Saturday, December 18, 2010

From Role Playing 5 Year-Old To Caring & Innovative Leader

So, I have recently become completely fascinated with the importance of play in early child development and education (and in my opinion every age's development and education) and through a feminists perspective, how it can be used to introduce kids to topics of injustice or social construction. Since we are all constantly bombarded through media of our societal constructions, it is my belief that it is crucial to help children begin deconstructing injustice at the earliest age possible, while their brains are still rapidly developing (birth-8/9), and that the best way to do that is through play. Play gives children a liberation and freedom that is new to them. Play is often one of the most pure forms of communication since it is a natural reflection of children's thoughts and feelings. This can open up all kinds of new possible teaching moments based around concepts brought up in play that they don't feel comfortable talking about in "real life". During play, they are able to create scenerios (often similarly based on the world around them), conflicts, and entire new identities. In an adorable anecdote Ann Pelo, editor of Rethinking Early Childhood Education and author of the selection "Playing with Gender", recounts when three four-year-old boys were playing "pregnancy". They eventually all gave birth and the play progressed to them bringing the babies to their nipple to drink milk, changing their diapers, and lovingly caring for them. Finally one of the boys questioned the fact that they couldn't actually give birth since they were boys. The other one responded that, they were boy seahorses so it didn't matter. Here we can fully see the beauty of play, giving these young boys, who were exhibiting physical and emotional characteristics often associated with girls, the ability to freely imagine a world where they were not constricted by social or biological norms.
I decided to play with my 5-year-old cousin, Coco, and we created a world in which we both were male-identified characters. She wanted to be a daddy and I was the firefighter who saved her New Pooh (favorite teddy bear/"child") after a telephone pole fell into the house. Before the fire, she enjoyed shaving her face, writing checks, flying to Japan on business trips, giving people her business cards, and screaming hysterically (during the fire). I enjoyed petting my imaginary dalmation, suiting up in the heavy fire fighter outfit, driving the racing fire engine, and the super hero-esque feeling of bravery as I descended the "flaming" staircase and saved the day. Do I think that this game completely blew the top off the gender binary in Coco's mind? Probably not. But it allowed her to explore and become comfortable with activities that she identifies as male. My hope is that one day she will be able to analyze the activities that she chose to do while being the "dad" and realize that gender really has nothing to do with them.
By introducing children at developmentally appropriate ages to social construction in our lifestyle, beginning with play, we will have leaders who are able to express themselves to others, feel comfortable and confidant, and create imaginative solutions to issues of injustice.

Posted by: Nat
(Hope this wasn't too rambly, let me know if you have any questions!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Xena Warrior Princess!

Reflecting on the gender and sexuality messaging I recieved as a child, I remember the first time I encountered homosexuality. I was watching Xena Warrior Princess on TV when I was about 6 years old (we had 4 channels when I was a kid -- selection was limited). I remember when Xena and her partner Gabrielle got really physically close, and Xena told Gabrielle that she loved her. They might have kissed, I don't remember exactly, but I remember my 6-year-old self knowing something was fishy about the situation. I asked my mom about it, and she didn't explain it to me, only told me I couldn't watch the show anymore :( (I've worked on my mom since then, she's come around in her acceptance of the diversity of sexuality quite nicely).

If you haven't seen this wonderfully cheesy 90's TV show, here is a synopsis:

In the spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys - Xena the Warrior Princess begins her epic battle to prove, not only to herself, but to everyone else that she's changed her evil ways. Still haunted by the evil she's done in the past, Xena journeys to fight for what's right. Xena has experienced a life of darkness as the chief warlord of Ares. Xena meets Gabrielle, one of the few people full of light , and together they travel the world to make it a better place. Gabrielle goes through the tough times with Xena, staying by her side no matter how hard a battle gets.

link to watch free episodes:

Some poetry, grievances, and activism

I'm in the class that reads through all the national writing submissions for the Prescott College literary journal Alligator Juniper and decides what to publish.

