Monday, August 31, 2009

Women who hold up Half the Sky

This is a very hopeful and beautifully constructed piece about women in troubling circumstances in Asia.

Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ellen's and Covergirl's "Simply Ageless"

Not too long ago I was watching television and I saw Ellen Degeneres's campaign for Covergirl's "Simply Ageless" line and was shocked. In this ad, Ellen starts off by saying that "inner beauty is important, but not as important as outer beauty," and then slyly chuckles. I found this ad slightly disturbing. Many women look up to Ellen and Ellen has been somewhat accepted by the heterosexual community at large and this can be detected in this ad. What I find problematic is not Covergirl's attempt to make a product that promotes youth and vitality, but rather Ellen's comments. Even if Ellen says this statement with the intent of being funny, it sends mixed messages to viewers. Obviously, Ellen believes enough in this product to promote it on her show and to appear in the commercial, but to suggest that outer beauty is "more important" than inner beauty only assists to perpetuate our society's problem with women, aging, and beauty. I do not deny the fact that human beings select mates and even friends because of physical appearances and our interpretation of beauty. Our society as a whole has such a problem with women aging that women like Ellen feel free to joke about its importance. Self-esteem is such a huge problem in this country and we do not need people (men and women) to make snide comments about beauty, especially ones that negatively refer to inner beauty. People and icons like Ellen need to examine how many men and women suffer from eating disorders, feel the need to have plastic surgery, use steroids, and perpetuate sexist ideologies in this country before even jokingly referring to inner beauty as a sham. One would think that a woman like Ellen, who has previously received extensive criticism because of her sexual preferences, would be aware of the effects or the backlash to such critical and problematic statements.

Although I do not agree with what Ellen says in this ad, I understand that she probably wasn't the one who wrote it and/or promoted its use in this ad. She could have (and should have) refused to use it since she was becoming the "face" of this Covergirl makeup line. This ad also reminds me of those "Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline" ads from the 1990's. Yikes! Will this chauvinistic marketing scheme ever end??

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Modern Language Association and Promotion

In April of this year, MLA, or the Modern Language Association, published a study on its website that suggests that it takes female associate professors (and MLA members) longer to be promoted to full professorship when compared to their male counterparts. This report notes that "On average, it takes women from 1 to 3.5 years longer than men to attain the rank of professor, depending on the type of institution in which they are employed and regardless of whether they are single, married or divorced or have children." This study also reports other findings that support previous research. It notes that women spend more time "grading or commenting on student work" and "less time on research and writing" than men. Female professors who have children also spend more time at home with children than male faculty with children. One very interesting finding discussed in this report is the fact that married women with children achieve promotion "in slightly less time (8.2 years) than all married women on average (8.8 years) [...] [and] within the subset of married faculty members with no dependent children, women report the longest time to promotion--9.4 years--while men report 7.0 years." It really surprises me that married women with children are promoted in less time than married women without children. Becky Ropers-Huilman in Gendered Futures reports similar findings.

Regardless of the difference between children or no children, it still takes women longer to be promoted than men. It's possible that the women who have children had the tenure clock temporarily stopped when they chose to have children. This would make me think that women with no children should take about the same time to be promoted as women who have their tenure clocks stopped or delayed, but as this report shows is not the case. What is it about children that accelerates the promotion process? Is it because women are forced to make their time at work more productive because they know they won't be able to be productive at home once they are there? I know this is how I work. I personally think routine, pressure, and social expectations (of one's colleagues) play important parts in an academic woman's professional life, especially when she has taken time off to have children. It's possible that she feels slightly professionally selfish and when she returns to work compensates for this loss of time.

It is important to note that this study is nationally representative and includes a sample size of over a thousand participants. Please feel free to examine the study's entire findings.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs

This post is a review of Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (2005).

