Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Dockers has a new "man-ifesto" ad campaign.
Seriously?? *rolls eyes* This is a whole new level of offensiveness in advertising...what is this 1955?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Smile !!!... or Get a Metal Spike to the Head !

Yep….this is a real thing. Lauren McCarthy, an MIT grad, invented the Happiness Hat which when worn will cause a little metal spike to poke you in the head if you stop smiling. The hat is designed with a sensor that detects movement in your face, so when you frown the sensor will trigger the spike and cause you to immediately smile to avoid the painful jab.

After reading more about McCarthy and her invention, I see the logic behind creating the hat. McCarthy got the idea after reading a study that found that people who were forced to smile found reading material to be funnier than people who were forced to frown while reading the same material. McCarthy’s hope is that seeing someone smile will trigger mirror neurons in your own brain, causing you to unconsciously smile yourself.

McCarthy acknowledges that right now it’s more of an art project than an everyday use accessory. But she is working on it, and plans to refine the hat by measuring how much a person smiles in a day and modifying the hat to prick you if you don’t smile for long periods of time.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feminist Film Fail?

Last night some friends and I decided to watch the movie “Jennifer’s Body,” starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. We weren’t sure what to expect, as we had heard mixed reviews. Though, we were interested in investigating the claim that the movie is feminist.

“Jennifer’s Body” is written by feminist screenwriter, Diablo Cody (Juno), and directed by Karen Kusama (Girlfight), and is described as a feminist horror-comedy film.

So, is the film feminist?
Well, the film was written by, directed by, and stars women. Diablo Cody claims to have written the script with feminist messages all along.

That being said, I’m not quite convinced. Local band, Low Shoulder, singles out Jennifer (Megan Fox) at one of their shows to be a human sacrifice, because they believe she is a virgin. One of the band members even makes a comment about how “that type of girl never gives it up.” Since Jennifer is actually not a virgin, she is instead turned into a man-eating demon. Punishment for not being a virgin? *That sounds familiar…
Then there were the constant close-ups of Megan Fox’s body. Next there was “the kiss” scene between Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Where did that come from? An attempt to draw in male viewers perhaps?

I wasn’t that impressed by the movie. It was funny though. We were constantly laughing at the crazy things that Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and particularly Jennifer said.

What do you think? Is “Jennifer’s Body” feminist?

*Jessica Valenti has written extensively about this topic. For more information see her book, “The Purity Myth”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

World AIDS Day

Yesterday, December 1, was official World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to recognizing and raising awareness of the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic.


"Started on 1st December 1988, World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. The World AIDS Day theme for 2009 is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.2 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. During 2007 some 2.5 million people became newly infected with the virus. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.1

A vast majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in lower- and middle-income countries. But HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world."

Advocates for Choice hosted and cosponsored World AIDS Day at NIU with the assistance of PRISM, Health Enhancement, and the Women’s Rights Alliance. Together, the groups took part in condom distribution in MLK Commons and screening “Philadelphia,” a film about AIDS discrimination, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Though the looming presence of finals and end-of-the-semester jitters affected the number of individuals that participated, those who did take part were passionately dedicated to informing and educating the campus about World AIDS Day and the need to stay healthy, happy, and educated. Many thanks to all the cosponsors and NIU staff, faculty, and staff that contributed to World AIDS Day!

Recognition, of course, is only the first step in taking counteractive measures to decrease occurrences of HIV/AIDS worldwide; it must be combined with conscientious educational endeavors. provides many great resources for understanding the basic of HIV/AIDS and even has a nifty quiz to test your knowledge.

Here is a list of common misconceptions about HIV/AIDS:
1.) Women can't give men HIV.
2.) Since I am HIV-positive, if I get pregnant, I will spread the disease to my unborn baby.
3.) He doesn't "look" like someone with HIV.
4.) HIV is the same as AIDS.
5.) Both my partner and I have HIV. We don't need to use a condom.
6.) The government produced AIDS to reduce certain groups of people.
7.) Knowing who is on the "down low" will save me from getting HIV.
8.) I cannot get HIV from tattoos or body piercing.
9.) I have HIV. It is best for me to start drug therapy when I get sick.
10.) HIV can be cured.

This site provides answers to such misunderstandings and myths about HIV/AIDS.

Conduct your own research using the sources above as a starting point, keeping in mind the detrimental impacts of AIDS stigma and misinformation.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Soapboxing, Ranting, and Yelling At Old Men: Apparently I Never Shut Up

This past Thanksgiving, my extended family came to my parent’s house to celebrate. It was a pleasant evening, though I think I might have annoyed my relatives a bit more than usual. I got accused of ‘soap-boxing’ more than once. This bothered me until I saw this article on Alternet.

I have developed a bit of a reputation among friends and co-workers for my "rants": impassioned mini-speeches on whatever topic has "struck a chord" in me. These rants are at a louder volume than my regular speaking voice, and can sound angry, or perhaps even aggressive, to the untrained ear.

I used to be quieter; I used to just let things go. I am a very laid-back person, and I loathe conflict. But I have noticed myself speaking out a lot more as I grow older, whether it involves soap-boxing at family get-togethers or yelling at old men in bars and movie theatres (they deserved it, trust me).

Last night in one of my classes, we discussed the role of an advocate. It was said that an advocate learns about issues, speaks up, and educates others. As a feminist and employee at the Women’s Resource Center, I am an advocate for women. As a vegetarian, I am an advocate for animals. In my future career, I plan to be an advocate for children. These things encompass a wide range of topics fit for soap-boxing and/or "ranting." I have said more than once to myself that I’d rather live a thousand lifetimes alone than compromise my beliefs. But, if I am lucky enough to keep finding and retaining like-minded and tolerant people in my life, I won’t have to.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Keeping the Option Part of the Public Health Care Option

The big issue in Washington right now is health care and the public option. Whether or not you are someone who currently has health care, the debate over the public option may or may not have been something you have been following. Unfortunately, the reality is that we should ALL be following the new proposal for health care and the impact it can have for abortion services. The bill would not mandate insurance companies to cover abortion services and could impact current abortion policies. This article from the New York Times gives our generation insight into previous movements to ensure abortion access for everyone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Next Best Thing... (kind of)

So, once again, I have forgotten to bring my NWSA material. Thus, I figured I should write on the next best thing: Lady Gaga.

Ok, ok, I know that she is not the next best thing… but, considering her rising popularity and openness about being a supporter of the LGBT community, I was interested to find out what her stance is on feminism.

Now, I never thought that Lady Gaga would be a shining example of deep insight on issues of gender equality, but a girl can hope. In fact, Gaga has frequently discussed female empowerment, stating that she is "sexually empowering women" through her music. Yet, in the interview below, it is apparent that Gaga is yet another victim of a distorted view of feminism.

