Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stoopid Beauty Gadgets

The video Killing Us Softly 3 has had a strong and long-lasting impact on me. Every day I think about standards of beauty (even in my small little circle of reality here in the corn-fed Midwest), and who has created them. This film has really changed my perspective about things. I strongly recommend it to anyone who hasn't already seen it. It is by Jean Kilbourne, and it examines how women are portrayed in the media, and the kinds of implications that it has on our society as a whole. She did her first versoin of the video in the 1970's, and the third version came out in the 1990's. I have yet to see the 4th one, which came out earlier this month.

On a related note, one of my favorite websites ever, Everything is Terrible, contains several infomercials featuring some absolutely ridiculous beauty gadgets and gizmos. Obviously, a lot of women recognize that these products are worthless and a waste of money, but SOMEone out there must be buying this crap. Why else would they keep making more??

Here is a sampling of some infomercials for your entertainment:
The Revo Styler (um, since when are we too lazy for a round brush??)
This is gross
The Art of Scarf Styling
This thing is just really creepy
Of, course the Shake Weight (and their version for men!)

So, on a completely UNrelated note, to take us out with a smile this Thursday afternoon, I give you Tappercise.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fire Safety (cont.)

Also, if anyone is interesting in a funny video on what not to do for fire safety, check out this awesome clip from the office!

Fire Safety Day at the Dub C

So today we got trained in fire safety and learned how to use a fire-extinguisher! The WRC is now prepared to handle fires safely and effectively!

Here is the gang after taking care of the fire.

Here is the roaring fire that we needed to tame.

Here is Kate taking care of business. She took the prize with the fastest time, although Jill might tell you otherwise...

Jill taking a second shot at it....

Overall, just another fun day at the Dub C!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fembots: From Fantasy to Reality

No one disputes that technology has certainly done some amazing things for society as a whole. But in our quest to create efficiencies and solve the world’s problems, I think it is crucial to ask not whether we can, but whether we should. This video explores the creation of the Fembot fantasy and its portrayal in the media as the “ultimate misogynistic male fantasy.”

While fembots do seem extreme, I fear that our society’s preference for a technological mask instead of human interaction is harming our sexual relationships and our friendships (at the moment this trend can most readily be seen in the explosive use of texting). It seems as though we are moving further away from face-to-face encounters and preferring an artificial world where it is not necessary to use social skills to have an interpersonal relationship. The next video of an actual fembot seems to indicate that in the near future we will have a “human” face imposed on technology, and not just any face, a female face.

Why does the robot have to be female or be assigned a sex at all for that matter? I thought the point of creating robots was to serve human kind and perform tasks that humans can’t. So I wonder what it is that woman are not doing that a robot can….perhaps fulfilling the “ultimate misogynistic male fantasy”?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Victims of Child Sexual Abuse Need to Get Therapy, Not Give Birth

I blogged last summer about a Brazilian 9 year old girl who had been sexually abused repeatedly by her stepfather since she was 6 years old. She became pregnant, and had an abortion. Despite the fact that it would be physiologically impossible for the 66 pound girl to carry the twins she was impregnated with to term, the Catholic Church excommunicated the girl’s family and the doctors who helped her. This strikes me as a particularly callous thing to do; a family in the grips of such a crisis might need their church more than ever, to try to find comfort and heal.

Now a 10-year-old girl in Mexico, who is also the victim of rape by her stepfather, has become pregnant. The girl’s home state of Quintaroo allows abortion in rape cases within the first 90 days of a pregnancy, but the girl is just about a month over that limit. However, the girl and her mother weren’t told about their option to get an abortion when her mother reported the assault last month (and apparently no one was sure how far along the girl was at the time).

Who in their right mind would insist that a 9 or 10 year-old girl carry a pregnancy to term? The average female’s hips don’t widen until the end of puberty (when she is closer to 13 years old), so neither of these girls would have been or will be able to deliver vaginally. The cognitive development of children must also be considered in these kinds of cases; children under 11 or 12 don’t have the full capacity to think logically, and are still egocentric in nature (according to Piaget, who is pretty much the most widely revered and respected authority on children’s cognitive development).

These girls are victims of child sexual abuse, and require extensive therapy to facilitate the healing process. Child sexual abuse has absolutely devastating and long-lasting effects on its victims. An experience that is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting like pregnancy and childbirth is simply way too much for these victims to handle. And it is criminal for someone to insist that these girls go through it.

