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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

News Flash 3: Discrimination Against Girls in India

In India, discrimination against women is an extremely prevalent issue.  This sexism can be viewed as implicit discrimination due to cultural practices.  Thus it falls into the realm of 3rd wave feminism.  The embedded sexism in the Indian culture is especially evident in the recent increase in abortions of female fetuses.  This article explains that with technological improvements and a recent increase in wealth, which has allowed greater access to this technology, there has been a decrease in the ratio of females to males born in India.  For example, in 2001 the ratio was 927 girls to every 1,000 boys in the 0-6 year age class (Roy, 2011).  In 2011, the ratio was 914 girls to every 1,000 boys (Roy, 2011).  Thus, the gender disparity has expanded in recent years.  Reason for this imbalance stems from the sexism against women that is deeply woven in the Indian society.  Therefore, the underlying cultural norms and gender roles need to be changed to decrease this discrimination against women. 
            In Indian society there is an evident preference for boys over girls.  This is due to various cultural aspects.  First, boys are expected to provide an income for their families and thus are valued for financial purposes (Roy, 2011).  Accordingly, in India the birth of a boy may be preferred over a girl due to family economic reasons.  Another factor that influences male preference is the concern that daughters will be unable to take care of their own parents because they will be married into a new family.  The daughter’s responsibilities would then be to her husband and his family rather than her own parents (Roy, 2011).  Therefore, when thinking of their future security, parents may prefer to have boys rather than girls to ensure that they can grow old in a financially secure environment. This also relates to the concern that a woman who inherits land may give that land to her husband’s family (Roy, 2011).  Thus, rather than having the land stay in the original family it would be lost to the husband.  Overall, underlying cultural factors have resulted in a society that highly favors men.  
The arguably most important cultural aspect that leads to favoring of boys is the dowry system.  The dowry is money, goods, or property that a woman gives to her husband before their marriage as a means to establish their new home (Roy, 2011).  Due to the 1992 economic liberation, dowries have become additionally extravagant and husbands expect more from their future wives (Roy, 2011).  This is further perpetuated by a more materialistic society, which emphasizes the obtainment of money and real estate.  Therefore, for parents, having a girl means that they eventually will need to pay a dowry, which can be a financial burden on their family.  For this reason a boy would be favored over a girl because they would not bring the responsibility of paying this money.  In this manner, the article describes women as liabilities to their family.  This financial responsibility is deeply embedded in societal expectations and traditional practices.  This custom however leads to discrimination against women, which in turn has resulted in an unbalanced male to female ratio. 
In recent years, the emphasis on a larger, more valuable dowry has led to violent consequences if that dowry is not met.  There are many reports of women murders because the husband and his family wanted a bigger dowry (“Shameful Act Still Prevalent in the Indian Society”, 2010).  Therefore, it is of great concern in India if families are not financially able to produce a large enough dowry for their daughters.  In fact, dowry deaths have increased from 5,800 killings in 1998 to 8,172 killings in 2008 (Roy, 2011).  These brutal acts are thus related to why there is such a discrimination against girls.  If families are not financially able, or do not want to risk having to pay a dowry in the future, they may resort to aborting female fetuses.  Unfortunately many families consider this as their only option that does not leave them with the liability of a daughter. 
Therefore, it is evident that the dowry system works to reinforce the discrimination against women in Indian society.  It also increases gender-based violence.  The article describes this as a part of the gender-based continuum of discrimination and violence.  Therefore, the continuum begins with the abortion of female fetuses.  It also includes the dowry system and the associated violence.  
Cultural norms and traditions pay a huge role in discrimination and violence against women in India.  The expectation that a women’s family must pay the husband a large sum of money or material goods is an idea that has been practiced in Indian history and thus is a tradition that people are expected to uphold.  However changes in the mentality of materialism and consumerism have heightened expectations.  Still, the bride’s family is expected to present a sufficient dowry or consequences may result.  This custom therefore reinforces the selection of male fetuses over female fetuses.  A male fetus in this society is less of a financial burden to parents due to cultural traditions.
Another cultural norm that supports gender-based discrimination is the way that a woman marries into her husband’s family and in doing so is expected to pay more time and attention to this new family than her original family.  Conversely, men remain responsible to their own parents and own family throughout life.  This system leads to a preference of males because parents feel more financially secure with sons.  With sons they know that they will not be abandoned for a different family and thus they will be looked after in their old age. 
These Indian cultural norms and expectations reinforce discrimination against women.  In their society, men are valued for many reasons and these reasons compound often resulting in the selection of male fetuses.  To address the issue of discrimination and violence against women it is necessary to start with the cultural basis of these constructs.  This relates to Allan G. Johnson’s article “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us”.  All people are part of a system and thus work to perpetuate that system (Johnson).  The system’s ideology including cultural beliefs and ideas, dominates the culture.  Specifically the beliefs about male superiority result in the oppression of women.  This social hierarchy is thus maintained as a patriarchy, privileging men over women. Still, this patriarchy is reinforced by the actions of all members of that system (Johnson).  Furthermore, in Marilyn Frye’s “Oppression”, she uses a birdcage analogy to emphasize the constraints and oppression that women are faced with.  This can be related to the Indian Culture as women are depicted as burdens and inferior to men, which can result in fetal discrimination. Specifically, the traditions, social norms, values and beliefs of Indian culture reinforce this sexism.  The tradition of the dowry especially leads to discrimination and violence by framing women as liabilities.  The Indian culture makes it difficult for poor parents to have a daughter, it also works to reinforce the notion that male is the desired gender.
The Indian government has worked to decrease the abortion of female fetuses.  According to the article, they are currently working to supervise the new medical technology that allows sex-selection.  Still, this seems to ignore the real underlying issues.  Sex-selection will continue to occur as long as women are disadvantaged by societal norms and traditions.  Cultural constructions such as the dowry will continue to promote the preference of boys.  Until these cultural factors are addressed, the issue is likely to persist. 
Some call for a complete abolition of the dowry (“Shameful Act Still Prevalent in the Indian Society”, 2010).  This could decrease the financial responsibility of having a girl.  Furthermore, today some women work to earn their own dowry so that the financial burden will not fall on their parents but rather on themselves.  Regardless, the evidence remains that many parents strongly prefer to have a boy.  The Indian culture reinforces this discrimination and thus the only solution may be changing these deeply embedded traditions and societal norms.
Overall, the increase in the abortion frequency for female fetuses in India is very concerning.  These abortions demonstrate gender discrimination even at the fetal level.  The deeply embedded discrimination against women causes families to view girls as a family burden and boys as superior and thus the preferred gender.  This mentality is supported by cultural norms and expectations that lead men to become producers of wealth and women to become liabilities.  Therefore, in order to address these issues it is necessary to start at the cultural level.  The underlying norms and gender roles must be altered in order for girls to be considered equal to boys.  Specifically, the dowry is a cultural construct that leads to discrimination against girls.  As a primary course of action to decrease discrimination against women, the cultural expectations concerning the dowry should be reconsidered.


