Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Young Feminists

I saw this really neat post on change.org calling for “young feminists” to make shout outs. Today, when the F word is still oh-so-dirty, it is more important than ever for young women to embrace the word and make their beliefs known! Enough with this “I’m a feminist… but” mentality! If you are for the political, economic and social equality of women, then you are a feminist! Feminism is responsible for a bunch of great things, and we shouldn’t let the movement or the word feminist be pushed aside or be deemed as a dirty word.
So say it! I am a young feminist!

Keepin' It Clean

My step-mother called last week and said, “Are you coming home this weekend to help me clean?”

What the hell? I was flabbergasted but managed to hide my true reaction; I even told her I loved her at the end of the call. Maybe I should have told her that it hurt my feelings that she wanted me to come home, not just to visit, but to help her clean. I know she loves me and misses me, but as evidenced by her query, she’s missing my help around the house more than anything else.

I’ve always helped out around the house, and especially now that she’s shown me so much (financial) support as I’ve transitioned to grad school, I want to help her. But I can’t help but be a little bit angry at her for asking me to help clean. My step-brother did his undergraduate degree here at Northern Illinois. She often talks about how he would come home with laundry and she would do it for him. She never does my laundry and I can’t for the life of me picture her calling him and saying, “Will you come home to clean this weekend?”

So because I’m her daughter, her female child, I have to worry about not only adjusting to my new life here on campus, but also housework back home. Maybe I’m overreacting; maybe she’s just working long hours and got a little behind on housework; maybe my father is getting on in age and unable to help her with these duties.

Yeah, right. He’s getting old, but not that old. She wouldn’t expect my father to clean the bathroom or give the kitchen a real scrubbing—she never has, no matter how inconsiderately messy he is. She has scolded me and told me to my face, that, “As a woman, you should want to live in a clean house. Women prefer these things.” I had to look her in the eye, in a rare moment of defiance, and say, “I don’t agree with that. Because I’m a woman I’m supposed to naturally want to clean the bathroom? No way.”

She didn’t come to see things my way during that particular encounter. She believes in clearly defined gender roles. So even though I expressed my views and stood up for myself, I still went upstairs that day and scrubbed the bathroom, just as I did this past weekend. Sigh.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beyond Appearances

Today I came across an interesting article about a female blogger who is tearing down preconceived notions about women with disabilities, one post at a time. Melissa Blake has been living with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome for all her life, and life with this syndrome is all she has ever known. To Melissa, this syndrome is a part of her, but it doesn’t dictate her life: a message she has set perfectly clear. In the article, Melissa sets the record straight on life with a disability by clearing up myths such as: “people with disabilities do not work, only want sympathy, are not independent, and do not want or need romantic relationships.” One myth Melissa addressed was that “physically disabled means mentally disabled”.

Melissa writes, “Whenever we’d be out in public, people would ask my parents questions about me when I was right there as if I couldn’t speak for myself. It was frustrating, but I suppose people saw my wheelchair and probably assumed my mind was impaired too.”

This really struck a cord with me since I feel this happens all too often, reinforcing the idea that people judge others based on appearances. It is always refreshing to read articles like this: one that addresses an issue most people shy away from in fear of offending someone or simply not knowing enough speak up. People should really remember how adaptable and resilient humans can be, and at least try to stop those ever-flowing preconceived notions.

To check out her blog: http://melissabxoxo.blogspot.com/

*Fun fact: Melissa is an NIU alumna!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

You can’t go anywhere without seeing the books or hearing about the movies: Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I know I couldn't. For months, I abstained from both the films and the novels, since I’m not being a fan of mysteries, but I recently caved in. And believe it or not, I was wildly impressed.

The novels and the films are jam-packed with feminism and female empowerment embodied by the feisty heroine, Lisbeth. Its overt feminism was the big shocker. In our culture where anything even mildly feminist is mocked, I was thrilled to find a place in pop culture where feminism was so well received.

