Thursday, April 30, 2009

Weighing In

Today on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Kirstie Alley is scheduled to be a guest for the first time in over two years. In 2004, Kirstie first appeared on Oprah to discuss her battle with her weight. Shortly afterward, she became a spokesperson for Jenny Craig. Kirstie later appeared on the show in order to show off her 75 pound weight loss in a bikini; that’s right, after joining Jenny Craig and losing 75 pounds, she went on national television to show off her “new and improved” body. However, her motivations for her appearance on today’s show are drastically different.

In an article featured on Oprah’s website, ( titled “Kirstie Alley’s Weight Struggle,” she discusses how in a year and a half she has gained all of the weight back (plus ten pounds). Kirstie decided to share her story after Oprah confided (to the American public) about her continued struggle with weight and how she is back to being 200lbs. About her own weight gain, Kirstie says she feels humiliated and “sorry for the people she has let down”.

Although I am for people bettering themselves and believe that everyone should be healthy, I think that it is unfortunate that Kirstie feels guilty about gaining weight. In the article, Kirstie even goes on to say how she has developed a product that “cracks the code” to the secret of weight loss. So basically she is going on the show to not only discuss why she gained the weight back, but to also share the fact that she is coming out with a weight loss program later this year or the beginning of next year (go figure).

This episode of Oprah upholds the negative issues that women have with body image and how they perceive themselves. Kirstie was celebrated when she lost all of the weight and posed in a bikini, but now that she has gained the weight back, she is ashamed of herself and is now being viewed as a failure.

Another thing that I found interesting is Kirstie’s appearance on both shows. When she appeared in the bikini, her hair and makeup were flawless. Now fast forward to today’s show, she looked a “hot mess,” to say the least. I also think this holds a certain stereotype: “skinny women are beautiful; plus size women are not”.

It is really sad that in this day and age women and body image is still the focus when we should be focusing on other contributions women have made to society instead of what she looks like and how much she weighs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Means for Re-valuating Femininity

I recently read a book by Julia Serano titled Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity that caught my attention because of its perspective on the devaluing of femininity, especially within the transgender / transsexual community. Due to my interest in this book, I decided to conduct a search for more information, and came across a rather informative interview with Serano that was published by Bitch Magazine.

One of the most intriguing points raised was that our view of femininity is male-centric. Furthermore, current feminist efforts to combat sexism can in fact create new forms of sexism. Serano writes, "Whenever I hear a feminist argue that women are subordinating themselves to men when they dress up, to me it sounds like a slightly toned-down version of 'women who dress provocatively are asking for it.' It’s the same argument." Serano's vision of a new approach to valuing femininity was riveting, and I highly recommend the book to everyone, but especially feminists who are taught that feminine traits should be avoided at all costs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

So what is the deal with this new Gardasil craze?

Recently I did some research on Gardasil and HPV and discovered that lawmakers, in conjunction with the company, are attempting to mandate the drugs use for girls as young as sixth graders. What I have found on Gardasil, HPV, and the politics behind it has been shocking.

So let’s start with the basics:
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that is known for its prevalence, since it effects over half of all sexually active people. Yet, even though it occurs quite frequently, few people become symptomatic. There are a few strains of HPV that can be harmful (16, 18, 6, and 11), yet most people who contract these strains are able to clear it up on their own with a healthy immune system. In the event that a person contracts one of these high risk strains, the symptoms can more serious. HPV strains 6 and 11 are responsible for 90% of genital warts and strains 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. Gardasil is believed to protect against these four high risk strains, with nearly a 100% success rate. Gardasil has also brought these issues of HPV and cervical cancer into the mainstream. Before Gardasil, few knew what HPV was or that it caused cervical cancer. Gardasil has had an amazing marketing campaign with tons of commercials, facebook groups, text message reminders and other promotions.

The facts:

-So, yes, Gardasil is believed to be nearly 100% effective, but its clinical trials only lasted a total of 5 years. Cervical cancer on the other hand takes many years to develop, so it’s impossible to really gauge efficacy after such a short time.
-Also, after the implementation of the Pap smear the rates of cervical cancer dropped 75%. Most women who are in the remaining 25% who are still affected by cervical cancer do not have access to health care services like Pap smears, and it is impoverished women who are most impacted by HPV and cervical cancer.
-Gardasil is also so new that few know of the future side effects, as well as how long it will last. The shot comes in three doses and it is unknown if there will be a need for booster shots.