Frye, Marilyn. The Politics of Reality. Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press, 1983.

Johnson, Allan G. “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us.”

Roy, Nilanjana S. "A Campaign Against Girls in India." The New York Times 12 Apr. 2011: n. pag. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/world/asia/13ihtletter13.html?_r=1&ref=women>.

"Shameful Act Still Prevalent in the Indian Society." Zor Se Bol. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <http://www.zorsebol.com/issues/ dowry-by-techies-shameful-act-still-prevalent-in-the-indian-society/>.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Summary Post 4/21

Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others

            This article emphasizes the need to understand cultural differences.  Abu- Lughod questions whether the notion that we need to help save Muslim women is appropriate.  Therefore, she investigates “saving”, stressing that the idea of saving often implies that the savers are the superior group and thus that their own ideas of how to live are correct.  The article explains that it is necessary to accept differences, and thus accept that different women may desire different things and have various ideas about justice and freedom. 
            One issue Abu-Lughod explains is the way that the American society frames these women.  Often it is done in a religious or cultural manner instead of looking at the political and historical forces that actually shaped the foundation of their own society.  Furthermore, we often fail to look at the world as an interconnected sphere and instead view cultures as distinct and divided.  Abu-Lughod stresses that with this divided view often comes a more competitive perspective, for example the idea of the West versus East.
            Women are also often used in “colonial feminism” in which political leaders use the notion of the plight of women to support military intervention or war.  Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak called this “white men saving brown women from brown men”.  This colonial feminism rhetoric is something that we need to be cautious of.
            It is also necessary to look at things such as the burqa with a historical lens.  It marks the separation of the women’s sphere from the men’s sphere and is even viewed as freeing by some because it allows women to venture outside of segregated areas.  Just as we have appropriate attires for various functions or events, all cultures have different social norms and morals that influence what they wear.  Thus, there is a status associated with one’s dress and the burqa is no exception.  In addition, there are many types of coverings that have various meanings.  For many women, the act of veiling is voluntary and associated with her family’s honor and morality.  Abu-Lughod explains the importance in not viewing the burqa as a symbol of “unfreedom” but rather as a product of social and historical contexts. 

Bunch, Whose Security?

This article stresses the idea that feminists have a minute role in global politics.  Bunch believes that this arena remains majorly driven by the military and corporations.  Thus, the women’s movement has had little impact on global affairs or on how US foreign policy affects the world and other women.  Looking at 9/11, the US governmental response could have been different for instance it could have turned its focus to human security, however military actions were taken instead.  Therefore, the chance to confront these issues as well as the opportunity to address women’s human rights were lost due to the US response to 9/11. 
These issues pertaining to terrorism, the military, war, and national security are dominated by men.  Therefore, Bunch emphasizes that women are taking a backseat while US policy is hypocritical when pertaining to human rights policies.  Bunch explains that it is necessary for the women’s movement to thus act on a more global scale rather than focusing solely on national issues.  

