Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ask a Feminist: Gender Stereotypes

Today one of my roommates had a homework assignment that I, for one, find fascinating: gender stereotypes. For this assignment she needed to interview two different individuals and get their take on these issues. After she interviewed me, I asked her to forward her notes, and I'm including them here.

  1. What do you think of the idea that “the more prevalent the stereotype, the more the stereotype reflects reality”?
    1. That makes a lot of sense to me, actually, because reality can reflect stereotype. If a stereotype is really strong then people start to live it out or act it out. They think if they follow it, it’s because they’re just built that way.
  2. Do you think all gender stereotypes are false?  If so, why?  If not, what gender stereotypes do you believe are accurate?
    1. It depends. If you’re asking if any stereotypes are true for everyone, then absolutely not. but if you're asking if some stereotypes are true in general, as a pattern, then absolutely. Some stereotypes reflect general patterns. I don’t think many gender stereotypes are true around the world-- a stereotype that is accurate in one culture may not be true in another.  I think of it in terms of overlapping bell curves, where you'll find a few people in the extreme on either side, but mostly you'll find that men and women are in the overlapping area, which usually incorporates about 90% of each bell curve.
  3. What would you classify as benevolent sexism?
    1. Restricting someone despite your good intentions, and without realizing the way it’s affecting them. For instance, a man might tell a woman she can't be involved in politics because it would demean her, or a woman might tell a man he can't cook or clean because it's not in his nature. It is sexist, and it is a false way of seeing things.  It really is causing damage, and restricting someone, but it’s done in the name of helping them.  it is a way of restricting that is hidden or disguised by the name of benevolence.
  4. What would you classify as hostile sexism?
    1. It's a lot more open in its intent to inflict harm.  You see it more when someone is openly devaluing someone, saying "You don’t have a right to do this," or "I have a right to treat you this way because you are a man or woman."  but I think this can be disguised as benevolent when someone does something harmful and says they’re doing it for your good.
  5. Do you think either benevolent or hostile sexism is worse than the other? Why?
    1. I think they’re different. Hostile can cause more damage and be more painful, but benevolent is hard to fight because if they honestly think they are helping someone then they don’t see the damage.  Benevolent can be really dangerous because it’s hard to get anyone to take you seriously when you’re fighting it, whereas hostile people are more open to helping you fight it.
  6. What do you think some main gender (not sex) differences are?  How are these not stereotypes?
    1. That’s hard. I know there are some generalizations like, women are better at multitasking, and men tend to be better at focusing on one thing and tuning other things out. But I also know that there are a lot of exceptions to these things.  I myself tend to be on the masculine side of how I do things, and I know other women who are as well, and it would be a logical fallacy not to think of them as women just because they have masculine traits.  some women are emotionally clueless and some men are very sensitive.  Sometimes men don’t think things through because they are oversimplifying, and sometimes women see things because they are more roundabout.  Men also tend to be more hierarchical in their communication, and women tend to downplay hierarchy and try to even things out. But again, there are exceptions to everything.
  7. Do you think there are any benefits to gender stereotypes?
    1. No, I think there are benefits to understanding some general differences between men and women so that you can adjust and accommodate different perspectives. I've done some research on how men and women communicate differently, and sometimes we say things that mean one thing to men and different things to women. As a teacher I have found that I have to adjust the way I teach to reach out to men.  Once I learned about how hierarchy changes communication I figured out how to change my teaching methods.  You should never take a generality and assume it to be true, you should do research and see if you need to do some adjusting.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Feminist Question of the Week--Video Share

Last week we shared links to some great (or at least interesting) articles, and it was so much fun that I want to do it again! This week, let's share videos that relate to gender. All videos are welcome, whether scholarly, infuriating, or just plain hilarious.

To get us started, I'm going to share a song from Avenue Q that is always fun and always relevant: Everyone's a Little Bit Racist.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Feminist Review: "How to be a Woman"

“Women did not invent dust. The sticky residue that collects on the kettle does not come out of women’s vaginas. It is not oestrogen that covers the dinner plates in tomato sauce, fishfinger crumbs and bits of mash. My uterus did not run upstairs and throw all of the kids’ clothes on the floor and put jam on the banister. And it is not my tits that have skewed the global economy towards domestic work for women” (82).

Was a truer statement ever uttered by a woman? I think not. Welcome to the hilarious, feminist world of Caitlin Moran: British TV presenter, journalist, music lover and writer of the funniest thing I’ve read in about 3 months: How to be a Woman. Moran swears her way (amidst a well-stocked playground of cultural references) to a practical, real-time discussion of the current state of women in the world today.

That little jewel I provided for you up above should be considered a fine representation of the entire tone of her book: one of good logic and slapstick sarcasm.

