Wednesday, March 30, 2011

News Flash: “Libyan Woman Struggles to Tell Media of Her Rape”

In war, rape is often used a tactic to control, scare and threaten. There are many accounts of men being raped by other men in war, but the use of rape against the female population in war is more often and widely spread. Throughout history there are many documented accounts of mass rapes of women by soldiers, mercenaries and civilian men. The rape of Nanking, the genocide in Rwanda, and the Bosnian War are just a few of the most famous examples for rape being used as a war tactic. Today, this disgusting strategy for domination continues. On Saturday March 26, 2011 a Libyan woman struggled to tell her horrific story of rape to western reporters. She managed to get into the Rixos Hotel in Libya, where many reporters are staying, but was later dragged out by Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces.
The Libyan woman’s name is Eman al-Obeidy. There is little known about her, other than the few things that she managed to tell reporters. She told reporters, she was raped by fifteen different men and that, “I was tied up, and they defecated and urinated on me” (Kirkpatrick 1). She said that she was a native of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Qaddafi militia held her for two days before she managed to escape. Obeidy was tortured by these men, and says that she is not the only one. She yelled that her friends were still being held. It is terrifying to imagine what horrors these men are inflicting on those Obeidy left behind.
Obeidy went to the Rixos hotel specifically looking for news reporters because she believes, “there is no media coverage outside” (Kirkpatrick 1). This could be an example of the Libyan government trying to control the press. This is another tactic often used in war. In war torn areas journalists are often at risk of violence, or are not allowed to go to certain places. Governments do want their despicable practices to be exposed to the world. Charles Clover of The Financial Times tried to help Obeidy when security forces were trying to her to leave. He was treated roughly, and later told to leave—the Libyan government claimed that his reports were inaccurate. It can be assumed, however; that the inaccuracy was not in his reports; rather they lay in how the Libyan government treats their civilians.
Obeidy struggled with security forces for almost an hour. This clip shows part of her struggle: According to The New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick, Libyan forces treated her better than they would have if reporters had not been present. If a woman being forcibly dragged away is considered an example of less force, one wonders what goes on where journalists are not allowed to go. Both Libyan security forces and restaurant staff tried to apprehend Obeidy. In the video, one waitress throws a coat over her head, while another waiter tries to push the press back. Weapons were reportedly brandished about—a knife and a revolver were brought out when trying to control Obeidy. No one was seriously injured, but one wonders if that would be the case if not for the western reporters? Would anyone even know her story?
Eventually, Obeidy was forced into a white car and driven away. According to Musa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, “she appeared to be drunk and mentally ill” (Kirkpatrick 2). It is clear that the Libyan government is trying to discredit Obeidy’s account of the horrors inflicted on her by their militia. Discrediting rape victims is another common tactic used against women and men. While this case occurred in Libya during a time of war, discrediting rape victims is tried throughout the world. In the United States, rape victims are often accused of lying. Many a defendant has stated, “She wanted it.” One would hope that the rape victims would be believed before the rape defendants, but sadly this is not always the case. Who knows what explanations Obeidy’s rapists told themselves? Rape is never justified.
The fate of Obeidy is not known. Khalid Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said that she would be “treated in accordance with the law” (Kirkpatrick 2). If the government controls the militiamen who raped and tortured Obeidy, it does not reflect well on what she is going through at the hands of the government now.
Eman al-Obeidy is one of many rape victims. She suffered at the hands of her government, the same government sworn to protect her rights. Rape is used in war to intimidate. Obeidy says that she has no fear now; she only wants her story told so that other can know what is occurring in Libya. Her cry for help is not for herself; it is for the innocent living in Libya in this time of fear. The brutality of the Libyan government is a reminder of the cruelty that humans will inflict on other humans in order to stay in power. Obeidy’s bravery is not wasted, however, her story of terror appeared all over the news. Hopefully, this abuse will not be treated lightly, and she will not join the ranks of the millions of women raped and then forgotten in war.

Kirkpatrick, David D. “Libyan Woman Stuggles to Tell Media of Her Rape.” The New York Times. 26 March 2011.

“Embed Player” Channel 4 News.,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_VhJQ6tgdykx3j23oh1YN- 2U&bctid=857700396001.

Follow Up: Eang and Mink

I was really interested in Mink's standpoint on the Personal Responsibility Act. She notes the fact that poor, single mothers are thrown into an entirely separate law system. They are the only people who the government can punish for having children, who the government can expect intimate details about relationships from, and who are forced by law to allow biological fathers into their families. This seems incredibly unfair to me, as a woman. I can't imagine having these aspects of my life controlled by the government and would deem it an incredible intrusion on my privacy, not to mention my rights as a human being. These mothers are deprived of equal citizenship because they aren't paid for their labor. They have to make the choice between wages, and their work as a mother. Mink claims that these women are owed welfare for doing the job they do. However, this is where I get a little bit stuck. Single mothers everywhere are forced to make tough decisions to raise their families. Even women with husbands are sometimes forced to work in order to provide for their families. I'm not quite sure what makes this particular caste of women different. Although I think it would be great for the government to be able to hand out money to single mothers, I'm not sure that this is realistic. One other thing to point out was the "typical" woman on welfare. People see this woman as black, lazy, promiscuous and matriarchal. This is similar to the articles we have read about black women either being hyper-sexualized or turned into motherly, nurturing figures. I'm sure plenty of women on welfare are white, but it's just interesting that the stereotype is of a black woman.

Eang and her whole family of women seem like exceptional people. The things I thought were most notable in this article were the way Eang's mother was forced to work to support her family and the chasm between old and new Cambodian cultures. First, the way Eang's mother was forced to work reminded me of "The Mommy Tax." In the article, they discuss the fact that it's even harder to be a mother if you're working a blue collar job, which is exactly what Eang's mother was doing. Blue collar jobs require mandatory overtime, are physically draining, and often require training sessions that cannot be missed. When Eang talks about not seeing her mother for almost a week at times, it is clear to see what a price her mother was paying for just $4.50 per hour. The other thing that caught my interest was the cultural clash between the old and new Cambodian attitudes. Eang and the women of her family are modern in their views that women should be strong and opinionated. Traditional Cambodian women are expected to be meek and quiet. I wonder if this has to do with the Cambodian genocide and that women decided they couldn't keep quiet anymore. However, it paralleled my News Flash about Indian cultures very well and therefore caught my eye.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Follow Up: “Leading By Example: My Mother’s Resilience and Power in the Fight against Poverty” and “The Lady and the Tramp”

“Leading By Example” – Rosanna Eang
Eang gives a beautiful view of her mother in this story. She tells how her mother fights for her children. The story begins with saying that Eang’s family fled Cambodia from the regime. She explains how, before her family was able to leave, her mother used a machete to get food her children. (From this point on I knew that her mother was impressive.) Her article continues with her family moving to Philadelphia. America is far from perfect for Eang, though. She is sexually abused, her family is poor, and she experiences racism. Eang writes that by the time she was eight years old, she was working full time doing manual labor (picking blueberries) when she was not at school. Eventually, Eang goes to college. She says how her family is so surprised by her and her sisters attending colleges because it is not what good Cambodian women do.
Throughout her story, Eang’s mother is her rock. Her mother works tirelessly to protect and care for her children. When the welfare law changes, she attends school while also working. Sometimes her children would not see her for a week, but she made time to be with them. It is clear that her children drive her forward. When Eang speaks about going to college she says how it was her mother who encouraged and pushed her. Her mother does not believe in the stereotypes that Cambodian women are meant to follow. She wants her daughters to be strong, independent women. Without knowing what it means to be a feminist, it sounds like Eang’s mother is the definition of one.