Cases like these really make it clear that our nation AND world need to raise awareness about child maltreatment, and specifically child sexual abuse. We must do much more in they way of prevention, and do what we can to stop cases like these from ever happening in the first place. The well-being of our world’s children needs to move from the backburner of our agendas to the forefront of our minds.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Relationships: Healthy vs. Unhealthy

While most are versed in the basic characteristics of an unhealthy relationship (such as violence, jealously, or manipulation), there are many more signs that are important to recognize. A few of these lesser-known characteristics can include the following:

· Unrealistic expectations of your partner
· Dishonesty or omissions of the truth
· Lack of trust, reliability
· Social isolation
· Cycle of pain, betrayal, lies, or blaming
· Erratic, unpredictable, or mysterious behavior
· Self-centeredness
· Lack of responsibility for own actions.
· Wanting you to conform to them (criticism of your ideas, belittling your feelings, making you afraid to disagree)
· Come on strong (i.e. loves you instantly, insists on being with you all the time)


Reflecting on these signs, I found it difficult to think of many couples, friendships, etc in my life that don’t in some way manifest these characteristics. All the sources stated that self-confidence is the first step in having a healthy relationship. Is it even possible to have a truly healthy relationship? Another list that compiled the “10 characteristics of Successful Relationships” was a bit more affirming, though again poses issues. It includes: friendship, humor, communication, chore sharing (KEY!), sexual intimacy, affection, no “horsemen of the apocalypse” (term coined by researcher John Gottman who listed his four ‘horsemen of the apocalypse’ as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling), mutual and separate friends, reliability, and a similar relationship vision.

Assuming that “no one is perfect,” how do you know when enough is enough? How do you know if your relationships are worth fixing or when they are beyond repair? There are ways to attempt to create healthy relationships, according to the Texas Teen Page, including:

1. Have independent interests and activities that fulfill you. Never depend on the other person to make you feel complete.
2. Choose a person that you like and admire and who likes and admires you in return.
3. Accept the other person for who they are. Never count on someone changing themselves for you.
4. Become a good communicator.
5. Develop skills to manage conflict without violence.
6. Keep the friendship alive.
7. Learn what makes the other person feel loved and appreciated.
8. Discuss your expectations with each other. Honor any commitments that you make. When each of you behaves in a trustworthy fashion, you can learn to trust each other.
9. Respect each other’s opinions, limits, need for individual time, etc.
10. Know where to get support or help if you need it.

With this list in mind, be on the look out for some of the potentially less familiar signs of an unhealthy relationship and remember that self-confidence can pave the way to happier relations with others.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Watch This Video!!

The WRC is putting on some programs at some DeKalb area middle schools this month. For one of them, we are going to watch this video, Killing Us Softly (3). It is about how women are portrayed in advertisements. I watched it for the first time the other day, and I really enjoyed it. So I decided to share it with y'all. If you haven't watched it yet, I strongly recommend it!!

Rethinking Body Image Amid Negative Messages

In an age where obesity is increasing in the US and some are even labeling it an epidemic, there is no question that everyday we are subjected to messages about our bodies. Whether it be through TV, radio, magazines or online, everyday we’re seeing infomercials for diet pills or workout programs or unbelievably airbrushed thin models in magazines. These are all sending us the message that our bodies should only be a certain way, and if they aren’t, you are somehow less of a person.

One woman, Ragen Chastain, decided to keep track of exactly how many messages about her body she got every day. Here are her results.

• Messages stating that it is impossible to be healthy at my weight: 217

• Messages stating that my weight makes me unattractive: 123

• Messages stating that I am lazy and don't exercise/don't exercise enough, lack will power, or am not "in control": 311

• Messages stating that I need to reach a specific BMI to be healthy: 36

• Messages stating that I am a drain on the health care system: 116

• Messages stating that I have poor eating habits: 84

• Messages suggesting that I should be "repulsed by my weight" [used those words specifically]: 19

• Messages calling me a derisive name: 152

• Messages saying something positive about people with large bodies: 3

• Messages that specifically shouted down those 3 positive comments: 231 (these are included in the categories above so they are not added into the total below)

Let's review:

• Total messages about my body: 1061

• Total negative messages: 1058 Total positive messages: 3

• About 353 negative message for each positive message.

If we extrapolate, I have been receiving:

7406 negative messages about my body each week

31,740 negative messages about my body each month

386,170 negative messages about my body each year

With all these negative messages, it’s no wonder that women (and men) have some serious self esteem issues. Surprisingly however, Chastain says that all of these messages make her “want to appreciate my body in a way that makes me want to take good care of it.” How is this possible? Chastain says that although her BMI labels her as “super obese” she is perfectly healthy. She is a plus-sized professional dancer who exercises more than 20 hours a week and her medical tests consistently come back perfect.