She starts at the beginning of becoming a woman, literally. Her first chapter is entitled, “I Begin Bleeding!” and deals with the obvious, menstruation. Well, that and pornography, and puberty, and her family, and her unfortunate dog, oh and how she didn’t have any friends growing up in a really poor family with seven kids, sharing a room (and a bed) with a few sisters. In reality though, besides the hilarity of that stuff, she also sets the stage for a discussion about the female journey, the journey to becoming a woman. Every woman has to navigate through similar things, the body, friends, family, and of course, trying to figure out just whom we want to be when we grow up and how being a woman is going to fit into all that.

Subsequent chapters deal with the ever-embarrassing body hair (chapter two, “I Become Furry!”) and most importantly, why she believes women should not be getting Brazilian wax jobs. She makes quite a good case for it, too. Pornography and the infantalization of women has something to do with it in her eyes, and well, after reading her arguments, I think I agree. However, the better part of her argument is what she intends to do about it; she suggests some hygienic trimming, but that in order to be a woman, we should grow a proper muff (her words). That’s right, ladies, let yourself rejoice in an afro-style mound of hair and have a party; oddly enough, it legitimately sounds like a blast!

Lest such a frank image of undesirable hair scare you off from this entertaining and thought-provoking read, her book includes so much more: A brilliant (and spot-on, I think) discussion of stripping, burlesque shows and exercise-based pole dancing classes. Exploring our sexuality as women should be an act of fun, empowerment and creativity for a woman, not part of a dark, sleazy showroom where a man is in control of the situation. How she gets to that conclusion and how it ties in to stripping, burlesque shows and exercise-based pole dancing classes is information that you’ll have to read the book to discover.

The book is filled with even more fun times: the birth of her children; her wedding, “my bridesmaid was a six-foot-two gay man called Charlie, who was wearing silver trousers and a pink cape” (189); fashion; and even an indictment against culture for always asking a women (and only women) when they intend to have children, “You never get asked to ask Marilyn Manson if he’s been hanging around in JoJo Maman Bebe, touching tiny booties and crying” (239). I even learned about a creature called a “womble,” which is apparently a fictional creature meant for a children’s television show or something; I’m not really sure.

Now, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything she says; however, I love that she says everything with no apologies. She is a “strident feminist,” and she believes we should reclaim those words, and she does it firmly, with no shame and no squeamishness, which is to me, exactly what feminists are working for. We’re not out blogging and banging doors to agree with everyone; we’re out there to have differences and assert the individual (even the individual interpretations of feminism), and I admire women who do so with strength and confidence and humor and swearing and British spelling.

And wombles.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Reader's Lament on that Vampire Romance Novel that Just Won't Go Away

Try as I might to ignore it, that vampire romance novel haunts me, whether through acquaintances who praise it for its popularity, friends who want to watch the movies together for a laugh, or fellow intellectuals who share links to interesting discussions. And so, again and again, I find myself begrudgingly entering into a conversation I find increasingly redundant: does that vampire romance novel have any inherent worth? Most people will agree that the franchise can at the very least open up interesting discussions, but really, can't any work provide the impetus for an interesting discussion?

When this book first became popular, I didn't really think about it. I had plenty of friends who either hated it or loved it, but as far as I could tell from the descriptions, it was just a romance novel with beautiful cover art. When I finally decided to read it, that decision stemmed from curiosity, combined with desperation after my flight was unexpectedly delayed and I ran out of reading material at the airport. Plus, some friends had recommended I extend some research I was engrossed in with Wuthering Heights and use the same methods on the vampire romance novel, so I hoped the read would prove pragmatic.

And, okay, I'll confess - I enjoyed it for about 50 pages. I found the premise and the characters intriguing, and my plane ride was much more enjoyable than if I'd been reduced to staring at my hands. But then the book seemed to forget where it was going. We spent about a hundred pages in some sickeningly juvenile fantasy where a boy lies in bed with you but with no intention of trying to have sex and spends hours and hours gazing at you in a field. And the narration treated this as normal behavior. Then the male protagonist turned increasingly controlling, and that, combined with the number of times I had to read about what it felt like to kiss a person who felt like a cold statue, left me giggling. I finished the book in hysterics, occasionally rushing out of my room to share with my roommates a passage that was hilarious for the author's unbridled delusion of teenage lust love.

Despite everything I'd heard against that book, I was shocked by how bad the writing was. I went into it expecting something a step below Harry Potter, and instead I found something about as polished as a Harlequin. As far as I could surmise, the only thing keeping anyone's attention was the sexual tension, and sexual tension alone does not even a decent book make. Still, when I finished the first book, I wondered what  would happen next and even considered finishing the series. But I could not bring myself to slog through that writing, and when I learned that even the female protagonist's sweet younger friend who seemed like a viable romantic partner and a great alternative to a stalker was himself going to turn into a stalker later in the series - well, at that point, I tried to wash my hands of the whole thing.