The truly sad part about this interview is that there seems to be a glimpse of hope when she touches on the topic of gendered double standards:

"You see, if I was a guy, and I was sitting her with a cigarette in my hand, grabbing my crotch and talking about how I make music 'cause I love fast cars and fucking girls, you'd call me a rock star. But when I do it in my music and in my videos, because I'm a female, because I make pop music, you're judgmental, and you say that it is distracting. I'm just a rock star."

But with the next question - Are you a feminist? Voids all hope, as she states,
"I'm not a feminist - I, I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars..."

Furthermore, in a separate interview she was quoted saying, ''There's a stigma around feminism that's a little bit man-hating. And I don't promote hatred, ever."

Clearly there is a cognitive dissidence between her views and how she labels herself; she seems to feed into the misconceptions regarding feminism. After all, there is no feminist rule book that states that in order to own the feminist label, one must hate men, beer, bars, and muscle cars. Additionally, feminism is predicated on the belief in stopping all forms hatred and inequalities. Feminism is about ending various forms of oppression (including homophobic forms of repression) and promoting political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. One term that is easy to equate feminism to is humanitarianism, which by definition is "a person promoting human welfare and social reform." Ultimately, that is what feminism is all about, just with a greater emphasis on how gender affects a person’s ability to attain the broad goal of "human welfare."

So, even if Lady Gaga has a skewed view of feminism, I know what it TRULY means to be a feminist, and I OWN the label. Unfortunately, it is people like Gaga that perpetuate myths about feminism and reinforce stigmas. Hopefully, others question and critique her statements, and promote the correct definition of what it means to be a feminist.

Woman = Pre-Existing Condition

By Tabi Cooper, WRC volunteer

Health insurance companies are notorious for denying coverage due to “pre-existing” conditions, which can include diagnoses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disease and attention-deficit disorder. According to A Woman is Not a Pre-Existing Condition, it seems that we can also add women to this list. Females pay higher premiums and can be denied coverage based upon sex, because some health insurance companies view the female sex as a “pre-existing” condition.

Women who buy health coverage directly from insurance companies face unfair and discriminatory practices. This includes using gender to set health insurance rates, causing women to pay more than men for the same coverage. Further, it is legal for women to be denied coverage for being a domestic violence survivor in eight states and D.C. Many health insurance companies may even refuse to pay for future Caesarean sections or totally deny coverage because a woman has had a Caesarean section.

For many women, a high percentage of doctor’s visits revolve around reproductive health, whether for an annual gynecological exam, getting birth control, or even prenatal care. Strangely, many insurance companies do not view pregnancy as a medical condition; yet, they will often pay for Viagra, because erectile dysfunction is considered a medical condition.

In short, this is the message that insurance companies need to know: Being a woman is not a pre-existing condition. For more information, check out this article on

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bedpan Commando

I do not normally make it a point to watch the History Channel, but their new series WWII in HD is truly amazing. The History Channel has gone to great lengths to find unbelievable footage and awe inspiring survivors to tell the stories of those who bravely fought in WWII. While most of the narrations come from men, one woman from Wautoma, Wisconsin was included. June Wandrey was a First Lieutenant in the Army Nursing Corps and fought in the war for three years. She was described in her bio as “a fun-loving young woman with a fierce sense of independence that is decades ahead of her time.” Upon the U.S. entering WWII, June was among some 70,000 women who enlisted to help fight the Nazi’s and care for the sick and dying. As a nurse she saw the most horrific side of war and was often the last person to speak to so many fathers, sons, husbands and lovers. Her struggle to preserve her sense of self was challenged by all the brutalities of war and seems to be an experience that she is still trying to overcome.

June’s story is one that is not often told. Women’s roles during WWII have mostly been confined to “Rosie the Riveter”, and while that proved to be the jumping off point for women in the work place, June’s story of total emersion in the war deserves just as much attention and contemplation. If you are interested in reading June’s entire story check out her book Bedpan Commando: The Story of a Combat Nurse During World War II and go to to for more details on the WWII in HD project.

NWSA Conference

As Lettie previously mentioned, Kate, Jill, Lettie and myself spent last weekend at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Atlanta. The whole conference was a great experience, particularly for me as it was my first NWSA conference. I loved seeing Angela Davis speak, and I got to attend so many wonderful sessions. Here is a brief rundown of some of the sessions I attended.

Ohio Women’s Centers’ Statement of Philosphy
The women’s centers in Ohio have actually created a joint mission statement which reads,
“Women’s centers reflect the unique needs of their institutions and communities, yet share a commitment to historically underserved individuals and groups. Additionally, women’s centers play a leadership role in understanding the changing workplace and preparing members of the University community to engage successfully with an increasingly complex world. Women’s centers are integral to transforming institutions into inclusive environments; through community-building, advocacy, education, support, and research, they encourage the full participation and success of women.”
This session was wonderful as it asked questions such as, “If women’s centers went away tomorrow, what would be lost?” and many others.

Project Red Flag Campaign
Project Red Flag is an initiative sponsored by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance which is directed at helping college students recognize relationship “red flags.” They discussed how they went about starting the program and what is done with it now.
For more information on the Project Red Flag Campaign please visit the website

How Can Women's Centers and Women's Studies be a Resource for Survivors of Human Trafficking
This was one of my favorite sessions. It covered what human trafficking actually is, how to determine if it is occurring and how to identify a victim of human trafficking. The next portion of the session discussed how to create a response plan for dealing with human trafficking on your campus.
For more information on human trafficking and respond to human trafficking visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s website http://

In the interest of keeping this readable I will break this down, look forward to hearing more about the different sessions that I attended the next time I blog!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This MUST be a Joke…Right?

Last night as I was doing what I do best when I have a monumental research paper due the next day (i.e. procrastinating), I came across a day old episode [originally aired on Monday, November 16, 2009] of “The Colbert Report” that caught my attention in more than one way. Like any American, I have a crush on Stephen Colbert’s witty humor and straight face. So, it was nothing out of the ordinary when I responded with an outburst of slightly confused, half gasping-for-air laughter to his coverage of a seemingly asinine topic: The Washington, D.C. Archdiocese offered the ultimatum that if the proposed same-sex marriage law isn’t changed, they will no longer “be able” to provide social services, including homeless shelters (serve approximately ONE THIRD of homeless population of D.C.), adoption, and healthcare. More of the specifics are covered in this article.