I think that Ragen Chastain has a really great perspective on this issue as she says,

“…I notice that I spend a lot of time addressing some of the 386,170 messages. While I think that it's important to expose what's going on , I also feel that a better use of a lot of my time from now on is adding to the 3 positive comments. Showing that there is another option – that you can opt out of a culture where people make assumptions and judgments and try to make you feel bad about yourself so that they can feel superior (or at least better about themselves), or convince you that buying what they are selling will make you love yourself. We are all intrinsically amazing – and we all deserve to love and cherish ourselves and our bodies and be respected by others – just as we are, right this second.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we all felt this way about our bodies? I hope that Ragen Chastain can serve as a role model for us in our thoughts about our bodies. As she says in her blog profile, “I am confident that health is based on what our bodies can do, not how they are shaped, and that we are all free to stop buying into the idea that our size determines our abilities or our success.”

This information was taken from Chastain’s blog post 386,170 Unhelpful Things which was reprinted on Jezebel. Ragen Chastain’s blog can be found here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Media Nudity Received Differently Depending on Race?

In an age when music videos get crazier and crazier (see: Lady Gaga’s Telephone if you have any doubts), it would seem that a little nudity is no big deal. But, when the artist Erykah Badu walked naked down the street in Dallas, Texas while filming a music video, the country went up-in-arms. At first, Dallas officials said that they would be unable to press charges unless a witness of the event came forward to complain; of course, shortly after stating that someone came forward.

The question remaining is what the real controversy is over: a woman walking naked down a Dallas street, or a black woman walking naked down a Dallas street. After all, Badu paid homage to Matt and Kim at the beginning of the video, clearly referencing their similar naked parade (see video below). Granted, Matt and Kim did go through the process of getting the proper permits for the act, which Badu neglected; yet, it is still interesting to see how the videos were received.

Both videos had children on scene witnessing the event, though. Badu was criticized for being naked in front of children. This criticism went so far that Dallas police used the fact that “[Badu] disrobed in a public place without regard to individuals and small children who were close by” to charge her with disorderly conduct. Matt and Kim avoided any and all fines, even though their escapade was witnessed by far more people, including “small children.”
There has been so much outrage surrounding the event that people from across the country were calling into “express their concern.”

Why is it that two white individuals can walk through time square with hundreds of people witnessing the event and there is not so much as a mention of the event (at least I never heard about it, I could be wrong), while one black woman walking the streets of Dallas can face criminal charges, national publicity, international publicity, and be criticized profusely?

See Badu’s video -

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Step Forward.....Two Steps Back

Over the weekend I was delighted to find out that Wisconsin’s Healthy Youth Act actually took effect in March. This new law requires schools that provide sex-education courses to teach students “medically accurate, age-appropriate information, including how to use birth control and prevent sexually transmitted diseases.” What is even more ground breaking, in my opinion, is the additional requirement of teaching students how to recognize signs of an abusive relationship. This new law appears to have developed in response to studies that show abstinence-only education is not effective in protecting teen health or preventing pregnancy. In fact Governor Doyle has rejected Federal money earmarked for abstinence-only education programs in the past because of this failing record. Well done Governor Doyle!

Unfortunately not everyone feels this way. Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth has taken the drastic measure of threatening to arrest local sex education teachers if they comply with the new law. In a letter Southworth wrote to 5 school districts in his jurisdiction, he called the new law “programming that promotes the sexualization—and the sexual assault—of our children” and likened teaching children how to use contraceptives to “instructing them how to make mixed drinks.” Southworth also finds danger in the likelihood that a discussion of gender might pop-up in the curriculum thus the school “may need to provide instruction on homosexuality.”

I am annoyed on several levels with Southworth’s letter, but overall it ignores the fact that parents are allowed to withdraw their children from the sex education course. If this comprehensive, well-rounded approach is not the message parents want to send, then they may opt out of it.

Love Your Body Cuz It Helps You TCB, Yo

I feel the need to begin with the disclaimer that I have never been a fan of Britney Spears’ horrible pop tripe that some people have the nerve to call music. That being said, I think the fact that she insisted her un-retouched photos from a recent Candies ad be released is admirable.

Most everyone knows that ads and pictures in magazines are Photoshopped, but I think when you get to actually see it, it leaves a stronger impression on you. A lot of Britney’s fan base might have grown up with her, but she probably has some younger fans out there that will benefit from seeing these pictures (especially if they are in a particularly vulnerable developmental period in regards to their body image).