Ibrahim, Living While Muslim: Human Rights Advocacy in the Post-9/11 Era

            Ibrahim explains her experience as a spokesperson and human rights activist.  She is an American who was born in Iraq and thus uses her unique experiences and identity as a way to raise consciousness about the violence and discrimination occurring in Iraq under US occupation.  Thus, she offers insight about the kidnappings and violence that many Iraqis are faced with.  In this way Ibrahim works to “humanize the victims of war”.  Corporate-run media often covers up what is actually occurring, thus it is necessary to bring real information to American citizens so that a more accurate depiction is drawn.  Along with violence and discrimination, there has been a decline in infrastructure, electricity and education.  Specifically, children are faced with overcrowding at schools, a decline in literacy rates, as well as an increase in school dropouts.  The entire system has been in decline and the quality of education available to Iraqi children is of concern.   In addition, children and teachers at the schools are faced with violence by both Americans and Iraqis.  This school-targeted violence makes even learning spaces dangerous.
            The article also emphasizes the increase in Muslim discrimination that has occurred in the US since 9/11.  Illegal searches and detainments need to be better publicized.  This treatment, Ibrahim explains leads to the alienation of groups.  Even though she is an American citizen she explains that she is being treated as if she will never belong.  Because of this and other types of discrimination, Ibrahim has focused her efforts on defending American human rights despite one’s ethnicity, race, gender or religion.  

Follow Up: Abu-Lughod, Bunch, and Ibrahim

All of these readings look at how the West, and mainly America, views Islam and Muslims. The post 9/11 America is different for everyone, but for Muslims and those who look Middle Eastern, the change is marked by prejudice as well as sadness. Ibrahim writes in her article how she and her family experience racial profiling while traveling. Airport security has never been tighter, and it can be especially hazardous for people who look Middle Eastern. Bunch makes the point that the security in the airports is supposed to be protecting Americans, but only does to some.
Ibrahim, Bunch, and Abu-Lughod all focus on how feminists have not been heard on this issue enough. Ibrahim found activism through her own trials with dealing with prejudice as a Muslim-American women. She is defensive about being American and Iraqi. Being a Muslim woman in America can be very difficult. People assume things about you before they ever speak to you. This is what Abu-Lughod looks at. She wonders where this obsession with the rights of Muslim women came from. Women are oppressed all over the world, yet there is a push from the West to save Muslim women. What about the women in Africa who are forced to go through genital mutilation? Abu-Lughod talks about the political element of “saving” Muslim women, and the propaganda involved with the Iraq war. While reading her article, I thought how it is ironic that Americans fight to tell Muslim women not to wear any head covering. Telling someone that they should not wear a headscarf is as oppressive as telling someone that they should wear it. I do think that Muslim women should have the choice to not wear a covering, but I also think that if their choice is to wear it then it should be respected. I have heard news reporters and politicians explain women still wearing the head covering by saying that they are brainwashed. This is really condescending and eschews Muslim women’s intelligence.
I thought that Bunch made a good point that feminists need to be heard on local and global issues, but thought that she made some generalizations. She writes that, "the unholy alliance of the Vatican, Islamic fundamentalists and right-wing US forces is still working together when it comes to trying to defeat women's human rights." I think this is blaming certain groups that may have contributed to the problem, but it is oversimplifying the issue. All of the readings really do not like the Bush administration, but fail to mention how most of America participated and agreed with the Bush administration at one point or another. I do think agree that there are some serious issues with how propaganda was spread by the Bush administration, but to blame it solely on the Bush administration may be unfair.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Follow Up: Enloe

Enloe’s chapter “All the Men are in the Militias, All the Women Are Victims” shed light on the masculinization of the military.  The chapter gave examples of how soldiers are almost brainwashed by officers to perform awful violent acts and rapes.  As Enloe explained, during wartime in Yugoslav these male soldiers were organized into a masculinized “micro-culture” and taught that they were oppressed by their enemy and thus needed to react accordingly.  Joining the fight was regarded as a manly thing to do in the Yugoslav army and thus worked to fulfill the Serbian ideal of masculinity.  Furthermore, these men were socialized in a way that I think made them desensitized to violence.  They could easily carry out assignments of rape and murder.  Because these types of awful orders were frequent they became similar to a routine for the male soldiers.  The manipulations through social pressure and the emphasis on masculinity led to deadly consequences.
            It is also worthy of note that the women described during wartime in Yugoslav seem to be defined in terms of the men.  Society during war regarded the women as “mothers-of-soldering-sons”.  Thus their identities were entirely dependent on men, further emphasizing the value placed on masculinity in the military.  
            “Spoils of War” another Enloe chapter, brings up the issue of the U.S. military’s policy about sex.  She explains that women are viewed as prizes and “warriors’ booty”.  This is of concern because it emphasizes women’s sexuality as a means to fulfill male sexual drives.  I do believe that this perception of women can lead to both military rape and military prostitution.  Focusing on women as prizes leads men to feel entitled and worthy, which in turn may result in consequences such as violence of rapes.

