Sunday, February 27, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Summary of: "Hormonal Hurricanes: Menstruation, Menopause, and Female Behavior" by Anne Fausto-Sterling and “Lean and Mean” by Susan Douglass
Fausto-Sterling writes about the different myths that surround menstruation, menopause, and the general female behavior. She starts with the basic myth that hormones control women. Apparently, these hormones make women biologically less than men. Fausto-Sterling quotes numerous doctors who support the conclusion that biologically men are more fit to rule than women. This idea that hormones rule women is historical idea. In the 1800s scientists argued that men and women require different educations, and this idea continues today. Some scientists have come to the conclusion that women are just not fit for certain jobs because they require a male. Fausto-Sterling points out how there are a lot of flaws surrounding the science behind these assumptions of women are their hormones. Experiments do not account for important factors many times. Scientists will not listen and believe the things that women are telling them. Also much of the "evidence" for female behavior is correlation, not causal.
Fausto-Sterling writes how menstruation is seen as a disease, that all women have until they fall victim of another disease, menopause. If you are a woman, there is a bind surrounding menstruation and menopause. If you complain then you are making things up. If you do not complain then you just have to suffer in silence. Fausto-Sterling also writes about diagnosing PMS, and the real science behind menstruation and menopause. For hundreds of years (and it continues today) menstruation and menopause are/were seen as something that controls women and marks them out as diseased. Testosterone plays a big part in menstruation, and men have testosterone but men are not considered diseased because, well, they are men. When a woman acts negatively it is viewed as evidence for the biological behavior of women, but when she is positive it is just personality and nothing to do with her hormones. Fausto-Sterling talks a little about health education, and how young girls (no matter their class or race) have a negative attitude toward menstruation. This reminded me of Douglass's argument for better sex education in schools.
Throughout the reading Fausto-Sterling explains different reasons why hormones are seen as the ruler of women, and how this in turns encourages patriarchy. The myth that because men do not suffer like women from hormones (not true) they must be the better gender has little real evidence as Fausto-Sterling explains. Despite all of the myths surrounding women and their bodies, she is hopeful for a coming change.
“Lean and Mean”
Douglass writes in this chapter how being lean may be connected to being mean today. She begins with the fixation women have on their bodies. Women are not born with this fixation, but taught it by society through the media, books, posters, peers, etc. Enlightened sexism tells us that being skinny is a way to be empowered. If you are beautiful then you might be powerful, but if you are ugly you definitely are not empowered. So simply, how hot you are equals how powerful you are.
Douglass goes on to explain how the perfect body today is not possible naturally. Women are expected to be size zero in jeans and size 38D in bras. Eating disorders have risen dramatically as well as plastic surgery. Despite how impossible it is to have this body, the media seems to be full of women more beautiful than possible. Clothing stores, magazines, ads, etc. everywhere you look you see the images of women you can never be like naturally. Douglass looks at the lie that plastic surgery sells to women. If you do not like how you look (how could you be perfectly happy with your body?) then plastic surgery empowers you to make the change. If you go under the knife, you wake up happy. She explains shows like “The Swan” and their horrifying display of American society. Americans now spend more on plastic surgery then education. This shows clearly what American society is telling us, (just as Abercombie&Fitch did as well) “Who Needs Brains When You Have These?”
From being lean, Douglass moves on to being mean. Douglass admits that women can be absolutely horrible to each other. She gives different examples of female cruelness, such as in the movie Mean Girls. She also thinks that women have been taught by enlightened sexism to be mean to one another.
