Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Daniel Craig in Drag for International Women's Day

Yesterday was International Women's Day. In honor of that fact, Daniel Craig stood up both in drag and in his James Bond attire while statistics were read by Judi Dench about how the life of men and women in the UK are different. I know that these statistics are UK based, but unfortunately they apply very well to the U.S. as well.

Anyway, I am not a big James Bond fan so I was not on the Daniel Craig bandwagon until my friend showed me this video. Now I totally get it. Those legs! That feminist advocacy! *drool*

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Guy Talk

I will be up front. I’m upset. If you disagree with me or feel I jumped to conclusions, feel free to comment. Maybe we can make something constructive of this.

I suppose most people in America are familiar with the term “girl talk”. This term is generally associated with women who get together to talk, most often to complain about men.

Well, a week ago I got a peek at what one young man called “guy talk.” Here is a rough transcription of the entire exchange between two men who are in committed, monogamous relationships:
Man 1: So how’s your woman? You haven’t told me much about her.
Man 2: She’s great. She’s thin, blond, and loves sex.
Man 1: Sounds like you should keep her around.
Man 2: Yeah, I will. She takes care of me, too. How’s your woman?
Man 1: We’ve been fighting a lot but I don’t want to get rid of her.
Man 2: Man, don’t you hate that?
Man 1: Yeah, and the sex is great. Makes it even harder to get rid of her.
People will ask me what’s so bad about this. Why am I making such a big deal about this? This is normal, it’s…guy talk. And that is the problem. I called Man 2 out about this behavior and he said just that, “What? It’s guy talk.” I know that people like to talk about sex. Besides the fact that I live in a society where productive, meaningful discussions about sex are practically nonexistent, the above conversation bothers me because it reminds me that certain men only know how to talk about women with other men in terms that verbally turn women into objects. Why stay with her? Well, the sex is great. Never mind anything else. Her sex is what she’s good for, otherwise she's disposable.

If men are taught that it is acceptable to speak about women as if they are nothing but their bodies, their looks, the sex they can give to men, if they are taught that this kind of dialog is normal and should be expected among men, then we are living in a world where many forms of oppression of women are possible.

This small exchange, this seemingly insignificant act puts a mask of normacly over the idea, whether consciously agreed with or not, that women are objects, not humans, good only for things like sex and pleasing men, and they can be gotten rid of if the getting isn't good enough.

It doesn’t matter if you’re like Man 2 and you “bought roses for her because she had a bad day” and you “hold doors open for her”. If you think talking about women in this way is acceptable you are helping to uphold a society where women are still, in many ways, treated like they are inferior. Talk opens doors. What doors are we holding open if we think it’s acceptable for our male friends to talk about their girlfriends like this?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Women on the sidelines -- Troubling ideas about female coaches

Last summer I wrote a post about some of my mom's troubling ideas about how to be a good (read: tough) soccer player, said player must play "like a boy". Well, the same Challenger British Soccer camp, coordinated by my mom, that sparked that post was back in my hometown this past June, and my mom had more ideas about gender and soccer to share.

It's not often that my mom and I fundamentally disagree about something, but apparently when it comes to sports we don't quite see eye to eye.

This year my mom was discussing her contract with Challenger Sports, which she had recently renewed, and she mentioned that one of her only stipulations was that she did not want female coaches because she "doesn't like them". She was adamant about this and I asked her why. Her reasons broke down as follows:

1) Female coaches don't have the same commanding presence on the field as male coaches.
2) On a related note, children respond better to men than they do to women.

Overall, she believes that female coaches aren't as loud or forceful as male coaches and they will, therefore, not be able to coach as effectively.

Ok. The first thing that really bothered me about my mom saying this is that she has been coaching youth soccer for years. When I was in high school I used to help her coach young players in our home town. The idea that she truly believed that she and I, as women, could not be effective coaches due to our femaleness baffled me. In fact, I knew it could not be how she honestly felt because she has said on several ocassions that people have approached her indicating that she was considered one of the top coaches in our small town because of her experience as a soccer player and coach, which none of the other coaches possessed even a fraction of.

That recognition must have felt great for her, except that by her logic about what makes an effective coach, there is no reason that she should be a good coach. She is a woman, after all.

I asked my mom about her refusal to allow female coaches at the soccer camp. Had she seen any of the female coaches employed by Challenger do their job? No. Then how could she be so sure that these female coaches wouldn't be as good at doing the same job done by the male coaches? She just knew. Did she understand that all coaches employed by Challenger had to have the same minimum level of coaching training? Yes.

I tried to get her to understand that her intentional exclusion of women coaches was based entirely on her gendered assumptions about the capabilities of men and women. She assumes that female coaches will be quiet and perhaps even timid on the field and will not demand the attention of the children they are coaching. While those are atrributes that are generally perscribed to females in our society of the gender binary, it is unfair to use only those stereotypes of what women are when considering which coaches to bring to a camp in our town.

It makes little sense for a shy, quiet, timid woman to want to coach a sport, let alone get the training required for getting into a program like Challenger that requires going abroad to coach kids in another country. The women in these situations have to be good coaches, otherwise they wouldn't have their jobs.

