Friday, October 29, 2010

Power... less?

When hanging out with friends it is socially acceptable to share your likes and preferences openly. However, I have come to find (in an uncomfortable way) that while hanging out with friends it is NOT as socially acceptable to voice your deep and profound distain for something that one of your friends thinks is awesome.

I’m referring to a situation I found myself in with one of my friends last week. We were hanging out and he had something he really, really, really wanted to show me. He told me that the new Kanye West video was a little different but completely AWESOME (and yes, he got that excited about this video).

So, he pulls up the music video for “Power” sung by Kanye West and we begin to watch it. The video itself is only 1 minute and 30 some seconds long (thank goodness). What I witnessed was essentially Kanye portraying himself as a God as all of these women fawn around him. The entire movie is just panning from one woman to the next as Kanye sings about being a man with sooooooooo much power. What was particularly interesting to me was when the two men come into the shot with swords and it looks like their attempting to bring Kanye down.

After the video was through, I looked to my friend and said, “Well, that’s some serious Baloney” (of course I used a more “colorful” expression than that but in order to keep the blog PG, edits must be made). I continued on to voice why a sincerely dislike the music video and disagree with the lyrics. To which my friend didn’t necessarily become defensive, but certainly reacted in a shocked way saying that it was awesome because Kanye is on the top of his game and he’s such an influential figure in mainstream society right now and he’s such a “man’s man” (whatever that means…).

I mean, seriously, why do we as a collective society seem think that because you can rap you’re a God? Furthermore, are you more of a man when you have women fawning around you? If so, I, tragically (or perhaps not so tragically), missed the memo; because there’s no way I could ever rap (even if my life depended on it) and I certainly do not have women fawning all around me. I just have to ask: If these are the messages we’re sending young men and women, is our society filled with power to achieve such great things as to gain adoration from others or are we just attempting to conceal the fact that we’re powerless to break free from the stereotypes of what it means to be masculine or feminine?

Who Knew?

Note: this blog was written by Tracy!

I happened upon this tumblr blog called "Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things," a blog chock full of just that: pictures of famous Muslims wearing clothing. The subtitle to the blog is “Muslims dressed in their garb.” This blog clearly has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek; from its title to captions, it’s meant to poke fun at people’s ignorance.

“Iranian racecar driver Laleh Seddigh is garbed in her native racing gear.”

This blog is a response to general anti-Muslim sentiment and ignorance, but specifically to the belief that all Muslims wear a specific style of clothing, or that all Muslims look Middle Eastern and if someone does look Muslim or Middle Eastern, one should fear them. The blog also cites a specific instance of ignorance by former NPR analyst Juan Williams, who stated when he sees someone in “Muslim garb” on an airplane he gets worried and nervous. "Pictures" does a great job of challenging stereotypes and biases in a humorous way.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Higher Education - Too much of a good thing?

As a junior in college, with only a few semesters left, it becomes increasingly disheartening when friends who have recently graduated tell you about their struggles looking for a job, or when you read articles like this, which states that the U.S. is producing too many college graduates, and it is starting to become a waste of time to invest in higher education. Has all the time and money I have spent on school really been a waste? With all the personal anecdotes I hear and the statistics I read, I can’t help feel like it is a waste sometimes, especially with a 22.5% underemployment rate. As the article states, due to the fact that we have so many college graduates, the pressure to have amazing credentials has increased; something so many of us feel on campus. I know many students who are currently juggling school, work, internships, and volunteer work in order to “meat up” their résumé, since the competition is so fierce.

As an incoming freshman back in 2008, was it foolish to think that I would graduate in four years and land a job that would jump-start my career? Perhaps that was a bit ideal, but my goals have changed, just as I as a person have changed. At the current moment, I am happy to be at school, absorbing every ounce of knowledge that is thrown my way, and living the college experience my mother missed out on. I am doing something which I truly believe later in life I will not regret, because I will be looking back on my experiences, not at how much money I made.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"No means yes. Yes means anal!"

"No means yes. Yes means anal!"

Really?! Not the last time I checked, it didn't! But this is what Yale University Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pledges chanted as part of their initiation into the fraternity, according to a article found at:

These pledges walked around Yale campus, in the residential area, saying this chant, among other chants like: "Fucking sluts" and "My name is Jack, I'm a necrophiliac, I fuck dead women, and fill them with my semen." Keep in mind that women, too, live in this residential area and had to hear these demeaning things being yelled! Would you want to be a co-ed hearing these things from 'men' that you go to school with?