“The Lady and the Tramp” – Gwendolyn Mink
This article addresses the injustices that face poor single mothers and the challenges of the welfare system. Mink writes how she, and the other women in the Women’s Committee, is mobilized to not speak for the poor single mothers, but with them; what is the poor women’s fight, it every women’s fight. She goes on to write about the Personal Responsibility Act, and how it is unjust. Mink believes that women do not take up the welfare call because many feminists are white, middleclass women, who do not have to deal with the welfare system.
A big issue that Mink has with the Personal Responsibility Act is that this law distinguishes poor single mothers as a separate caste—a group that is subject to a different system of law. She thinks that welfare is a necessary part of equality for women because it gives support for those working within the home. For the most part, women who are work within the house are seen as women who do no work. Housekeepers, maids, and nannies are all paid to do work, that women who work in the home are not paid for.
An issue for the welfare system that Mink suggests is the stereotype of the welfare woman. The welfare woman is lazy, promiscuous, and unintelligent. She could get enough money to support her family if she just worked hard enough. There is also a racial part of the welfare woman (she is not normally white). Mink argues that poor single women on welfare are the victims. She wants feminists to unite for these women, and to work with them. Since money is the way to become powerful in American society, these women need money. The welfare system is flawed because it suggests that you must work, and ignores the work that goes into raising a family. There is a gender divide that should be addressed, and poor single women are just one part of the divide.

News Flash Two: Life Without Gender

            In 2010, Norrie May-Welby was registered as the world’s first legally genderless individual.  An Australian, she was registered by the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages as neither male nor female.  The certificate she was issued is a type of identification used by the government to mark a sex change.  With public awareness however the registry soon backtracked explaining that they are not authorized to issue a certificate that marks anything other than male or female.  May-Welby promptly filed an appeal with the Australian Human Rights Commission.  Although the certificate did not remain genderless, the event has still spurred much debate regarding how we define gender and how we consider it politically.  May-Welby raised public awareness about variations in gender that do not fall under the currently accepted binary system.  Even though she was not completely victorious she has spurred much conversation about gender and whether we need to rethink its construction in our society.  Globally there are people who identify as either “gender neutral” or “gender variant”.  More recently attention has been given to these individuals and the scientific research surrounding gender.  Furthermore, cultures around the world historically and presently demonstrate examples of people who do not identify with being male or female.  In some societies these people are accepted as “normal” whereas other societies consider these people to be “abnormal” or “variants”.  The article emphasizes the need to readjust our thinking about gender and what is actually normal.  Thus, I believe that the media attention given to May-Welby may promote the idea that a binary gender system is constructed by society and thus we need to rethink our concept of gender to create a more encompassing system.
            Gender and sex are two very separate terms that are often used interchangeably in our society.  Sex refers to a biological construct that is physiologically determined and characterized by anatomy and physical attributes.  On the other hand, gender is non-biological and constructed by cultural ideals and constructs.  Although we often assume that gender is natural it is actually something that we have created as a society.  In other words, as a social construction, gender is derived from our culture rather than our genetics.  As Anne Fausto-Sterling stresses in Sexing the Body, “what we call ‘facts’ about the living world are not universal truths. Rather as Haraway writes they ‘are rooted in specific histories, practices, languages and peoples,’” (Fausto-Sterling, 7). Thus, gender is determined by our ideas, behaviors and expectations.  One’s physical appearance and genetics do not always correlate to their gender identity.  There are psychological aspects and cultural factors that also play important roles.  The concept of gender is not as straightforward as many people expect.  When deciding how we organize gender politically and socially we must take into account those people that do not identify as male or female.  Like May-Welby, there are individuals who do not fit into this binary system yet still must be accounted for.  Society first must understand that there are gender differences and then accept this variability as natural. 
            Primarily, I believe that this article is a small yet important victory for gender.  It definitely caught the attention of many people globally and in doing so raised awareness about gender differences, which do not only include male and female.  Therefore, I would consider the situation to be a victory for “gender neutral” and “gender variant” individuals.  Although May-Welby did not gain the gender certification that she desired, she did bring the issue to the forefront.  It emphasizes the shifting view from binary classification schemes to more a encompassing continuum.  A continuum view, which the article explains has already become more common among psychologists and researchers, acknowledges other possible gender identifications.  Fausto-Sterling also argues for a sexual continuum explaining that biologically our bodies are not only male or female; instead we have culturally constructed this concept of only two genders.  Thinking of gender in this non-traditional way works to expand our ideas on what gender is.  Some consider this view to be a type of protest as is does counter many societal norms and expectations.  Clearly, the idea of a continuum goes against traditional ideas on gender and how people are identified.  Still, it is necessary to question societal beliefs and re-evaluate how we think.  Critical thinking of how we identify individuals is essential for an inclusive perspective on gender.  Therefore, the article is a first step in raising awareness about a continuum rather than a binary classification scheme for gender.
            Fausto-Sterling further emphasizes this view, explaining intersex conditions.  These are many sex abnormalities that can occur.  People with intersex conditions do not fit into a male or female category.  Individuals born with these conditions often immediately undergo surgical procedures, demonstrating how deeply embedded this two-gendered system is in today’s society.  A shift in the way that we understand intersex conditions, gender neutral and gender variant individuals could yield a more inclusive system of gender.  Fausto-Sterling explains, “the way we traditionally conceptualize gender and sexual identity narrows life’s possibilities while perpetuating gender inequality” (Fausto-Sterling, 8).  Therefore, to better encompass all genders, a new continuum-like system is required in place of our current binary classification.
            The article also introduces examples of cultural differences in understanding gender.  For instance, in India the hijra are accepted as biological males who dress as women and identify as genderless.  These individuals do not fit into the accepted binary system, which dominates the United States, yet their society is more accepting of people who do not fit into this strict classification.  This example stresses that our view of gender is biased; it depends on beliefs and norms rather than actual physiology. 
            Rethinking our gender system is an uncomfortable conversation for many Americans.  The female-male based system that is widely accepted in the U.S. seems to organize life.  Everything from bathrooms, to dormitory rooms to societal roles are structured according to whether one is male or female.  When a person’s gender is unknown one is often uneasy and does not necessarily know how to act towards that individual.  Our mental perception of one’s gender is so deeply ingrained in our society and cultural views.  It is difficult not to identify people as male or female because that is one of the first distinctions that we often make and accordingly base our behavior off of.  Still, by recognizing that gender is a social construction and does not accurately reflect one’s actual identity, it is apparent that we need to change our language and how we think of gender.
            Overall the construction of gender is deeply woven into our society.  We are taught from a young age that we are either male or female.  Our toys, clothing, treatment and behavior reflect that distinction.  Thus, gender is a biased social construction.  Intersex individuals and other people who identify as gender neutral or gender variant are excluded from this system.  We need to face reality and better classify individuals based on gender.  Therefore, a two-gendered system is insufficient and should be replaced by a continuum perspective of gender.  Individuals like May-Welby emphasize the need for this change and shed light on the improper system that we currently accept.  


Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Kantrowitz, Barbara & Wingert, Pat. “Are We Facing a Genderless Future?”. Newsweek 16 Aug. 2010.    <>.