Her overall message in this chapter is that we need to recognize the paradox of enlightened sexism with body image and personality. If a woman is not flawless than she does not measure up. Girl power means that girls are hungry for power over each other. Women just can’t seem to win.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Follow Up: “Toward a Global History of Same-Sex Sexuality” by Rupp and “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence (1980)” by Rich
Rich argument surprised me. In her first paragraph she suggests that heterosexuality takes away from the feminist movement. She goes on to explain that heterosexuality is a way for men to dominate women, and if not enforced on women for thousands of years, many women would not think that they are homosexual. I think this has some validity to it. If society told us that homosexuality was the norm, and that was what is acceptable, maybe more people would be gay? On the other hand, I would disagree with some of the things that Rich says. She seems to be arguing that feminists should all be lesbians. I think that this goes against some of her complaints that heterosexual feminists are not open to lesbian feminists. Isn’t that hypocritical? Many of her views are very extreme too, such as saying that all sex with men is subordinate. Can’t women make other women feel inferior too? Also what happens to women who prefer sex with men?
Something that caught my eye was when Rich writes how women use sex so as to get attention from men. While saying that all sex is just a way to get attention is too extreme, it is an interesting point. Many girls today feel like they have to be sexual for men to like them. I bet that most girls in this class (and guys too for that matter) know multiple girls who have gone farther with a guy in order to a) impress him or/and b) get him to give her attention. As I said today in class I had a friend who had sex in eighth grade. She did not have sexual desire yet, but she felt like her then-boyfriend might break up with her if she did not have sex. He did not force her to physically, but mentally?
Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Douglass writes the American sex culture, focusing on how it affects young women. She talks about how our society is paradoxical. On the one hand, our society tells us not to talk about our sexual habits, and on the other hand, society is full of sex (on TV, ads, buses etc.). “SEX ‘R’ US” is a clever chapter. Douglass brings up different points effectively and humorously. On the first page she writes how right-wing conservatives religious groups and liberal feminists actually agree on one thing: sex.
Douglass introduces a new term for us in this chapter, the sexpert. This is new female icon is very comfortable with sex and talks about it all the time (or just be Carrie from Sex and the City). The sexpert is confusing because she is suppose to be on equal footing with men when it comes to sex, but this is the only thing she is actually equal to men with. There is a thought that sexual equality means economic and political equality, which Douglass disproves. The sexpert can be dangerous though, not to men, but to young girls. Douglass devotes a lot of the chapter talking about how young girls are being told to be sexperts too young. She looks at shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Calvin Klein ads. Young girls are being displayed as sexy before they can even legally have sex. I don’t think that six year olds are empowered by getting to put high heels on. I also don’t think that anyone will have good self-esteem if the way to be happy is to be a beauty queen by age three.
“SEX ‘R’ US” goes on to talk about the media and its role in creating this sexpert. Douglass compares the power of magazines, television, movies, and music. Magazines like Cosmo and Mazim give advice to their different audiences about how to “get the guy/girl” and “become beautiful instantly.” TV, movies, and music also support the image of the sexpert and how by being beautiful and an expert on sex, you are equal. Douglass also relates the personal story of how she saw a college boy wearing an inappropriate shirt. She gives this as an example of how our society allows sexism in daily life because we think it no longer matters. (On a side note this story made me laugh because one of my guy friends at Colgate has a shirt that says: “Fuck Bitches, Get Money” on it).
Douglass makes the point of how sex is at once exuded by our culture and also kept under the raps. Young girls can read about “How to become instantly sexy” but are not taught about safe sex in schools. It is how females are sexualized that is the problem; instead of having sexual liberation, it is more: do everything you should/can do to get Mr. Right.
“Why Black Sexual Politics?”
Collins begins this chapter describing black sexual icons from different generations. She then goes on to explain how black men and women are stereotyped through their sexuality. There are differences with how they are sexualized though. Black women are excitingly different from white women with their “booties” and their wild sex drives. Black men are also considered to have a wild sexuality, but to go with their wild sex side is their wild violent side.
Collins focuses on how black people are repressed in society today. She makes the argument that racism has not lessened rather it has just changed. She looks at capitalism, class and politics. This new racism is not obvious and so harder to fight than the Jim Crow laws were. I have read arguments similar to this, and one author called it “color-blind racism” which I think aptly describes the new racism that permeates our society.