Colbert’s snarky, pseudo biblical text response was “after all, Jesus said: If you wish to be perfect, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor...unless a couple of dudes register at the Pottery Barn, in which case, f*ck the poor.” I was caught off guard but was nevertheless in disbelief. Even now, I can’t really process it. While I recognize this is but one Archdiocese and it’s not an official message issued by the Pope, I can’t help but be alarmed by the seemingly childish antics. Democratic due process is there for a reason, is it not? Shouldn’t the people of D.C. be able to vote without being “morally” coerced and bullied into a limited line of thinking? Maybe that’s just me. Then again….I keep thinking this is some cruel joke.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Dad is a Feminist, and I Dig It

I came across this article on Alternet, and it got me thinking about the rare, wondrous creature that is a male feminist and my own experiences with them.
I immediately called my father (he is retired, and therefore usually easily reachable). You see, my parents raised my sisters and me to be strong, independent people. My father never expected any less from us because we were female; he was always quick to inform us “When I was your age, I was (in Vietnam, living on my own, doing any number of actions he perceived applicable to the situation at hand)”. Therefore, I assumed he was a feminist, but wanted to make sure.
Me: Hi, Dad, I’m writing this thing for work, and I just have to ask you something. Are you a feminist?
Dad: Well, see, I don’t know about that. Doesn’t that mean that they [feminists] want more rights than men?
Me: No, actually, that isn’t true. A feminist is someone who believes that men and women are equal, and should have equal rights.
Dad: Well, if that’s what it means, then I guess I am a feminist. You can put that in your report.
Me: Great, thanks.
Dad: But, you know, the wording is off, they should change it to ‘femanist’, so it sounds more equal. [Guffaws]
Me: … Bye, Dad.

So, you see, feminism runs in my blood. And is frequently misunderstood (which isn’t breaking news, by any means). Imagine how our ranks could swell if people really understood what we’re all about!
Thank you, feminists male and female alike, wherever you are. You make this world a better place.
[Uh, the guy in the picture is totally not my dad, but my dad is an older gentleman, and owns some pipes.]

Monday, November 16, 2009

NWSA Conference

This past weekend was the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference in Atlanta, GA. Some members of the office staff were fortunate enough to attend, me included.

The conference was a feminist’s dream, with workshops ranging from eco-feminism to position papers on stem call research to feminist teaching practices. One of the highlights of the conference was keynote speaker Angela Davis! Davis spoke on issues such as exploring intersectionalities, the future of feminism, and politics.

This conference was a great opportunity to reinvigorate my feminist views and learn about what issues are at the forefront of the field. It is also a great place to network with like-minded people and have discussions about issues that are not commonly addressed. Hopefully in the next few weeks, I will be able to go into further detail about all the sessions that I was able to attend (I left all my notes at home; so, think of this as the teaser).

Friday, November 13, 2009

If Looks Could Kill...

Can’t walk out the door without your favorite lip gloss and a swipe of mascara? Do you know what’s hiding in those flirty pint hues? Recent studies have shown that many of the trusted cosmetics we use every day may contain harmful chemicals. Even products that claim to be organic may contain carcinogens or mutagens. Bring your fave beauty products and, together we’ll find out what you are really putting on your body and what beauty companies aren’t telling you.

Date: Wednesday, November 19

Time: 7:00

Location: Women’s Resource Center

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Newspaper Sex Columns: College-level Sex Education?

College newspaper sex columns remain a very unfamiliar concept here at NIU, and, according to an article published by, it’s no wonder. “’Sex is one of those red-flag subjects,’ especially on conservative or religious campuses, whether in the form of sex columns, explicit pictures or other writing about sex,” reports Alex DiBranco, in this article originally published by The Nation. Reflecting back on my first-hand experience with the intricacies of NIU’s student governmental response to sexual “political” issues, I can only nod my head in agreement with the previously mentioned assertion. A student organization surrounding reproductive rights was nearly unimaginable at NIU, let alone a sex column in a paper that is reluctant to take a progressive stance on issues related to women, gender, and sexuality.*

Operating under the assumption that sexual health education increases the likelihood that students will make informed and safe decisions, it is surprising that college newspaper sex columns are relatively uncommon. Heather Strack asserts, "A sex column is a significant statement of female rights. Not only am I a female columnist, but I am writing about a topic considered taboo and improper for a woman." While some sex columns do reinforce a heteronormative mentality, many more promote a healthy exploration of gender and sexuality. Furthermore, studies indicate that “sex columns influence the rest of the newspaper by ‘getting sex out of the closet.’ National and campus sex and sexuality issues, such as LGBT rights, gender identity, abortion, birth control, STIs and sexual assault, gain recognition as significant, acceptable topics.”

Examining the pages of the Northern Star, it is hard to imagine that a sex column, especially one that has potential to influence acceptance of related issues would be embraced, accepted, or plausible. Why not? Though I’ve certainly encountered a few seemingly more liberal, energetic journalists from the student paper, it would be very difficult to infiltrate an editorial board that appears to pride itself on conservative politics and reporting. Why not me? Despite my rough track record with the Northern Star, I can’t help but be inspired by the idea of an informed and educational sex column on campus. I’m no expert, but the article states that sex columns provide women with the ability to assert themselves against mainstream patriarchal sexual messaging which is so especially prevalent in popular publications such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour. “Isabel Murray, feminist columnist for the Free Press, takes Cosmopolitan to task for its heteronormative, male-pleasure-oriented approach, while pointing out that it and similar women's magazines are nonetheless the only non-campus media addressing female sexuality” reports If this genre of magazine is one of the only types of publicized means for men and women to obtain information about sex and what constitutes healthy sexual relations, it’s no surprise that the sexual double standard is alive and kicking.
Assuming that most NIU students have likely been exposed to inaccurate information provided by parents, peers, and abstinence-only education, it seems as though an informed and educational, college newspaper sex column could be the key to this perplexing paradigm of misinformation that continues to plague the nation.

* Jessica Valenti touches on the role of conservative religious aims, the myth of virginity, and its impacts on women in her book, “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women”(Check it out!).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

World War for Women's Health

In many people’s minds, a stereotypical AIDS patient is homosexual or African. Now, we can add female to that list.

The World Health Organization has declared that “the AIDS virus is the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44”, according to this article.
Several risk factors include: unsafe sex practices, the inability for women to obtain contraceptives, and iron deficiency.

This information was released in a 91-page report by the World Health Organization yesterday in which they tried to illustrate the inequality women face in health care. For example, diseases that affect only females are given little attention, as women are viewed as second-class citizens in some countries.

The fight for reproductive rights and access to health care is still a battle for the women in the United States. Imagine the magnification of such a problem in countries where women have fewer rights and freedoms.

A co-worker of mine presented a program about feminism last week. She showed a video where people discussed their reasons for identifying as feminists. A quote from that video really struck me; one woman said “Being a feminist to me means I’m connected to every woman on the planet”.

Women around the world need access to information, health care, and contraceptives. We must wage a “World War” for the lives and well-being of women around the globe.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Perpetuating Gender Roles

Gender roles are reinforced everywhere we look; whether it is in the toys that are marketed to children, or the types of vodka we are told to drink. One place that we hope to be free from such gender reinforcement is from parents. Of course parents will perpetuate certain norms (e.g. dressing their children in gender appropriate clothing), but one would hope that parents would treat their children fairly and equally regardless of gender. But it appears that this is merely wishful thinking. Highlights magazine polled children asking how many performed household chores. The results revealed that significantly more girls than boys had chores. Thus, not only are parents abiding by conventional gender norms, but they are enforcing them in less overt ways than one might assume.