Yet I've never quite broken away from the discussion that surrounds this particular supernatural romance novel. Why not? Because other people are constantly talking about it, and I find it hard to bite my tongue when I start hearing things like, "You can't say she's a bad writer. You just can't say that, because the book proves otherwise." Thank you, random acquaintances, for begging the question with that one.

But you know what? As cool as I find all the discussions the book opens up, I'm sick of talking about it. I don't want to think about it or talk about or read about it or blog about it. I want to wash it out of my life for once and for all. And so, this post is my cathartic goodbye to all the discussions I'm tired of feeling compelled to engage in. Because you know what? It's really not worth it.

So, book which I shall not name, this blog post is my cathartic farewell. I never loved you, I once hated you, and now I pity you in a distant sort of way. Let's just part ways and pretend we never met.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Feminist Question of the Week: Media Share

So this week I thought I'd make my question a practical one; I was hoping that everyone could share a provocative, unique, interesting, intense or even wrath-inducing piece of media related to feminism.

I spend alot of time on the internet on feminist and news sites, but I still feel like I miss great websites and articles that might be productive for a feminist dialogue, so in that spirit, let's share!

For my share today I'm posting a long, but worthwhile piece from the New York Times about sex education. The reason why I think it belongs on this blog, the teacher in question redefines ideas of sexuality for his students, turning sex ed into an interesting discussion about the body, gender roles and sexual stereotypes, instead of focusing solely on reproductive issues and abstinence.

Please post any media or information you'd like to share in the comments, or feel free to discuss the above article.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anonymity and its Pitfalls

One of the things that Not Another Wave prides itself on is its willingness to have anyone- and I do mean anyone, express their opinions on a subject so long as they're being respectful. When we founded this blog, Emily and I had just left undergrad environments where we were consistently having detailed conversations with people whose opinions differed from our own and we missed the intellectual, and subsequent social, stimulation.

This was compounded by our entirely negative experiences with Feministing right after Proposition 8 was passed in California, where posters to the site attacked and belittled a writer who identified as LDS/Mormon but who disagreed with Prop 8. The gist of the comments was that she was backwards for participating in her religion and that she couldn't be a "true" feminist when she attended a church that had played such a strong role in suppressing the rights of others. Emily and I separately wrote comments defending the author, because we're both women of faith in churches that aren't particularly feminist-leaning, and pointed out that part of the point of being in a faith community like that is bringing alternate perspectives to the interpretation of religious texts and practices. We, too, were attacked, including by moderators, and we left the site and made acceptance of multiple, divergent views a central tenet of Not Another Wave. We wanted discussion, we said, not a one-size-fits-all feminism. As part of that, we opted to let people leave comments anonymously if they felt more comfortable doing so.

In comments recently, however, our desire to create that environment and our experience with the realities of the internet has made that very difficult. Bots and true-to-life internet trolls have left comments on our site advertising "Whiter skin now!" and "Don't trust American women!" and used no alias. For us, these comments aren't contributions to a broader feminist dialogue, and we've deleted them. The problem is that other anonymous posters, in expressing their views, have been caught in the crossfire recently. I misidentified one anonymous commenter on a recent Feminist Question of the Week as a troll, which not only was rude, but shut down potential conversation that could have clarified some of the misunderstanding that had come from that comment in the first place. To that commenter, I apologize.

What this leads to, for me, is the question of whether anonymous posting is actually beneficial at this point. For the initial founding of the blog, we were limited by Blogger's insistence that people sign in with their Blogger IDs; to me, that meant that everyone had to have a Blogger account to participate, and I didn't like the way that limited our options or forced people to use their real names if they'd be more comfortable with an alias. Today, with our current settings, users can sign in with accounts for Google, LiveJournal, and OpenID as well as other sites. Users without registered accounts can also sign in with a made-up name and URL if they prefer, which protects privacy. This last option, however, is only available if we also permit fully anonymous posting.

My concern is that the anonymous posting, while important, has created an "all I have is a hammer" scenario where bots are able to post nasty ads for our site and regular readers get caught up in the same net. I'd like to bring the question to the readers: if we made the comments available to registered users only (meaning signing in to Blogger with a Google, AIM, OpenID, LiveJournal, Wordpress, or Typepad account), how do you feel that would affect the ability or willingness of people to participate in conversations, for better or for worse? How valuable is it to you to have the option, right now, of being anonymous or using an on-the-spot pseudonym when commenting?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Herman Cain and Jerry Sandusky Make Me Sick

Well, either that or the Relief Society retreat I attended over the weekend made me sick, but I really love The Relief Society, so I kind of doubt it. Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, let's just say I woke up a bunch of other women at 5:30 am because I had the stomach flu. Not exactly a fun end to a sleepover, but on the plus side, I got to watch a lot of movies and eat a ton of jello.