“Why Black Sexual Politics?” looks at how Western culture is filled with sexuality and at the same time is very repressive. Collins and Douglass both make the same argument that sex is at once everywhere and not openly talked about. Adolescents should be taught about safe sex instead of just seeing it on a billboard. Sex sells so there is no way that adolescents will not be exposed to it, thus it is unreasonable to not want sex education because kids should not know about sex. Sex is all around us in society; not talking openly about does not change that.
Collins goes on to talk about how technology supports racism and sexism. She points to different TV shows such as The Montel Williams Show and Jerry Springer. These shows support the stereotypes surrounding blacks and their sexuality.
She finishes the chapter with the thought that until our society stops being repressive racially and sexually then we will not move forward.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The issue of abortion is hotly debated across America. Pro-life and pro-choice groups have rallies, petitions, and more in hopes of garnering support for their side. Recently a pro-life group called “Live Action” released videotapes of their supporters acting as people interested in receiving services from Planned Parenthood. The videotape was created to question whether or not Planned Parenthood should continue to receive funds from the federal government. The reality of Planned Parenthood is that it is a necessity for women who cannot otherwise receive the care that they need. The funds for Planned Parenthood are already low, and should not be cut. The video tries to show Planned Parenthood in a bad light, but it really shows how Planned Parenthood is there for every type of women who needs the medical care it offers and the confidentially it promises.
An article in the New York Times discussed the recent tape of a Planned Parenthood in the Bronx, New York. The Bronx Planned Parenthood Is Target of Under Cover Video article’s link is here: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/bronx-planned-parenthood-is-target-of-undercovervideo/?scp=4&sq=women%20rights&st=cse. The article, written by Anemona Hartocollis, discusses the videotape of a man and woman going into this Planned Parenthood as a pimp and his prostitute. The video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCWf1MB92Pw&feature=player_embedded.
This video has different effects on people. On the one hand, for people who are pro-choice the video suggests that Planned Parenthood allows for child prostitution to occur. On the other hand, for people who are pro-choice the video shows the reality of Planned Parenthood’s predicament to protect women at risk, and to try to get women to come in so as they can receive medical and social help. Lila Rose, president of Live Action, made a statement saying that Planned Parenthood’s funds should be cut directly because they are abetting crimes of sex trafficking and exploitation of minors (Hartocollis 1). As a pro-life leader, she is directly against the service of abortion that Planned Parenthood offers. Planned Parenthood responded to this by saying that this is a false claim and that after the incident the staff woman in the video reported what happened to the F.B.I., following protocol. The organization defended itself against the attacks by pointing out how the girls who were “in need” of health services were not actually there, and if they had been they would have been screened for child abuse and met by a social worker. This video has spurred many members of pro-life and pro-choice to become angry over the implications.
Planned Parenthood is officially known as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and offers health services at its various clinics around America. It is funded by the federal government and has been in existence since 1916. Its founder was Margaret Sanger. She was a feminist in the early 1900’s who worked for women to have their rights, health, and equality. Today Planned Parenthood describes itself as: “A trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.” (PlannedParenthood.org). Planned Parenthood offers health services to men and women who are in need. The organization does not just provide health services, however; it also tries to educate the community and spread awareness.
Live Action is a non-violent pro-life group. They are “a youth led movement dedicated to building a culture of life and ending abortion, the greatest human rights injustice of our time. We use new media to educate the public about the humanity of the unborn and investigative journalism to expose threats against the vulnerable and defenseless.” (LiveAction.org). Their projects are all about abortion, and most of them aimed at Planned Parenthood too. The project site is: http://liveaction.org/projects-of-live-action. Live Action accuses Planned Parenthood of allowing statutory rape, prostitution, and abortions, as well a being racist. Planned Parenthood is their target because legalized abortions take place there. One of Live Action’s projects actually leads to a video where an abortion procedure is shown. This is a powerful group with over 47,900 people liking it via Facebook. Live Action passionately believes in their cause and pursues their goals fervently.