Even more unfortunate is the fact that this "ritual" has happened before! Broad Recognition, a feminist magazine at Yale, is calling for "real administrative action" to be taken against the fraternity and its leadership, who are only being made to engage in a discussion about sexual violence with the Yale Women's Center.

According to Yale's Fall 2009 enrollment, the ratio of men to women at the University is surprisingly equal. Women, and men, should not have to listen to this negative and violence filled chanting! Yes, there is such a thing as free speech, but when that speech is about degrading women and causing them physical and bodily harm...then it's not free speech anymore!

Part of the article is a petition you can sign and send to Yale administration. You can add your support by signing the petition to tell Yale Dean Mary Miller and President Richard Levin to take action against DKE fraternity and help create safe campuses across the country!

Beauty and the Beast

Second City Network did a hilarious skit analyzing the hidden message behind Beauty and the Beast and what is truly being conveyed to young girls.

Yes, this video is hilarious and will give you the giggles. But it’s so dead on, it’s uncanny. Beauty and the Beast is truly a film idealizing unhealthy relationships. Belle allows Beast to hold her hostage, so her father can be saved. Beast doesn’t allow Belle to have any friends, making her entirely dependent upon him and isolating her from any friends and family. To the point, Belle starts speaking to and having relationships with inanimate objects. In Beast’s defense, he does “allow her” to leave and save her dying father. And after all that, Belle falls in love with him.

It’s shocking that unhealthy relationship is romanticized and pushed on young girls. It’s frightening girls as young as three are watching this and absorbing the messages.

Second City Network also has a similar (but not as funny) video on The Little Mermaid.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

LUNAFEST Returns to NIU!

LUNAFEST is returning to NIU! Here's your chance to see ten new women-directed short films for just $5! LUNAFEST is a national, traveling film festival that promotes women filmmakers, raises awareness of women's issues, and supports non-profit organizations such as the Breast Cancer Fund. Ranging from animation to fictional drama, the films cover topics such as women’s health, motherhood, body image, aging, cultural diversity and breaking barriers. I am particularly excited to see Thembi's Diary, which tells the story of a 19 year old girl as she struggles to live with AIDS.

Join the Women's Center tomorrow (Wednesday) evening in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium at 7PM for LUNAFEST at NIU.

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is This a Dream?

I was in the office talking to the WRC’s AWESOME Administrative Assistant about things going on with me, with school, and life in general. Now one of the things that is constantly on the back of my mind is the WRC blog (yes, it does indeed consume my life) and what I’m going to write. Therefore, it’s no wonder that we started discussing my blog for this week….

So, because of my unhealthy obsession with blogging, and having taken note of Katy Perry’s new-ish song “Teenage Dream,” I knew I’d stumbled upon my next blog topic. Listening to it as I’m cruising around town in my red 2000 Saturn Station Wagon (Can anyone say Hottie??), I had begun to seriously enjoy the song. In hearing the lyrics (those which I could understand, so about ½ the song), I was sure that this song was very sex positive and all about women making the choice of “going all the way” and finding their voice to speak up for what they want.

Getting back to talking with the WRC’s Administrative Assistant, I found out by watching the YouTube video that had the actual lyrics on it that Ms. Perry is not sending as sex positive and empowering message as I had thought. Maybe it was my car speakers or maybe it was my lack of hearing that got in the way of me clearly hearing the song for what it was (both very possible and realistic). As soon as I finally discovered that Ms. Perry was advocating not only sex but drinking before sex (which can constitute rape in the state of Illinois) and women essentially surrendering herself to the man who makes her feel like an actual person (which anyone you're dating should respect you regardless of whether you're having sex or not) I was no longer in favor of the message of this song.

Now I know that Ms. Perry is pushing sex to a younger group of listeners (primarily teenagers), but teenagers have sex regardless of whether we want them to or not. Instead of making sex a passive part of society and something that is looked upon in shame, society should be instilling values that make teenagers and young people (and even older generations) discuss and think about sex before acting upon their desires. This helps make sex an active and responsible part of a person’s identity.

Lessons learned: 1) Don’t trust you crappy car speakers (or your crappy ears), 2) Listen to ALL of the lyrics and understand their meaning, and 3) Question what you aren’t sure of, which may require listening a few times to truly understand what’s being said and allow you to assess or critique that message.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ESPN Has Issues

ESPN recently released their annual “Body Issue,” an entire issue devoted to commenting on the bodies of famous and up-and-coming athletes. ESPN is continuing the trend of infantalizing strong and independent female athletes by posing them in weak and passive positions.