I understand that the fashion and advertising industries aim to create images to convey a sort of fantastical world where anything is possible (see: pretty much any Vogue spread styled by Grace Coddington). And part of that world involves creating this perception of perfection. But the fact remains that these images are harmful to women. So even if this is not a new phenomenon, it is still a little shocking to see the differences between re-touched and normal pictures. It is almost like saying certain very natural and very common aspects of the female body are no good, undesirable, and all evidence of them must be erased. This is sad- we need to love our bodies, they work hard for us every day so we can TCB. I sound like a cheeseball hippie for saying so, but it took me a long time (too long) to feel this way myself. I wasted WAY too much time entrenched in negative feelings about my body.

I know these points I am trying to get across aren’t new. But I still think they are valuable, and relevant, and maybe a little overkill will help them sink into the collective unconscious.

Sexual Health, Proper Condom Size, and GYT

As a member of the student organization Advocates for Choice (AFC), a group that aims to spread awareness of reproductive health issues, it irritates me to no end when we are dispensing average sized condoms and an overwhelming number of guys respond with “no thanks, they are too small.” Are you trying to prove something guys or are they REALLY too small?

I was intrigued when reading an article published by entitled “Poor Fit May Explain why Men Refuse Condoms,” which discussed the fact that ill-fitting condoms are often times the reason why men and women don’t use them. There wasn’t much analysis on why the condoms are ill-fitting, weather they be too small or too large, but it seems it’s more likely the latter, as the average penis is reportedly 6-7 inches long when erect and most condoms can fit over an outstretched forearm.

One of the responders to the article discusses a line of condoms called They Fit which are custom fit to the user. I can’t help but wonder if more wide-spread availability of this type of condom service would increase the likelihood of men and women choosing to use them. Then again, I know a number of people who refuse to use them, which confuses me to this day. Aren’t condoms better than getting HIV and/or Herpes (yeah, it’s for life)? I also wonder if this is equally a problem for the lesser developed and used female condom…hmmm.

Speaking of sexual health and responsibility, AFC and the Women’s Resource Center, along with Health Services, Health Enhancement, the Women’s Rights Alliance, and Zeta Phi Beta, are initiating the GYT (Get Yourself Tested) Campaign at NIU. The GYT Campaign seeks to create a social movement around getting tested for STD/STIs (sexually transmitted diseases/infections) in response to the statistic that “one in two young people will get a sexually transmitted disease by age 25 – and most won’t know it.” The following events are taking place during April (National STD Testing Awareness Month) for GYT:

Mon. April 19
Screening of Kids
Women’s Resource Center
6-8 p.m.

Thurs. April 22
GYT Information Distribution
MLK Commons

Hope to see you at these events. Until then, use condoms, use them right, get the right size, and if that doesn’t work, use They Fit.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Breaking Through the Binary

Sports are highly competitive and push the body to extremes. But what happens when it isn’t just your body being pushed to the limit?

Olympic athlete Caster Semenya knows this answer only too well. Semenya was accused of being male and subjected to gender testing to establish her biological sex.

The results raised questions about the male/female binary and introduced many to issues of intersexuality. Join the WRC and LGBT Resource Center as we welcome Professor Sharon Sytsma, an NIU professor and expert on intersexuality.

Here Caster is pictured holding her flag from South Africa after winning gold in the women's 800 meters.

This is Caster after a South African Magazine "You" preformed a make-over on her to make her look more femininine.

Here are the program details:
Thursday, April 15
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Holmes Student Center, Illinois Room
Co-Sponsors: LGBT Resource Center, PRISM, SEWP

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Never Thought This Day Would Come . . .

Clearly I miss blogging on the personal front - ever since I blogged briefly yesterday about the success of our WRC Rock Against Rape concert, all I keep coming across are amazing blog topics. SUCH AS . . . . the following article on who is more feminist - Liz Lemon or Leslie Knope?

Now, I admittedly LOVE both shows more than is probably normal. And I really never thought I would see the day where Liz-feminism would be challenged by Leslie-feminism. I never even thought about them having different types of feminism. They're both feminist, so we're good here, right?

This article thinks not. I haven't yet checked out either of the articles referenced within the article here, which maybe I ought to have done before putting it out for debate here, but I was too interested in what other people thought to wait that long. :)

AND, I'm putting off writing a paper as I type this. So weigh in now, dear feminist friends. I'm dying to hear what you think - and if you dont' respond, I will be forced to finish this paper.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Rock Against Rape a Major Success!!

Last night, the NIU Women's Resource Center sponsored DeKalb's first-ever Rock Against Rape benefit concert. The event, for the two of you who weren't there, was a HUGE success, raising nearly $1,000 for Safe Passage, DeKalb County's sexual assault and domestic violence service agency.