Live Action questions the necessity of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does offer abortions to women. In some states, a woman may not receive an abortion if she younger than 18 without her parent’s permission, but this is not true in all states. Planned Parenthood will provide abortions if the requirements are met, along with offering other health services. Pro-life groups disagree with Planned Parenthood and their stance on abortion. Pro-life groups, such as Live Action, are calling for Planned Parenthood’s funding to be cut.
Planned Parenthood is portrayed as an organization that allows for many crimes to be committed because they will let “anyone” have an abortion by Live Action. On Live Action’s website there is a blog which argues that Planned Parenthood is not, as others will portray it, a feminist organization but the opposite. The blogger, Lauren Uhrich, writes, “To its defenders Planned Parenthood is the allegorical home of FEMINISM. Never mind, that the rights and freedoms of hundreds of thousands of little women are denied by their abortion procedures each year.” (http://liveaction.org/blog/). This is an interesting argument because many people do consider Planned Parenthood to be a feminist organization because it allows women to control their own bodies. In The Essential Feminist Reader, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards write about the importance for “a woman’s right to bear or not to bear a child” in their Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (Freedman 425). The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margret Sanger, a famous feminist is also accused of being a eugenicist and having a plan to kill black children through Planned Parenthood (Rose, http://liveaction.org/planned-parenthood-racism-project). The central argument against Planned Parenthood is that it is an organization that allows for crimes and other atrocities, and it should be shut down.
The question, right now, is whether or not the federal government should fund Planned Parenthood. Pro-life groups argue against tax money going to abortions, when Planned Parenthood uses no federal money for abortions. The videotape of the Planned Parenthood in the Bronx does not show that is allows for illegal activity, as Live Action argues. The reality of the world is that abortions will occur even if they are illegal. Before abortions were legalized, women died because they went through “back alley” abortions. Planned Parenthood offers women a safe, sterile place to have an abortion. The organization does not advocate that women have abortions, and before each abortion staff members discuss the other options with the patient. Planned Parenthood offers abortions to women who want one, they do not force anyone into it, and the government should support the organization.
Like abortions, prostitution is sad reality of the world today. Prostitution exists across the world and saying that organizations like Planned Parenthood some how encourage it is ridiculous. Yes, it is true that there are some prostitutes that come to Planned Parenthood to receive abortions. However, is it not better that there is somewhere safe for these women to go rather than to have them try to lose the fetus is some other way? Also if Planned Parenthood does suspect that something is wrong with the woman (for example if is she is a teenage sex worker) than they are meet with a licensed social worker. The staff member who met with the Live Action workers might have been trying to get the “pimp” to bring the girls in so that they could be brought safely away from him. It is unreasonable to accuse Planned Parenthood of allowing prostitution or statutory rape, and it is even more unreasonable to try to shut down Planned Parenthood.
The videotape in question does not prove that Planned Parenthood agrees with prostitution or statutory rape. After the “pimp and his prostitute” left Planned Parenthood, a staff member reported the situation to the F.B.I. What is interesting is that there is no mention of the F.B.I. following up on the situation. No one seems to have accused the F.B.I. of being killers, only Planned Parenthood. It makes one wonder how many cases of prostitution are not investigated by the F.B.I. and why no one questions this.
Live Action’s stance on the video is not subjective; it only shows what Live Action wants to see. Clearly, Live Action is going to be against Planned Parent because Live Action is a pro-life organization. Live Action is calling for the government to not fund Planned Parenthood, but this would be a mistake. Planned Parenthood offers services to many who are in need. It also offers confidentiality, which is allows people to feel comfortable enough to go to Planned Parenthood. The accusations against Planned Parent by Live Action are unfounded. Planned Parenthood may provide a service that is controversial, but it is the woman’s right to have those services.