The sexualization of these athletes minimizes their physical and athletic accomplishments by infantilizing them. Just take a look at the cover: Diana Taurasi is in a vulnerable, fetal position. I don’t own the Body Issue, so I can’t say if they mention Diana’s athletic accomplishments, but I am certain her success is not the focus of the article. People aren’t buying this magazine to admire women’s strength or to admire these women’s athletic feats.

On the 2009 cover of the body issue, Amar’e Stoudemire was naked and thus sexualized. However, his nudity didn’t diminish his body. Instead, it only enhanced his physically strong body. On the cover, he is in mid-air and looks as if he is about to slam-dunk. Taurasi and Stoudemire are both basketball players, yet the images are in stark contrast. She is passive, vulnerable, in a child-like position; there is no sign of a basketball anywhere. The focus isn’t her physical prowess, but her sexuality. He is active, strong, and his muscles are well-defined; he fulfills expectations of what it means to be an athlete (and a man). The focus is his physical capabilities and his sport.

The message being sent about women is: No matter how physically strong you may be, you must still maintain a soft, sexy, vulnerable part of you, because that’s what men value most. If you are too strong and don’t soften that image up with femininity, that strength is off-putting and can bring your gender and sexual orientation into question.

It’s disturbing that 1) A woman’s femininity needs to be reiterated constantly on a public platform and 2) A woman’s femininity is confirmed through pure sexualization.

Misconceptions In Magazines

Admit it; we have all been guilty of uttering a sexist remark once or twice in our lives. But when a person hears that something sexist was said, it is often assumed that the remark was towards a woman. Yes, women are often the target of sexism, but men are not left out of this category. It is also important to note than many girls and women alike fan the flames of sexism for both genders, with their consumptions of popular “girly” magazines, as illustrated in this article on

According to the article, the media loves sending the message that men are rude pigs who only think a certain way and act a certain way. And you know what? We as consumers literally “buy” into it. These messages are often the topic of many articles in magazines whose demographics are adolescent girls all the way through to young adults. So these misconceptions are introduced to people very early in life, by so called “experts” in the field. But just like reality television is edited to produce an interesting story, magazine articles are just as easily edited to produce interesting facts from said experts. This sort of editing is something psychologist Dr. Marty Klein has come to despise; since he was often an expert quoted in such articles. Klein stated that his issues with these articles include:

• “They stereotype men and women: men are like this, women are like that

• They ignore the reality that “men” and “women” are heterogeneous categories: they claim that ALL men are like this, and ALL women are like that

• They perpetuate inaccurate information: men do and think and feel this, women do and think and feel that."
Many girls and women often go to these magazines to find advice about the opposite sex, when really they are just warping their perception even more. The same can be said about popular men’s magazines and websites. How about we stop this so called “research,” and just reach out and get to know one another and communicate who we really are. I know, easier said than done.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!!

From Guest Blogger: Nicole A.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!!

October 11th is National Coming Out Day and amid the recent and tragic string of suicides among gay youth, this Coming Out Day has a somber tone. It is especially important this year for those who are able and safe to be out and proud of who we are. I am a lesbian and I am coming out because I love and am proud of who I am and I’m asking all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Straight Allies, and everyone in between come out in support and celebration of LGBTQ equality.

Visit the Human Rights Campaign at to learn more or join NIU’s LGBT resource center tonight for a Drop-In Session to hear or share your coming out experiences in honor of National Coming Out Day. The celebration will begin at 7 p.m. in Grant Tower A, Room 200 (Counseling and Student Development Center Satellite Office in Grant South)

So come out, come out, wherever you are because after all, closets are for clothes!

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is your MD a feminist? Try a DO

From Guest Blogger: Katie S.

There is general assumption in our culture that when a person needs to see a doctor, they go see a M.D. (medical doctor). Those two letters at the end of a name indicate full medical knowledge and the ability to heal. While this may be the case, there is actually another group of physicians. I’m not talking about chiropractors or psychiatrists. I’m talking about D.O.s; the letters stand for Doctor of Osteopathic medicine.