Why, if the Pap smear has reduced cervical cancers in such drastic ways, should we mandate something that is still in its experimental stages and which may or may not prevent against it?

Think about it.

This Zine is a great resource to read more, as well as doing personal research!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Equal Pay Day

As I prepare to graduate and find a job, I’ve become increasingly aware of the "Wage Gap." As a young woman, more specifically, a woman of color, I will potentially earn less than my male counterparts who perform the same job. I find this particularly daunting, because I am about to earn a Master’s of Science in Education, and this degree does not exactly lead to a job with a huge pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Wondering what type of impact the wage gap might have on my future, I began to research pay equity and found some interesting facts.

-Tuesday, April 29, 2009 is Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages.

-Equal Pay day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year (This made me VERY ANGRY. Not only do I have to work a full year, but I also have to work a few additional months to catch up to a man’s salary from the previous year!!).

-Tuesday is the day of the week when women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous week (Not surprising, this also made me mad, because now I have to work two additional days to catch up to a man’s weekly pay as well). Essentially, because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay.

-The wage gap is even greater for most women of color (someone just shoot me now)!!
I was both surprised and disturbed by these facts, and felt this topic should be addressed at NIU. As I started to research equal pay, I found a wealth of information on different websites, newspapers, and even on You Tube.

-One interesting article I found appeared on CNN’s website: There article discussed issues of pay equity and indicated that if current trends continue, women will not achieve pay equity until the year 2050 (insert various curse words here)!!! 2050! That date is nearly 100 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law!

-With this information in mind, I decided that more women need to be aware of the disparity in pay. To help educate women and men at NIU, the Women’s Resource Center is hosting the Equal Pay Day Bake Sale on April 28, 2009 in the DuSable lobby. The goal of the program is to raise awareness about equal (or lack thereof) pay. Of course, to highlight the difference in pay rates, women will pay $.75 for baked goods and men will pay $1.00 (for the same treats). I hope to see everyone there! Also, don’t forget to wear red, as women are still "in the red" in terms of equal pay!!!

Thank you, and this is Jamie signing out!

"French Kiss"

This ad is one in a series of Pepsi ads which were created by a French advertising company. The ad depicts an attractive woman in a skimpy bikini laying unconscious on the beach. A lifeguard standing nearby is trading his lifeguard shirt for a can of Pepsi to a young boy who is standing over the woman.

Upon first glace, the ad presents as disturbing. What message is this supposed to send? When one looks closer at the details and the body language it becomes even worse.

First, there are marks in the sand showing that the woman was dragged out of the water. She is lying there unconscious and obviously needs CPR and possibly other medical attention. The lifeguard is looking away from her which can be taken as symbolically that he is going to "look away" from what happens. The vehicle is also facing the other direction which indicates that the lifeguard is going to leave quickly. The lifeguard is handing over his shirt, which conveys the idea he is "handing over responsibility" of what happens to the woman. The boy is standing over the woman with one of his feet in between her legs leering down at her. His hand is outstretched over her to receive the shirt, and his shadow falls across her body. The dark clouds can be interpreted as impending trouble or danger.

This ad is clearly a perpetration of rape culture. There is absolutely nothing cute or funny about a boy trading a can of Pepsi for the right to sexually assault a woman. Nor is it funny to suggest that her autonomy and even her life (remember, she was dragged unconscious out of the ocean) are worth a can of Pepsi.

Pepsi has responded to complaints about this ad by stating that it was merely speculation work.

What do you think? Are images like this commonly found in advertising, and what does this say about our society?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Islamic Feminism?

Islamic Feminism is a movement within the Islamic paradigm that derives its understanding from the Quran and seeks rights and justice for men and women. Some say the idea of Islamic Feminism is a contradiction within itself.

What does this movement mean for Islamic men and women, as well as feminism in general?

To read more about Islamic Feminism:

Many feel that feminism and Islamic beliefs cannot exist due to the various interpretations of the Quran that have been used to justify the subordination of women.