Summary: Myers and Enloe

Peril in War Zones by Myers

Myers begins her piece with a story about a female soldier, Captain White. She was sexually abused and stalked by a man at her compound. There are several issues surrounding women's new found role in combat and in the military in general. Sexual harassment and abuse is one of the most widely publicized issues. The structure and outside pressures that act on these unusual living situations complicate things much more. Many men assume they won't be punished for their misdeeds because everyone should focus their attention on the life and death situation at hand. This is similar to Enloe's point in her article "Whom Do You Take Seriously," when she cites the numerous tactics governments have for disqualifying women's issues. In this case, it's a life or death situation so someone complaining about a stalker clearly doesn't rank on the list of high priorities. Obviously something is happening to keep women from reporting because only a mere 10% of cases are thought to be reported. Part of the problem is also seniority and the hierarchical system that plays out in the military. Reporting sexual abuse could have a very negative impact on a women's career. It can make her seem like more of a problem than she's worth. One woman who reported her abuse was discharged on honorable terms but still holds bitter feelings about reporting the abuse because she feels like her career would be on a different track had she said nothing at all. There has been an 8% increase in the incidence of sexual abuse in the military since 2008, however, some officials at the Pentagon claim that this is because of increased reporting rather than incidence. That would be a positive thing because it would mean that people are comfortable and don't believe there will be negative consequences for reporting their abuse. The fact that I found most disheartening after reading the article was that a woman soldier is more likely to be raped than killed in enemy fire. Women should be fearful of what the enemy can do to her, not what can be done to her by her own comrades. However, this is not only a crime committed against women. 10% of the victims were actually men, which is probably a much lower number considering the masculine, heterosexual culture of the military and the unlikelihood of men reporting something they find potentially shameful and embarrassing. I think it is definitely important to note that this is not strictly a women's issue, and that men can be affected just as much. I find it very disappointing that people who should be comrades and friends perform such vicious acts of violence on one another. It breaks the bonds between soldiers who should form one united front.

Living and Fighting Alongside Men by Myers

This article focuses more on the changes that have occurred on military bases to accommodate women, and also those that have not. The military has become much more in tune to the idea of women living on the bases with men. Women have their own showers and bathrooms, health services and CHU's. The military has also become more open to the idea of sex and dating by selling condoms at the convenience store. However, women still find issues with what remains a predominantly male culture. Sgt. Cloukey, a female soldier, confided that there is a certain amount of loneliness and isolation in being one of the few women fighting alongside men. She claims that she sometimes felt like a plague invading the macho male culture. It seems that many women have had to adapt. This reminded me of women's tactics in business to "act like a man." Many of the female soldiers have essentially taken on the role of a female with all males and done it with serious grace. A woman said that she just does what the boys do, sleep on the floor with all the other male soldiers and creating a contraption that allowed her to pee standing up without having to find bushes or create a disruption and distraction. These women adapting to the predominantly male culture as the military tries to adapt to their new role in combat and at the bases.

All the Men are in the Militias, All the Women are Victims by Enloe

Enloe starts with the story of Borislav Herak who lived in Sarajevo and was ethnically Serbian. However, his family was a large mix of Serbs and Muslims. Herak led a rather depressing life, pushing a cart around a textile factory and looking at porn for pleasure in his free time. He was not a violent man and yet something enticed him into joining a Serbian militia. He was charged with mass rape of Bosnian Muslim women and murder at the end of the war. Enloe points out that Herak was never necessarily a violent man and questions what led him to such extremes. She points out that Herak is a man and that masculinity and femininity have serious effects in nationalist wars. Enloe says that men's experiences are notably more often documented because they are seen to be the "crucial shapers" of action and since men and women go through roughly the same experience, men might be easier to track. However, Enloe believes this is wrong and states that women have just as much of a role in nationalist mobilization as anyone else, perhaps an even bigger role. She says that women's everyday decisions about what to cook, wear, whether to use contraceptives and who gets to stay in school determine much more than we could imagine. Decision making is power and even if those decisions are made in the home and thought to be trivial, they have a great effect. She says that by making Bosnian problems specifically gendered, we make all women victims. In fact, some men were more silenced and oppressed than their female counterparts.
Enloe goes on to explore how nationalist identity becomes instilled in citizens and how that in turn creates the warrior identity. She claims that this is a serious social construct and not a coincidence or natural phenomenon in the least. Men see themselves as masculine and needing to go to war based on propaganda, but also the roles that are assigned to women. The more femininity is defined as patriotism, respectability and attractiveness, the more men are lined up to be the fighters. When women are seen as the mothers of soldiering sons, the more the men are pigeon holed into being soldiers.
Enloe turns to Browning's research of the Nazi governments special police force and what it took to turn those men into mass killers. Not only that, but what kept them from raping their victims when the Serbs seemed to do so so often. Browning's research shows that most of the men in the force were not initially particularly anti-Semitic in their conception of German nationalism. He found that it took a steady stream of psychological battering to turn this men into killers. He states that it was the bureaucratic relationship among soldiers of different ranks, the relationship between officers and their troops, and the type of masculine friendship among soldiers. Enloe also looks at the "Tailhook Report" from 1991 that looked into male fighter pilots continual habit of harassing women. The superiors of these fighter pilots claimed that they were a specific breed of men and that they needed to drink excessively and chase after women if they were going to be able to fight well. This seems to me a lot like many of the excuses for men raping women. The excuse that men are naturally sexual creatures who need to be satisfied and can't be blamed if a woman tempts them.
Enloe includes an excerpt from an interview with Herak asking why he raped the Bosnian Muslim women. He essentially says that he only did it because he was told to and didn't want to be moved to the front lines where the fighting was more dangerous. It was supposed to be a bonding activity but he says it did not act as such. Most of the men felt guilty afterwards and none of them spoke of the event. Enloe closes her article by questioning how this stereotype of women as victims and men as members of the militia will continue to shape culture in the postwar society. She says that this social construct involved in creating this system will be very interestingly taken apart. Although she is unsure where this will lead the culture, she is curious about what it will mean for our notions of masculinity and femininity.