Banning the Burqa
There has long been criticism over the way that the religion of Islam treats women. People have argued that the system severely oppresses and isolates them. The burqa plays a major role in the claim because it forces women to cover their faces, therefore masking their personal identities. European countries that have been passing legislature to ban the burqa cite this as one of their main grievances. They claim that it is impossible to be a part of a democratic society, which relies so heavily on face-to-face communication and discourse, if one is not recognizable. However, if Muslim women see the burqa and their religion as part of their personal identity, the new laws will be just as oppressive as the religious ones they are trying to put an end to. These new restrictions could be just as devastating and repressive to women who, according to European countries trying to ban the burqa, are already suffering under patriarchal laws disguised as religious practices.
European countries are facing a dilemma. They have consistently been known for their open mindedness towards religious and cultural rights and freedom of expression. However, Europe is full of modern countries. According to one source, European countries are having difficulty trying to “reconcile the values of modern Europe with more assertive expressions of Islamic faith” (Gauthier-Villars, 1). Being a republic, France values communication between its citizens. When members of the population are wearing face-obscuring scarves, this task becomes much more challenging. Justice Minister Alliot-Marie states that “Showing one’s face is a question of dignity and equality in our republic,” if one is not able to do that, they do not seem fully active in the political sphere (Gauthier-Villars, 3). Along with the problem of democratic ideals are the negative values that seem to run alongside the burqa itself. Many maintain the belief that “the Muslim headdresses worn by woman are symbols of misogyny and totalitarian patriarchy” (Sheen, 1). Some, like Nicholas Sarkozy, have even gone as far as to say that the burqa is “a sign of enslavement and debasement” (Gauthier-Villars, 1). The possibility of outlawing the burqa on the grounds of republic ideals would essentially kill two birds with one stone. Not only would it negate the issue of communication, but would also allow women freedom from oppressive religious restrictions. One activist for banning the burqa, Solodkin, stated that “part of democratization is to say no to tradition” (Sheen, 1). Democracy is a form of government that believes in forward momentum. Ideals or traditions that are repressive and restrictive should not be kept simply because of their historical importance. France, in keeping with this statement, previously banned “headscarves, yarmulkes and other visible religious symbols from being worn in public schools, in the name of separation of state and religion” (Gauthier-Villars, 3). This direct example shows how modern European countries are making changes as a means to benefit all.
However, there are some standout representatives of countries that have banned the burqa who feel that it may be an attack on Islam and its women rather than a means of protecting democratic values. Thomas Hammarberg, a commissioner for human rights on the Council of Europe stated that none of the countries that banned the burqa “have…managed to show that these garments in any way undermine democracy, public safety, order or morals” (Schultz, 3). This realization that no definite conclusions were reached encourages the possibility that banning the burqa was a result of “Islamophobia” rather than a democratic or women’s issue. In fact, many women claim that wearing the burqa is a personal and even empowering decision that they made for themselves rather than one forced on them by a patriarchal society.
First, the burqa has taken on many connotations that it may not have been meant to carry. Most people automatically associate the burqa with the religion of Islam; however, this is a serious misunderstanding that is deeply engrained in many Western cultures. The burqa doesn’t come from religion at all; its roots are actually wound in the pre-Islamic cultures of Persia and India. It was created as a “protective response to the slave trade that existed before Islam, rather than a patriarchal one” (Carpenter, 4). Islam itself, in its purest form, is “the most progressive of all religions when it comes to women’s rights” (Carpenter, 4). It allows and expects women to own their own businesses, inherit wealth, choose marriage partners and even divorce them. The negative associations we make with Islam and the oppression of women come from the radical forms of the religion, not the actual teachings.