Still, we see Islamic women expressing feminist ideologies even with the threat of danger; for example, women in Afghanistan were pelted with pebbles as they attempted to protest legislation that would limit their rights (i.e. inability to leave house, work, attend school, or receive health care without a husband's consent).

To read more about this:

What does this mean for women in Islam?

Thoughts? Ideas?

Many of these ideas were discussed in our April event "Faith and Feminism". For more information about our previous and upcoming programming check out, or better yet, come visit our space and inquire in person!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The SaReniassance: or, There and Back Again

I was a cool kid. During my teenage years, I was a thrift – shopping vegetarian feminist with a vengeance. I used to hang out at bookstores all the time, and buy Bitch magazine (as well as Punk Planet). My mother and my aunt were proud of my liberal perspective. All I really cared about was my music, my fringe group of friends, and my passion for equality.

I never stopped being a feminist, though as an agenda, it did move to the back burner. Or maybe it even went back in the fridge- I didn’t return it to the store or anything; I just wrapped it up and stuffed it in the crisper. I went through a “Dark Age” in my life. I started eating meat again. I went through a few loser boyfriends. I dropped out of junior college and worked at a few crap jobs in a warehouse and cleaning houses. I didn’t openly advertise my feminism as I had before. I’m not entirely sure the reason for my ‘regression’. Maybe I was too worried about making rent and paying my other bills. Maybe I was struck by an apathetic episode. Maybe I was human.

After realizing I didn’t want to scrub toilets as a career (and to dissuade my parent’s constant pestering me to go back to college), I returned to school. I could only take a few classes at a time because I was working full time at back-breaking jobs. I finally finished my Associate’s of Science in May of last year.

At the beginning of my first semester at NIU, I scoured the “NIU Events” emails for stuff to do- I didn’t know anyone in the area, and was bored out of my mind. I saw something about volunteer orientation at the Women’s Resource Center. I had no idea what the center was, or even where. I somehow found my way there, and immediately felt welcomed and comfortable there. I enthusiastically began volunteering for the WRC- promoting the various events, “wo-manning” the front desk, working on different projects. I loved it. And I was elated when I was offered a job this January.

The NIU Women’s Resource Center has become central to my experience at NIU. It’s the best job I have ever had. My co-workers are amazing, and I am proud to be a part of this place. This environment fosters personal growth, and I am back to my vegetarian, overtly feminist ways. My mom and aunt are still proud of me. This is the SaReniassance- the “Dark Ages” are over.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Comings and Goings

So if you ever wonder what we do on the weekends, this is your lucky day (or if you are scared of the answer to this question, STOP READING NOW)!

Last Saturday, Women's Center staff members formed a team for NIU Cares Day - and had a blast. As part of our ongoing Selfless Saturdays efforts, we put on our do-goody pants and headed out to make a difference! These pictures are of us helping out (and having some fun too) while volunteering for the Children's Community Theatre. We sorted - and tried on - costumes and took LOTS and LOTS of pretty amazing pics. May I present Evidence A:
We make pretty much everything we're involved with as much fun as possible. Makes you wish you had joined Team WRC, doesn't it? Well, there's always next year.

And if you want in on what we do on the weekends, you're having an even luckier day. (If you don't, stop reading here.) Our beloved student staff member, Patrice, is graduating this May. Patrice has been here longer than ANY of the other staff members you see pictured here. We're showing our love for Patrice by attending her last concert as part of the Northern Black Choir THIS SUNDAY, April 26 at 6 p.m. We'll be meeting outside the Duke Ellington Ballroom before the concert, so we can sit together as the Official Patrice Fan Club. Feel free to join us! You don't want to make Patrice sad, do you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Entering the Blogosphere

Live from the big, brick house at the corner of Lincoln and Normal, the NIU Women’s Resource Center (WRC) blogs!

For those who know us (and, naturally, love us!), we hope you’re excited to find us in the blogosphere. And, for those who are new to the WRC, welcome! We offer a ton of great gender-based, social justice programs each semester, along with a wonderful, low-key space to study or hangout. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello!

As for the blog, we hope it serves as a forum for challenging, engaging, and productive discussion on issues related to gender, sexuality, reproductive rights, feminism, or anything else that intrigues, irritates, or inspires the WRC staff and our groupies.