My favorite poetry submissions were written by a female author whose theme was her experiences with patriarchal oppression. It was not decided to publish any of her work. I want to share a poem of hers that was one of my favorites.

Golden Delicious

That’s how the first sin felt.
It wasn’t about eating the apple
or tossing the core in to the garden’s
compost pile. No, God was angry
she’d found her clit and realized
Adam was a sub-par lover.

The only animal that came after him:
her interior was not like
the cheetah or the swordfish, the heron
or the monarch. This Eden—

florid, sunny, all-inclusive tiny umbrella
in your daiquiri resort — left Eve empty
She’d go on her own with a fig leaf
and a satchel of apples. And God let Eve
keep her hands: she’d need them with
or without Adam.

Jessica McFlaherty

Throughout this semester I’ve had issues with my teachers and peers in the Alligator Juniper class about their popular support of offensive material. For example, it’s been decided to publish a nonfiction piece written by a man who writes lines like “my stomach groaned like a worn-out whore.” I voiced my opinion in class about how material like this is offensive, since it’s making humor out of women’s suffering. “Oh really?” one of my classmates said, “I think it’s funny.”

After it was decided by popular consensus that the story would be published anyways, I wrote my teachers telling them that by choosing to publish this story we are legitimizing offensive language, rape culture, and the oppression of women. I reminded them that Prescott College is supposed to be for social justice and it is hypocritical to spread messages that are in opposition to it. I asked them to at the very least take the offensive line out of the piece, or if they refuse, to not list my name as staff on the next issue of Alligator Juniper as I would not want to be associated with such offensive material.

Sheila Sanderson didn’t even give me the respect of a reply. Melanie Bishop and I had a meeting, and she focused on how I had an awful lot of bad things to say about the class, but no good things, which made her feel hurt since she designed the class. This was off-putting since she seemed to miss my point entirely. I never criticized the class, but the content that was decided to be published. She said that I would have to get a consensus from my TA who was editing the story and permission from the author of the story to get the line taken out. I find it do discouraging when people don't recognize the significance of oppression.

We’ve just finished deciding which poetry to be published. The chosen prizewinner is a poem that begins with the line “The Kingdom of Heaven must be taken with violence or not at all.” I think encouraging violence is also destructive messaging. Only one other person in my class agreed with my opinion that that it is disturbing. Again, taking into consideration social justice in deciding what was published seemed to be of little concern. Another poem that has been decided to publish is about lovers and the woman’s dependency the man. It includes the lines:

“The ache of him is painted into the small of her back”
Her body, unfinished
she wants to stay this way after he leaves
so he will come again with his brush dipped in oil”

An ache is a hurt. Why should a woman enjoy hurt? The rest is up for interpretation I suppose, but I personally feel that it is saying that it doesn’t matter if a woman orgasms during sex, all she’ll want is more anyway. UGH. Sheila Sanderson actually mentioned in discussion that she found it slightly offensive as a woman, but it was “such good writing” she supported it anyway.

I am at a loss.


Discussing Feminism With My Father...

I talked to my father a couple of months in to the quarter. I opened up the conversation discussing the classes I was taking. When I mentioned I was taking The “F” Word, he inquired what this covered. I happily replied “Feminism” with a nervous twitch. I could already see the gears turning in his head. I was familiar with the look in his eyes as he gazes off to peer into his brain. I knew he was apprehensive.

My father is a beyond brilliant man. He holds steadfast to what he believes in and does it with an educated mind of knowledge and experience. If he chooses to take up a practice he not only excels but becomes a professor.

My nervous twitch was a reaction to the feeling of intimidation. This feeling has almost become a comfort to me. I usually shutdown and only listen to what he has to say but this time I took his pause of apprehensiveness and began speaking. I understood my father viewed Feminism as a way to swing the pendulum of justice to a woman dominated side. I myself used to believe it.