The majority of Muslim women have chosen to wear the burqa of their own free will. In an article about Muslim women’s opinions of the burqa, the author, Carpenter, stated that “nearly all of those interviewed stressed that wearing the veil was a personal decision, a far cry from the coercion experienced in Afghanistan” (2). She went on to say that “even in countries where the hijab is not required, today more younger women are covering their heads” (3). Obviously the hijab, which only covers the hair, isn’t quite as impeding as the burqa, yet it conveys a strong message. Women are choosing this symbol as a means of representing their faith and they do not see it as a hindrance to their communication with others or as any type of inconvenience. Michelmore, an associate professor of history at Chatham College added to the argument by asserting that she thought “that for many young women, it’s a symbol that they are attached to their culture, they’re proud of their religion, and they see it as part of their identity as separate from the globalized McDonald’s world” (Carpenter, 3). This argument makes it seem like a stretch to say that women who wear the burqa are forced to do so by the patriarchal society that is embedded in the religion of Islam.
According to Carpenter, many Muslim women even see the scarves or veils as forms of feminist expression. This is based on the idea that “it forces people to judge [women] by their character rather than their looks” (Carpenter, 3). In this way, they are empowered by being able to protect their physical appearance. One Muslim woman says that she feels it is liberating because “it protects [her] dignity. [She doesn’t] have to worry about looking good and doing [her] hair all up just to impress others” (Carpenter, 3). Other reasons for wearing the burqa have to do with the sense of belonging it instills in Muslim women. It allows them to be connected to something that it very important to their way of life and is a “visible manifestation of [their] faith” (Carpenter, 1). Michelmore continues to add that for many Westerners, “cultural restraints on individual behavior automatically look like oppression…[however] for lots of cultures, communal standards aren’t seen as inhibiting individual freedoms. They’re seen as part of belonging to a group whose cultures and values are important to those individuals” (Carpenter, 4). It’s important to step out of the Western frame of mind when examining different cultural traditions, like the burqa, because often they are not restrictive in their relative situation. The burqa for Muslim women seems to be a positive choice that they make of their own accord.
While the burqa seems to be an individual choice that Muslim women enter into willingly, there is still the question of how they come to the decision. They say they are not personally oppressed or forced into wearing the burqa, and that is truly believable. However, the question still remains of how a system that expects women but not men to cover themselves came into being. Especially a system that makes women feel like it is fair and okay and makes them do so willingly without protest. Although they do not consider it a form of patriarchy, the fact that the inequality exists makes it seem as such. One source described this phenomenon as a patriarchal hegemony. The burqa is a symbol of patriarchy that is justified under the name of religion and therefore makes women willing to accept it. Women eventually adopt the burqa as a part of their identity, making patriarchy a part of their new identity. Women are consenting to being a player of the subordinate group by participating in the practice of the religion that encourages them into a lower category (Dhanan, 3). This means that, although Muslim women say they are not oppressed and choose the burqa themselves, there is still the possibility that the cultural norms of patriarchal hegemony run deeper than we realize.
Although it is a possibility that European countries are correct in stating that the burqa is a form of patriarchy that oppresses Muslim women, the fact still remains that it is unwise to “fight an oppression with another oppression” (Schultz, 3). By not allowing a group of women to practice their religion freely, not only would they be oppressing the women as well, but they would be going against their commitment to freedom of religion. Even though it is important to make sure that women have equal rights, in this case, with the population of Muslim women who wear the burqa in the European countries being so small, it seems like a case of paranoia at a religion that has recently been taking a lot of heat in the media. Islam has continuously been negatively publicized, especially for its treatment of women, even though it preaches equality in its purest form. While the burqa is definitely a religious norm to question and to speculate the necessity of, it is not the governments place to intervene on the religious territory of a woman’s daily life.
Carpenter, Mackenzie. “Muslim women say veil is more about expression than oppression.” PG News. N.p., 28 Oct. 2001. Web. 11 Feb. 2011.
Dhanan, Jay. “On Burqa Ban in Belgium.” Pragoti: Progress and Struggle. N.p., 17 Apr. 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2011.
Gauthier-Villars, David, and Charles Forelle. “French Parliament Passes Law Banning Burqas.” The Wall Street Journal 15 Sept. 2010: 1-4. WSJ.com. Web. 11 Feb. 2011.