Not long ago, I asked several of my friends and fellow book club members to read this book. Due to the nature of the book and my book club’s fervent discussion, I have decided to write a personal response and review of the book. This book was originally recommended to me by Dr. Jeffrey Murray who recognized my interest in feminist thought in his class on Kenneth Burke at Virginia Commonwealth University. Overall, Levy suggests that many women today have internalized the male gaze and therefore become Female Chauvinist Pigs or FCP. These women, as Levy discusses are women who want to be one of the guys, reject being a “girly” girl on a full time basis, but accept some form of this identification when they use sex appeal to their advantage. This book also uses a lot of anecdotal evidence to show what’s going on in the world today and is used to cater to Levy’s overall goal, which is how female empowerment in the form of accepting some form of raunch culture is actually moving feminism backwards rather than forwards. Women of raunch culture basically refers to women who sell sex whether it’s prostitutes, girls who show their breasts for GGW t-shirts, porn stars, or everyday women who use sex appeal to get what they want.

I think Levy successfully discusses the past feminist movements pertinent to the topic (she focuses primarily on second wave feminism) and the tensions amongst feminists themselves as well as the tensions between feminists and non-feminists. She also refers to a wide range of testimonies that reinforce and elucidate how society has changed. She discusses everything from Girls Gone Wild to CAKE parties to Hugh Hefner to sexist marketing techniques directed towards teenagers. One of the problems Levy identifies is: “why can’t we [women] be sexy and frisky and in control without being commodified” (43). She equates women who are “Female Chauvinistic Pigs” or FCPs with the stereotype of Uncle Tom. She suggests that “An Uncle Tom is a person who deliberately upholds the stereotypes assigned to his or her marginalized group in the interest of getting ahead with the dominant group” (105). According to Levy, FCPs think they are rebelling against patriarchy, but are in fact upholding sexist stereotypes because they have internalized the male gaze. Unfortunately, Levy does not offer a practical solution to counteracting the negative affects of raunch culture. She argues that our culture is “a culture that equates the selling of sex with sexual liberation,” which is extremely problematic (201). Levy also does not give any opposing views when she examines specific avenues of raunch culture. She also does not give any statistical support for the conclusions she draws. She focuses mostly on testimonial and anecdotal evidence, which problematizes her entire project. With this in mind, she does raise several important questions, which generates a lively a discussion. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in raunch culture and female empowerment.

Kudos to you Phyrangula!

Yesterday, PZ Myers, or "Phyrangula" as you might know him, made a post about the bill pending in the Bahama's which seeks to outlaw marital rape. In this post, Phyrangula briefly discusses why some Bahamian men disagree with the bill, which is because they see their women as property acquired and that they see their wives as a part of their own flesh (due to their religious beliefs). Phyrangula suggests that women should be treated as partners, not as property. J.S. Mill would be sad that this problem still exists in our world, but probably would be happy that people, like Phyrangula and myself, advocate for equal treatment of men and women. It makes me so happy to know that there are male feminists out there (even if he doesn't label himself as such) keeping feminism alive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beliefs and Questions

I have decided to post some of my core beliefs and perhaps answer a few of your questions about feminism.

First and foremost, I believe every feminist has the right to define what it means to be a feminist for herself/himself. That being said, feminism to me means that men and women of every race/ethnicity (regardless of ability or disability) should have equal opportunity to education, health care, positions of power, the right to marry whomever they choose, and freely be themselves without persecution (except when this activity physically or psychologically harms others). I also reserve the right to change my opinion and/or my beliefs when I see fit. I also believe in feminism (not necessarily humanism, even though it’s also a good idea). I do not believe in a god. This of course is different than having morals. Morality deals with how to treat others and I try to respect and be courteous to everyone I meet. I treat others as I would like to be treated—end of discussion.

Some questions you may have.

What does it mean to be a feminist? Like I mention in the previous paragraph, I believe every self-proclaimed feminist should define what this means for herself/himself. That being said of course, the widely accepted belief is that feminism focuses particularly on advocacy for women.

Can men really be feminists? Yes. Of course they can be feminists. For example, John Stuart Mill was one of the great male feminists and advocate for women’s rights.