My mom automatically codes certain attributes as either feminine or masculine and assumes that only women can possess the feminine traits and men the masculine. She doesn't always do this, but she defaults to this when she discusses things like sports and athletes. She gives little room for the variety of human behavior that accepts that men can sometimes be quiet and women can be forceful. That kind of narrow-mindedness means that the kids in my small community may never experience positive examples of female soccer coaches because for some of them, this soccer camp is their only experience with playing the sport. It's not fair, especially to young female players who are being denied a role model they can better identify with, considering that the possible female coaches that could be brought to town are being turned away for nothing more than the fact that they are women.

My mom seemed unmoved by my attempts to get her to see things from my point of view on this issue, so I decided not to pursue it further with her. But it's a topic that I feel is important and needs to be addressed. Hence this post.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Music Monday

Just thought I'd share this music video for "My Secret Friend" by IAMX (featuring Imogen Heap) with our readers.

All of IAMX's videos are creative, but this one is probably my favorite because of the gender play.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Monster-ous Advertising: Monster Energy and violent masculinity

As some readers may know, two of my biggest interests as a feminist are gender and advertising. The messages advertising sends are important to understand. They help reinforce our understanding of the world, especially the gendered aspects. These messages are everywhere and they can hardly be ignored.

I work at a convenience store on my college campus, and a few weeks ago I was stocking a cooler of Monster Energy drinks when the violence associated with their drinks became unavoidable. To start with the name Monster and their logo which is the letter "M" made out of three claw marks. Both the name and the image convey a certain level of animal aggression that carries through to all the products that they market. I took some pictures on my phone to post here.

Notice the product name above (M-80) and how the zero resembles the cross hairs on a sight of a gun (the Khaos drink also uses this tactic).

I think the Monster Assault* was the most disturbing to me. I know that part of my strong reaction was due to the fact that sexual assault has been a very hot topic at my college, so seeing the word assault automatically put some very troubling ideas in my head. I will not say that Monster's choice of drink name in any way was intended to imply anything relating to sexual assault, but that does not free them from the consequences of the choice.

At a very practical level, what is the point of calling an energy drink "Assault"? Not only does it give no indication of the drink's taste, but it is a word with numerous bad connotations. What are we to think about this product? That it helps prepare one for assault?

No. Monster is playing a typical advertising game in which a very aggressive, even violent, masculinity becomes as much of a product as the drink that the company is actually trying to sell.

I make the assertion that the violence being marketed here is masculine for several reasons.

First, violence and aggression are generally viewed in this society as masculine traits. In the gender dichotomy we are taught to think in/live by, women are associated with a timid femininity. Men, on the other hand, are associated with an assertive, agressive, and even acceptably violent masculinity.

Second, if you view the Monster Energy Drink website you will find a section entitled "Monster Girls" that showcases the type of women that men are supposed to find attractive (thin, big boobed, hardly dressed, sexually available -- look at the bios).

Clearly, these drinks are meant to be masculine. They are meant to appeal to men.

The problem, therefore, lies in the violent aggression in the words used on Monster products. Buying into the masculine = violent stereotypes to sell products only perpetuates troubling ideas about gender. If boys and men are taught to believe (from TV, family, friends, magazines, and even energy drinks) that in order to be real men, they must be violent, or at least be interested in violence, the implications are frightening. Such beliefs can manifest themselves in numerous, problematic ways. Verbal violence, domestic violence, sexual assault. All of these are very real problems that are added to when violent masculinity is sold to boys and men everywhere they turn.

In a society where only one kind of masculinity (that is agressive and has no room for compassion or other off setting characteristics) is accepted and being taught to our boys and men, it is no wonder that violence is such a problem.

*On the back of the Monster Assault can is printed the following: At Monster we don't get too hung up on politics. We're not for "the War," against "the War," or any war for that matter. We put the "camo" pattern on our new Monster Assault can because we think it looks cool. Plus it helps us fire up to fight the big multi-national companies who dominate the beverage business. We'll leave politics to the politicians and just keep doing what we do best - make the meanest energy supplements on the planet. Declare war on the ordinary! Grab a Monster Assault and Viva LA REVOLUTION! That's their side of it. I'll leave that without comment, except I wonder what they say about their Monster Hitman energy shooters?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Troll Patrol: Trans people and othering

I recently received a troll comment in my inbox to be moderated relating to this post about the International Transgender Day of Visibility. The comment was not as easy for me to write off as most troll comments are.

The troll spewed off the normal sort of "why are you paying attention to these people and not to ME" attitude prevalent in most troll-speak, but it was the last line of the comment that caught my eye.

And for the record, what you're doing is counterproductive to getting a group accepted as "same as everyone else", because you're making them separate and
"different" and "othering" them through your actions.
Full disclosure: Someone very dear to me is trans*. The same is true of several of my friends at college. So that is part of the reason this particular troll comment hit somewhat close to home.