Anyway, my horrible weekend aside, there have been some really awful things going on in the news lately. Granted, there are always awful things going on in the news, but US news sources aren't always great about publicizing human rights violations, particularly when those violations are sexual crimes perpetrated by powerful men against women or minors, so I don't think very many of us are used to seeing such focus on these issues.

Personally, I deal with these issues much better when they're fictional, and listening to Sandusky's phone interview made me more than a little queasy. But all this crappy news about sports legends engaging in and/or enabling sexual abuse against little boys, while Herman Cain remains unapologetic despite mounting evidence that he sexually assaulted and harassed multiple women, doesn't just make me literally sick to my stomach. No, this news also has me wondering why it's difficult to accept the possibility that someone who does good things in public may be culpable in private. At least most people seem to trust the evidence against Sandusky, and his phone interview with Bob Costas reveals just how shaky their defense is. For those interested in the interview but without the stomach to handle it, I'm including Jon Stewart's coverage, which makes the interview at least a bit more palatable. It's still super creepy, though, so be forewarned.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jerry Sandusky Phone Interview
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The basic gist of the video is that when Costas asks Sandusky if he's sexually attracted to young boys, Sandusky takes a very long time to give a very indirect answer, in which he says he's not sexually attracted to young boys, emphasizing the word "sexually" so much that we have to wonder what difference he thinks there is between being attracted to young boys versus sexually attracted. Like I said, it's pretty clear this man is lying.

And yet, despite the severity of charges Sandusky is facing, and despite evidence that Jo Paterno was told in explicit detail about Sandusky raping a young boy in the showers and yet didn't go to the police, a bunch of Penn State students threw the tantrum that is now so infamous. Racialicious is of the opinion that the Penn State riots are about maintaining privilege for white men, as they explain in their discussion of all the "us" vs. "them" language used by students participating in the riot. While there's evidence of race as a factor in this horrendous debacle, I suspect the issue is more complex, particularly since so many have come to Herman Cain's defense in his own debacle and since it's very common for people to dismiss allegations of sexual abuse.

So, I'm returning to Erica's question of the week from a few weeks back, but now I'm amending it: why can't we believe that a person who does good things in public could do horrible things in private too?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shame, Honor, and my Sexual Abuse

So, sadly enough, my next post fits right into the month’s theme of sexual abuse awareness.

Yesterday, while standing at the bus stop, I was sexually harassed.

It was the middle of the day, on a busy street and I’m standing at a bus with a very stern looking old woman, when a bright pink car pulls up to the bus stop with a young man in it. I assume the man is waiting for someone and proceed to zone out and stare into space for the next few minutes. For some reason I came to and looked around and finally noticed what the young man was doing in his car…I probably don’t need to say it do I? You’ve already figured it out….but in case you haven’t, he was masturbating. I was shocked and disturbed and so walked a few steps to the right, at which point he moved his car to keep pace with me (which freaked me out more than anything else, honestly), so I turned around and headed back to the old woman, running through the options in my head.

1. Confront him and tell him to go fuck himself (oh wait, he’s already doing that).... no, that might be what he wants and I won’t give him that satisfaction.

2. Call the cops…no, my Korean is limited and even if it were better, I probably still wouldn’t have the language to communicate what was going on. Besides that, they probably wouldn’t do anything.

3. Tell the old Korean lady who, in typical bossy old lady Korean fashion, might just start yelling at him.

By the time I’m standing near her though, the guy has driven off, which on reflection was probably best, since I hadn’t realized that in order to have the old lady yell at him, she’d first have to know what was going on and I would have hated to point it out to her.

Anyway, the episode over, I took a deep breath, hailed a cab (which mercifully had one of the only two female cab drivers in the city), went on a hike with my friend and had a great time.

Now, I’m disturbed by what happened, I can’t deny that; yesterday and today I’ve been a little…skittish around men, but I’m an adult and this is, unfortunately, not the first time that something like this has happened to me, so I will get it over it.

The thing that is worrying me is some thoughts I’ve had the past few days. For instance, while getting dressed to go out with some friends last night and then again this morning, the thought popped into my head, “don’t wear that, it’s too provocative, that outfit might cause another incident”. Um, no it won’t, because first off, leggings, oversized sweaters and furry snow boots are not really “provocative” and two, I was going on a hike with a friend when it happened: I was wearing old sweats, tennis shoes and a fleece jacket, hardly risqué attire.

I am a feminist; I know better. It was not my fault and no matter what I was wearing, I was not responsible for what happened. It’s truly problematic that the idea of female promiscuity as a cause for sexual abuse is so pervasive that it’s in my psyche: it’s managing to undercut everything I’ve learned in the past few years. It’s truly horrific to think of how such an idea as being “fashionably responsible” might affect a victim of sexual abuse, particularly molestation or rape.