The event came to fruition after Sarah Bruhn, WRC blogger and student staff member extraordinaire was doing research for a program she held last fall about Rape in the Military. She came across a newsletter published by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault that featured another Rock Against Rape concert in Illinois. She thought to herself, "Why not here?" and then decided to make history.

Sarah spent the past few months connecting with local bands on MySpace and inviting them to donate their time and talents by playing a set at the Rock Against Rape concert. She had an overwhelming response from the bands she contacted and last night it all came together with an amazing line-up of local talent and hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members who all gathered to show their support for Safe Passage and have a rockin' good time.

If you want to show your support for the bands that came out, look no further than Sweet Lucy, Sleeping Under 47, Jenny Franck, Lyrick, Eat Your Heart Out, Wienerslav, and Emanuel Vinson.

If you see Sarah on campus, tell her congratulations on an amazing job. She is a testament to the power of one person to make a difference in the lives of hundreds. I know that we at the WRC thank her time and passion for the work she put into the concert, as does Safe Passage and their staff.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Runaways

After stumbling across the trailer for soon-to-be-released film The Runaways, a biopic based on the 1970s all-girl rock band of the same name, I couldn’t help but want to learn more about this potentially lesser known band that propelled Joan Jett into the spotlight. While they were only together for four years (1975-1979), they made an impression on the female music scene that continues to be acknowledged by contemporary musicians today. Even though all the members were only 16 or 17 when the group started, they achieved mainstream success with hits like “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens of Noise.” VH1’s inclusion of “Cherry Bomb” on their 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs includes a brief introduction to The Runaways, found here. As someone who has never quite given up on becoming a famous singer (perhaps unrealistic, but it’s my dream) I was inspired by the impact that this young group of female singers had on the music world. The film The Runaways is due out Friday, April 9 and I personally am not afraid to admit I’m probably going to dish out some cash to view it in an attempt to be inspired enough to start my own all-girl band.

For more information on The Runaways, check here.

Want to catch some inspiring live music that benefits a great cause? Come to WRC's Rock Against Rape, a concert that benefits the local domestic violence and sexual assault shelter (Safe Passage), TODAY! Details are as follows:

Thursday, April 8
6 p.m.
The House Cafe, 263 Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, IL

Cost: ONLY $5 (all proceeds go to Safe Passage)
Bands: Sleeping Under 47, Sweet Lucy, Jenny Franck, Eat Your Heart Out, Wienerslav, Emanuel Vinson, and Lyrick

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Kind of Scene

This week on Wednesday, April 7, I am facilitating our next WRC program “My Kind of Scene,” which is going to discuss the intricacies of BDSM. We will be welcoming NIU professor and BDSM researcher, Brad Sagarin. We will explore various aspects of BDSM as well as myths, facts, and whether or not it can be feminist. So, I thought it would be apropos to touch on this subject in my blog.

The article Feminist Sex Submissive? How I Reconcile My Politics With My Sex Life, by Morgan, provides insight to the debates that surround BDSM and its relationship with feminism.

Some of the most compelling quotes are listed below (in case you don’t get an opportunity to read the whole article).

“I like giving up control over my body in the bedroom. I like being able to focus on giving my sexual partner what he or she wants. I like trusting them enough to give them permission to take. I like having one aspect of my life where I do not always have to be the best, the brightest, and on top. I like the way it feels to call my dominant ‘sir.’”

“Then I realized that part of being a feminist, for me, is taking control of my sexuality – admitting what I want, and finding a way to have it that keeps me safe in both body and mind. I am fundamentally in favor of everyone being able to admit to, and negotiate, the sex that they want – as long as it does not endanger others. Sex, after all, is just another facet of life, and if there is nothing wrong with men embracing their desires then women should be able to do so too.”

“Women are not inherently submissive to men. They’re not inherently dominant either. The genders, in this regard at least, are largely equal. Some individuals choose to submit to each other, and, on the whole, the inclination to do so is largely independent of their sex.”
“When I submit, I do it from a place of strength. I decide whether my partner is worthy of such a powerful and intimate gift, and I do not give my submission to anyone who does not both understand and appreciate the depths of what I am giving up for them. I value myself highly, and so I submit to people who realize that doing so does not make me less. I accept I am an intelligent, competent, submissive feminist – who sometimes finds her power by choosing to let it go.”

Morgan clearly believes that feminism and BDSM can go hand in hand. What do you think? If you’re interested in learning more and hearing more about the feminist debates over BSDM, as well as more about BDSM in general, come join the WRC, LGBTRC and professor Brad Sagarin for “My Kind of Scene.” Details below:

Wednesday, April 7
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m
Location: Holmes Student Center, Heritage Room
Co-Sponsors: LGBT Resource Center, PRISM, Advocates for Choice