Schultz, Teri. “Belgium Unites to Ban the Burqa.” Global Post. N.p., 29 Apr. 2010. Web. 11 Feb. 2011.
Sheen, David. “After France, Israel considers ‘banning the burqa.’” Haaretz 10 Feb. 2010: 1-3. Haaretz.com. Web. 9 Feb. 2011.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Follow up: Anne Fausto-Sterling Sexing the Body: “Gender and Genitals” and “Should There Only Be Two Sexes?”
Fausto-Sterling writes about the surgeries that doctors will perform on babies when their sex is not perfectly clear. She clearly disagrees with this practice for multiple reasons. She talks about how doctors will not tell the parents all the details about the surgery done to their child. I think this is wrong. A parent should be able to receive all the information about what is happening to their child. By not telling the parents, it is allowing the doctor to make choices about a child that is not theirs. Fausto-Sterling goes on to talk about the debate with nature vs. nurture and why the doctor does not tell the parents about their child’s surgery in more detail. I do think that nurture is usually more important than nature. Your parents could be murders, but that should not reflect on you. Still that is not an excuse for not telling the parents.
I was shocked when I read about how doctors choose what sex to make the intersex babies. The pole vs. hole line was awful. I agree with Tira that it is encouraging a patriarchal society. I think that a penis size should not be the deciding matter of what sex to make the baby, but I am not a guy.
This chapter really made me wonder what I would do if I suddenly found out that I was an intersex baby. It is a crazy idea to think and I am curious if parents usually tell their children or not.
“Should There Only Be Two Sexes?”
In this chapter Fausto-Sterling talks a lot about how she thinks things should change. (I have to admit I was happy to see she had suggestions…) I am curious about the part where she mentions how medical students traumatize children by sitting in on their medical examinations. I thought that patients had the right to tell the doctor that they only want the doctor to be in the room? Also, a medical examination might be uncomfortable for any sex, let alone someone who is intersex or someone who had surgery to change their intersex state. It is not that I am disagreeing with Fausto-Sterling’s points, but I do think that it is interesting.
One point in the chapter really caught my eye. It was when Fausto-Sterling talks about how Americans argue against genital mutilation in different cultures, but it occurs within our own. This reminded me of the book Cosmopolitanism by Kwame Anthony Appiah, which every freshman (2014) had to read before coming to Colgate. In Cosmopolitanism Appiah writes about genital mutilation and how Americans should not be so judgmental, that we did not understand the culture so we could not understand the practice. If we look at the intersex surgeries from a cultural view then we learn a lot about our society. Perhaps the reason we want sex to be either male or female is because men and women are treated differently. So when we participate in a patriarchal society what happens to the person who is neither a man to be placed higher nor a woman to be placed lower?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
The first chapter of Fausto-Sterling’s book Sexing the Body gives a basic overview of what society thinks of sex. Society views gender as just a physical attribute. Before coming to Colgate I agreed that sex was defined by your physical appearance, but now I think there is more to it. During orientation at Colgate, the entire freshmen class attended a program called “In Their Shoes” in which older students at Colgate gave speeches about themselves and being a Colgate. One student talked about his sex change. It really made me think of how hard it would be to live like that. He talked about how bathrooms were hell for him. It kind of fits in to what Fausto-Sterling writes about nature vs. nurture. It seems that gender is not just defined by what nature assigns to you, but that nurture also plays a part in it. I also think that it is possible to have the physical attributes of one sex, but to feel more comfortable as another. I think that society should try to become more accepting of people who are transgender. It is not something to be ashamed about, and I think it would be very hard to not feel accepted as you are. In a way it is almost like how some people view homosexuality. Just because you do not fit into some people’s view of whom you should love, it does not make it any less beautiful that you are in love.