That last line of the comment gave me pause because I was concerned that perhaps, after all the time I have spent trying to educate myself as best I can about issues particular to trans people, that maybe my cisgender privilege had led me to do something that may have hurt people I never intended to harm.

What is othering?

The basic concept of othering entails the creation of a dynamic of opposing groups of “us” versus “them.” There is nothing essentially bad about othering. It is a categorizing process that is given qualitative value based on it use. Negative othering could be taking on aspect of a person that makes them distinctive (that they are transgender, for example) and using that as a reason to harm them. Positive othering includes using one’s point of view (that sexism is bad) and using it against the opposite side (that sexism is good) in order to gain rights for more people. So, while the concept of othering is not necessarily either good or bad,

“…we do have to be careful about it, even positive othering can turn into something negative, for example when talking about countries that need aid we tend to treat them as inferior to us, and in doing so we are distancing ourselves from them and viewing them as ‘the other’.” – h/t

The Comment

In the quoted section of the comment there are several problematic assumptions. First is that the goal of bring to light the lives of trans people is to have them viewed as “same as everyone else” and that by promoting the Transgender Day of Visibility was “counterproductive” to that goal. While it could make sense that this would be a goal for those who work for the rights of trans people (after all, trans people are often persecuted and killed for being the “other”), it is not necessarily the case. True, some members of this community may want to pass and live without being openly trans, but other members of the same community (Monica, Queen Emily and Lisa for examples that I read often) are vocal about their trans identities and even use them to shape their activism. Basically, we have to be sensitive to the fact that the trans community is diverse in many ways, including their feelings on passing.

The second assumption in the comment is that by blogging about this Day of Visibility I was othering trans people in a way that the comment author implied was negative. This ties back to the simple understanding of what is best for a group of which he is not a member. In response to this assumption, I would like to address a few points.

Acknowledging how a group is different, especially when that group is already being denied jobs, harassed, and killed for being different every day is not an inherently threatening move. Difference is an important trait in being human. You know the phrase: “No two people are alike.” While acknowledging the difference between themselves and cis people may not be comfortable for all trans folks, it does not necessarily follow that creating a safe space for people to express their differences, if they so choose, is dangerous.

Without awareness and education, there is no hope of working towards ending transphobia. If we completely stopped discussing trans people, their lives and issues particular to them in order to avoid othering them in a negative way, think of all the ignorant, transphobic hate that would manifest itself in the lives of these people. While making the issue of transphobia visible may not stop all transphobic attacks, without it I believe the world would be much worse off.

That comment forced me to consider this issue, but I believe that as long as we work to make safe spaces for people who choose to be vocal about their lives as trans people (and maybe educate a few people along the way) that we’ll be just fine.

Thanks for your interest, though, Troll.

*EDIT 4/3/10: Thanks to a comment left by Queen Emily, I realized that I unintentionally othered my trans friends by mentioning their positions on surgeries/hormones. That information has been removed because it is irrelevant to this post. I had included it originally because I had written a slightly different post that mentioned feelings on surgery/hormones (and I question if it was even necessary there), but I take full responsibility for my mistake. I appreciate all readers and commenters who help me recognize instances of my cis privilege and help me grow in my understanding of these issues.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

International Transgender Day of Visibility

I just found out that today, March 31, 2010, is the second annual International Transgender Day of Visibility. The event was started last year as a way to celebrate the lives of trans people.

As someone who has several trans people in my life who I hold very dear to my heart, I was excited to hear about this. In a world where we are (sometimes slowly) making progress when it comes to equality, transgender issues are some that I wish more people were talking about.

For more, check out what Jos at Feministing had to say about this day.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Recommended Daily Reading: Genderfork

The topic of gender has been on my mind a lot recently (see my last post), so when @Genderfork started following me on Twitter, I was really excited. That Twitter account led me to a website that quickly became one of my favorite daily readings.

Genderfork is a really great website that collects photos, quotes, questions, videos, and even does profiles of people who express gender in a variety of ways. I visit this website every day. It's a great reminder of the way in which the beauty of humankind comes from its diversity.

What have you been reading? Feel free to share links in the comments.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chick Flick or Wrestling? Answer to continue ChaCha-ing.

Back in December I started using a free text message service called Cha Cha. If you text a question to Cha Cha, you will receive an answer via text. It is not the most precise tool, but it is convenient for those urgent questions that you must have an answer to when you are nowhere near the internet. However, the service comes along with advertisements at the bottom of every text message. These are clearly labeled as ads, and you have to text for more information about them, but they are still there. These ads are the reason I will no longer use Cha Cha.

On March 7 I texted Cha Cha to ask for a reminder of what Rikers Island in New York was. I got the following response in a text message from Cha Cha*:
Hey, b4 we answer, pls help us personalize ChaCha to better meet ur needs. Just answer 4 short Qs! -- Q1. What is your gender? Txt MALE or FEMALE back to us
The two options were really distasteful to me personally, but I also took issue with the principle of dichotomizing gender and refusing to provide service until I chose one gender. I responded by texting back: Neither.