So, as a call to action, breaking down restrictive and oppressive gender roles start in the home, in the most basic ways. If we all adjust to how we interact with our children or children around us, we can influence how gender roles are embodied in future generations. Distributing chores fairly and allowing kids to be kids and play with whatever toy they please, rather than the toy associated with a particular gender, can inspire change.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rihanna Speaks for the First Time

Rihanna is speaking out for the first time about her violent encounter with Chris Brown. Thursday morning a portion of her interview with Diane Sawyer aired on Good Morning America and the rest will be revealed in a special report on 20/20 tonight.

Shortly after pictures of Rihanna’s bruised and battered face surfaced, the country was quick to rush to her side and support her as a victim of domestic violence. But, when Rihanna decided to go back to Brown she was quickly turned on by many who had ignorantly concluded that she either wanted to be abused or deserved it by going back.

One source of unwavering support came from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence who noted that “[r]easons for staying in or returning to an abusive relationship are more complex than a statement about the victim’s strength of character. For most of us, the decision to end a relationship is one of the most difficult we will ever make. A battered woman’s emotional ties to her partner may still be strong, supporting her hope that the violence will end. Also, it is extremely common for battered women to return to their abuser multiple times before she leaves for good. Gaining strength, relinquishing hope, or letting go of someone we love is very hard and takes time even when violence is not present.”

I am happy to hear that Rihanna is taking steps toward becoming a survivor of an abusive relationship and I hope the interview tonight will provide a new prospective into dating violence and will not prove to be a publicity stunt calculated to generate interest in her new album. Also keep a look out for Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year issue which has chosen this year to honor Rihanna.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Taboo" Provides Look at Body Modification

The other day I was flipping through the channels when I came across a show called Taboo on National Geographic. The show’s website provides this description of the show, “Taboo takes you on a journey beyond the comfort zones and cultural borders to explore rituals and customs that are acceptable in some cultures, but forbidden, illegal, or reviled in others. Understand seemingly bizarre and shocking practices from around the world.”

The particular episode that I watched was titled “Body Modification.” The show covered procedures and customs that people underwent in different cultures with the purpose of altering their bodies. First, it covered the long-necked women of the Kayan tribe in Thailand who wear brass rings around the neck, which, overtime, elongate the neck. The show also talks about the surgery which people undergo in China where the legs are broken and lengthened. Finally, the show covers the subculture of corset-wearers.

After watching this show, I was thoroughly disgusted. How could people do all this to change their bodies? Then I thought about the plastic surgery phenomenon in the US, and, as the show pointed out, the Western practice of attaching metal to teeth and twisting and moving them around (braces). Although I am not personally a proponent of plastic surgery (as many are), I have never thought of braces as something unnatural or wrong. So why do we normalize some types of body modification and cast off others? What makes one practice “ok” and the others wrong? Furthermore, why do we have such an obsession with changing our bodies?

I hope that this blog is thought-provoking and helps to open dialogue on the subject of body modification. Also, kudos to National Geographic and Taboo for bringing different cultures and topics to light in a way that many shows do not.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Marriage Name Changing: a Mandate or Choice?

After stumbling across an article published in August 2009 entitled “Should a Woman Change Her Name When She Marries? 70 Percent of Americans Think So” on, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to expand the search. As evidenced by the title, 70 percent of Americans think women should change their surname after getting married, with 50 percent feeling it should be mandated by law. Perhaps it is important to first examine the reasons as to why a woman might feel obligated or compelled to change her name. An article on Suite101 outlines potential reasons and the pros/cons of various name changing options:

“1) Woman Takes Her Husband’s Name: It’s the most socially acceptable option. It’s the easiest bureaucratic option. Naming the kids is easier. Family cohesion.

2) Women and Man Both Keep Their Names: Feminist concerns. Changing your name is a pain. Career concerns. Easier than hyphenating. Attachment to a name. If you get divorced, you don’t have to change your name back.

3) The Hyphenated Name: Compromise. Both partners can hyphenate. It’s not as hard as it used to be.

4) Woman Adds on Her Husband’s Last Name: Compromise. Easier than hyphenation. Honoring your family. Career concerns.

5) Woman Changes Name, Uses Maiden Name Professionally: Best of both worlds. Less confusion at work.

6) Couple Creates a New Name: Design your own name. Perhaps the least patriarchal option.

7) Man Takes the Woman’s Name: Nonconformity, but with the benefits of having just one name. Family cohesion. A way for a man to honor his wife.”

**YES, a MAN taking his wife’s name. It happens more than most people would think, as reported by USA Today.
“'Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it would have caused as much of a stir as it did,' says Mike Salinger, 27, of Seattle, who was married in November. 'We knew people might be surprised, but we figured they'd say 'Huh' and get on with it…Three months later, I'm still taking (flak) from one of my college roommates.'"

The same article also discusses the idea perpetuated by some that a man who takes his wife’s name should “turn in his man card.” I can’t help but ponder the idea of a woman being told to “turn in her woman card” if she took her husband’s name. It would no doubt be cited as irrational and confusing. I recognize that a woman taking the man’s last name is dictated by certain religious texts, but considering that many other traditions have been tossed aside to accommodate the demands of society…why isn’t it more common for a woman to keep her name? Sure, feminism has certainly made it more acceptable, and, in certain instances, more expected (to be a truly liberated woman/feminist) for a woman to keep her name, but if female name changing still remains at the heart of what it means to be an American family, how can woman truly feel comfortable making a decision that isn’t given the same prestige and equality as the norm?
With all these options in mind, why is it that so many women elect to change their last name following marriage without first considering all alternatives? Not to mention, the hassle of changing information for credit cards, social security, insurance, and the like. There are many variables to consider when deciding whether to keep, change, or recreate one’s surname following marriage, as outlined by Alternet contributor, Jill Filipovic, in the previously mentioned article (READ IT!). An organization called Lucy Stone was originally created in the 1920s with the belief that “a person’s name is fundamental to her/his existence, and is therefore dedicated to: Equal rights for women and men to retain, modify and create their names and equality of patrilineal/matrilineal name distribution for children and equal actual frequency of name retention, modification, and creation between men and women at marriage and throughout life.” To many, these ideas and this notion may seem a bit radical and unnecessary, but to me they represent just another way in which feminism continues to ensure that women AND men are given the same opportunities to express themselves and relate to one another in bonds of equality.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Business of Cherry Popping (Round 2)

Hello all those in the blogosphere. I know you all probably missed me last week, because I was unable to get a blog out. BUT, not to worry, this week I have found something completely outrageous to blog about, and it definitely makes up for last week. So, prepare yourself…


Artificial Virginity Hymen. Oh yes, and you thought the only way to reclaim your virginity was through Christianity. I stumbled upon this new sex device (if you can call it that), in an article on Alternet. And, to be quite honest, when I began reading, I was already infuriated with the product. Here is the product description that the distributor, Gigimo, posted on its website:

"No more worry about losing your virginity. With this product, you can have your first night back anytime. Insert this artificial hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate, it will ooze out a liquid that look like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable. Its easy to use, clinically proven non-toxic to human and has no side effects, no pain to use and no allergic reaction."