“The Sexe Which Prevails”
Fausto-Sterling writes about how society considers there to be only two sexes. When you are born, you are either male or female, even though biologically you can be more. She discusses hermaphrodite history, and how this is evidence that there are not only two genders. I took an Anthropology class last semester and we read a book that discussed gender. The book talked about how gender is more about personality than we realize. The author believed that the brain is what controlled gender. Physical attributes may not necessarily assign you a gender. There are not only two sexes, rather there is a wide spectrum of sex and people fall in various places on that spectrum. Fausto-Sterling also discusses how doctors can now assign a sex to a baby at birth. I think this presents an interesting dilemma. Do you choose the sex of your baby and then not tell them? If you do not tell them you could have chosen wrong, and your child might not feel comfortable in their body. On the other hand if you tell your child, it might confuse them and make them feel different. There is also the option of allowing your child to choose what they want to do once they have grown up a little, but this also presents problems too. I am not sure what I exactly think of this situation, because there are a lot different things to consider. I agree with Fausto-Sterling that when doctors do surgery to make the child more male or female, it does emphasize how our society sees only two sexes.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Summary of The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House (Lorde), White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (McIntosh), and A Bla
Lorde is a black lesbian feminist who is sick of prejudice. She begins her article on how black women are separated from white women in the feminist movement, with the focus being on what white women think. She says that racism, sexism, and homophobia are inseparable in America and we need to do something about that.
Much of the article focuses on difference. There is a difference between being tolerated and being appreciated. Lorde writes how black women are only tolerated, and the same is true for homosexuals and women. She also discuses age and economic status, and how this affects how you are treated. There is a divide between black and white women because they have different experiences. No white women will ever be able to understand what it is like for black women, but there should more of an effort to try to. If feminists want to get rid of prejudice against women, they should work harder to get rid of prejudice against black women too. Lorde brings up Adrienne Rich, which is interesting because we have read some of Rich’s writings previously.
Lorde writes that there is a difference between being male or female, being white or black, being gay or straight, and being young or old. These differences cannot be helped, but the prejudice that goes along with them can be.
Peggy McIntosh: Unpacking the Invisible…
This article also looks at racism within the feminist movement. McIntosh describes what men believe about women becoming empowered. Men think that the relationship is one of negative correlation (as one goes up, the other goes down), but McIntosh disagrees. She links how men see sexism to how white people view racism. The privileged group does not see how they are privileged. Racism and sexism are both forms of prejudice that need to be ended.
There are many forms of prejudice in the world today. McIntosh looks at racism and sexism, but she mentions many other forms as well. She makes a list of the ways that she is privileged every day. When describing the list she only mentions how black people have different experiences because they are not privileged; she does not mention any other race, which is an interesting side note. One of the items on the list struck me particularly. It is number seven, which says: “When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is” (2). She is just talking about how white people are the ones that people mostly learn about in history class, yet it can also be said that it is mainly white men that people learn about.
McIntosh goes on to discus prejudice in our society and how it affects everyone, even those who do not think that they are affected. She calls for new social system, just as the Combahee River Collective does. Finally she concludes that power needs to be redistributed without prejudices to control whom gets what.
Combahee River Collective: A Black Feminist…
The Combahee River Collective is a group of black, lesbian, feminists who want to see a change in the social structure. Like McIntosh and Lorde, they criticize the feminist movement for being hypocritical. On one hand, feminists fight for equal rights between men and women, and on the other hand, there is a divide between white feminists and black feminists.
The Combahee River Collective starts out by talking about what it is like being black women. They list the different stereotypes that go along with black women, and how they reject these attributes. White men are considered above black men, black men are higher than white women, and white women are higher than black women. Sexual politics are directly involved with racial politics, and class prejudice is also important when looking at how people are treated.
They call for a total social revolution, but even this may not be enough. The Combahee River Collective writes about how personal these issues are for them, and they are sick of waiting for them. There is a call for everyone to become involved with attaining equality for people. Like Lorde, they directly look at the racism involved with the white women’s movement. The struggle for equality is harder for black and homosexual women, and instead of ignoring this fact (like white feminists do) the Combahee River Collective wants to start a social revolution.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
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