Cha Cha did not like that, and texted the following in response:
Chick Flick or Wrestling? We need 2 know ur gender so we can send you offers u care about! Txt MALE or FEMALE to keep ChaCha-ing.
I understand (although I do not like) the need for ad space in this service. I also understand that targeting ads makes them more effective. However, in the format of a texting service, targeting ads based on gender is problematic. Text messages are short correspondences and they do not serve well to accomodating the other numerous, multi-layered gender identities that many people would feel more comfortable with.

Texting basically makes it necessary to rely on a gender dichotomy that just isn't realistic for most people. Chick flick or wrestling? I like neither of those things. That's exactly why I refused to answer Cha Cha's gender question and will not be allowed to Cha Cha anymore.

*The interesting thing is that I was discussing this with two other people who use Cha Cha and neither of them has been asked to answer the gender question. I am not sure how the service chooses who has to answer the question or when.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swedish couple decides to keep their toddler's gender a secret

Since I began identifying as a feminist, the idea of gender and its implications has been a growing fascination of mine. In my readings (for classes, blogging, and other research) I have learned about how socialization can lead to boys and girls have very different ideas about everything from toys, to food, sex, and even life goals. And that says nothing about the concerns faced by individuals who do not fit comfortably in the often-problematic gender binary.

When I read this piece from The New York Times website about a Swedish couple that decided to keep the gender of their toddler a secret, I was really interested.

The toddler's mother is quoted as saying:

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet last spring. “It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The piece then quotes Anna Nordenström, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Karolinska Institutet, as saying (emphasis added):

“It will affect the child, but it’s hard to say if it will hurt the child,” says Nordenström, who studies hormonal influences on gender development.

I don’t know what they are trying to achieve. It’s going to make the child different, make them very special.”

She says if Pop is still “genderless’” by the time he or she starts school, Pop will certainly receive a lot of attention from classmates.

“We don’t know exactly what determines sexual identity, but it’s not only sexual upbringing,” says Nordenström. “Gender-typical behaviour, sexual preferences and sexual identity usually go together. There are hormonal and other influences that we don’t know that will determine the gender of the child.”

I think that Pop's parents are trying to be proactive about the problem that gender often presents. Granted, I have not studied hormonal influences on gender development (and I'm not even sure I believe there is much of an influence), but I think that these parents should be given a lot of credit for trying to take this matter into their own hands instead of giving their child up to a gendered society that often works to limit the abilities and opportunities of people who are not gendered as male. Even if Pop is biologically male, I can see many benefits for the child not growing up gendered in that way.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Apologies and Excuses: Eating as a Pathology

This summer I’m doing research at my college, and I’m living with two roommates. Something I’ve noticed is that I’ve been actively avoiding eating in front of them, and I think this tied into a larger theme common to many women: Food guilt.

At my college, I have worked for the past two years at a small convenience store on campus. The store is frequented by a large number of students and is an employer of many more. One of my main tasks as a student employee is to check people out at the register, which means that I get to know, or at least recognize the faces of, the people who shop at the store.

I quickly noticed a trend in which female customers would come in, bring what they deemed “unhealthy” foods (ranging from a bag of Cheetos to a bottle of Coke) to the register and make excuses, either to me or whoever they were with, about why they were purchasing such items, despite knowing how “bad” they supposedly were. Other female customers would bring a basket filled with food to the register and quickly go on about how they hadn’t eaten all day, how it was for their friends, or something similar, as if they needed to provide a reason for buying so much to eat. And there were others who I saw more often and who obviously recognized me, who would some in and say things like, “I’m sorry that I come in here all the time. You must think I’m fat for buying so much food.”

The strange part about all this is that when I was working and I encountered women saying such things, I thought it was really odd. But whenever I went to buy food at the same place, I always secretly wondered what the student cashiers thought of me and the food I was buying.

The other strange thing was that no matter how much, or what kinds of things, the male customers I saw purchased, they made excuses and apologized drastically less frequently than their female counterparts.

As I recall these experiences, all I can think about is how, for women and girls, relentless socialization has turned eating into a pathology.

From a young age, girls are taught that appearances are important to their identity. They are socialized into this in many ways, ranging from the types of compliments they receive (“You look so pretty!”) to the kinds of play things meant for people of their gender (Barbies, princess dress up clothes). This appearance-centered world that girls are socialized into is made more problematic when it’s coupled with the narrow ideal of female beauty: being flawlessly thin.

For women, eating is not merely about nutrition. It is seen as a disorder, a pathology. Women are taught to control their bodies through controlling their eating habits with the help of diet plans, low-fat food, diet soda, and other such products. If a woman eats, she is often made to feel as if she has “let herself go,” as if she does not care about her body the way she should, as if there is something wrong with her.

And so women who come to buy food at the convenience store at my college campus make excuses for their purchases have clearly internalized the messages from the greater society that say that eating is a poor reflection on them – that it is a disorder.

As a young woman who deals with this problem every day of my life, who feels extreme guilt for eating anything and who feel hyper-aware of how other perceive my eating habits, I have not been able to fully explore all the reasons and meanings behind this issue. But I do hope to write about this more in the future.