Summary Post: Mink, Eang

Mink, “The Lady and the Tramp”

This article explains how the current welfare system is harmful to poor single mothers.  By not giving these women welfare, Mink argues that we are depriving them equal citizenship by not paying them for the work that they are doing at home.  She also argues that many people think of single mothers in a stereotypical manner, as either lazy or promiscuous.  This mentality leads people, even other women, to vote anti-welfare.  Mink stresses the divide between classes that becomes apparent in this welfare debate.  Middle class women often are unsympathetic to these poor single mothers.  The lack of sisterhood is evident thus as middle class women refuse to fight for the rights of poorer women.
            Mink also explains that the feminist emphasis on workplace rights and equality has led to the belief that women are supposed to work outside of the home.  Thus working inside the home is not as “socially productive”.  This concept leads people to think and vote in specific ways due to their mentality that women have the right to work outside of the home and therefore they should.  However Mink explains that there is a difference between having this right and being obligated to do so.  She begs the question, is it right that social policy forces poor single mothers have to have an outside job?  Mink believes that welfare should be a right and thus women should receive recognition for their work inside the home.

Eang, “Leading by Example”

            Eang recalls her difficult childhood and the determination and strength that her mother taught her. Through the inspiration of her mother, who worked in many factories and farms, she learned what it was like to exhibit female power.  Her mother worked many jobs, went to adult school and meanwhile took care of her children and relatives.
Furthermore, Eang explains that although gender roles and stereotypes often seem to be so ingrained in cultural norms they can be changed.  In her Cambodian family, a woman is meant to be obedient and dependent on men, yet her mother was able to balance tradition with new ideas and thus paved the way for Eang and her sisters.  She believes that the answer for improvement in gender equality is through leadership as well as initiatives and programs to better the lives and health of individuals.  In addition, by refusing to conform to cultural beliefs, woman can lead by example and begin to change stereotypes.  Eang also argues that all women are connected due to their quest for gender equality and improving the lives of women and children.

News Flash

Rape in India: A Cultural Clash

The New York Times recently ran a story about an Indian man and woman who, seeking alone time together, met in a private spot off the beaten path of the suburb of Ghaziabad outside New Delhi. All they wanted was a moment of solitude, but what they got was shockingly different. Five drunk, young, men from a nearby farming village approached the couple. The men proceeded to gang rape the young woman and beat and rob the young man of his laptop and cell phone. This general animosity and cultural clash between the people of the city and the people of the villages has been generating a lot of tension in India. The incidence of rape has increased dramatically in the past 30 years. Although there are speculations as to why this has occurred, the widely held belief is that it is a result of a clash between “old and new India” and their vastly different cultural standpoints (Polgreen, 1). The underlying cultural tensions in the area are clearly running high at the detriment of young women.

The statistics of rape in India are most definitely shocking. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) the incidence of rape has increased by 700% since they started keeping track in 1971. As a point of comparison, all other crimes have only grown 300% since the NCRB began keeping track in 1953 (Gandhi, 1). This means that the number of rapes a day has grown from seven to 53 in only 40 years (Gandhi, 1). Clearly something has changed to make these numbers jump so drastically in such a short period of time. The major city of India, New Delhi, is under especially close scrutiny. Nearly one fourth of all the rapes reported in the cities of India in 2009 were in New Delhi (Harikrishnan, 1). Although all these statistics are incredibly disturbing, the most disheartening figure has to be that 85% of women in the capital felt unsafe and feared being sexually harassed, according to a survey by the United Nations in 2010 (Harikrishan, 1). This should never be the case and reflects incredibly poorly on the government, law enforcement, and bureaucracy of New Delhi.

One theory for this extreme rise in rape is that more and more women are beginning to work in the cities. New Delhi is one of the fastest growing cities in India and this year alone its economy is expected to grow 9 percent (Polgreen, 2). The workforce has almost doubled in the past 15 years to accommodate this growth which means that many more women are now working outside the home (Polgreen, 2). This phenomenon is a shock to traditional Indians who are used to women staying home and taking on a more conventional role. A leading women’s rights activist, Ranjana Kumari, said “There is a lot of tension between the people who are traditional in their mind-set and the city that is changing so quickly. Men are not used to seeing so many women in the country occupying public spaces,” (Polgreen, 2). Many men are extremely uncomfortable and hostile towards this new arrangement, and have taken out their resentment through aggression. This is an especially common sentiment in the villages and more rural towns outside of the city. These men are used to seeing their women covered, modest, and meek. In Raispur, the village where the rapists were from, women “live hemmed-in lives, covering their faces with shawls in front of strangers and seldom roaming beyond the village,” (Polgreen, 3). Thus, the women of the city, who are independent, self-reliant, and most likely less modest, are seen as a personal affront to the traditional culture. Their modern Western values are a threat to the traditional culture that men, like the inhabitants of Raispur, are accustomed to.

However, the major difficulties of stopping violence against women are the pervading cultural norms that continue to hem women in. Although they are becoming increasingly modern, Indian women can’t seem to shake certain customs that are imbedded in their lives from childhood. There is a certain amount of shame associated with rape in Indian culture. Many women see it as the ultimate destruction of their honor. This allows men to rape women without very much likelihood of punishment. Deputy police commissioner in New Dehli, Dhaliwal, says “They have no doubt they will get away with it,” because of the cultural norms instilled in Indian women to see rape as shameful rather than inherently wrong (Polgreen, 2). The girl who was raped in the New York Times article refused to help with the investigation because, according to her, “The police will not be able to restore my honor,”(Polgreen, 4). Because of this type of attitude among women, Mr. Dhaliwal estimates that only one in 10 rape cases is actually reported (Polgreen, 4). Along with that issue are the problems of bureaucracy in India. Even when women do report the crime, the process of going to trial for a rape case can be so frustrating and intimidating for the victim that they decide to drop the case (Dhoundial, 1). This could be why the conviction rate for rape is only 27%, a shockingly low number considering the frequency with which it occurs (Dhoundial, 1). The government will need to take serious action if it has any hope of increasing the number of convictions and decreasing the incidence of rape.

Although the numbers are extremely disheartening, New Delhi has been making an effort to create change. Law enforcement officials claim that the rates of rape have actually dropped in the last four years. They attribute this decrease to more aggressive policing efforts combined with structural changes. For example, India has created women only train cars and often requires companies to escort women home if they are employed on the late shift (Polgreen, 2). These modifications and adjustments are a step in the right direction. However, the fact that women are scared of being out alone at night for fear of sexual harassment and rape isn’t something that can be cured just by structural or institutional changes. The safety of women will require a complete change in the way people think, especially men. It will have to be a grassroots effort from the ground up to change the cultural expectations of women. Indian men will be forced to accept that women can and should work outside the home and must get used to seeing them there. This is the only way women will find safety outside of their homes in India, something that every person should inherently be entitled to.