This Artificial Hymen reinforces all of the repressive standards about women’s sexuality. Jessica Valenti wrote a whole book about all of the misogyny that surrounds a woman’s virginity called The Purity Myth. Women have long-been sexually oppressed, and products such as this further reinforce the crappy idea that women are supposed to be "pure." There are so many things wrong with this product; I do not know where to begin. Between the vaginal rejuvenation craze and this artificial hymen, it seems that vaginas are never quite up to snuff. Taking a lesson from the Vagina Monologue play-book: for all the women out there worried about the state of their vagina, instead of being insecure, you should be angry about all the injustices being imposed on your vagina and others like it.

-End Rant 1-

As I stated, when I began reading, I was furious with the product. But, as noted in the Alternet article, there are some positives for this product. Although this product reinforces many senseless, archaic stereotypes about women’s sexuality, there are still places in the world where a woman’s virginity can be a matter of life or death. If this product is truly convincing, and its use might prevent a woman from being murdered over her virginity (which might I add there is no medical definition for virginity), then by all means it should be used. BUT, being realistic about who is using this product, it is likely not women in life and death situations. After all, the product is sold online for 30 U.S. dollars; therefore, it is not exactly easily accessible to the women who really need it.

-End Rant 2-

So, if my feelings are not exactly clear, I think this product is ridiculous, and it reinforces a restrictive view of women’s sexuality. However, there is potential for it to be used in extreme cases, like when a woman’s virginity is a matter of life and death (which I feel is an unlikely scenario).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Guerrilla Girls

The Guerrilla Girls are coming to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art on November 10-11! This group of masked avengers has been touring the country and the world since 1985 speaking out against sexism, racism and corruption in politics, art, film and pop culture. The group has appeared at more than 90 universities and museums, not to mention The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Bitch, Artforum, NPR, the BBC and CBC.

To make their point, the Guerrilla Girls maintain their anonymity by wearing Gorilla masks while presenting public interventions, performing satirical skits to help inspire others to create their own sophisticated acts of aesthetic resistance.

So if you happen to be around the Museum of Art November 10-11, be prepared for a spectacle of creative protesting mixed with thoughtful insight into the world of art.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Helping Women who have been raped not a government priority?

In all of my blogs I attempt to throw in a little pop culture related to important issues of the day. This particular blog, although serious in its subject matter, is explained though this clip of The Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

It is absolutely ridiculous that private contractors are allowed to put clauses on rape in their employee contracts. Al Franken's Bill is not proposing gratuitous suing; it is allowing women who are RAPED to get some form of justice. It is sad that Republicans (considering they cast the 30 nay votes) attempted to block a bill intended to help women. We should be questioning the motives of representatives that are voting down bills that help the corporations and not the public.

If you want some more information on this story I found this post from The Nation.

Friday, October 16, 2009


LUNAFEST 09/10 Films from Mara Sohn on Vimeo.

Tonight at 6:00 p.m. in Wirtz 101, the Women's Resource Center will be hosting LUNAFEST. LUNAFEST is a short film festival featuring films by, for, and about women. Professor Vazquez from the Communication Department will also speak about her experiences as female filmmaker and introduce her documentary "Mother Jones: America's Most Dangerous Woman".

To see LUNAFEST in Chicago would cost you up to $50, but the Women's Resource Center has brought it to NIU for only $2 for students and $5 for community members, faculty and staff.

Proceeds from this event will benefit the Breast Cancer Fund and the Women's Resource Center Library.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No Homo?

So, for those who dont know, Current TV has come out with a new, witty short in addition to the ever-awesome Sarah Haskins. That’s Gay is the “gay” version of Sarah Haskins, where the host, Bryan Safi, reviews popular culture, mostly media. This particular episode caught my attention:

I think that this episode shows a disturbing and growing trend. It is sad that this phrase is not only catching on, but that people do not even question the homophobic undertones. Also, one of the most depressing aspects of this whole “NO HOMO” trend is that Kanye West has begun to use it. Granted, Kanye is not a shining example of how to be politically correct or tactful for that matter (see MTV choice awards), but, at one time, he was actually an advocate for LGBT rights!

I am glad to see I am not the only one questioning this preposterous and offensive trend, and hopefully more people will come to their senses and start questioning rappers' use of the phrase. If we continue to blindly accept the phrase "No Homo," then we are forgetting and diminishing all the advances that we have been making in stopping homophobia.

There’s An App for That, and it Pisses Me Off

This past weekend, I came across an article on Jezebel about the new iPhone application by Amp energy drink called “Amp Up Before You Score”. This application has a two-fold purpose. When you see a female that you wish to penetrate, you decide which category (from a list of 24 possibilities) she best fits under. Then, the application provides you with a “cheat sheet” including pick-up lines or insider information to help you smooth-talk your way into this lady's pants. For example, if you want to bang a Punk Rock Girl, “Amp Up Before You Score” provides you with a history of punk rock via Wikipedia, so you can impress her and open up her legs with your knowledge and insight into her very being. And, if* you do score, this app encourages you to brag about it to all your Twitter and Facebook friends.

Obviously this is an idiotic program which I doubt anyone would use. That is not the point. The point is, to quote an excellent movie (Network), “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”. On a related note, this is not the first time Pepsi has angered the writers of this blog.

The story gets even more interesting when you consider the fact that Northern Illinois University is a “Pepsi Campus”. In 1998, NIU signed a 10 year contract with Pepsi; Pepsi agreed to give NIU at least $400,000 a year in exchange for ‘exclusive pouring rights’**. Well, NIU, I give you at least $10,000 a year (and that doesn’t even include books!). The 12,950 other female students who attend this school and I represent (at a low estimate) nearly $130,000,000 in tuition dollars. Yeah, NIU, Money Talks. And maybe you shouldn’t be taking dirty money from a company that continually takes a dump on the gender that makes up over half of this school’s student population.

*More like when. Because what woman can resist some dude who just ‘gets’ her, ya know?
**I searched very hard to find evidence of this contract renewal. For the purposes of this blog, and because of word-of-mouth, I am assuming it has been renewed. Last time I purchased a soda from a vending machine (September of this year?) it contained Pepsi products.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I love this picture…but I didn’t at first.