NOTE: The main idea for this post came to me after reading Reading Ads Socially by Robert Goldman. In chapter 5 of this book, Goldman writes about how advertisements contribute to the notion that if women don’t add up to the idealized image of female beauty, that they have a flaw. I thought this point fit particularly well with my experiences and the common problem of women’s messed up ideas about eating.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Encouraging girls to participate and remain in after school sports programs

After my last post, I found this New York Times article interesting.
MetroLacrosse, which serves 600 children, is one of several Boston sports groups that are aggressively trying to increase girls’ participation. The city is at the vanguard of a movement to close the gender gap in urban areas by rethinking traditional activities and looking for new ways to encourage girls to play.
This is being done by trying to include a broader range of programs that would more likely appeal to girls, such as dance and yoga, instead of focusing so closely on traditional team sports.

A 2002 Harvard School of Public Health study found that girls made up 49 percent of Boston’s youth but made up only 33 percent of those participating in sports programs after school. These results led to the formation of the Boston Girls’ Sports and Physical Activity Project which was tasked with evaluating opportunities for girls in Boston's sports programs.

The effort has reached as far as the elementary school playground. Employees at Sports4Kids, a nonprofit group that oversees recess at public schools, have been devising ways to shake up gender roles and increase options for girls. Tes Siarnacki, a recess coordinator at a school in East Boston, regularly encourages older girls to referee boy-dominated soccer games, and assigns older boys to monitor double Dutch
jump rope, which is played mostly by girls.
There's more at the link. I think the idea of mixing up the genders at different recess activities as described above may be a good idea. I am unsure, however, about the idea of tailoring programs to fit more stereotypically feminine ideas of what kinds of physical activity would be done by girls. If girls really aren't participating in sports programs like boys are, maybe we should be more concerned with treating the cause and not merely the symptoms of this fact. Why aren't girls as interested in traditional team sports and boys? Is there a gendered reason for this?

What do you think?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

She's good at soccer. She plays like a boy.

This week I’ve been helping my mom with a soccer camp for kids in our town. It’s a Challenger British Soccer Camp, where British coaches come to the United States to teach soccer and British culture. In addition to teaching skills of the sport, there is also a World Cup tournament in which the kids are put into teams and they pick a country to represent as they play the other teams.

Yesterday, my mom and I were watching the kids play one of their World Cup matches, and I remarked that two of the teams seemed to be rather unevenly matched. My mom replied that the team that was winning by a large margin seemed to have all the good players – several boys who were very talented at handling the ball, and a girl, who my mom said was good because “she plays like a boy.”

The comment caught me off guard, but I quickly tried to get my mom to realize what she had said by asking, “So you have to play like a boy to be good at soccer?” My mom answered, “Well, she’s tough.” I thought to myself how absurd of an idea that toughness was somehow inherently absent in girls unless they behaved like boys, but the conversation stopped there.

This one comment by my mother, a woman who was a dedicated athlete, playing soccer as the only woman on a men’s team when she was younger, completely blew my mind. I plan on having her read this post when I am finished with it so maybe she can see more closely the problems with comments like this.

First of all, it buys into the idea that being tough is the opposite of what is expected of a girl. The idea that girls are supposed to be passive, gentle, and nurturing has been used to shame girls into restrictive gender roles for years, keeping them from being able to accomplish all they are capable of, simply because society can’t seem to handle having too many “tough girls.”

When I was younger, playing in a youth league on a co-ed team, I remember my father, an avid soccer fan and coach, telling me to stop saying I was sorry whenever I ran into someone, stepped on them, or hit them with a ball. He used to say this to me so often that even eleven, twelve years later, I still can hear him telling me, “Stop saying you’re sorry! You shouldn’t be sorry! This is soccer!” Looking back on his words, I can see that he was trying to get me to focus on the game, be unashamedly tough, just as a boy would be. The boys never said they were sorry, my father would tell me. When I didn’t show the proper signs of toughness, I was told off by my own father.

I played varsity soccer for three years in high school, and during one match my senior year, I was hip checked by an opposing player. The hit was hard and I fell to the ground. I got up and was in pain, and as I tried to walk it off, I was limping a bit. The father of one of my team mates noticed that I was limping and he yelled at me from the sidelines to stop limping and just shake it off. The comment angered me because I was legitimately hurt. In fact, the same injury still bothers me from time to time two years later. But how dare I show pain. Pain is for sissies. For girls.

The second issue with associating being a “good” athlete with “playing like a boy” is that it plays into a huge problem when it comes to sports (and other aspects of life) – using the female as an insult. “You play like a girl!” and “Sissy!” are some of the biggest insults that one can throw at a young athlete, and both of them are so insulting merely because they equate said athlete with a female.

Females have the added struggle in this country (and most countries, I would think) of having to carve out a space for themselves in a sphere of life that had been, for ages, dominated by men. I will say here that I acknowledge that perhaps women and men have different physical abilities, but I would like to point out that just because men were allowed to participate in sports before women doesn’t mean that it is right to say that playing like a man is the only way a woman can be considered good at her sport. People of all genders could easily emphasize different aspects of the same game and all be good at it for different reasons. And who decided that being tough is a strictly male characteristic, anyway?