"Rapes of Women Show Clash of Old and New India" by Lydia Polgreen

"Rape: India's Fastest Growing Crime" by Shreya Dhoundial

"Shame: Rape is India's Fastest Growing Crime" by Jatin Gandhi

"60 Registered Rapes a Day" by K. S. Harikrishnan

Monday, March 28, 2011

Summary Post: Ehrenreich, CrDitenden, Pinand, and Mainardi

Maid to Order by Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich points out the change of the role of housework in women's lives. In the 1960's and 70's housework was seen as an equalizer among women because, regardless of status, all women cleaned their own homes. However, this shifted as women began to hire housekeepers and became a means of oppression and a way to create a certain hierarchy. Before, the home was considered by some feminists to be supporting capitalism because men couldn't contribute to the economy if they had to do all the work at home. Because of this, men were seen by certain feminists to be domestic exploiters. Housework became a point of power. It is a degrading job so if you didn't have to do it, you had power over the people who did have to. Hiring people to work as housekeepers and clean for other women became a trend in 1999. There was huge growth in the market between 1995 and 1999. Although 80% of women continue to clean their own homes, Ehrenreich points out that the 20% who aren't are the ones with the actual power and money who make a political or social statement. It is especially notable that the women who are doing the cleaning are often women of color. This further enforces the idea of a hierarchical system. Ehrenreich makes the observation that children growing up now are being raised in a "servants economy." They are living in make believe lives where the socks they drop on the floor are magically picked up. We are generating a world of kids who don't realize the implications of the things they do on other people. This could be extremely dangerous in the future.

The Mommy Tax by Critenden

Critenden starts out with an enraged statement, saying that an antifeminist group quoted that women were now earning 98 cents to every man's dollar. This is deceitful because it is only childless women from 27 to 33 years of age. She claims that mothers are the most disadvantaged women in any workplace and will lose hoards of money throughout their lives if they choose to play the motherhood role. Having children can even lead to poverty if the mother was close to the line before becoming pregnant. She discusses the better systems in France and Sweden where the government is very supportive of mothers, making it much easier for them to have children without having to sacrifice their careers. Critenden also points out the difficulties for women working blue collar jobs. These women are often forced to take on overtime and miss training sessions while they are on maternity leave. The inability to handle these added responsibilities often results in the loss of a job which leaves mothers in poverty. I thought one of Critenden's best points was that a woman who goes home when she is supposed to, not even early, endangers her well being and her position. This is not the way it should be, especially for mothers trying to hold families together. This seems to be exactly what happened to DiBiasi. Anti-feminists also point to small businesses as a way to say that women are doing better and are not being discriminated against. Yet, although more women than ever have them, 45% of the businesses are run straight out of their own homes. To be fair though, it isn't only discrimination towards women. Fathers who had working wives earned 20% less than other men. This implies that parents in general miss out. Critenden mentions the "Be a Man" strategy, meaning hold of having children and work long hours as long as you possibly can. However, many women then miss out on having children altogether, which is a strong price to pay for a career.

Stories from the Sidelines by Pinand

Pinand describes her experience as a young woman, new to the corporate office. She discusses her qualms about how she will maintain a healthy family life with her career goals. She then goes into her own experiences in the workplace and how they have formed her so far. Pinand points to the importance of "face time" in the workplace. It seems that it doesn't matter how much anyone can get done and how efficient they are if they are not at the office. Reviews and recommendations from supervisors end up mattering much more than the actually work that has been done in the end. She also emphasizes the "tone from the top" idea. The management essentially mandates how other people will act. By one senior choosing not to take advantage of family friendly policies, it then becomes frowned upon for others to as well. She also notes the fact that she's afraid to voice her opinions on these subjects because she can't risk her livelihood. This made me think of "The Globetrotting Sneaker" because the women of Asia don't really have a choice either and therefore, are forced to endure unfair conditions in the workplace without a way out.

The Politics of Housework by Mainardi

Mainardi mainly uses examples from her personal life to illustrate the politics of housework. She believes that men find housework below themselves. Although they will begin a relationship acting like they are willing to share the load, they will eventually make it so difficult and painfully annoying for their spouse, that she will end up doing most of the work herself. Mainardi claims that men prefer to do jobs that they can see the effect of in the long run, like fixing the garbage disposal, as opposed to ones you can't, like dirty dishes. Although no one likes doing these jobs, Mainardi believes that men have become used to not doing them. This ties in nicely to Ehrenreich's point that men cleverly made just enough effort to make it look like they tried with the housework, and were able to slip under the radar.

Follow Up Post

These articles demonstrate how difficult it can be for women to have both a career and a family.  Megan Pinand explains that sometimes women are told that they need to chose one or the other rather than have it all, a decision that fewer men are faced with. It is important to point out as Pinand explained that overall success is often measured in personal relationships as well as careers.  Thus, it is unfair for women to have to choice either one or the other while men are allowed to pursue both. 
My mother has worked as a schoolteacher while raising myself and my 5 siblings.  However she did switch from full-time to part-time when we were younger so that she had more time to spend with us.  Luckily, working at a flexible private school, she was able to return to full time when we all were a bit older.  In addition, like many other working mothers, she is the parent that usually cleans and prepares dinner.  Thus, after a day at school, she still does additional housework. 
As Barbara Ehrenreich explains, more women are maids than men.  This demonstrates how deeply engrained the idea of women as the homemaker is even in today’s modern society.  Housework is viewed as a female duty and thus falls into their realm of responsibility.  I definitely think it is necessary to question why this is.  So many aspects of society have changed; many more women are in the workforce however they are still expected to do the housework as well.  It is interesting that Mariarosa Dalla Costa sees housework as the commonality for women.  She explains that her demand of wages for housework is also a demand for power.  This view calls for a strike from housework, which is unique because many women share these responsibilities and thus the fight could be supported by millions of females.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Follow Up Blog

These readings all focus on the inequalities that women face in the work force. In all of the articles, except for “Maid to Order” there is a great focus on what mothers have to give up to have careers. Both of my parents work, but my mom took time off when she first had children. My parents made the schedule work, but there were a lot of times that one of them (at least) would miss something that they wish they didn’t. This is not to blame my parents; rather it shows how hard the system is. I thought that it was really interesting in “The Mommy Tax” how France is able to provide mothers with so much more support than they receive in America. This seems to be providing system that is more pro-women. I wonder why America has not implemented a system more like this? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the people who make America’s laws are mostly male. The female population in congress is only 16%, when it should really be 50%. I am not sure if it is different in France’s government, but I think there should be change
In “A General Strike” I thought that a really good point was made. When men go on strike, they go on it for themselves, not for women. Women are always home doing housework, who goes on strike for them? I do think that most marriages are more equal now, but that does not take away from the fact that housework is linked to women. In “Maid to Order”, Ehrenreich makes the point that maids are mostly female. I wonder where this link with housework started? How did our ancestors decide what is feminine and what is masculine? In some ways I feel like it was just luck of the draw.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Media Midterm Project: The Girls Next Door

Media Midterm Project: The Girls Next Door

Three blonde women, animated into bobble heads, dance around the Playboy mansion. They have perfectly curved bodies, smooth, unblemished skin, and platinum blonde hair that many girls would kill for. Their practiced smiles are glued to their faces as a rapidly aging Hugh Hefner joins the crowd. This is the visual stimulation as the opening credits for “The Girls Next Door” are shown. “The Girls Next Door” is a reality television show that first aired in 2005. It chronicles the lives of Hugh Hefner’s three girlfriends, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson. It follows the girls through their daily lives within the house, the fabulous parties they attend, the work they do outside of the mansion, and their relationships with Hugh Hefner. The girls are interviewed on a regular basis to make comments about their plans and previous events. Thus, the viewers get an ongoing commentary and an up-close view of the dynamics in the Playboy mansion. Although it is an extremely entertaining show, the message it sends isn’t exactly encouraging. “The Girls Next Door” encourages and exemplifies the theory of enlightened sexism and feminism, enforces a strict form of patriarchy, and pits women against one another, which allows this practice of oppressing women to continue.