What’s the difference between feminism and humanism, and why does the distinction matter? Feminism “is a political discourse aimed at equal rights and legal protection for women.” Humanism “focuses on universal human particularly rationality, rather than the supernatural or the authority of religious texts.” The big difference however, is the fact the feminism draws attention to women. This distinction is important because the term humanism although it seemly includes everyone, excludes women. Semantically, feminism specifically refers to what is essentially/biologically “feminine” while humanism refers to everyone, but no one in particular. I do believe, however, that feminism is based on rationality like humanism.

What’s the difference between radical feminists and other moderate feminists? Some of the core beliefs of radical feminism include: anti-pornography, the idea that women can only be completely free when they are around other women only, and women have the right to their own bodies. These are only a few of their beliefs, but some of the big principles. Please see Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed for further review.

Liberal feminists typically have beliefs similar to my own with some exceptions. Liberal feminists believe that women and men are equal and should receive equal treatment under the law, and women have the right to their own bodies. See Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed for further review. I would argue that many moderate feminists are probably married and religious.

Can a feminist be married, or is that antithetical to the entire dogma of feminism? Yes, male and female feminists can be married. If gays and lesbians are ever allowed to legally marry, then even more married couples would be feminists.

Why is religion not a component of your feminist ideals? I believe that the concept of god and the afterlife are man made ideas created to reinforce morality within religions, but like I stated earlier morality and religion are two separate things. I also believe in evolution. I don’t believe that some supreme being created the world and judges our actions. It shouldn’t matter whether someone is watching; I should value life and everyone around me because I want to be valued. I believe that religion also reinforces female submission and male authority.

Does the term “feminist” imply “man-hater”? Definitely not! I have three older brothers and a father that I love very much. I also love my husband. Most feminists are very similar to me in the sense that we “hate” the systems that reward (and cater to) men and fail to reward (and/or even punish) women for the same work and/or behavior.

Do all feminists believe in abortion? No. I personally believe that each woman has the right to choose for herself what to do with her body. I also believe that the father of the potential child should be consulted about whether or not to abort a fetus. I am pro-choice for several reasons. I believe that young women who are molested and/or raped (whether it be by a relative or a stranger) should have the option to choose to have an abortion or not. Women who have abortions for other reasons, I could care less about. It is their personal decision and I have no right to judge their actions.

What made you become a feminist? A lot of things. In high school I had a very vocal feminist theater teacher whom I admired (and still admire to this day). I also took a psychology of women course while I was an undergraduate that really opened my mind. The more I learned about women and our rights, the more I became a feminist.

Please feel free to post other questions that I have not formally addressed. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why Feminism Today Matters

This post is a response to Why modern feminism is illogical, unnecessary, and evil by Satoshi Kanazawa and Why Anti-Feminism is Illogical, Unnecessary, Evil, and Incredibly Unsexy by Gina Barreca

Kanazawa suggests that feminists believe that men and women are “identical” and “are” or “should” be treated as such. First and foremost, I don’t think any woman in her right mind who has experienced childbirth, menstruation, or menopause would argue that men and women are “identical.” I don’t and will never know what an erection physiologically feels like because I do not have a penis. I do believe most feminists like myself would like to be treated the same as men. Kanazawa also notes that feminists believe that women have always had it worse than men, which he seemly refutes when he compares power to shoes, but what he doesn’t realize or acknowledge is that women, like many other minorities, have been worse off because the opportunity for development, self-exploration, and emancipation have been denied to them. Today’s current society caters so much towards men and the penis that we have found the cure for erectal dysfunction years before we’ve developed a vaccine for female specific diseases like cervical cancer. I’m sorry Kanazawa, but dying of cervical cancer seems slightly more important than making sure grandpa can still get it up.

Kanazawa also suggests that men and boys are more likely to suffer physically and psychologically than women and girls. I contend that there might be a relationship between boys conditioning including being told, “boys don’t cry” and that they are “girly” if they complain too much. Research has shown that when emotions are not dealt with and are therefore bottled up, physiological problems arise. Because girls are not necessarily afraid of appearing “girly” since it would be like denying biological fact, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, they don’t suffer from the psychological and physiological problems that plague men, which in turn makes them die younger than women.