In the spirit of WRC’s next program, The Personal is Political: Feminist Disruptions in Art on October 14, I have decided to tell you about a piece of feminist art I discovered and why I love it so much. I should preface the following observations by saying I’m not an “art person”. I do not regularly contemplate or create art, or know anything about art history, so my thoughts are strictly based on my perceptions and are not well informed critiques.
I came across this picture on while researching feminist art a couple of months ago. My first thought was “why would you make that the first picture you see when you open the page?!...that’s terrible image of a woman…yet another promotion of sexual violence against women.” But as I continued on with my search, the image kept creeping back into my mind and I couldn’t figure out why I was thinking about it so much or how I felt about it. Then I realized….slowly…..that I kind of liked the picture. For the next couple of days I tried talking myself out of it because it is kind of a weird picture of a woman apparently being murdered and that really shouldn’t be an image I enjoy or approve of. So after awhile I decided to copy the image onto my desk top to discover what it is that I find so interesting about her and here is what I have concluded.
She is a victim and a fighter. I think a lot of women feel this way on a daily basis. Of course, I don’t think this feeling rises to the level murder but the little jabs from society are still injurious. At the same time however, there is an unmistakable look of determination on her face. Even though is knows that she is badly hurt, she is not going to back down. The image shows her naked, with her back literally up against a wall putting her in an incredibly vulnerable position, but she does not show any weakness. The gun is steadily pointing back at her attacker, she has aimed her weapon perfectly, and I have no doubt that she will shoot…but only if she has to.
That leads to another interesting thought. I believe that she knows who her attacker is but is not afraid or even surprised. It seems all to true that women are far more likely to be victimized by someone they know than by a stranger. Again, this victimization may not always be murderous, but could be the little stereotypes that women are confronted with everyday by people who they know and love.
She also seems so pure and innocent. The stereotype of blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin are token characteristics of innocence and she manages to pull them off while bleeding and holding a loaded gun. In today’s society where women are pressured to become sexual at younger and younger ages, it seems like women struggle to maintain these characteristics and in a figurative sense, they must fight for them.
Finally, I must say she looks good doing it….not the most progressive sentiment, but it’s true and I think it does draw me to her. Then again, why can’t good looking women also be powerful or perhaps dangerous?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Advocates for Choice is having its FIRST Meeting!

Advocates for Choice (AFC), the new student group affiliated with our center, is already doing lots of great work to improve the campus climate for women. The Education of Shelby Knox, a documentary about a young woman who rallies for comprehensive sex education at her school, was screened on September 9. AFC also acted as a counter-perspective to the anti-choice rally that took place in MLK Commons on September 24. Condoms and information about the group were distributed. Our message and presence was well received by many students who were glad to see another option being represented. Many thanks to all of those who participated in these events!

AFC is happy to announce that the first group meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 (TODAY!) from 5-6 p.m. at the Women's Resource Center. We will be discussing the future of the group and ways to get involved. Please bring any ideas you would like to share regarding possible events or tactics we could employ to educate the university community. Hope to see you there!

Video Game Glass Ceiling

So, I was looking on for a good article to blog on, and my nerdy half jumped a little inside when I saw the article, The Glass Console Ceiling. I opened it thinking I would read all about videogames and how women are now breaking the “console glass ceiling,” but unfortunately the article was on how to assemble a glass table. Nevertheless, it brought up video games and, therefore, I will be venting about them and you all get to sit back and enjoy the show.

So, I occasionally play Xbox360 video games online, and it has gotten to the point that I no longer feel comfortable playing and hearing other gamers, predominantly men talk. When playing video games people say thing that are completely sexist, racist, and homophobic with no filter or remorse for who is listening. One particularly alarming example of this offensive
language takes place when one player is winning by a large margin, or one player has lost in an exceptional manner. The winner often uses the phrases “I raped you,” or “you just got raped.” rape quotes are some of the most popular and frequent. Many people say this without thinking about what they are equating rape to.

When using it in the settings listed, gamers, mostly men, are saying that rape is comparable to winning. It accentuates the dynamics of powe rand dominance in rape and takes away from the seriousness by applying it to mundane games. Personally, I could not handle this phrase knowing the impact of rape and the disproportionate number of women affected by it each year, so to hear men using these sayings was unacceptable in my mind. I have been turned off by such language and I can only image that others feel the same sense of outrage that I do.

So, for me, breaking the video game glass ceiling involves muting the misogynistic language so that I can participate in a field of male dominated and male-centered culture. I hope that eventually, just as we are critical of such bigotry in modern society, I hope that we can one day be critical of what goes on in video games as well and that everyone can participate without hearing racial, homophobic or sexist slurs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bras Hats Off to This Guy

Oz du Soleil of Chicago originally collected the bras of his female friends for a blog project; he’d photograph the bras (sans humans) and write about the women who wore them. After the project ended, he had 50 or so bras stuffed in the back of his closet. When his girlfriend discovered them, it naturally sparked her curiosity; after he explained himself, she donated some of them to girls at a local school who had been wearing safety-pinned bras. The girls were grateful to have clean bras to wear, and du Soleil moved on with his life.

After he was laid off in the summer of 2008, the bra donation idea came back to him. He decided to launch an online blog to collect new or gently used bras. Apparently, bras are the least-donated item for underprivileged women and girls. Oz du Soleil’s blog aims to change that; he has now donated over 3,000 bras.

This story made me so happy! And it also made me want to clean out my underwear drawer.

Photo: Oz du Soleil sorts through some donations


Monday, October 5, 2009

Autism Speaks...with a gender bias??

By: Tabi Cooper, WRC volunteer*

In the United States, there is a 1 to 150 chance of being diagnosed with autism; the male to female ratio for this diagnosis is 4:1. Recognizing the ratio and that research focuses on male autistics, it’s unsurprising that females with autism are overlooked.

So, why are there a lower number of female autistics? One theory is that is that the number of female autistics is not lower, but that there are a large number of undiagnosed females with autism. One reason behind the low number of females being diagnosed might be that females display different signs of autism than their male counterparts. For example, when considering gender roles, females are generally expected to be shy and docile, while males are more outgoing or aggressive. If a male child does not fit this profile (e.g. if he is shy), he might be diagnosed earlier. If a female child is shy, it’s just considered part of her temperament. Thus, many females might not even receive an autism diagnosis until early adulthood.

How do I know about this? It’s because I am an autistic female, and I know firsthand how difficult it was to get a diagnosis. When I was 4 years old, my parents took me to get evaluated. The evaluation focused on many different aspects of my development; during the evaluation, the evaluators noticed that I had “autistic-like characteristics,” but they did not diagnose me with autism. I’m not sure if they did not diagnose me at the age of four because the evaluation took place in 1985, when little research had been conducted on autism, or if it was because of my gender.

Fast forward to 2004 when I was finally diagnosed. There is now more research on autism conducted. Yet, there is still a lack of research on female autistics; much of it focuses on Rett Syndrome: the female-dominated form of autism. I have Asperger Syndrome, which is a male-dominated form of autism. I see two major problems with research on female autistics: it’s difficult to get a large enough sample (fewer diagnoses) and the medication that treats anxiety and hyperactivity are not generally tested on female autistics.