Another thing that has become problematic is paranoia. I’m sort of mildly paranoid on my own (I think I also have light case of hypochondria) and yesterday’s incident has not helped it. I’ve definitely thought a lot about my safety the past two days. In South Korea, everyone notices the foreigners; I have NO DOUBT that there are many people one my street that, if asked, could point you straight to my apartment. Should that guy choose to look a little harder for me, he could probably find me. This freaks me out a little. So I’ve decided that I’ll try and make myself scarce on my street for the next few weeks, in the hopes that the man doesn’t make yesterdays activity a habit. This is probably a smart choice on my part, but while I was walking to my apartment from the taxi today, and feeling a little skittish, I had a thought, a good one I think.

This is my street. I live here. It’s at the base of the mountains and there are lots of trees and Mr. Donut Hotdog street vendor knows me and gives me free Tukboki sometimes. I like my street and I have every right to feel comfortable on it. I shouldn’t have to bolt from my bus or taxi to my front door just so I don’t get harassed. I have the right to roam my streets and feel comfortable doing so. Therefore, I’ve decided that paranoia will not win out; I will try and be safe, but I will walk my streets with confidence, just like I think every woman has the right to do.

For shame, creepy man in the pink car, trying to scare me off my own street. For shame Korean government, not taking a stricter stance towards sexual harassment and abuse. Had I called the police, they would not have done much, and it stands to reason: Why would the police do anything about it here? In South Korea, if a man rapes a woman, but offers her money afterword, he is charged with a lesser crime. Of course my minor sexual harassment wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

I was not raped, but I was violated in a way: for shame that we live in a world where sexual abuse still happens so freely and with such few consequences.

But that’s over, because I’m taking back my street.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Allies in the Aftermath, part two

Some of you may have felt a bit “doom and gloom” after my last article- after all, when you look at the general aftermath of a , it’s hard to imagine that anyone could ever have a “normal” life again. Truth be told, some never do. But I don’t want this article miniseries to turn into a progression of increasingly pessimistic claims about starting over. Instead, I give you a brief list of suggestions for how to support a friend or loved one (henceforth referred to simply as a friend) who may be going through some of this stuff.

1) Believe, believe, believe. You will probably never know the full story of what happened, especially if your friend did anything shame-inducing (like got utterly sloshed). You might find yourself being asked to choose sides if the person who assaulted your friend is also a friend of yours. And yes, the stakes might be pretty high — just look at U.S. Presidential Nominee Herman Cain’s situation. But remember that you don’t have to agree with a person’s choices to believe that someone committed a crime against them. The odds are very strong that, if someone confides in you, they’re telling the truth…and they’ll probably appreciate hearing you say that you believe them.

2) Patience is a virtue. Remember that whole last article about how miserable the aftermath is? Part of the reason it’s such a misery-fest is the fact that resolution takes a long time. Trauma reactions can take years to heal. Police departments can take forever to conduct interviews and compile evidence (in Colorado Springs, where I work, it can take upwards of 18 months). Processing a forensic exam will take many, many, many weeks. If you’re being supportive for your friend, be prepared to be needed for a long time. It’s okay to make sure your friend knows this, but it’s also okay for your friend to be really angry when things aren’t resolved in six months. And along those lines…

3) Healing is a process, not an event. As I’ve said before, there might be a lot of psychological drek — trauma, trust concerns, second-guessing the self, etc. — for your friend to sort through. This can be pretty serious and take a while. One of my clients, who had been coasting along pretty well a few months after her assault, suddenly started having recurring nightmares. Her partner freaked out because he didn’t understand why she would regress all of a sudden. The truth is, it can be really draining to support someone through their healing process simply because it’s not a linear thing. Make sure your friend knows that they’re not weird or crazy if they find themselves taking two steps forward and one step back- they’re healing. And if you’re going to volunteer to be available any time your friend needs to talk, please try to follow through on that.

4) Have some positive messages ready. So let’s say your friend was trashed, or their partner was already quite abusive, or had started things consensually. They’ll probably be pretty good at beating themselves up for the choices they made. Try to think of ways to re-frame their blame. For example, if your friend says “If I hadn’t come on to Pat, Pat wouldn’t've raped me,” a good response might be something like “Flirting is a normal thing to do. Pat needed to stop when you tried to leave.” If your friend eventually can’t take your re-framing anymore, it’s okay simply to be with your friend. Sometimes it’s easier to be angrier at yourself than at the things you can’t control.

5) Let your friend make the choices. I don’t mean about what junk food to gorge on, of course. I mean about what to tell to whom. When someone’s been sexually assaulted, their choice — their ability to assert their autonomy — has been taken away from them. One of the best, most supportive things you can do is to encourage your friend to reclaim that ability by not interfering with their decision-making. If they ask you what to do, help them weigh the pros and cons of each choice (i.e. getting a forensic exam is no fun, but it increases the likelihood of being able to prosecute in the future) rather than making the choice for them. One of the hardest things to do is watch your friend decline to call the police or get an exam done. Believe me, it’ll make your teeth grind and your stomach ache. But your priority as a friend needs to be your friend’s choices.