Enlightened feminism is an idea that Susan Douglas puts forward. It essentially suggests that all of feminism’s goals have been achieved so now it is appropriate for women to focus on their appearance and pleasing men. This is exactly what “The Girls Next Door” is doing. Their lives revolve around making themselves beautiful and attractive to men. Through appointments at salons, new, revealing, clothing, and dieting to get attractive bodies, these girls make themselves the icon of male desire. Their sexuality is an especially large part of what makes them attractive to men, and according to society, since all the goals of feminism have been reached, it’s perfectly alright to flaunt their heightened female sexuality. The film clip of the Fourth of July is particularly revealing, as far as this phenomenon. All the women are scantily clad is tiny bikinis (some even less) and are expected and praised for exhibiting themselves like a work of art for the many men at the party. Their power is specifically in making men want them, even if it is only based on physical appearance.

Although it is not shown in either of these clips, another goal that the girls desperately want to achieve is the opportunity to pose in Playboy magazine. Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends are not playmates, and therefore have never before been in the magazine. It is an especially significant goal to Bridget who has always dreamed of being a Playmate herself. The fact that this is such a steadfast aspiration of these girls implies that they believe it would bring them power. They see their bodies as marketable objects that serve the purpose of raising them to the level of men. If men desire their bodies, then they have a certain hold over them. Although I’m not sure if Bridget thinks so deeply about the subject, the underlying message, especially for young girls watching the show, is that having a hot body and being willing to show it brings women power.

However, while watching the show, it becomes very clear that these girls are not in power. Hugh Hefner is responsible for the wealth and livelihood of Holly, Bridget and Kendra. The girls live in his home, eat his food, and hang on his arms. They don’t seem to have serious career interests, while Hefner runs a company. In choosing to be his girlfriend and have the privileges the girls do, there are also strict rules put in place. The girls have a curfew and are expected to be in by 9 pm every night. They are not allowed to date other people and are not allowed to do overnights anywhere else, which seems odd considering that Hefner has 3 girlfriends himself. It is surprising that there are so many restrictions imposed on women who are apparently in control of their own bodies and lives now that feminisms work is over. Patriarchy is a system that is very obviously the ideology of the Playboy mansion. The girlfriends allow Hefner to have an incredible amount of control over their lives in order to be a third his girlfriend. The girls are also always portrayed as ornamental objects, and seem to mainly be for Hefner’s entertainment. As far as the progress of feminism, the Playboy mansion seems to be a Mormon commune accidentally placed in the 1900’s.

Shows like “The Girls Next Door” also foster a certain type of sentiment in the viewers. When we watch reality television that portrays women the way “The Girls Next Door” does, we seem to categorize women into two groups. There are women like the ones we are watching on television (Holly, Bridget, and Kendra) and there are us, the viewers. We elevate ourselves above them because according to us they are slutty, uneducated, dumb blondes. We put ourselves in what Douglas refers to as the “Smart Club.” However, by elevating ourselves we are degrading a different type of woman. In its essence, by putting down other women we are playing into a system that makes women look bad as a whole. In this way, we contribute to the system of patriarchy that women are trying so hard to fight. If women are subjugating other women to a lower threshold, then it is hypocritical to be upset that men do it as well.

“The Girls Next Door,” although incredibly riveting and addicting television, is a step in the wrong direction for feminism. It implies that power is gained through exploiting our bodies and acting stupid so that men can feel good about themselves. We trick ourselves into thinking we have the power in this dynamic, but how powerful can a woman possibly be when she is willing to share her boyfriend with two other women? Until we can face this problem of enlightened feminism directly, and publicly denounce these images and stereotypes instead of watching them out of interest, we will make no progress.

Media Midterm Project: More Than A Bank Account

More Than A Bank Account
IndentAccording to Western society, women today have everything they want; they can vote, have any job, and marry whom they please. Sexism no longer exists…right? Many people would like to think this, but in today’s society there are many implicit and explicit examples of sexism. As Susan Douglas explains in her novel Enlightened Sexism, sexism today says that women are equal to men in every way, as well as telling women that the route to power is though their bodies, sexuality, and attire. Enlightened sexism reveals how sexism is still rampant, but no longer considered a serious issue. The media has fully adopted enlightened sexism. An example of this is the ad by Natan Jewelers . The ad has a man kneeling to a woman with a closed ring box; the woman’s legs are closed. In the next picture, the man opens the box to reveal a diamond ring; the woman’s legs are now spread open. This ad by Natan Jewelers demonstrates the sexism that still exists in today’s society and that blatant sexism sells. Women are still seen as inferior in terms of gender, race and power.
IndentGender is very important in this ad. The man in the ad is barely seen. The woman is the focus as, “girls and women are three times as likely as men to be sexually objectified to sell products in ads” (Douglass 182). The woman’s legs are thin and shapely, which is seen as attractive in Western culture. The ad does not just demonstrate how appearance is central in a woman, but also how apparently driven women are to get married. Before the woman in the ad sees the ring, she is not interested in sex. Now that she is going to be married, however, she is open to having sex. The ad, like many other media images, shows the “hailing of the pitiable helpless, self-absorbed, marriage-obsessed Bridget Jones as the epitome of millennial womanhood” (Douglas 115). This ad relays the sexist message that marriage is essential to women- so important that they will even have sex for it. As Paula Ettelbrick points out, “marriage defines certain relationships as more valid than others” (306). Being committed in a relationship does not equal marriage. Thus every woman must strive to find a man to marry her so her life can now be complete. Enlightened sexism sells the idea that marriage is the end goal for every woman. So Natan Jewelers uses this message and translate it into how vital it is to get that diamond ring. Natan Jewelers has a theme with its advertising. An engagement ring instantly changes how a woman sees the male. In each ad, the man is instantly more attractive (attractive enough to have sex with now!). Some more examples of their ads:
IndentYet, there is also another theme: race. The people displayed in Natan Jewelers ads are all white. In the ad with the man asking the woman to marry him, their faces are hidden, but their race is apparent. In fact, race is one of the few intelligible things about the people in the ad. So why are the people in this ad only white? Well according to enlightened sexism, African American women do not care about their marriages as much as white women do (Douglass 151). This ad is catered to wealthy, white people. If other races are less likely to be able to afford a Natan Jewelers’ engagement ring or less likely to get married, why have ads displaying their marriages? This is just one of the media’s messages to society regarding women. Douglas jokes about what the media now tells society as fact: “African American women are lazy, threatening, have a chip on their should, are not marriage material…” (208). Race along with sexism, is seen as unimportant today. Race and sex should not matter, so they do not. If only it were that easy.
IndentThe power that marriage gives is considerable. Ettelbrick writes, “marriage provides the ultimate form of acceptance for personal intimate relationships in our society, and gives those who marry an insider status of the most powerful kind” (306). Being married has many benefits, such as tax breaks. Who gets to decide when to marry? Why the man of course! A woman asking a man to marry her? Hilarious! Or even more shocking same-sex marriage! Natan Jewelers has a man proposing because this is what American culture says is correct. This ad is representing the double standard for men and women. The man has the power in the ad’s relationship because he is the only one who can pop that all-important question. What is made worse in this ad is that the man seems to only be proposing to the woman so that he can have sex with her. According to Natan Jewelers, people do not get married because they are in love. Instead, men propose to women because they want sex. Natan Jewelers exemplifies Douglas’s point when writing about advertising in the 21st century, “the rampant return to the often degrading sexual objectification of women” (155). The power play displayed in Natan Jewelers’ ad is said to be a joke, but the fact is that it is the truth.
IndentThe media sells the message that sexism is over. Feminism should be dead because women are equal to men. Yet if sexism does not matter, then why can the white woman only give sex in return for the favor of proposing to her? It is ironic that sexism is supposed to be dead when society is full of it. Women are told that they are equal to men, but at the same time degrading ads such as Natan Jewelers’ one profess the actual view of the media. The media professes an idea of gender equality while also printing ads, such as Natan Jeweler’s. When speaking of trying to find appropriate ads for the Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem writes, “that our main problem would be the imagery in the ads themselves” because, as she points out, sex sells (2). Natan Jewelers printed this ad because they believed it would be successful. So Natan Jewelers tells men that after giving an engagement ring, they get to open more than just a joint banking account. The ad is made out to be a joke, but in reality, only reveals how far women still have to go before they can really be considered equal to men.