To help female autistics, separate research needs to be done that does not focus on the male population. There has been research done on the differences of heart attacks on males and females; maybe there are differences with autism between males and females. I believe that it is important that autistics should have the opportunity to live successfully with autism, but that requires research for both male and female autistics. Autism does not display a gender-bias, nor should its research.

*Editor's Note: The WRC blog will occasionally feature thoughts and opinions shared by a guest blogger. Many volunteers and friends of the Center have expressed an interest in contributing, and we look forward to sharing their various interests, experiences, and reactions to current political, social, and cultural topics.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What are you going to be for Halloween?

I know Halloween is weeks away, but if you are still contemplating what outfit to don, here are some of the great costumes for sale this year….

Pretty Polly Poseable Dolly Adult Costume

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it has come to this. After all, Halloween costumes have become less costume/disguise-like and more sexualized versions of costumes. But here we are; this Halloween you could be "Pretty Polly" the ideal poseable doll in a box. It isn’t enough that women are figuratively forced into unrealistic expectation boxes…..

Oh wait…it gets better…

Trophy Wife Adult Costume

I’ll just give you the retailers description to enjoy, "[e]very superstar, titan of industry, mogul or tough guy should have a trophy wife! Strut your stuff and show him you've got what it takes - move over Marla, there's a new girl in town! Trophy Wife costume is a 100% polyester gold dress and matching glovelets; dress has an attached black base bearing the words ‘Trophy Wife.’"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Artistic Rape?

What is art and who decides what is defined as art? YesButNoButYes, a blog that identifies itself as “the greatest pop culture blog on the planet,” describes a developing piece by Ohio artist Richard Whitehouse entitled “The Rape Tunnel.” He is constructing an interactive tunnel art piece that ends with the viewer getting raped by Whitehouse himself. This piece is apparently a follow up to his instillation entitled “The Punch-You-in-the-Face Tunnel.”

My initial thought was: “Is this a joke? This can’t be real. Would any art museum even accept this?” While YesButNoButYEs did mention that Whitehouse is still in litigation for his last exhibit, I can’t help but wonder the implications of such a concept (hoax or not). What are the motivations for this piece? Is this art…or an attempt to perpetuate violence?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is there such thing as "ethical" outing?

I found this article on Alternet about Mike Rogers, a reporter who is outing gay-republicans that push for anti-gay legislation. At first I was irritated, because I felt that outing these politicians was intrusive. Yet, as I read on and considered his rationale behind outing the politicians, I honestly gained a little appreciation for his mission. I do not condone what he is doing, but my disapproval does not revolve around the specific information he reveals about these politicians, but rather about personal information, in general, being brought to the public's attention. In response to a question probing the ethics of outing politicians, Rogers responded:

"First of all: Regardless of what they would like, politicians don’t get to decide what stories about their lives will be reported on. That’s not how it works. Whether it’s taking money from the treasury, bribing people, whatever it is - the guy in office doesn’t get to say, ‘Don’t write a story about this, but write a story about that.’"

I see some validity in what he is saying. After all, reporters write about nearly everything a politician does. Why not sexuality? Yet, I feel that it is fairly unethical to write on anyone’s personal life. Additionally, there are repercussions for being gay, and it can be very politically damaging sometimes, more so than reporting on an affair or someone’s drug use. By outing someone you are subjecting them to discrimination and the possibility of losing their job.

Many states in the U.S. still have no legal occupational protection against being discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. Therefore, people can be fired on the basis of being gay, and it is completely legal. If someone were to out an employee at some store in Texas and they got fired for it, many would be enraged with the person who did the outing, so why is it acceptable for Rogers to do the same thing on a national scale? I am still a little torn on how I feel about what Rogers is doing. In the end, I would rather less information be shared. However, if reporters are going to reveal personal information about politicians, the same standards should be applied to all. With this in mind, I am interested in other views on this article and subject.

Friday, September 25, 2009


A new movie Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire promises to shock and inspire. The Movie Insider wrote the following synopsis: “Precious Jones (Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father's child - for the second time. She can't read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat. Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo'Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious's instincts tell her one thing: if she's ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources. Don't be misled - "Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire" is not a film wallowing in the stillness of depression; instead, it vibrates with the kind of energy derived only from anger and hope. The entire cast are amazing; they carry out a firestorm of raw emotion. Daniels has drawn from them inimitable performances that will rivet you to your seat and leave you too shocked to breathe. If you passed Precious on the street, you probably wouldn't notice her. But when her story is revealed, as Daniels does in this courageous film, you are left with an indelible image of a young woman who - with creativity, humor, and ferocity - finds the strength to turn her life around.”
While I have not seen the film, it strikes me as being as one of those rare films whose goal is to tell a story about the real problems that poor, urban, women face. Despite a cast of big stars like Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz this movie does not appear to have a Hollywood spin placed on it allowing the emphasis to remain on the main character’s struggle to make the best of her situation, even when the cards are stacked against her.

The movie is set to be released on November 13, 2009. After the film’s success at the Sundance Film Festival, the Oscar rumors have already begun….

"Get Felt Up and Prevent Breast Cancer"....??

Over 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Roughly one in eight women either has, or will develop, breast cancer at some point in her life. Each year over 40,000 women die from breast cancer. About 1,700 men will be diagnosed and 450 will die each year from breast cancer.

These are sobering statistics. Breast cancer is a serious problem that needs some serious attention. Unfortunately, it’s getting the wrong kind.

This a Canadian PSA made by an organization called ReThink Breast Cancer. The intention is to get men interested in breast cancer awareness and fundraising efforts. They’re not the only ones. The following are just some of the t-shirts you’re likely to see people wearing.

Not to mention the slogans like "Save a Life, Grope your Wife" and "My Boobs are Killer." There are others. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard them.

So what is the problem with all of these? Once again, women are being sexually objectified. The adds are concentrating more on the loss of boobs for the sake of men’s amusement than the loss of countless women’s lives. Is that really the message we want to be sending as a society? It's as if we're saying: "Well, we don’t really care about all these women dying, but the loss of all those boobs...oh, no!" It’s assigning women a value based on their sexual worth, and that is not ok.
What about the women who survive breast cancer because of a mastectomy or double mastectomy? Are we saying that their lives are worth less? And, although women are much more likely to have breast cancer and die from it, what about the men who have breast cancer, do they not count at all?
I am a huge supporter of funding cancer support and research, but this is not the kind of attention that we want. There are a number of really awesome organizations that fight against breast cancer in a way that is empowering to women (and men) who have breast cancer. Let’s throw our support behind those!
For alternative ways to support breast cancer patients and survivors please visit

Thursday, September 24, 2009

University Official says Attractive Female Students are "Perk of the Job"

Dr. Terence Kealy, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham in Buckingham, England has been quoted in an article of Times Higher Education Magazine on the seven deadly sins of academia saying that professors are aware of female students who “flaunted their curves.”