6) Get some support for yourself, too. There’s a lot out there for someone who’s been sexually assaulted — advocacy, counseling, legal services — but often not a whole lot for their friends or family. If this is someone you’re close to, you might find yourself experiencing similar reactions that they are — anger at the choices of your friend and their attacker, fear that this could happen to you, sorrow for the loss of your friend’s safety, etc. As with your friend, these feelings are completely normal. This is someone you care about, right? Humans are programmed to have empathy for those in their “pack.” It’s okay to be on an emotional roller coaster, but it’s also okay to look for resources that can help you too. You can start by going to RAINN’s online hotline to find local resources or to talk to an anonymous hotline staffer.

I hope these have been some helpful ideas for where to start supporting someone, and I also encourage you to be proactive in your support: look for sexual assault events in your community, bring some of the knowledge you’ve gained here into a conversation that may happen in your home or workplace, or try any number of the other suggestions listed at the Green Dot Project.

If you have any questions, please feel free to add them in the comments section below or email me at

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Problem with Stigmatizing Cain's Accusers

Rachel Maddow Discusses some of the problems that have cropped up in the way so many have responded to the allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

New to the Blogroll: Spark in Darkness

If you read NAW regularly, you've probably noticed the nifty little gadget to the right of the screen, "Blogs We Follow." You've also probably noticed how FeminAwsome (cheesy, I know) each of those blogs is. From Racialicious, where there is always something interesting (related to race and gender) going on in pop culture, to Feminist Mormon Housewives, where you get a very unusual feminist perspective, to the radical feminist Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy, they're all pretty spectacular.

But did you notice our newest addition? Spark in Darkness brings a perspective that can make you laugh with one word and cry with the next. That's right, Sparky is writing from the UK. Sparky is also a gay man who is in a committed relationship with a partner he refers to as Beloved, and I've long been a fan of his guest posts on Womanist Musings. So now Sparky is joining the list of blogs we follow, where we can read about Beloved's wrong opinions about food, their cat's shameful tendency to be chased by birds, and news that has Sparky annoyed.

So if you haven't checked out our wonderful "Blogs We Follow" gadget, please do!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cornel West Calls for Rule of Law

The video is rather long, but you get to hear from a variety of voices. I'd offer a summary, but honestly, it's too long for a summary even!

So, do the American people have Stockholme Syndrome where Goldman Sachs is concerned?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ask a Feminist: Joss Whedon and Strong Women

This week's Ask a Feminist segment is gonna be a little different - instead of me answering a question, I'm embedding a video where prominent feminist Joss Whedon answers a question he is all-too-frequently asked. The video is a bit dated, but everything he says is just as relevant today as it was five years ago. To skip to Joss Whedon's comments, go to 2:10.

Incidentally, Whedon's response to the question parallels nicely with Twisty's latest post about the problem with differentiating between women and strong women. Granted, I suspect Twisty would include Whedon's female protagonists in her critique, but then Twisty is a radical feminist.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Feminist Question of the Week--Internet Discussions

Obviously, the internet has great blogs (like this one) to help spread the positive messages of feminism and other social causes, but how do you and how can we use facebook and other such sites as a way to change sexism? How do you respond (without causing the worlds biggest meltdown) to offensive material on places like facebook? Or do you just leave it alone so you don’t start a fight (I admit, I do this a lot)?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Facebook Hell

Does anyone else feel like they’re in facebook hell? American has suddenly learned of the power of overly-sentimental, sexist mottos and memes and has decided to share them with EVERYONE through the worlds most powerful tool…facebook.

For instance, yesterday, this popped up on my newsfeed:

Seriously, I think I need to delete my facebook account. This little gem of "gender difference" pissed me off. Any men out there insulted by this? Well, you have every right to be. This absurd journal entry is insulting to men because we all know loads of men who are conscientious and sensitive and who legitimately care for the people around them (and even if they do have motorcycle, would still notice their wife crying). Why promote stereotypes that show women as overly-emotional children and men as unfeeling giants?

Well, perhaps her husband didn’t notice his wife crying because women do it ALL THE TIME apparently. This fascinating piece of prose has also been floating around facebook:

A little boy asked his mother, "Why are you crying?" "Because I'm a woman," she told him.

"I don't understand," he said. His Mom just hugged him and said, "And you never will."

Later the little boy asked his father, "Why does mother seem to cry for no reason?"

"All women cry for no reason," was all his dad could say.

The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry.

Finally he put in a call to God. When God got on the phone, he asked, "God, why do women cry so easily?"

God said, "When I made the woman she had to be special.

I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world,

yet gentle enough to give comfort.

I gave her an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times comes from her children.

I gave her a hardness that allows her to keep going when everyone else gives up, and take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining.