Media Midterm Project "Write the Future"

Nike's "Write the Future" Advertisement

            Nike is a global sportswear and athletic equipment provider.  Its brand name shoes and sporting apparel are found on many high profile athletes and teams.  In 2010, Nike promoted the World Cup with an inspirational soccer campaign. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu created one of their ads, “Write the Future” which acts as a motivational commercial displaying various teams and fans.  The advertisement depicts muscular and arguably god-like male players competing.  It often switches to the crowd, which is primarily male-dominated yet includes some token attractive females.  Following a blocked goal by one of the players, a celebration scene is revealed centered around provocative female dancers performing for the players at a nightclub venue.  Again, the soccer game is displayed; fans watch anxiously and respond to the players’ every move.  Motivational music blasts in the background as the male soccer stars show off their fast speed and accurate kicks.  When their team loses a game the community is shown in peril, the stock market drops and riots break out in the streets.  But following a game-winning goal by England’s Wayne Rooney, he is knighted and the nation rejoices.  Newborn children are named after the star athlete and the economy quickly bounces back.  Furthermore, average people of all age groups imitate the soccer players.  Yet among these people are only two women, one of which appears to be falling over the soccer ball while the second is dressed in eccentric workout apparel displaying her toned midriff.  The camera also focuses on two female cheerleaders dancing promiscuously in the crowd.  Eventually, Cristiano Ronaldo erupts into a soccer superstar complete with his own statue.  A biographical movie is created and he shows up to an awards show accompanied by a gorgeous woman.  The commercial ends just as Ronaldo is about to kick with the caption “Write the Future” accompanied by the signature Nike swoosh.  Ultimately, Nike’s “Write the Future” advertisement excludes women from the sports realm by emphasizing male power and portraying women only as sex objects or jokes.
            The only women included in the Nike commercial are fans or sexually objectified.  The few fans that are not sexual objects are shown cooking in a kitchen as they watch a game celebration on television.  The women that attempt to play soccer are inept; one is even about to fall over.  The commercial thus displays women as inadequate; it promotes the message that females do not belong in this masculine realm of sports.  Therefore this endorses the stereotype that athletics are part of a male-dominated domain in which women have no a place.  By displaying this image girls are in danger of stereotype threat.  When they receive images of male superiority and female inadequacy they are more likely to have a fear of conforming to that stereotype and this can undermine their performance.  This advertisement discourages women from participating in athletics and thus alienates them from the sports arena.           
In addition, the fact that this commercial is inspirational masks the embedded stereotypes.  The advertisement is motivational for men as they can identify with the players.  Furthermore, all people can identify with their country’s team.  Thus, to many viewers the stereotypical message is not overt; in fact the commercial received much positive feedback following its release.  Many do not see the embedded sexist portrayal of women as housewives or sex objects.  Instead they see a group of strong men representing their nation and a community that supports them.  But this ignores women by omitting any positive portrayal of them.  “Write the Future” does not show a female soccer team or a female fan that isn’t focused on for her attractiveness or sexuality.  It also does not show any young girls playing soccer along with the boys.  This lack of female presence is a huge disadvantage.  By neglecting women in this manner, the advertisement does a great disservice to American girls.  Young girls, especially athletes or soccer players across the U.S. are given no positive female role models.  Unlike boys, girls are not given the opportunity to identify with a player or see the impact that one woman or women’s team can have.  Without role models or positive media portrayal, it is likely that girls will feel inadequate.
            The commercial also emphasizes that the women’s role is either at home as a housewife or as a sex object.  The women in the commercial were primarily hypersexed, as cheerleaders and dancers, while constantly working to please men.  Thus the ad portrays the stereotypical view that women must be attractive and feminine in order to gain male approval.  This relates to Douglas’ opinion that the media reinforces beauty standards and objectifies women.  In addition, she argues that the media teaches women that their source of power is derived from male approval.  Therefore, Douglas calls attention to the way that the media often emphasizes beauty and sexual objectification as the only means to achieve happiness.  This Nike advertisement is an excellent example depicting female happiness as dependent on male approval.  The attractive dancers were either performing for the men at the party or the male players at the soccer game, in both cases they were merely sexual objects on display.  As Douglas reiterates, “their main task – in other words, the status quo for girls – was to construct and maintain a great appearance” (31).  The advertisement portrays women as having little importance besides looking attractive.  This concept is also demonstrated by Ronaldo’s date who plays no substantial role besides being an ornamental escort for the star soccer player.  Douglas further argues in her “Sex ‘R’ Us” chapter that the media illustrates that women obtain power only thus through sex and sexual display. She also explains that the media endorses the body as essential to female control, deeming it “a crucial resource in establishing your net worth as a female” (216).  Thus to avoid being invisible a woman is taught by the media, and especially this commercial, to display her body and endorse her femininity in a way that makes her desirable to men.
            Furthermore, the commercial emphasizes male power over women and society as a whole.  These male soccer players are the center of attention and their success or failure affects the entire nation.  Thus, the men have absolute control in this commercial.  Women are portrayed as the inferior gender and dependent on the male actions.  Female happiness in the commercial depends solely on how well the men perform.  This portrayal is dangerous in society.  It prompts women to measure their success in terms of men.  This relates to Douglas’ discussion of Bridget Jones’s Diary, which displays a lead character whose self-esteem depended deeply on male approval.  It also connects with her critique of many male-centered magazines, which emphasize what a women can do to make men happier, and how a women should change to better encompass male needs.  The commercial and these magazines show a women’s happiness to be stringent upon men.  In the commercial, it is dependent on soccer success, in many of the magazines sexual pleasure is emphasized.  This idea takes power and control away from the woman, as she plays a minute role in her personal wellbeing.  If women are as dependent on men as this advertisement suggests, they are simply pawns in a male-dominated world.  Therefore the portrayal of men as having such a immense influence over women is detrimental to feminism as well as to the idea that women are capable and should control their own lives. 
            Ultimately, this Nike advertisement maintains the existing male-dominated hierarchies.  In her chapter “Castration Anxiety” Douglas explains that women power is often seen as threatening to the hierarchical relationship that places men superior to women.  In a veiled manner, the commercial emphasizes this regime and helps men remain superior, through athletic supremacy, objectifying women and demonstrating power over female happiness.  Furthermore because this commercial includes sexism that is less visible or observable it may be harder to address. The stereotypical images are more subtle and this type of sexism is often accommodated by society.  Many people may not notice the inferior position that women are given by Nike.  Thus, by continuing to buy Nike products and watch the World Cup people buy into this culture of gender inequality.  The “Write the Future” commercial works to exclude woman and portray them as sex objects; furthermore it highlights male dominance.  The advertisement portrays stereotypes in a relatively subtle yet detrimental manner.  Overall it exemplifies how the media promotes enlightened sexism. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Follow Up: Enloe and Shyam

