest private employer in America. In 2009, the Court denied a big business case against a woman, so until early summer (when the decision is most likely to come out) everyone will have to wait to see the decision. The real issue is, will the highest court in America decide if being female is enough to treat them as a single class? Would their decision be different if the defendants were all male? What began as a grievance over pay and promotion among a handful of women at Wal-Mart has turned into the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in America. No matter the ending, the six women who have filed this lawsuit have proved what women can accomplish when they come together.

Works Cited
Enloe, Cynthia H. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire/Berkley: University of California Press, 2004. Print

“Wal-Mart vs. Women.” Editorial. The New York Times 7 April 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/opinion/07thu1.html?sq=walmart%20wome n&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=print.

Trigg, Mary K., ed. Leading the Way: young women’s activism for social change. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010. Print.