But until these problematic attitudes disappear forever, the girls and women who go out and play sports will be the real winners for taking on such ideas without even knowing it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek, Uhura and Structures of Authority

I'll admit it up front - I'm not a huge fan of the TV Star Trek, but I've watched enough when I was younger and recently to know what's up in that series. I've never seen an episode of the original 60's Star Trek, but I know enough from being familiar with pop culture to know the main characters. With this disclaimer, I'll continue. If you haven't seen the film yet, I'm going to discuss plot points and spoilers so be warned.

I was really excited to see Star Trek and I can't quite put my finger on why, but when I saw the movie, I wasn't disappointed. As someone with little knowledge of the series before this, I enjoyed the plot, the introduction of characters, the action, and frankly, I'm finding it harder to turn down shows with my new favorite Zachary Quinto.

However, as is too common, I felt the women characters were lacking in some way.

The main female character in the film is Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana. She's a communications specialist on the bridge on the ship. She is clearly characterized as the brightest in her field, smart, talented and not afraid to speak her mind. Jha'Meia at Rebellious Jezebel Blogging comments that she displays a different kind of power, one not tied up in physical strength but in intellectual, emotional and social strength (see: her first scene in the bar). Additionally, as typical with the main female character, Uhura gets romantically paired with someone. Different from usual action films where the lead man persuades the lead female (note: usually not a lead character but the woman with the most screen time - there's a difference, if subtle), Star Trek pairs Uhura with Spock as opposed to Kirk. I found that move particularly interesting, especially since I personally admire intellectual skills over others.

People have said that Uhura has a lot more to do in the reboot than she did in the TV show, but honestly, she didn't do that much. True, one could argue that this is because of her peripheral role in the plot, perhaps on the same level as Chekov or Sulu. However, that just explains away her lack of action as opposed to addressing the fundamental flaw that women aren't in lead roles in the supposedly egalitarian society of the Enterprise. It critiques the symptoms as opposed to the core problem, a problem that remains rooted in the gender politics of 1960 due to the nature of the film as a reboot.

There's also a lot going on in the movie with women as motivation for a lot of the men's actions - Kirk's father saving his mother and the rest of the ship, Nero driven by his wife's death, Spock by his mother's death. I'm not quite sure what to do with that yet, but other people have addressed it to some extent.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse women-wise. I wasn't a big fan of the mini-skirt uniform. However, in the second-string role Uhura plays, her character does a great job. It's just that by rebooting the original, the film reinforces the structures holding her in that position and not advancing women to other roles of authority.

For more discussion of the women of Star Trek, look to Shakesville, the Hathor Legacy and Racialicious.

EDIT: In looking for pictures for this post, I found this gem from CNN:

Compared to the original on a CBS Consumer site:

Now there's a not-so-subtle way of erasing women and women's experiences. Thanks, CNN.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Overheard on a train

The following is a guest post submitted by Samantha. She's a 20 year old full time college student at Knox College where she's a biology major hoping to go into research.

This weekend I was heading home to celebrate my birthday with my family and while on the train I sat across from a woman and her husband. I had taken out my computer to do some homework on the train they noticed how big it was (it has a 17 inch screen) and started making sexual jokes at me and each other, saying “it’s size that matters” or “it’s the inches that are important” or “I’d rather have longer battery life because it doesn’t matter how big it is if it doesn’t last long.” I have never met these people in my life and they felt comfortable making me uncomfortable with these sexual jokes. It’s one thing if I’ve been friends with someone for a while and they start making jokes, but complete strangers? Not ok.

Later in the ride the conductor came through telling us that we have to get our bags down early because once the train goes below ten miles an hour the lights would go off. Well the man asked the conductor when he should grab his bag. The conductor started to repeat that they would give an announcement when his wife interrupted her saying, “He meant me, I’m his bag.” The poor conductor didn’t know what to say and finally decided on “that’s not nice.” The wife’s response was “he can say anything he wants because I’ve got these” while showing all the rings that were on her fingers. There were about 4 rings and they were covered with diamonds. She is teaching her children, three girls and two boys, that it’s ok for men to be derogatory toward women as long as they give them expensive presents! They’re also teaching the boys that it’s alright to be derogatory towards women as long as they can give them shiny things in return. Also that every woman will forgive them for their remarks as long as they bribe them with something shiny and expensive. The saddest thing about this incident was that I know that there really are some women (besides the wife on the train) that think like this; that it’s ok for men to say anything they want about women and they’ll be fine with it as long as they buy them expensive gifts.

How is her daughter ever going to learn the correct way a man should treat her if the only examples she has is of her mother who lets her stepfather saying derogatory things in very public places; not that it would be more appropriate in private but if it’s a private joke or something then it should definitely stay in private. I just feel terrible for her children, it’s so sad that they have to grow up in this environment. I hope that they have some kind of role model that can show them that it’s not ok for husbands to be derogatory towards their wives as long as they can compensate with jewelry.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Combating Facebook status sexism

I was on Facebook this morning when I saw the status of one of my friends from high school as him being "completely fed up with females and their mind games." This person isn't someone I talk to on a regular basis, but I felt compelled to comment on his status.