He says, “ most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and asks for advice on her essays. What to do? Enjoy her, she’s a perk.”

He continued by referencing literature characters to compare to the students. “She doesn’t yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily, to spice up sex, nightly, with the wife.”

These comments have created quite an uproar. Kealy later made a statement saying “It says that sex between middle-aged academics and young undergraduates is wrong. It also says that academics should enjoy the company of their students. That too is unexceptionable.”

He called the article a “moral piece” saying he was using humor to promote self restraint.

This is super offensive and adds a whole new side to sexual harassment at the university level. How did he even get a job at a university? And furthermore, why in the world would he think that every single (attractive) female student that asks for help or advice is only doing so because she is sexually interested in her professor and is “flaunting” herself. Is it so unfathomable that a female who is attractive could also be smart and interested in the class and/or concerned about her grade? Although I suppose in his mind only the “unattractive” female students are serious students.

What do you think? Is this offensive or just harmless humor?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Makin' Penises Look Pretty?

While reading a few articles on, I stumbled upon this article on circumcision. The idea of me writing on the matter of circumcision seems like the tag line of some joke; nevertheless, the article intrigued me, and I felt that I should share it.

The article’s juxtaposition of the commonalties between circumcision and female genital mutilation is intriguing. If you happened to read my post on FGM a few months back, I compared vaginal rejuvenation with FGM. Circumcision introduces a whole new aspect to the argument, particularly when considering the religious connections for both FGM and circumcision, the lack of individual consent for these procedures, and societal repercussions that stem from having or not having one of these procedures.

I hope that this post will fuel an interesting debate over whether or not circumcision can be related to FGM

Friday, September 18, 2009

I doubt this is about mice….

The tragic story of Annie Le has gripped the country not only because of its’ location at an Ivy League school and proximity to her wedding day, but also because of the lack of explanation for the attack. So far investigators have offered little information about what motivated Raymond Clark to strangle Annie Le at the Yale lab where they both worked and hide her body in a utility crawl space. School Officials and the New Haven Police have stated that this was workplace violence issue, but slowly information is coming forward that suggests Clark may have had control issues, especially when it came to women.

For instance it has been reported that Clark forced sex on his high school girlfriend in 2003 and when she tried to break it off it became necessary to call the police who later advised Clark not have any further contact with her. His current relationship does not seem much better with neighbors commenting that "[h]e would never let her talk to anyone. I would hear a lot of yelling upstairs." This behavior sounds like it carried over into the lab where Clark’s co-workers noted that Clark was very strict with the mice cages he was responsible for. All of these circumstances suggest to me that Clark feels the need to control those around him, particularly women.
It would not surprise me if the motive for this attack turns out to be related to this loss of control. Some news reports have mentioned emails from Clark to Le regarding the cleanliness of her mice cages and requesting her to meet with him. I think it is very possible Le may have been defiant about her cages or perhaps spurned his advances causing Clark to feel such a loss of control over Le that he attacked her in an attempt to regain it.

I hope investigators will not stop searching for the motive behind Le’s murder because if this case is labeled solely a workplace violence issue, it will de-emphasize the problem of violence against women which I believe underlies the reason for this attack.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spousal Abuse is Pre-Existing Condition in Some States

Ok, so I know that healthcare and insurance is a huge topic right now. Private insurance companies are being criticized for some of their practices; one of these is singling out people with pre-existing conditions. The other day, one of my professors posted a link to an article titled "When Getting Beaten By your Husband is a Pre-Existing Condition."

It turns out that in seven states (Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming-see the update near the bottom of the page) and the District of Colombia having an abusive spouse is a pre-existing condition. After reading this, I was completely shocked; I had never heard of this before. The article goes on to say,
"Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you're more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure. In human terms, it's a second punishment for a victim of domestic violence."

In 2006, Representative Patty Murray (D-Washington) introduced an amendment to stop this practice; however, it never made it past the committee stage.
I am saddened that this practice is still legal; it seems like another way to once again blame the victim. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Femiphobia in the World around Us

In The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity, author Steven Ducat introduces the term femiphobia, defined as the fear of being feminine. Femiphobia is exhibited through a variety of means. For example, forcing prisoners to wear pink uniforms as well as the following commercials:

What do these advertising campaigns indicate about gender norms? In what ways do such commercials position masculinity above femininity? How are they each being valued, if at all?

Femiphobia, a term unfamiliar to many, remains an issue that is ignored, all while femininity becomes the brunt of jokes. If a man chooses to experiment with femininity, it is often viewed as a comedic parody or a threat to masculinity in general. Think drag queens or the more recent SNL sketch of Justin Timberlake duplicating Beyonce’s Single Ladies.

Jessica Valenti states in The Purity Myth that “femiphobia is at the heart of enabling social sexism like the sexual double standard, political sexism that relies on paternalism in policy, and even violence against women.” Acknowledging femiphobia’s existence and its associated damage is the first step; the next step? In Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano suggests that men aid in debunking femiphobia by revaluing “girl stuff.” “If you want your boyfriend to treat you with respect, then tell him that you won’t sleep with him until he starts putting barrettes in his hair,” she writes. The need to combat femiphobia is clear. The only problem now is deciding the color of your barrette.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It Ain’t “Nuthin’ But a Gene Thang”: The Complexities of Sex and Gender and the Caster Semenya Case

After hearing about the case of the South African track star Caster Semenya, I quickly decided it was a topic worth exploring for this blog. Unfortunately, my co-worker thought the same thing. But there are aspects of this case that warranted discussion which Lettie did not touch upon in her post.

My colleague mentioned that various media outlets have reported that Semenya is a hermaphrodite, which is false. Further research reveals that there are at least 45 other variations of intersex conditions besides hermaphodism. And according to this, some experts estimate that 1/1500 infants are born with an intersex condition.

As a student working towards a major in child development and a minor in psychology, my coursework has taught me that a person’s sex is biological, and the concept of gender is learned. Semenya’s family maintains that she is female, and that she was raised as such. And Semenya herself identifies as a woman. The concept of a person’s gender is an extremely complex one, and it is difficult examine through our society’s stereotype-fogged glasses.

Many intersex conditions are not diagnosed at birth; they might not be noticed until later in life, if signs of puberty are delayed or not present. It has been revealed that Semenya does not have any ovaries or uterus, which means she would not have a menstrual cycle. Before this knowledge had been acquired, her amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual period) could have been attributed to the Female Athlete Triad. The Female Athlete Triad is a cluster of symptoms (amenorrhea, disordered eating, and osteoporosis) that, as the name suggests, is prevalent among female athletes and runners are particularly susceptible.

On a positive note, Semenya is a hometown hero; her community is very supportive, and celebrates her victories. After the blatant violation of Semenya’s privacy and human rights, it is at least a comfort to see her accomplishments respected and appreciated.