I used this pause for my voice. I told my father Feminism is not trying to boost women on a pedestal higher than men in order to give men the direct repressed experience women are familiar with today. Feminist are fighting for the equality for every individual. Finished, I felt anxious. Would this become a debate or would we reach clarity? It did not take long for him to process the information I provided. He responded, “Hmmm…”

Baffled I Was! Hmmm I repeated in my head, Hmmm. I was expecting a rebuttal but no. His response empowered my voice. I had shown a misinformed unbalanced gear in his head and offered one with love and compassion for all. Whether he chooses to use this gear is up to him. I find comfort in knowing the gear is in his hands.

What I have been promising you all and a little extra...

On Leadership Considerations and Lessons Learned in a Mixed Gender Environment. Looks at Canadian women in the military.

Halla Tomasdottir: A feminine response to Iceland's financial crash
^This Cheers Me Up. :)


If you remember I made a comment in class about legality in L.A. CA and how neighbors are not allowed to talk to their neighbors. I did some more research and discovered it is not a law but it is in the contract of several apartment complexes not to talk to your neighbors. This does include asking for sugar and hello while crossing paths. I am not sure the exact complexes this included but this holds true for people in L.A. People my brother knows and I met while visiting.
This is a sure shame. Once people lose the opportunity to interact with one another they not only lose the privilege of promoting change but they lose the ability to support one another and display compassion.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Patriarchy Hurts Men Too: but it is not about the men!

Well, for my social project, I sought out some "trolls" (One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument) on a few various blogs, and websites and spark a conversation with them about feminism and what it really means. I was surprised to find a great number of post regarding the representation of men within the feminist movement. Thanks guys, and I mean guys, for perpetuating the patriarchy by including the White man in the list of oppressed groups -- We [us White men] have so much oppression coursing through our veins that we even oppress ourselves!

After an "insightful, tepid, discussion" with some of these fine folks I realized that in my self exploration in my feminist studies I may have come across in class as though I thought in any way that the feminist movement was to include any aspect for male social justice -- this is simply not my belief. In order to see through this lens, I had to attempt to establish some sort of basis to relate to the subject matter; in reality, any pretend oppression I adopted is NOT real.

Feminism is not for the rights of men. It is important to realize, however, that the relinquishment of the Patriarchy will have benefits that extend to include men -- everyone for that matter. Before I continue my point though, let me first introduce a most basic definition of feminism. The dictionary definition of Feminism is quite straightforward and concise; it reads as follows:

feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests — feminist n or adj — feministic adj

Feminism is not a form of sexism, so men, we do not need to include or defend ourselves in the discussion of where the prejudice falls. Even in its extreme application feminism is merely a push back against the Patriarchy. Radical social feminism or the radical libertarianism movements do not attack the individuals who identify with being men, but rather the social position at which "he" lives, and the social construct that perpetuates this morbid imbalance. Quite simply, it is not even about equality but rather equity (shout out to Shula for emphasizing the difference) in the feminine; both in the perspective and for the actual individual. We men, and women alike, benefit from understanding one another; having an acknowledgement of an individual's worth. We [men] have our representation, in full (or damn near it) within dominate society. Feminism does not target the man; it is not even about the man, but rather a woman's role and her acceptance at full worth into society....

To illustrate this point, let us think about the Bechdal-Wallace rule. To meet this rule a movie has to have at least two women, who talk to each other about something other than a man. Few movies pass. Can you think of a single film without two men in it? We men are represented, women are not. We do not have to restrict any part of our participation in this world to allow for the incorporation of the feminine view. Our way is not working, suffering and destruction are at an all time high. If you accept the idea that these are the last days (the apocalypse), then so be it. I suggest something else, something other then the sky is falling and there is nothing we can do about it. I suggest, allowing for women to represent themselves, and for us, as men, to realize the equity in what they bring to our lives. Who knows, "that pretty lil' thing" may just blow your mind!