I was not the first person to comment. Other people had said things in response. One girl said, "stop hanging out with nasty bitches then!" while others voiced their agreement with the status. I said that it was a lame generalization because not all women play mind games, so he must have really meant that a few women he had talked to recently seemed to be playing games with him. Implying that everyone of the female gender plays mind games was sexist and inaccurate.

I was surprised when a few minutes later he changed his status to say that he was "sick of talking to the wrong girls." He then started a Facebook chat with me, saying he didn't mean to imply anything about all women, just the ones he had been talking to lately. I assured him that I didn't mean to offend him, but pointed out that the way he had worded his status made him seem kind of sexist, and I didn't believe he was a bad guy. The chat ended cordially and made me feel rather relieved.

Sometimes, when I am confronted with sexism and I call it out, I forget that it is easy to slip into those stereotypes and generalizations, and that even if you say something sexist, it doesn't necessarily make you a full-blown misogynist. But it is something that needs to be called out because when we slip into those generalizations it means that somehow, they have been absorbed by us. It's nice to know that when people are made aware of their actions, often times they know how and are willing to change them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BlogThings Doesn't Want to Get Some Coffee with Me After Class

You Are A Bad Date!
Sometimes it just seems like your heart isn't in it

At least, not unless the guy is a dead ringer for Brad Pitt (with more money)

You just don't spend enough time wondering if he's having fun...

And newsflash - he probably isn't!

Oh God, where to start? Of course my heart is not in a date if the man is not attractive. I see how BlogThings tried to assume that I was a bad girl for not being enthused about a man who undoubtedly spent far far less time on his appearance than I did.

For that matter, who walks around wondering if they are pleasing the person they are with? Women, that's who! Look, dude, if you don't like me, get up and leave. That's for you to decide. If you want me to bat my eyelashes and act like I think you're the hottest thing since the invention of the wheel, you are completely delusional. Honestly, I would be questioning someone's motives if they were so enthused about spending time with someone they hardly know that they are constantly second-guessing if the other person is having fun.

Also, thanks for the snarky newsflash (seriously, who the hell still uses such cliches outside of satire?), but if a guy can't have fun unless I am acting like he is some male Adonis and I am so insecure that I constantly cater his needs by wondering what I would possibly do to make him have fun, then I'm glad I'm raining on his egotistic parade.

So what did I do to BlogThings to make them assume I am such a craptastic date?

First, they asked me what would be a good spot for a first date. I would never want to see any sort of movie with Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon, so that option was out. Furthermore, I do not have the money to be spending it on a nice dinner and concert tickets for a guy I do not even know (shit, I can't even afford to do that with my best friends), so that option was crossed off. I figured that I liked lunches, and lunches at quiet spots, and lunches at quiet spots with views, so I picked that one. Sounded low-maintenance, friendly, and cheap.

Then we moved onto my pre-date beauty ritual. I was a bit stumped at this question. Honestly, it's not a "beauty ritual". I do not pray at any sort of altar for the gods of porn to bless me with a suitably fuckable face. I immediately knew that I did not spend an hour doing anything remotely like painting my nails and doing my hair, so that option was out. I do have minimum standards of hygiene, however, and I abhor being late, so I could not choose "you really don't have one - unless rushing to make the date on time counts," even as much as I wanted to out of spite for the stupidity of the idea of any sort of beauty "ritual". So I settled on a new shirt, some perfume, and refreshing my lipstick. Even though I don't wear lipstick.

Okay, now we finally get to things about men. Of course, it's things about how I react to men, rather then how men treat me. Because how a man would treat me on a date has no bearing on my behavior on that date. No sir 'ee. I am the picture of modesty and feminine grace no matter how much of a douchebag my potential paramour might happen to be. It's my duty as a woman to deal with the bullshit of men because "boys will be boys" and my lack of penis means I must suffer losers and misogynists by God's holy decree.

So, question three: "What do you try to find out about a guy on the first date?" First, I do not "catch" men, and I am not interested in his suitability to being "caught". I would not bring up the topic of money and income on a first date, probably because I have neither and the issue is fairly touchy for me right at the moment. Also, Donald Trump is probably one of the biggest sexist pricks on the planet, so it's fairly obvious that income does not have much of a bearing on personality. I was tempted to pick "what he's like as a boyfriend... to see if you want to be with him", but then I thought better. Hi, earth to Jen: it's a first date. You don't plan cakes and wedding and moving in together on the first date. I don't even know what the guy likes to do, what kind of person he is, and whether or not I can stand him for a full evening, so I'm not about to question if I want to "be with him". That statement could also be taken as whether or not I was willing to sleep with him on the first date, and then my answer would be a resounding "check please!" coupled with a quick brush-off. So obviously I needed to pick the option that stated that I needed to see what he did for fun and if we had enough common ground to even be friends. Honestly, I don't fuck people I don't like as people. It's not a good situation all around.