One reccurring theme throughout the series is that Lisbeth takes care of herself. And others. She’s no damsel in distress, and she certainly doesn’t call on the help of men when faced with tough situations. She’s a taking-care-of-business kind of woman. And that’s something I can get behind.

So, if you’re looking for your next feminist fix, this is it.

*Warning: The film is violent and does contain a graphic rape scene.

Monday, August 16, 2010

When Did Breastfeeding Become a Bad Thing?

So, I was watching this video on Current about Gisele Bundchen and the comment she made about breastfeeding being mandatory for the first six months of a child’s life and I was shocked.

I cannot believe that so many media outlets demonized Gisele and, subsequently, bashed breastfeeding. When you look at Gisele’s entire comment, it is clear that it is more of an idealist vision rather than something she is going to promote on her next run for president:

"Some people here [in the U.S.] think they don't have to breastfeed, and I think 'Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?’… I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months."

Gisele is merely making a point that breastfeeding is often pushed aside and formulas, which do have chemicals that may or may not be good for babies, are used instead. She even had to make a statement to clarify her comment. Breastfeeding (in the majority of cases) has been proven to be better for newborns than formula. And let’s not forget, breast milk is the result of thousands of years of evolution and completely natural, compared to formula which is a relatively new invention and, again as Gisele noted, made up of chemicals.

I think that breastfeeding should be talked about more, but I think that these media outlets did a disservice to many mothers. I also feel that this was total crap that so many portrayed Gisele as an irrational dumb model when she was merely trying to make a point and advocating something quite smart.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

School Offcials Endanger Rape Survivors in "Sting Operation"

A student at Upper St. Claire School in Pennsylvania reported to her teacher that she, along with another student, was raped by one of her classmates on school property after school. Her teacher immediately informed the school officials of the rape, and offered to walk the girls to the bus after school to ensure their safety. The Principal, Dr. Michael Ghilani, denied this request, and instead decided to use the rape survivors as bait to catch students whom he believed were having sex on school grounds.

The girls were prevented from going home after school so that school officers could follow them and try to catch students in sexual acts. Instead, the girls were violently raped again, by the same offender as before.

Legal proceedings are in progress, however the school is still denying that the girls were ever raped. They claim that the girls liked the boy in question and had had consensual relationships with him. They further claim that the girls were jealous of his involvement with other girls.

Now, there is also a concern that the school district may be lying on their annual Safe Schools report, as no rapes were reported for the year that these girls were raped.

This is outrageous. Schools are supposed to be a safe place for students to go to. For some students, this may be the only safe place that they have. However, with bullying, harassment, and sexual assaults occurring at school, it is no wonder that many students do not feel safe. Both the boy and the school district in question need to be punished to the fullest extent possible in order to send a message to others that this type of behavior will not be tolerated at schools - or anywhere else for that matter.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Buying Political Office

Linda McMahon –a former executive of World Wrestling Entertainment– spent approximately $22 million dollars of her personal wealth to secure a victory yesterday in the Texas Republican primary race for U.S. Senate. ABC News reports that this equates to approximately $400 spent per vote. Yet, McMahon is not alone in using her personal money to fund a bid for office; this approach to campaigning seems to be increasing on both sides of the aisle. While experts note that “self-financed candidates have a lower rate of winning elections than traditional candidates,” the increase in extremely wealthy individuals entering political races may begin to impact our democratic system by pushing other candidates to the sidelines or out of the race altogether. The ability for the wealthiest Americans to essentially buy political office is incredibly anti-democratic, and it doesn’t allow for true representation of the body politic. Furthermore, this type of self-funding runs the risk of make our political system even less accessible to women, people of color, middle- and working-class individuals, and other already underrepresented groups. I believe there should be considerable restrictions placed on how much an individual can contribute to her/his own campaign, much like the restrictions placed on individual and corporate donors.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Positive or Negative? Eminem and Rihanna's new song "I Love the Way You Lie"

Ever since Eminem released his new hit song, “I Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna, there has been controversy over the message it is sending about domestic abuse. Debate got even louder when the video was released. I have heard people speak to both sides of the argument. Some feel that the song is awful and glorifies domestic abuse, while others feel that it is a song that embodies what the people in abusive relationships are going through. Both Eminem and Rihanna have dealt with the issue of domestic abuse, Eminem as an abuser and Rihanna as a survivor of abuse. So, this pairing and the song itself seem like it actually might be a personal statement about abuse and be meant to get the conversation going. The video seems to confirm this.