Spoils of War by Enloe

Enloe begins this piece by remembering an event from September 1995 when a 12 year old girl was raped in Okinawa by three U.S. Marines. A clearly unthinking Admiral Richard Macke essentially showed no remorse for the girl but said that his men were stupid because they could have bought a girl to have sex with and it would have caused much less trouble. Enloe points out that although we focus heavily on rape in wartime, we still condone explicit prostitution. We see it as a necessary outlet for soldiers and officials work together to figure out ways to allow men blatant access to women. She also notes that we pit women against one another. While we have sympathy for women and girls who are raped in wartime, we basically say that women who prostitute themselves to soldiers are acceptable and below ourselves. This is much like Susan Douglas saying that the climate and culture is to pit women against each other so we don't see the fact that the violence is really being done to us by society and cultural norms. Enloe states that all women are trying to support children and families and that we should have more empathy for whatever way a women tries to make this happen. The final note that Enloe ends on is that we should essentially see rape and prostitution in the military not as separate, but as connected.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blog Follow Up: Myers and Enloe

All of the readings look at rape in a military system. Both of Myers’s articles look at the U.S. military and female soldiers, while Enloe looks at rape by military men to (mostly) random women. Myers’s articles were really interesting to me because I know so little on the subject. Looking at how women are treated in the military, I could not help to think that no matter what the Pentagon says, women are not equal to men yet. Women cannot go on the front lines. His articles showed that there are many issues for women in the military still, despite the changes that have been made by the military. I was shocked to read, “A woman in the military is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq,” (2). When I think of the risks that soldiers take for America when they go to war, I do not think of the risk of rape. The sexual assaults and harassments are underreported, yet they are reported enough to make rape a greater risk than being shot. In Myers article “Living…” something else caught my eye. One Sergeant said that he has never relieved a woman, but he has relieved a man. Is this because women feel like that they have to live up to something more? Later in article it is reported women feel like they don’t have to prove anything, but they are called bitches, sluts, and dykes? It is clear that women are not equal to men in the military.
Enloe focuses on the Bosnia mass rapes. The Bosnian war is one example of a mass rape, but rape is found in every war. The Rape of Nanking and in the Rwandan genocide are also examples of mass rapes in war. She focuses on how the rapist, Borislay, felt a need to prove his masculinity, and the way he proved it was through rape. I thought it was incredibly disgusting how Borislav was taught to rape women. He did not want to show that he even felt guilty. I wonder if he had just one other male in the group who outspokenly said that he did not want to rape anyone, what would have happened? This culture of rape in war is terrifying. It is hard to comprehend how rape came to be a way to show masculinity. It is scary to think of the terrible things that people can do to each other.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Follow Up: Enloe and Steinem

Steinem's article mainly focuses on the male identity that is based on supremacy. She says this is especially apparent in white, middle class, heterosexual males. Research shows that the most acts of violence, especially impersonal and hate crimes, are committed by these characters. They show their superiority through the fact that they can impose pain on others and kill others. This gives them power which they believe they deserve simply because they have grown up white, middle class, heterosexual and male. Steinem points out that all other criminals and murderers kill and do other acts of violence mainly to improve their own conditions. The poor kill for money or drugs, minorities sometimes kill to claim their own space, and women often kill in self-defense. White, middle-class males, have generally killed only for dominance. Steinem backs herself up by showing the statistics that the portion of serial killings not committed by white males is proportional to the number of males who are anorexic. She questions whether factors of race, sexual orientation, and economic status would remain so undiscussed if the perpetrators weren't of the dominant race, orientation and status. I think this is a really incredible point and a true one. If the killers were of a minority, their backgrounds would be questioned. If they were women or gay, people would question societal oppressions that effect them. However, Steinem provides hope by saying that if men are raised more like daughters and taught the value of empathy and the welfare of others, they could grow up differently and perhaps place less weight on dominance. I think this is actually true because looking around, I know many men who are sensitive and kind and are more likely to be dominated by a woman than to dominate someone else.

Enloe's article also brought up some really interesting points. I thought it was really great that she started out with different people's willingness to speak up in the classroom. I thought that it related really well to the greater problem of women's ability to speak out in general. I definitely noticed a birdcage like scenario in her argument. Women are faced with 6 criteria that they need to consider before speaking up for themselves. They are fenced in by these 6 wires, sometimes only one or two of them are acting, but they consistently have to think of every single one. Enloe's point about factory workers essentially being silenced reminded me of the Globetrotting Sneaker article that basically explained exactly why women couldn't speak out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Summary of Enloe and Steinem