I agree with what Tricia pointed out, we consumers definitely endorse the way that the shoe companies are treating their female workers. One thing I found specifically interesting though, was Enloe's observation that the ad campaigns of the sneaker companies towards women are strikingly different than the way they treat their female workers. Nike, for example, creates ads that show women as strong and capable. Their slogan, also directed at women just as much as men, is the phrase, "just do it." Nike empowers the female consumers of its product while quietly silencing the women who create the product. I thought this was a really interesting contrast and something that definitely needs to be confronted.
On another note, I found Shyam's story really enlightening. I had always been aware of the dynamic of South Asian families and I knew it was typically a woman's job to take care of household chores and raise children. However, I hadn't even thought of the implications of being a modern day woman, who has a demanding career, while also trying to take on the role of the perfect wife and mother. From the way Shyam describes the responsibilities, it seems like it would be too much. I think it is stunning that a patriarchal and cultural system like this has been able to stand as smart, talented, South Asian women take on difficult corporate positions. I don't know how long this system will be able to last because it honestly seems like it is asking too much. I think in future generations it will be expected that the men will take on some of this extremely heavy burden.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Follow Up: Enloe

Cynthia Enloe’s two articles were both very interesting.  I find it very upsetting that women in many of these Asian factories are almost tricked into working there.  Society works to tell them that being a “respectable daughter” and a “patriot” means moving to an urban area and helping their nation financially by working at ridiculously low wages in factories.  Cultural norms emphasize finding a husband and thus appearing like a good candidate for marriage, thus the authoritarian regimes ensure that the idea of femininity is tied to factory work.  It clearly would be difficult for a woman to defy these norms as they are so deeply embedded in society.  Some factories even had dating services, which would improve worker turnover therefore decreasing seniority.  This works to decrease the chance of worker dissatisfaction because workers are at the factory for fewer years.  I can see how this is definitely strategic on behalf of the corporations, it minimize the chance that workers will be working at the factory long enough to do something about the unfair wages and conditions.
The rhetoric leads women to believe that they are truly needed to help the nation and thus are playing important roles as underpaid workers in awful conditions.  I find it appalling that American and European corporations are basically endorsing this by setting up factories wherever the cheapest labor can be found.  It is concerning because clearly corporations are out to make a profit.  These major corporations especially seem to put human rights on the backburner in order to benefit economically.  Globalization has led to conditions that I believe are very concerning.  In the U.S. we are buying sneakers with little to no thought about the true costs that actually went into that shoe.  Only with more awareness of the low and unfair wages and poor working conditions will Americans hopefully better understand what goes into their new pair of shoes. 
This is an excellent example of how we are all a part of a system and thus even if we do not think that we are directly doing something wrong, we are endorsing this sexism and rhetoric.  As American consumers we are participating in this system and thus are also at fault.  It is often difficult to see this relationship yet with more knowledge the general public will hopefully better understand the connection between one’s pair of sneakers and women’s rights.   

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Summary of Enloe “The Globetrotting Sneaker” and “Daughters and Generals in the Politics of the Globalized Sneaker”, and Shyam “Safe Keepers and Wage

“The Globetrotting Sneaker” and “Daughters and Generals in
Enloe discusses how Nike and other similar sneaker companies use woman labor to make their shoes cheap and expand their profits. She goes on to explain how governments and companies work together to create a deal. The deal is that shoe companies get to make a lot of money and the country becomes more industrialized.
Despite Nike supporting human rights and specifically women in their ads, their generosity only extends to where their profits are not hurt. When women in South Korea gathered to discuss wages, the factory managers called on troops to commit sexual harass, rape, and other horrors on the women in the name of “a control mechanism for suppressing women’s engagement in the labor movement.” Throughout the reading I found myself marveling at women’s bravery, but no more than when reading about how the same women who were harassed at their meetings, showed up to the same meeting the next week.
Enloe explains what the sneaker companies offer young women and what they offer the government of the countries where they set up factories. For the young women it is a chance to earn some income (even if it is an incredibly meager income), and for the country it allows money to be made, industrialization to occur, and their trade to increase. The sneaker companies and the governments work together to convince women that it is their patriotic duty to work in these factories. Without a change in what it means to be feminine, many women would not work in the factories.
These two chapters discuss how the women working in the factories are pitted against each other and other women looking for jobs as well. Instead of women rallying together, they are taught to distrust each other because they all want money. This reminded me of what Douglass discussed. Douglass and Enloe both write how women are taught to be mean to each other. It is not for their benefit, but for the patriarchal society’s benefit.

“Safe Keepers and Wage Earners”
Shyam discusses what issues South Asian women working in America face. A lot of the article is auto-biological. I was surprised by her parents’ support of her. Despite her traditional, patriarchal family, her parents encouraged her to get the best schooling she could. She talks about how she used to think that the patriarchal family was the only way, but still she dreamed big.
This article talks about how hard it is for South Asian women to balance having careers and their domestic duties. South Asian immigrant women have to uphold the gender roles and be successful (until their children are born). Shyam realized that for these women, they needed to know how to attain jobs so that they were not financially impaired. Her stories of the abused women not being able to leave their husbands because of financial issues are heartbreaking, and her work with them inspiring.
Shyam goes on to talk about how her own work life taught her a lot. South Asian women need to be submissive in the house, but assertive at work if they want to treated seriously. It took her a little while to figure this out, but was able to find the strength within her to do her job well. She ends the article discussing how difficult it is to “have it all.” She marvels at women who are able to balance their jobs, family, and own personal interests. I think this shows the issue facing many women today. Is having it all possible, at all?

International Women's Day!

Happy International Women's day!
Just wanted to show a video I found online!

p.s.- James Bonds is so cool.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Follow Up: Ettelbrick, FAQ's, Vaccaro

I was really enlightened by these readings. I previously thought that it was completely fair that homosexual people had civil unions and I believed that they were essentially the same thing as marriage, only different in name. However, after reading FAQ's, I found that civil unions are far from marriage. I think it's great to have civil unions if people just want to declare their love, but it is definitely not to be put on the same level as marriage. I was shocked to see how much of a discrepancy there was between the benefits of marriage and civil unions. For one, I didn't know that civil unions only functioned at the state level, although I guess that should have been obvious. I also didn't realize what a huge gap there was in expenses. I can't believe that the government is able to continue what is clearly such an unfair practice. It just seems to archaic to me to keep this institution alive. We clearly have homosexual people in our midst and I think at this point it is pretty widely accepted that there are some people who are homosexuals. The fact that we continue to support these unfair policies is so anti-progress.
I thought that Vaccaro's story, especially, gave me an inside look into what it must feel like to be homosexual and not have the same rights. Her story about the white dress surrounded by a rainbow of colors was really inspiring. I also thought Ettelbrick's point was really interesting. By creating these separate institutions for homosexuals, the government is essentially labeling them second class citizens. It is incredibly astounding to me that these policies have continued for so long, when for me, it seems like common sense that homosexuals should be allowed the same rights as any other couple that is in love.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Summary Post: Ettelbrick, FAQs, Vaccaro

Since When Is Marriage a Path to Liberation?
Ettelbrick talks about the institution of marriage in our society. She emphasizes that it is a form of acceptance, and thus many gay and lesbian couples look to marriage for self-affirmation.  Marriage can lead to a less complicated life, through it health insurance may be easier to obtain for their spouse, relationship status need not be questioned and it can simply make people feel better and more included by society.  However, Ettelbrick criticizes these feelings, explaining that marriage constrains and even assimilates lesbian and gay couples.  Marriage hurts the fight for gay identity and culture and also limits our perceptions on the variety of acceptable relationships.   She differentiates between rights and justice, stressing that even if gay couples gain the right to marry, justice will still not be achieved.  The gay identity needs to be accepted in order to increase justice.  Furthermore, differences among people need to be accepted.  
She also argues that women’s liberation and gay liberation are connected.  Marriage mainstreams a women’s voice by relating her to another person and giving the government control over her relationship.  It also emphasizes sameness, causing homosexual couples to mimic and appear like heterosexual couples, she explains. Ettelbrick says that providing alternatives to marriage needs to be stressed rather than marriage itself.  Thus, working towards gaining the right to marry is not the correct next move for gay couples, as many believe it to be.