Posted by: Josiah

Being a Resident Assistant at PC

I have been an RA at Prescott College for the past year and a half.  This past semester has proven to be a real challenge.  The students in student housing have been a departure form the students that I have been seeing enter Prescott College in the Few years since I came here.  I have heard many an offensive comment – about drugs, religion, and women.  I have done my best to engage students in conversations about these beliefs and comments.  I am having a difficult time choosing an event to document here.  I have challenged someone who I work closely with offensive views of female politicians.  I have talked with another coworker about his statements on welfare mothers.  I have talked with many students that live in housing and quite a few others that don’t about the language they use and the potential it has to alienate and injure those that it is directed to. 

A lot of the time these students don’t realize that effect that their words are having on others.  I feel like reinforcing the need for positive and healthy communication at the Prescott College earlier in their college careers would be extremely beneficial.  I intend to facilitate discussions around gender and communication in my house in the spring, in the hopes that students will be responsive to it.  And hopefully, it will help bring more respect and awareness to the college community.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I have been thinking a lot about the idea of consent recently, from all different perspectives.  The Men and Masculinity class circulated a survey about rape culture, and rape culture in Prescott.  In the F-Word, we read Betrayed by the Angel, which, although it described a stranger-rape, a blatant case of sexual violence, exemplified how women are socialized into saying yes when they would say no, into ameliorating situations for the sake of men instead of taking a stand for their actual wants and needs.  Then, while I was wandering the interwebs for sources for my presentation on high heels, I came across Katie Roiphe, who published The Morning After.
The Morning After proposes that the anti-date-rape culture casts women as weak, without agency.  Roiphe, as an undergrad at Harvard and then in her graduate studies at Princeton, during which she published this book, grew frustrated with how women were turned into victims and taught to constantly fear, through things like Take Back the Night marches, the blue light system, and acquaintance rape awareness education.  
I have to admit, as inflammatory and counter-intuitive as her book is, I felt an inclination to agree with a lot of what Roiphe said.  Like her, I was raised by a strong second-wave feminist mother and a supportive father, with access to high quality education, and I have always assumed the mantle of responsibility for my many poor decision-making moments.  I have never felt victimized.  Coming from this background, it is hard for me imagine being in a situation where I have not given full consent; even if I have not specifically verbalized that consent, I am generally in control of the situation.  
Through courses like the F Word, I have come to understand how the socialization of gender roles in this society can foment situations where women do not feel empowered to vocalize their wants and needs.  Roiphe, I think, is ignoring the influence of the dominant culture which does disenfranchise women.  I do not fault her for wanting to see an ideal feminism in an ideal world, where all women, even without the privileges that she had, feel strong and independent.  But feminists fighting the rape culture know that this is not true.
On a personal level, however, I do not feel a need for my partners to be more intentional in gaining consent.  What caught my attention about consent in general is the idea that gender-identified men also find themselves in situations where they are uncomfortable with the experience but do not feel comfortable saying “no”. The piece of the date rape issue that Katie Roiphe is missing in her analysis is the societal influence; individual women are not all victims, but as a whole, women are oppressed and men are oppressors.  In the same way, individual men are not all preying on women, but are inherently part of a system where they have power over women.  This power dynamic serves neither party, as we've talked about in class.
When it comes to sex there are prescribed roles for men and for women meant to uphold this system through enforcing the gender binary.  One aspect of that binary is that (supposedly) men always want sex while women are always the gatekeepers of sex, and it is the man's job to convince/coerce/cajole women into having it.  Obviously, this places women in the uncomfortable position of having to defend their sexuality and honor; even if we are agreeable to the experience itself,  our reputation is in jeopardy.  But what about the gender-identified men?  What about those who want sex to be based in love, or who just don't want to complicate their lives with the risks, responsibilities, and expectations of always being sexual active, but who are told that in order to “be a man”, they must go out and get some?
As a confident, assertive woman, I often make the first move with lovers.  I recently started thinking about whether or not I receive full consent with the people that I am sexual with.  I am interested specifically in the interactions I have with gender-identified men, the gender that is supposedly always after sex.  I wanted to probe specifically into my interactions with men because the of the cultural assumption that in a non-consensual situation, it is always the man that has failed to receive full consent.  There are weird emotional dynamics around the idea of being a woman who had taken advantage of a man; like we heard today about female-perpetrated abuse and female serial killers, there is a notion that women who would do something like that are more monstrous than man, because as a woman they are naturally supposed to be nurturers, etc., while men naturally have more aggressive tendencies.  Another emotional reaction to considering this idea is that what kind of woman am I if I have to take advantage of men?  As a woman I am supposed to attract men with my femininity, what does it say about my ability to do femininity if the men I have been with did not actually feel okay with hooking up with me?
For my action piece, I spoke to two former male-identified lovers who I have a close friendship with and could trust to be open and honest.  With these two in particular, I remembered being especially assertive, possibly even demanding, of my own needs and wants.  Both of them assured me that they had enjoyed their time with me and respected the fact that I was a confident, assertive woman.  With both, I talked about how the way that I express my sexuality is different than the standard model of feminine sexuality.  These men acknowledged that fact, but both agreed that they see it as a good thing.  However, when I asked, one said that the way I act could be intimidating to men, especially in a more mainstream environment then the Prescott College community.  
Both of these men seemed intrigued by the idea of men being socialized into hooking up when they didn’t really want to.  When I thought of talking to these two, it was because I remember being in high school and feeling that if I had been flirting with someone all evening, virtually putting the option of sex on the table, I couldn’t then say no if later on I didn’t actually want to have it.  I wondered if something similar had ever happened to men who flirted with me and then we ended up in a bedroom.  One of the former lovers I spoke to seemed to think that in the majority of cases, men actually do always want sex; even if they didn’t, he believes that it is easy for men to say no when they don’t.  The other, I think, found more credence in the idea that men are socialized into sex; he is coming from a background of a traditional family structure that clashes, I think, with the sexually “liberated” (refer back to Hannah’s prezo) culture in the US today.  In both conversations, we came to the conclusion that the culture in the US has contradicting aspects where it both pushes sex on everyone yet doesn’t let people speak openly about it.  Although neither of them felt taken advantage of or coerced by me, both situations could have benefited from increased communication, and I think that’s true for most sex today.  Both thanked me for bringing up the idea of consent from all sides; the conversations were productive and positive.
In thinking that I could have put these men in a position where they felt uncomfortable with the situation, I reveal my similarity to Katie Roiphe.  Thanks to my wonderful parents and the community they raised me in, I still have the tendency, like Roiphe, to generalize my experience and believe that we are in a post-feminist world, where a confident woman could have coercive power over men around her.  Unlike Katie Roiphe, though, I am working on understanding how it is for other women around me, and hopefully, through intentional conversations promoting consent culture, take little baby steps towards that utopia.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Even if nothing had changed, I still would have loved her.