Both of these readings focus on the issue of male superiority. In today's society men are told, from birth usually, that they are the superior sex and as such, have special privileges and rights that women do not. In Steinem's article, "Supremacy Crimes" she looks at how men, especially white, straight men, are fed the drug of supremacy. She explains how hate crimes are overwhelming done by white males who are apparently straight. She explores the possible reasons for this. Does our society teach white, heterosexual males that they are superior to others and so do things that are wrong? Are white, heterosexual males entitled to more? Her line caught me, when she said; "I'm superior because I can kill." When I thought about it I realized that men are generally honored for killing. Hunting is seen as a very "manly" thing to do. War is honored too. Men and women are still not equal in the military, as only men can serve on the front lines. American soldiers are honored for their actions because they kill for their country. I do believe that the sacrifices a solider makes should be honored, but Steinem questions the belief that we should consider anyone superior simply because they can take life. I disagree slightly with Steinem though, when she says that society tells white males it is superior to kill, and maybe society does to a point, but not to the degree where white males can go into a school and start to kill. People who do that are not honored, they are disturbed. I do not think that anyone argues that the Columbine killers are superior. Steinem looks how when white, straight, male youths commit a crime, no one thinks to mention that they are white or their sexuality. On the other hand if the criminal is a woman (like Douglas points out) or is homosexual or is any race other than white, the news reporter will speak on it. I think that the same can be said for Muslims.
Enloe also discusses male superiority, but she does it on a more global view. Enloe looks at the silence that male superiority creates for women. She makes the good point that silence robs people of the chance to hear everyone's thoughts and/or understandings. This reminded me of voting. Many people in the United States do not vote, yet it seems that everyone complains about the government. When big elections come around people rally together to try and get the most votes cast. I remember during the most recent presidential election campaign celebrities (as well as other people too) wore shirts that read: "Rock The Vote" or "Vote Or Die." Their points were not that if you do not vote you die, but that you should vote because your opinion matters. I know in some countries it is mandatory for everyone to vote, and I am curious what that would mean if it were implemented in America. I think there would be a lot of issues with it, but perhaps then more public opinion could be gathered. Enloe goes on to talk about the violence done against women, and how people who want to talk about the violence are silenced through various means. She mentions the peace and conflict theorist, Hannah Arendt, and her beliefs, which differ from many feminists. The issue of whether things should be discussed in private or in public comes up. If something is said in private then is it silenced? I do think that when something is said in public then obviously more people know of it, but things said in private can have power too. There is the issue of "respectability", or of keeping the nation's image good. Either way, I think silence on these issues allows them to perpetuate. For both sexes to have their fair say in how things are in the world, this silence needs to end. At the end of the chapter, Enloe gives a new way to test violence against women. She focuses on how women are treated generally, if they dare to speak out, how they are greeted when they do speak out, and how dependent is society on female silence. She ends arguing that if a government is to become more representative on the entire population than female silence needs to end.

Follow Up: Steinem

Gloria Steinem’s article, “Supremacy Crimes” sheds light on the vast number of hate crimes and violent actions committed by white, middle-class, heterosexual males.  She coins it the “drug of superiority” explaining that it leads men to believe that they deserve to be dominant and that they are superior for being white as well as that supremacy is associated with money.  I found this article to be frightening because the killings and violence seems so bizarre.  They are especially concerning because the acts are not performed for reasons beside domination and the desire to feel superior. 

It is interesting to me that other issues such as anorexia is very often talked about in terms of gender, class and race while issues such as these sadistic crimes are not usually examined in a similar lens.  Especially if the trend is as prevalent as female anorexics then I think there is valid concern for better understanding of what type of person performs these crimes.  Furthermore, it needs to be investigated so that we can attempt to better understand how to prevent these violent acts. 

Steinem mentioned valuing empathy and other people’s welfare as a way to change mentalities of supremacy.  I definitely do think that the supremacy mentality and perspective of power as well as dominance needs to be avoided in order to prevent supremacy crimes.  Unfortunately this supremacy mentality seems deeply embedded in our society today, as many people are power hungry and strive to display their dominance.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Follow Up: Crenshaw and Brownmiller

I thought one of the most shocking parts of Crenshaw's article was her discussion of immigrants. It reminded me of the birdcage article. It seems that we are providing many resources to women who are in abusive relationships in general. However, many women are unable to make use of the services regardless of whether they exist. Crenshaw points out that many immigrant women wouldn't even be able to report abuse because in order to gain status as an American citizen they must stay in their marriage for 3 years. Not only do they have to remain in the union, but they have to keep their spouse happy enough to sign the forms at the end of the period that allow them access to citizenship. That is a serious pressure on a woman. Although she would have access to the services of safe houses or other free services, she cannot make use of them. Her "trapping wire" is that if she reports the abuse, her husband will probably no longer sign off on the papers, therefore returning her to her home country. She is forced to weigh the options and decide whether her health, safety and peace of mind are worth putting at risk for citizenship. Also, it is unknown how many other people are relying on her to work in the States and return money to support a family. There were many other examples of the "birdcage" in her piece, but that was one of the main points I saw where it really stood out.
In Brownmiller's piece about rape, I could see the theme continuing. By women portraying their sexuality more through "enlightened sexism" they are marked as sex objects. Because they are shown this way through the media and many other ways, it is not surprising that men are able to argue that women actually "like" the rape. Through the stories I have heard this is absolutely not the case. No woman should have such an act forced on her. In the past week, I attended an event that one of the girls in class was talking about, The White Ribbon Campaign. One of the speakers talks about how it is the job of men to help other men stop abuse. They need to stand up for women and help them as well. Molly mentioned this in her post as well, the paradox that men are the people we fear, yet we also look to them for protection. The speaker at The White Ribbon Campaign said that a college in the northeast created urinal cakes that said "You are holding in your hand right now what it takes to stop rape." Although I think it is really important for women to come together and say no to rape, I also think that men should be involved in the process. Not all men rape, and the ones who don't should be enforcing that standard on others.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Summary: Brownmiller and Crenshaw