Of course, many people (myself included) have taken a whack at trying to analyze this video and the meaning of the lyrics, but these are all only speculative. To me, it doesn’t really matter what side people take on the video’s intention, as long as they are engaging in conversation about the issue and impact of domestic abuse. Somewhere, someone in an abusive relationship might be touched by the song or outraged by it. Either way, it has sparked discussion about domestic abuse, a conversation that is normally left in the dark. The most important thing to do now is to take something positive from this whole thing, despite what the artist’s intentions were. Megan Fox donated her entire paycheck from the video to a center for battered women and children. So, clearly some good is coming from this song.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Annorexic Pretzels

Okay, so I'm the first to read into ads and find the multitude of ways that they might be offensive to women. But this ad that stirring up oh-so-much controvery in NYC is not one of them.

I kind of think it's cute. I think it's being tongue in cheek about the saying, "You can never be too thin." I don't think they want people to be annorexic. I think that, at worst, they might be saying that these pretzels might be a healthy snack alternative (though the article points out that given the calorie content, they aren't). But I think we have far more disturbing advertising images to get our panties in a wad over. Really, I do.

And when you have other articles, like this one about a British Health Minister that says calling kids fat will shame them into losing weight, then I think we have bigger issues to tackle than a pretzel ad that people believe is promoting annorexia.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pro-Woman Islam?

With the summer coming to a close, I have been furiously working on all of my papers and class work trying to finish everything. One of my papers is on women’s rights in Malaysia. In researching this paper, I found a lot of information about Sharia (Islamic) law and how it disadvantages women, as well as, general patriarchal views that are keeping women in a subservient position. Women’s organizations are trying to find solutions to gender equality through Islam rather than circumventing it. One organization in particular, Sisters of Islam, is known for their pro-woman take on Islam.

The reason I bring this up is because I recently read an article on Change.org, where a woman took her husband to court on chargers of “domestic abuse that took the form of pinching all over her body, including her breasts and genitals, hard enough to leave bruises; repeated slapping, leaving her face bloody; deprivation of food; and repeated rape” (DiBranco, 2010). However, the judge ruled that no sexual assault occurred, he stated:

“This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.”
(Volokh, 2010)

Now, if you hadn’t taken a look at the article, you might assume that this court case was happening in an Islamic nation where Sharia law is the norm, but this was in the U.S. In the U.S. civil law is the rule, no matter what your religious beliefs are you do not get a blank check to go around and break the law and be exempted because your religion Okayed it. Fortunately, this judge’s decision was later overruled in an appeals court, but it still shows that women all around the world need to fight for the right to their own bodies. Now, I don’t want this article to come off as a bashing of Islam, after all as noted in the article, Christians have tried to get away with a similar argument as well. The ever-so-wise Phyllis Schlafly stated, "[b]y getting married, the woman has consented to sex" (DiBranco, 2010).

So, for all of you who think that Islam is to blame,or that it cannot be used as a tool of liberation,I recommend you to check out the Sisters of Islam. They are doing some great work in Malaysia, urging religious scholars to reinterpret the male-centeredness of Islam and see that Islam is actually intended to give women rights rather than take them away. Personally, I think this is a really cool take on Islam, and they have a really great argument. Maybe, if the grassroots effort by the Sister of Islam is successful the new pro-woman Islamic paradigm can be exported to the world.