I was at community lunch a month or so ago, sitting around a table with many of my close friends. Since registering for classes had happened that week, we were discussing our classes for next semester. I then mentioned that everyone needed to take the F-Word sometime while at PC. One of my girlfriends, scoffed, and was like “why would I take that class, feminism is scary.” I got really offended, taking it personally, and thinking that my friend didn’t know what she was talking about. 
“Yea when I think of feminism I think of crazy radical lesbians. What is their to learn about it anyway, it has no importance to my life, I’m not a feminist so why talk about it.” my friend said.
I was shocked, baffled, appalled almost that my friend could think that way. “Every issue is a women’s issue” just kept pulsing through my head. I left community lunch really upset. Later that day I thought a lot about why she could have those notions about a movement that I hold so true and dear to my heart. She came from a house where a strong female role model was usually no where to be found. A place where equity between parents was also non existent. She was taught and shown that the feminist movement was a bunch of liberal hippies in the 1970’s who burned bras and hated men. So of course she thought that the class sounded scary and pointless. She had no reason to believe that it could fit into her life, and was also not educated about what feminism really is. 
After thinking about it for a while,  I texted my friend and told her that I would love to talk to her about the class and what she thought about the subject. She agreed and later that night when a bunch of my friends and I hung out, we chatted for a lengthy period of time, about equality, about misconceptions, about the different waves, and about everything that I learned throughout the class. She listened with an open ear and eagerness. At the end of the conversation she told me that everything she had thought before, she no longer thought and that she understood in her own way how feminism was tied to her own life. She proceeded to say that she now considered herself to be a feminist and that she wanted to educated the women in her family about the movement and how most of what they believed was not true and just propaganda. I tried to give my friend the information with as little bias possible. I just wanted to tell her what I knew, and let her make up her mind from there. However, I think that what I presented had some bias, I learned that it is hard to present something your passionate about without coming across with an agenda. I also learned even more, from talking with my friend that, sometimes people do not know that they are  ignorant. They don’t realize that they have been misinformed. I also came to the conclusion that I love my friend, and that I would still have loved her even if after our conversation she still had the same ideas as before, even if I hadn’t gotten through to her. Which is something I believe is part of the feminist movement, loving everyone, no matter what differences, to find that solidarity between other women and to care to matter what. 
And Jordana, I think I know a someone who plans on taking the F-Word next fall, my friend is already excited! =)