Brownmiller “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape”
Brownmiller’s article focuses on rape and how it supports male dominance over women because it keeps women in constant fear.  She describes rape as a method of intimidation, used by men to remain superior to women and keep them in state of less power.  Therefore, the idea of rape illustrates the power relationship between men and women.  When “rape” is heard, women are immediately thought of as victims and thus obtain a victim mentality.  Even young girls are taught that they are victims through stories such as Red Riding Hood.  Girls are informed that women are helpless and that men take advantage of them and thus their only possible hope is another “good, friendly” male to save them.  This type of story teaches girls not to be adventurous and not to take risks for fear that they may be taken advantage of. 
            Furthermore the many false ideas circulating about rape change people’s perceptions about it.  For instance, the claim “no women can be raped against her will” leads people to think that rape is never forced and thus it is “the will of the women”.  This concept Brownmiller explains is detrimental to our understanding of what rape really is.  Women are not “asking for it” or enjoying rape, as many claims would lead people to believe.  Furthermore, women are not at fault for this consciously violent and degrading act. 
            To address rape as a political act, Brownmiller emphasizes making rape a “speakable crime”, one that is open and can be talked about.  Thus through initiatives such as speak-outs, rape crisis centers, rape legislation study groups and conferences women can fight back.  Furthermore through self-defense class women can be on the offense to fight back against this hostile act. 

Crenshaw “Mapping the Margins”
            Crenshaw explains that rape and violence towards women has shifted from being recognized as a private, individual matter to a more open, political.  The growth of identity-based politics allows people to come together as a community and organize against this violence.  However it also works to ignore differences within a group, which can lead to tensions among group members.  For instance, by lumping all people together, Crenshaw argues that we marginalize Black women whose experiences often result from both racism and sexism, and thus are not fully included in the politics of gender discrimination.  Her concept of intersectionality describes how the experiences of Black women are shaped by the interaction of race, gender and class.  This intersection impacts women at battering shelters as well as immigrant women.  Furthermore, language barriers and other vulnerabilities demonstrate what Crenshaw terms intersectional subordination.  She explains that this subordination “is frequently the consequence of the imposition of one burden that interacts with preexisting vulnerabilities to create yet another dimension of disempowerment.” 
            Politically, Black women are also disadvantaged because of the political intersectionality of having two political agendas against racism and sexism.  Neither agenda encompasses the intersections of racism and patriarchy, resulting in a political agenda.
            With regards to domestic violence, Crenshaw emphasizes the difficulty of Black women to seek protection against assault due to a community norm against public intervention, and thus societal views that see the house as a private domain.  Furthermore, there are many stereotypical perspectives of the “battered women” as a minority.  Politicians and the media often reinforce this view.  Also, she argues that feminist interventions are sometimes criticized as marginalizing women of color through things such as a language barrier at domestic violence support agencies.  Crenshaw stresses that many of these support services seem to have been created without the consideration of non-white women.
            Thus, a major issue with this project is categories and the values that we associate with them.  These valuations work to create social hierarchies, which often lead to subordination of certain groups and thus are detrimental to society.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Follow Up: “Against Our Will” (Brownmiller) and “Mapping the Margins” (Crenshaw)

Both of the readings deal with the issue of violence being used against women as a weapon to control them. Brownmiller explains how rape is used to generate fear. Women grow up hearing tales of terror of "girls" being raped. She writes about many of the myths that go along with rape. Women are taught to fear men, but also told that men are the only ones who can protect them from being raped. So there is a fear and also a dependence on men. Then there is the myth that “All women want to be raped” (313) which is just ridiculous. Reading this article I could hardly believe that anyone actually thinks that women want to be raped. If a woman wanted it, then it would not be rape—it would be consensual sex. Something that really made me angry in this article was the defense that is used for rape. Saying that the woman was a tease is not a reason for rape. I cannot believe that this excuse actually justifies rape to some people.The fact that it does, scares me, which in a way exemplifies how I, too, have been taught to have a great fear of rape.

In Crenshaw’s article she discussed rape and violence against women too, but she focused on women of color. She, like Brownmiller, looked at the link between patriarchy and racism. She argued that there is not enough done to reach out to women who are victims of rape or other violent acts. The politics that she discussed in regards to how victims are treated was awful. She brought up the example of Anita Hill (and like Susan Douglas) explained how Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment were treated unfairly because she was a woman accusing a powerful man. There are many issues when trying to help rape victims (such as a language barrier), but politics should not be one of them. One example in the article really shocked me. It was the discussion of what Shahrazad Ali wrote in her book. She actually encouraged black men to dominate the females in their lives, and to use force sometimes. (Never enough to seriously injure them, but some physical violence is just fine). It surprised me that a woman wrote that. I guess I just thought as a woman she would be more sympathetic to her own sex. If not sympathetic than at least more understanding than she is.