Next, the quiz wondered what my reaction would be to a guy who claimed that he loved rollerblading (people still do that?) and that he used to do it every weekend with his last ex. My typical reaction would ask why he does not anymore, simply because I cannot fathom a world in which the prerequisite to exercising with someone is sleeping with them, and that this exercising must immediately cease upon the ending of the sex. So you only have fun with the people you're sleeping with? Check please! But that wasn't an option. Pity. I had to skip over the answer that I would tell him that that was "awesome". Really, rollerblading is not so exciting that I am going to lie about my opinion, because I do not have one, of it. I would also not tell him that his hobby was stupid because my ex-boyfriend used to take me on elaborate trips on the weekends. My ex-boyfriend's idea of a weekend get-away was pestering me to have sex on his roommate's bed. I would probably say something about how I used to love rollerblading, because I actually did, and ask him where he liked to rollerblade. It's always nice to keep tabs on places that are friendly to transportation devices other than cars.

So now my date asks me why I am single. If he was a bad date, I would probably respond that, "because I have had a series of really bad relationships. Also, I hate reruns. Check please!" If he was a good date, I would shrug and say that most dates do not go as well as this one did, and I must have standards. Of course, BlogThings is neither as witty, nor as intelligent as me, so neither of these options were available. First, the idea of "Mr.Right" coming along to make me happy with his shlong of manly awesomeness is pathetic, so that's a no. Complaining about my last relationships ("oh, the last one cheated on me with my now ex-best friend, the one before that was not a man--by the way I'm bisexual, and the one before that raped me") probably is not a good idea either. Thus, I'd tell him that I am busy and that I haven't "clicked with anyone yet".

Now I have to assume that my date is boring. Hardly a stretch. Then, it is revealed that my waiter is attractive, and single. What do I do? Well, I'm certainly not going to corner him, while still on my date, and ask for his number. Advertising my willingness to boy scout in entirely inappropriate moments is not prudent. Likewise, I would not slip him a note on the way out. Having standards, I would probably finish the date, keep my hands to myself, and then come back to the restaurant later, alone, because I'm not stupid.

To mix it up, now I have to assume my date is not boring. I might have to use some brainpower for this exercise. My phone rings, so what do I do? The idea of answering it and saying something to whoever is on the line about how great my date is would be stupid beyond words. Really, why should I have to act so coy? I didn't even bother to look at any other answer other than the one that included "this does not happen because I know where the off button my cell is". If I am in a one-on-one situation with another person, I turn my fucking cellphone off. I also expect the other person to do the same. Common courtesy, where art thou? I'm on a date with John Doe, not with my best friend and my potentially "just checking up" mother. Also, I really hate it when I suddenly become the third wheel to someone who is not even there, so I would never do that to someone. Phone is off.

Now my hypothetical date is over. My first option inspires the gag reflex: asking him to kiss me. Oh lord. If I want to kiss, then I ask him if I can kiss him. Look buddy, these are my lips, I want a kiss, and if you would be a willing participant in this kissing adventure, nod yes and off we go! Also, the idea of asking someone to do something to me, like I am some sort of object, is gross. No thanks. Furthermore, I will not ask someone to call me like I wait by the phone for his approval. Neither do I ask if I should call him. If I want to spend time with you, I'll call. If you want to spend time with me, you call. Why must I make dating into this bizarre "please do X to me because I am too helpless to do it myself"? So, if the date was good, I'd be likely to say, "that was so much fun. Thanks for taking me out!" Because it's nice to thank people for spending enjoyable time with you, and to express how much you enjoyed spending time with them. Hey, I'm blunt and honest.

So, I submitted my test on a lark. And BlogThings told me I was a shitty date. I'm going to assume that this is because I date like a person trying to discover if I like someone rather then dating like a coy flirty "chick" trying to manipulate a egomanic into wanting to do dirty degrading things to me.

Oh how bad am I? I date under the assumption that (a) I like you as a person and (b) I am attracted to you. If either are false, then I'm not dating you. Thus, a first date is an experiment of how I feel. I could really give a shit about pleasing someone else by being something I am not.

Then my results tell me: Newsflash, Jen! Men don't want to date women with standards for themselves and others, and they certainly don't want to date someone more interested in how a woman feels about a guy as person then how much that woman would like to them to fuck her. Because if I have standards, and I want you as a person, that means that you have to behave and meet me somewhere in the middle.

In this crazy world, however, dating isn't about my happiness or your charm, it's about how much I can fake liking men for their enjoyment. Thanks for the update BlogThings!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


In a Rape Culture, anyone can be a rape victim or a rapist.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cool Video Time

So this video has been on some of the feminist blogs that I read daily. It is Jay Smooth talking about homophobia in hip-hop, and manhood more generally. I really think you should watch it. It is short and awesome.
"When we find ourselves believing that killing a man makes us more of a man, but loving a man makes us less of a man, it’s probably time to reexamine our criteria for manhood."