I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances, even when her child has hurt her very badly.

I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.

I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.

And finally, I gave her a tear to shed. This is hers exclusively to use whenever it is needed."

"You see my son," said God, "the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart - the place where love resides."

You now have two choices. Like this photo and move on with your life
Share this photo on your wall as a tribute to all the women in your life.”

I love it that in this meme, the only people who are worth anything are, way to be exclusive....except while women are super special, being one must suck since it seems like everyone has the right to treat her like crap (according to the author anyway).

Oh, and I guess all women understand the eternal truths of, “I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.
I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.” Gee, I’m so grateful that I was made to protect my husbands heart and I’m so glad he has a free pass from God to be a jerk to me, because well, he’s just testing my resolve and commitment to him.

Really, to whoever invented this thing, can you not see how problematic what you wrote is? And WHY did you choose a picture of Casey Anthony of all people to represent the beauties of womanhood? 99% of America is convinced this woman murdered her child…don’t you think you might be sending a mixed message here?

But yet, the madness continues!

"Yes, I'm a female. I push doors that clearly say PULL. I laugh harder when I try to explain why I'm laughing. I walk into a room and forget why I was there. I count on my fingers. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I say it is a long story, when it really is not, just to get out of having to tell it. I cry a lot more than you think I do. I care about people who don't care about me. I am strong because I have to be, not because I want to be. I listen to you, even when you don't listen to me. And a hug will always help. Yes, I'm a girl!!!!! Re-post if you're a girl and proud to be one"

Because it’s not enough to be a compulsive crier, women are also bad at math, can’t read and are super proud of the fact that we love to be emotionally abused….oh wait, I don’t like being emotionally abused. Does this mean I’m not a woman?

And it’s not enough to love being abused as a woman, but men should love it too!

True men adore it when their loved ones treat them like crap and a true woman is demanding, whiny, clingy and abusive. Isn’t this sweet? Also, what in the hell are "car directions" and since when did use of the remote make you an adult?

Wait! Don’t stop reading and go bang your head against a wall yet, I have more!

Instead of just ragging on men and women and creating absurd stereotypes, let’s also set up destructive mottoes for relationships because jealousy is always a good mark of a healthy, functioning relationship. It’s also a nice determiner of masculinity and maturity.

I also love how truly practical many of the memes are…would you like to test the fidelity of your spouse and partner? Well step right up, because it’s easy to do! All you need is a trunk, your loved one and a dog.

Thanks facebook for teaching me all things I ever needed to know about being a man, a woman and in a successful relationship.

Ok, back to reality now, I really don’t blame facebook. It’s not Mark Zuckerberg’s fault that the rest of the world likes really stupid memes and has decided to share them on his internet site; Pinterest contributes as well (damn you internet!).

To me, while these cutesy little mottoes are problematic, the bigger issue here is that no one seems to see them as problematic. People are posting this left and right and hailing them as adorable pictures and worthwhile advice. What has happened to our society that hurtful, mindless kitsch has become something to, not only be admired, but shared?

To my mind, the problem is logic. Our society values the kitschy and, supposedly, heartwarming over thoughtful consideration. If people would take the time to really consider what it is that they're reading I think a lot of people would realize the underlying message that's really being conveyed. Ours is a society of thoughtless speed; it's time that we took a few minutes to consider the consequences of what we view and share on the internet.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Erica's news of the week

Okay kids, this week's "In the News" is jam-packed with the articles I've found while trolling the interwebs for the past twelve days. Get ready for a rollercoaster ride of excitement, disappointment, rage, and fun. Ready? READY!

First up, a rage-note from the New Hampshire legislative panel that's apparently voting to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law. While it looks like such a repeal might not make it past the governor, I'm dismayed that lawmakers can't seem to let this go and I truly don't understand the benefit of yanking peoples' chains where their civil rights are concerned.

Next up is a somewhat fluffier article from the ever-neurotic Liz Jones at the Daily Mail. As she slowly starts writing articles about how her anxiety around weight and her appearance has plagued her for her entire life, she finally starts owning how this is ruining her body in a very real way. I'd feel more sympathy for these articles, however, if her other articles weren't all about how this star's looking fat in these jeggings or this other star has the perfect bikini body. Right now it just sounds like a load of hypocritical tosh.

Next up comes another hypocritical note from the Internet vigilante group Anonymous, which has started shutting down sites that contain or support child pornography. I'm not complaining about their actions, mind you- but I do think it's entertaining that Anon originated from 4chan, a chat site that was famous for its libertarian views on Internet use and child pornography. On another entertaining note, they're supposedly planning to shut down Fox News on November 5th. As of right now the website is still up, but we'll see.