Kanazawa also notes that men need power in order to obtain women and that women don’t necessarily “need” power because men have it, which is utter bologna. This argument is making the “Compulsory Heterosexuality” assumption that heterosexuality is mandatory and preferred to homosexuality.

Kanazawa also notes that less women are happy when given the opportunity to acquire power. Now, are women less “fulfilled” because of the power they’ve acquired? Probably not. For example, research has shown that martial happiness declines when couples have children and this doesn’t rebound until children are out of the nest. Does this mean that married couples need to stop having children if they want to be happy? Not necessarily. Married couples who have children, like women who have acquired power, might be more fulfilled because of their accomplishments and still might be less happy than couples without children and women without power. Again, does this mean that women should stop seeking positions of power because of they will be less happy than if they don’t? Definitely not.

Lastly, it appears to this researcher that Kanazawa prescribes to the same dogma of John Gray author of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. Both seem to reinforce the idea that men and women are inherently and completely different, when in fact this is false. Kanazawa’s argument that men and women are inherently different is greatly flawed. I would personally contend that women and men are relatively different because of biological reasons, but they are perhaps more similar than dissimilar. Men and women have been raised in the same environments, exposed to similar stimuli, and have similar desires and beliefs. Society, including one’s parents, indirectly and even directly at times constructs what it means to be a man, which suggests the need for masculine characteristics, and what it means to be a woman, which suggests the need for feminine characteristics. Over the past forty years, many of the systematic and embedded means of reproducing the male/female and masculine/feminine binaries have been and are currently being deconstructed. For example, even though women still bear much of the family/house burden, things are slowly changing. Today, more men are comfortable staying home and taking care of the kids because their wives have become the breadwinners in the family than ever before.

I am in no way suggesting that feminism today is unnecessary. Although change is happening, women are still underrepresented in positions of power in the United States and the world, women are still paid less than men for comparable work, women are indirectly and directly punished for having children, and many still believe that feminism is a man hating dogma. Besides, feminism needs to survive, if for no other reason than to save women from eating disorders, plastic surgery, and submitting to sexist ideals.

Unfortunately, this is not what is conveyed in Dr. Barreca’s rebuttal of Kanazawa’s post. Instead, she relies upon anecdotal evidence and personal experience, which is valid and important, yet it provides no hard evidence regarding the need for feminism today. She suggests that if women had power there would be no war and no slave camps among other things, but I contend that there is no way to know that if women had power that they would end war or slave camps. Female constituents, for example, could vote male politicians who support war and slave camps out of these positions. Overall, Dr. Barreca’s rebuttal could’ve benefited greatly from hard evidence rather than anecdotal evidence.

Last, but certainly not least, I recommend that Kanazawa read John Stuart Mill’s On The Subjection of Women (1869). Even though this text is over a hundred years old, women today are still dealing with some of the same issues Mill discusses. Women need the same opportunities and rights of man because a democratic society should seek to utilize fifty one percent of its population rather than believe they don’t exist.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hello all!

Since this is my first post, I have decided to tell you a little bit about some of my current projects. I am currently taking two graduate classes at the University of Kentucky. One is Weird Films and the other is a Sociology of Education course. Both are really fascinating and have kept me busy this summer. I've written a literature review, which I hope to add to this blog, on how students evaluate instructor's gender performance in higher education. I am also working on a paper on Mulholland Dr. and lesbianism (specifically on the seductress and lesbian pulp fiction), which I hope to present at a conference this fall. I also hope to publish a recent book review I've written on Gender in Higher Ed. I'll keep you posted as to how those projects continue over the next few months.

This summer I have also read several interesting books. I've read Wuthering Heights, Jude the Obscure, Naked Economics, North and South, and Feminist Chauvinist Pigs. Hopefully, the next few posts that I write or add will include a review of this last book mentioned.