Osteopathic medicine was first created as an offshoot of traditional medical medicine, created by a student who came to the realization that they human body has an incredible capacity to self heal. Instead of researching different outside forces to promote healing, this person thought that the body itself should be understood more in order to enhance and support its own natural processes. While this might not seem quite revolutionary, it was. This concept was formed at a time when the medical community was developing one new medical procedure after the next, gaining fame and notability for their ideas. Unfortunately, the human body itself was vastly misunderstood and needed to be explored further, so that normal processes were not being treated as illnesses or diseases, but rather healthy functions supporting an overall physiology.

One of the hallmarks of this training is the whole body, holistic approach to treating a patient. It is not just the symptoms that are looked at and treated, but rather the whole person is examined and discussed with regard to lifestyles and other factors. Many who see a D.O. remark on the positive conversation and connection they feel with their doctor due to this time being taken. How often do people remark about a doctor actually taking the time to get to know them not just as a patient with a problem, but as a unique person? This approach creates a partnership between patient and physician, where they can work together to nurture and facilitate full wellbeing.

Preventative medicine is a vastly underappreciated aspect of patient care. It is often overlooked or ignored in traditional medicine circles. Thankfully, D.O.’s are taught the value of this and is used in their treatment. Their extensive, full body approach to caring for their patients aims to return the body to its natural, healthy state.

When thinking about this aspect of healthcare, it can be connected to the outside overall view of health that is shared by American culture in general. Industries thrive financially on treating people with what they feel is best for that person, creating dependence on needed to buy health rather than self actualize it. This is one of ways that has ended up placing osteopathic medicine in with natural remedy circles. Rest assured that D.O.’s receive a medical education that is just as rigorous as M.D.s and often go into specialty care. They are licensed in the same manner and are held to equal standards.

In the same vein as other society assumptions, D.O.’s tend to be misunderstood because they are not of the norm. Instead of doing what is best for a person, our culture will regulate what they feel the correct path is. With the parallels drawn, the relationship between osteopathic care and feminist thought can clearly be seen. Both work to step away from convention, focusing on what is right rather than expected. Feminism encourages the advocacy and equality of all, and in a similar endeavor so do D.O.’s with patients. They respect and honor the natural processes of the individual, healing with this at the forefront of their care.

So the next time you need to see a doctor, take the time to explore all your options. There might be more than you thought. Above all, find a physician that you feel comfortable with, who empowers you as an individual to own your health process. You deserve to be seen not simply as a patient, but a unique, valued individual.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Breast Cancer, or Boobie Cancer?

As some of you may be aware, on Tuesday there was a breast cancer awareness campaign on Facebook that asked women to write where they put their purse as their status. An example: “I like it on the floor” or “I like it on the desk.” The people organizing this campaign probably weren’t stupid; it’s an overtly sexual innuendo. Using sex to sell an idea. Awareness is great and all, but what does where a woman puts her purse have anything to do with breast cancer? It’s silly and it’s cheap.

The tactics used to promote breast cancer awareness in general are sexualized and tactless. My least favorite is the “save the boobies!” campaign. Yes, boobs are a sexual part of the body, but that doesn’t mean breast cancer is or inherently has to be also. The “save the boobies” makes breast cancer more about the visual pleasure they bring to others, namely men. It’s a real problem when even a terminal illness is seen through the male gaze and thus sexualized.

Something as painful as cancer doesn’t need to be sexualized. Some may find jokes like that to be light hearted, but I find them to be invalidating. If a man had testicular cancer, I would never advocate a campaign called “Save the Balls!” That’s just tactless.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Growing up, it was hard to consider that your teacher had a life outside the classroom. In fact, when I was very young, I thought all the teachers lived in the school and the classroom had pull out beds somewhere. As we grew older, we came to realize that yes, our teachers had real lives, real families, real problems, and that they, in fact, did not live at the school.

So it is a bit unbelievable when you hear a grown man say things like “an unmarried woman who is sleeping with her boyfriend…shouldn’t be in the classroom”, just as Republican Senator Jim DeMint stated during a rally. Wow, really? From his statement one would think that teachers are "throwing down" or “getting down” during a spelling lesson. It just becomes extremely irritating when seemingly educated people make such idiotic statements. Teachers, like any professional person, know to keep their personal lives private from their work lives, especially when there are children involved.

DeMint also said this about LGBTQ teachers: “if they're openly homosexual, we can't let them near our children.” Honestly, I would feel worried about exposing my children to foolish, closed-minded declarations from politicians, as opposed to my child being taught by a competent teacher who happens to be LGBT. I would think parents are more worried about the teacher’s ability and skill, rather than who they are sleeping with. Perhaps that is wishful thinking though…