Both of these articles discussed the need for feminists to change how women are treated, and to do something to stop the rape cycle. Neither article really addressed what men should do though. Other than obviously not rape, where do men fit in this fight? Brownmiller accused all men of benefiting and participating in the rape cycle, so what should these men do? I know that my dad would be horrified and upset if I told him that I believed because he was a man that he participates “in a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear…” (Brownmiller 312). If just by being male makes you part of the process, how can a man win?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Summary: Mendez, Turner and Kaminsky

Mendez discusses her experience as an immigrant from Colombia. She uses her difficult background as inspiration to help others in similar situations. She finds the healthcare system frustrating and finds that immigrants and other foreign people often slip through the cracks. Mendez is forced into the role of the interpreter for family members and through this experience finds work with other people in similar situations. She becomes a translator for spanish speaking patients as well as an advocate for immigrants in general. Through her life as a student, Mendez came to realize that it is extremely difficult for immigrants to receive higher education and therefore benefit the community. She fought for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act which would allow them to attend higher institutions and contribute fully to the country they inhabit. This bill has still not passed but Mendez has managed to raise a lot of awareness. She does something that I thought was really similar to what the German women who had had abortions did. She had immigrants stand up and say they had immigrated and wanted the chance at higher education. This act of bravery, I'm sure, inspired many others to help in the fight as well. The other connection I saw to other readings we've done in class is her mention of feeling so great that she's not tied down by children or family so that she can accomplish the things she wants to do. It is clear by her saying this that she would be hindered (Mommy taxed) by having kids in her life. Mendez continues to fight to shrink the gap in healthcare and by supporting language interpretation and representing minorities.

Turner is a strong, black, athletic woman who was always encouraged by her parents to do her best and strive for her goals. She mentions that she grew up to "think male" and that it has influenced the decisions and strides she has made. This made me think of the strategy of many women in the workplace to act like men in terms of competitive edges and not having babies until later in life. It seems to be a strategy that works quite well and allows a lot of women to succeed and definitely worked for Turner. Turner is dedicated to public health and worked for Baltimore's needle exchange program. Her focus is on creating systems that allow the people who really need help to have access and convenience for getting in. On this note, she talks about the DOT program which brings HIV medicine directly to where they provide the needle exchange. The needle exchange also works directly with the Baltimore Substance Abuse System so that if someone does want to quit their addiction the resources are right there for them. When talking the road blocks she faced, Turner specifically notes her age and gender. As far as age, she said that many city organizations wouldn't take her seriously because of it. Also, the fact that she was a woman sometimes made it difficult dealing with women who were HIV positive because they thought she was going to judge them. I think this is really important to notice that the culture still instills this women vs. women competition. She even mentions this by saying "In a world filled with bias, stigma, and skepticism, the last thing anyone needs is to be judged" (113). Turner hopes to generate change by looking at the "roots" of public health issues and working from the ground up.

As young women in this feminist age, people tend to turn up their noses or give judgmental looks when a girl says she wants to be a nurse. It is considered a time when girls should be saying that they want to be doctors, lawyers, or the president. Now that we have been given the ability to reach for the stars, why would anyone want to strive to be anything less? However, Kaminsky points out that nursing is a really stunning and even feminist profession. It is an academic and scientific field staffed almost entirely by women with women in almost all the top positions. There is great demand for nurses because of the shortage. Therefore, people are willing to pay high wages, give great benefits, and be flexible about hours. She notes that this is actually the perfect profession for a mother because it is so flexible, surprising that it is generally considered a woman's job then. Kaminsky comments on the change in relationship between physician and nurse and how it is less patriarchal than it has been in the past and there is a feeling of mutual respect. She argued that an increase in demand would place a higher value on the job, however I'm not sure if that is quite accurate and is the only issue I have with her piece. Although there is more need for nursing, I tend to think of great need as a clue that it is an undesirable job rather than the opposite.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Follow Up: “Choosing Nursing: A Feminist Odyssey”, “Finding the Face in Public Health Policy…” and “Acting on a Grander Scale…”

All of these articles look at health care and feminism’s role in the health care. In Turner’s article she makes the point that “one should never compromise when trying to make a difference” (108). I think this statement is very interesting. In one way it makes the point that when changing something for the better you should not settle, but on the other hand I think that compromise is often the best way to actually accomplish something. I guess it would depend on the situation. The question that I have is: it better to compromise and have something change a little, or not to compromise and not change at all? I think there can be different arguments for both. The health care system in America is suppose to be changing, but as Turner points out the poor are not represented in the health care system now, so will anything change for them?
Mendez and Kaminsky write about their personal experiences as members of the medical side in the health care debate. Both are medical personnel, but make different points. Mendez writes about the need for bilingual doctors, and her personal experiences with it. Kaminsky writes about how nursing is considered a feminine job, but explains how that should not down play how important of a job it is. I think this relates to the debate on being a housewife. A woman should not be seen as less depending on her job, but in today’s society she is. Housewife and nurse are both feminine jobs, and both are looked down on. The connection between the two is that a typical woman’s job is worth less than a typical man’s job. Mendez’s point is that it is not only men who look down on nurses, but feminists as well and this should change.