Canada, that paragon of universal healthcare on the North American continent, has just released a study done to see who puts what sorts of drains on the system. Shockingly enough (and yes, that was sarcastic), people who are obese don't appear to require much more from their health care system than their skinnier counterparts. What it seems to come down to is whether a person maintains a healthy lifestyle, weight aside- which prompts my sarcasm filter to drop long enough to scream "SO YOU CAN BE TWIG-THIN AND STILL WAY UNHEALTHIER THAN THE PERSON WEARING 22W JEANS? FUCKING DUH!" Sorry. It's bothered me for a very long time that we've so strongly associated size with health (for women), especially when so many skinny people in the limelight (Gwyneth Paltrow, for example) show off their diets and how frighteningly unhealthy they actually are.

Another one in the "duh" department is a poster campaign against offensive Halloween costumes. If reading that automatically triggers your "relax, it's just a holiday" gene, then maybe you should click the link and reconsider your point. I don't know about you, but if someone decided that dressing like the Irish Republican Army was a good idea, things would get ugly very quickly. Just...don't. Halloween can be a lot of fun without being completely tasteless.

On a completely different note, a district attorney in Staten Island has come up with a new plan for protecting victims of domestic violence: GPS ankle trackers on their offenders. No, wait, hear me out. One of the problems with restraining orders is that they don't work on people who don't care, because they're just pieces of paper, so it's not uncommon for a victim of abuse to get a restraining order but continue to be harassed, attacked, and unfortunately killed by their abuser. While many states have made it a felony to violate a protection order more than once or twice (?!), we still have the problem of a victim not knowing if it's safe to go home tonight or not. With the GPS device, abusers who have already violated their protection orders are being tracked; when they enter the protected zone (i.e. the house or the workplace), the victim/protected party is given a phone call alerting them to the abuser's presence and in turn giving them a chance to get out safely (or not go home yet). HOW AMAZING IS THAT? I wish I had that option for some of my clients.

A quick note from Foreign Policy looks at some of the ways in which the regime change in Libya is impacting relations between sexes. While cultural values around what happens before marriage might not have changed, it is interesting (and important) to note how much a government can affect the ability of people simply to talk to each other.

And finally, of course, is the sinking ship that is Herman Cain's presidential campaign after it was revealed that he's faced multiple complaints for sexual harassment. The news has swung wildly on this over the last few days- the latest being that one of the accusers won't be speaking in public- but it looks like Mr. Cain had a tendency to say and/or do things in the late 90s that, at best, were unprofessional and sketchy. More likely, from my experience, he knew what he was doing and thought he could get away with it. Way to go, sexual harassment panda!

That's it. I'm done. Time to go back to bed and hide from the news for a while.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Feminist question of the week

Apologies for a delayed posting of the Feminist Question of the Week, but here it is:

Why, in your opinion, do people presume that a victim or survivor of sexual assault is lying about their experiences, especially given that survivors of robberies and other types of crimes are generally given the benefit of the doubt?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

News that Makes Emily Mad (and Proud)

So, I've got to provide a little context behind today's post: when I was in seventh and eighth grade, I had this amazing English teacher, the kind who won national awards for teaching. In a lot of ways she was hands off, having us write and read and reflect in class, while she rotated around the room and met with individual students. But she kept us very hands on. We'd write stories that modeled the style of an author we loved, workshop those stories in groups with other students, and then revise till the end product barely resembled the initial draft. Other writing projects got us involved with the world around us. After a unit of reading Holocaust literature, we wrote letters to newspapers all across the US, requesting stories as well as seeds for a Holocaust memorial garden. So, this teacher is pretty much awesome, which is why I was delighted to see a New York Times article about her.

The article's topic, however, was one that made me very angry with the No Child Left Behind Act. Ms. Rief is now one of many Oyster River teachers facing pressure to teach to the test, a change in curriculum that would interfere with her creative, student-oriented educational practices - educational practices that already work. 

Why the new pressure? Well, the middle school I attended while I was growing up, a middle school that is part of a school district that refuses to teach to the test and yet scores well above state and national averages on standardized tests every year, is now failing NCLB's stringent requirements. This failing score makes no sense to anyone involved with Oyster River, as evidenced by the article's description of the situation:

     [Local residents] do want to know why, if Oyster River is failing, its eighth graders do so well
     when they get to high school. This year, Oyster River students averaged 1,670 on the three SAT
     tests, 111 points above the state average and 170 above the national average.

Already 85% of ORMS students test as proficient, but that's not close enough to NCLB's absurd goal of 100% proficiency. Apparently all schools are meant to progress toward that goal at a steep rate, but low and behold! turns out it's harder to move from 85% to 90% than it is to move from 50% to 55% (hypothetical numbers, but you get the point). So instead of saving every child like it proclaims, the No Child Left Behind Act currently threatens schools that already work and diverts public attention away from the schools that desperately need attention.

Nobody directly involved with education actually likes NCLB, at least no teacher I've yet to encounter. So why is it still around?