Same Sex Marriage FAQs
This article offers reasons of why same sex couples want to marry, including love, for their children’s benefit and simply because it is unfair to deny this right.  Furthermore, same sex couples that are not married are denied many rights such as the right to visit a partner in the hospital and make medical decisions.  They are also denied social security benefits and often cannot receive health insurance for their partner from their employer.  Among other things, same sex couples are also denied family leave and pensions.  Finally, civil unions are seen as unfit compared to marriage because they may not be recognized in another state thus couples receive protection and rights under state law only.

Soldier in a Long White Dress
            Vaccaro emphasizes the need for same-sex marriage.  Even though she acknowledges that many believe that same sex marriage is too heteronormative she still explains that it is a fight that needs to happen.  As a young activist, Vaccaro found that although change takes time it is possible, even small actions play a part and can lead to difference.  As a college student, she saw that leadership within the gay community was limited, especially among her own age group.  She also suggests that social hierarchies demonstrate dominance and thus she worked by questioning societal expectations and norms as well as thinking critically about her own ideals. 
            A major focus of Vaccaro’s is raising awareness about same-sex marriage.  She explains that many straight people do not realize that marriage is denied and that many rights are lost.  Therefore, she works to improve the community understanding about marriage rights and the need for them.  Vaccaro stresses that marriage is the answer and the major fight, civil unions are inadequate and are clearly inferior to the rights associated with marriage.  

Follow Up: Paula Ettelbrick “Since When is Marriage a Path to Liberation?”, “Same-Sex Marriage FAQs” and Andrea Vaccaro “Soldier in a Long White Dress

The three readings for this week focus on gay-marriage and the reasons why homosexuals want the right to marriage. Like Vaccaro, I was raised in a small town in New Jersey (actually my town is about forty minutes away from her town), also like Vaccaro, I was in GSA. My lacrosse coach and one of my favorite people ran GSA, along with some student leaders. There were not many kids in GSA but around 15-20 kids came most meetings and for the most part I really enjoyed the meetings. My school was very heterosexual and not many homosexuals were even in the club, most of the members were heterosexual like me who wanted to support gays and lesbians. It was in GSA that I first really learned how hard it is for homosexuals in a heterosexual world. In the “Same-Sex Marriage FAQs” the author writes how homosexuals want to marry because, like everyone else who gets married, they are in love. I think it must be so hard and frustrating to love someone, but not to be able to marry them.
Juxtaposed to the two other readings, Ettelbrick brings up the point that marriage does not mean equal. She writes how homosexuals are struggling for marriage so hard when they should realize that marriage would not make it acceptable to be gay or lesbian. This reading made me think about what it will accomplish for the gay and lesbian community if gay marriage is passed? I agree with Ettelbrick that legalizing marriage for everyone would not magically fix things, but I do think it shows a step in the right direction and the more people get use to the idea the more acceptable it will be to see same-sex marriages.
Vaccaro talks about how as a girl you look forward to your wedding. You play games, dress up your dolls, and imagine your perfect wedding. To not be able to do that because you do not fit into what society views, as love is really sad.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Summary Post: "Our Bodies, Ourselves," Steinem, and "Body Projects"

"Our Bodies, Ourselves"

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective started as a group of women learning about their bodies. They found that learning about themselves and the way their bodies functioned was empowering. They endeavored to share this information with more women so that they could have the same enlightening experience. They began by talking to doctors but also spoke with one another about their own personal experiences. They became a group that was able to create political and social change. By creating and spreading the newfound knowledge women were liberated in many ways. One example was that by controlling their pregnancies, women were happier with the children they had and enjoyed their pregnancies more because they chose them. This feeling of choice and the access to the information to make good choices was a huge change in the way women viewed life. The revealing of the mysteries of the body allowed women to love themselves more and thus love others.

"Sex, Lies & Advertising" Steinem

Steinem describes the experience of working for MS Magazine which devoted itself to women. They refused to go about getting their funding through ads the same way other women's magazines did. They wanted their editorial content to be "free and diverse" and knew that certain products would impose regulations on them. They had to go around convincing businesses that they could produce a new market to sell to. Many businesses were extremely skeptical. To name a few, car companies, credit card companies and cigarette companies. Even companies that were geared towards women, like Estee Lauder, refused to print ads in the magazines because Lauder said that MS was not the typical wearer of the product they sold (even though the research indicated the exact opposite). One part I found particularly interesting was that MS readers were essentially the trendsetters of the future. They were the women on the front lines making change. Steinem says that "whatever they are doing today, a third to a half of American women will be doing three to five years from now." Why wouldn't someone want a piece of that advertising? Steinem depicts a typical struggle of trying to get taken seriously in a man's world.

"Body Projects"

In this age, the body is the "ultimate expression of the self." It has drastically changed the way women and ever younger girls think about their bodies. The image of the perfect body has changed over the years, and ladies have changed to obsess about the new cultural obsessions. The flapper era brought with it the trend of being skinny and flat chested with a bob haircut. This bob signified freedom and mobility like no other hairstyle previously had. It was boyish and required little maintenance which was not typical of previous styles. She also mentions that the new hair styles made a distinction between young and old that had previously not been so obvious. In the 1920's, bodies because less private and more public and girls started to think of themselves as "decorative objects."This attitude was only heightened by the mass production and trend of bras. Interestingly enough, the health professionals helped establish this trend. They said that it was in a girls best interest to support her breasts so they don't sag. This in some ways, reminds me of the way that doctors who do designer vaginas preach that it has benefits and thus normalize it to the population. The rise of the mass produced bra also created standardize sizing where girls were now expected to fit a certain size and if they didn't, were abnormal. This is in contrast to clothes that were generally made at home to fit the girl rather than the clothing being made that the girl had to fit into. Breasts became the new "it" body part. It mattered less how skinny you were as long as you had big boobs. This meant that girls were sexualized earlier which certainly had implications on how early girls are sexualized in todays culture. I think it also had an effect on the dieting phenomenon. Some companies gave out booklets on calorie counting with each purchase of a bra. The emphasis on thinness returned and it has been a constant struggle for girls ever since. Doctors have called it a "normative obsession" of women. They just can't stop thinking about it. There was also a shift towards being fit rather than only thin in the 1970's and an emphasis on the lower body and thighs. This was partially due to the new fashions which often showed off the belly and thighs. Lastly, piercings came into popularity in the 1990's. This was the "latest form of self-expression." The most interesting part of this section, I thought, was that girls were piercing more and more private places because more of their bodies were becoming public. I think it's definitely something to consider. What does it say that girls are piercing their vaginas so that they can have some part of their body be a private place that only their boyfriend knows about?