Love, Amanda

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cleaning a House, and Clearing a Mind.

           When I walked into the first house that responded to my cleaning ad, I was reminded of stories my mom often told us about families she interacted with through her job as a visiting nurse.  She would tell us at the dinner table about furniture that reeked of cigarette smoke, piles of dirty dishes and laundry that lay everywhere, and about the obesity of the patients who she cared for.  She would comment on the poor lifestyles she witnessed and her attitude made it clear that she had no compassion or understanding of the broader situation and systems at work.  Of course I only realize this in hindsight, and at the time understood her stories to mean that the reason our family was healthy and well off was because of intelligent life decisions and hard work on the part of my parents.  And how could I blame my mom for her assumptions?   It is hard to see injustices from a place of privilege.
            Although this house did not reek of cigarette smoke, there were certainly mountains of laundry on the floor, dishes scattered everywhere, food crusted on the floor, and the remains of fast food packaging under the couch cushions.  The husband and wife of the household were both incredibly overweight and had three young kids, two of whom were heading in the same direction.  My first thought was, “How could they possibly live like this, and treat themselves and their kids that way?”  I viewed the situation as something I could never possibly relate to, not because of inherited, undeserved privileges, but because I could work hard enough to avoid it.
            However, I can thank this class for forcing me to recognize these thoughts and to question them.  I allowed them to run their course, to go through all the motions of bias, disbelief, hate, discrimination, anger and superiority, before I put them on a shelf in my mind where they would not be taken seriously unless backed by knowledge of the history of the family’s situation, or by the broader context of the conditions they were living in.
            As I began to clean, Jackie, the mother, explained that she needed the house to be cleaned for CPS who came every week, but that she and her husband could not do it because of their respective health conditions.  I didn’t want to pry, but she seemed willing to explain how things became so messy in the first place, literally and metaphorically.  She and her husband had been in and out of the hospital for some time about a year ago, leaving their kids alone at home, and when a neighbor noticed the mess piling up they called CPS to get involved in the situation.  Both Jackie and her husband are doing better now, but their financial situation is stressful due to hospital and medical bills and both of them being on disability, and they have the stress of proving that the living conditions are suitable for their children every week. 
            When Jackie asked me about religion and proceeded to hand me the Book of Mormon, or as she called it, “The greatest gift of my life,” all sorts of judgmental thoughts spun through my head about “how silly religion is and how crazy Mormons are”, but again this class gave me the patience to get over my bias and put the negative thoughts aside.  Before taking this class I would have taken the book home and thrown it aside, then told all my friends about how another person tried to convert me.  I realized, however, that all I really know about most religions is from what other people say about them, and that I haven’t actually read the bible or the Book of Mormon.  I told Jackie that as soon as the semester came to a close that I would definitely pick up the book and read it, and I still plan to do that.  From what she’s told me, the book has gotten her through many difficult times, and it’s what allowed her to maintain a compassionate attitude even when faced with unfair circumstances.  Who knows, maybe it is the greatest gift I could receive?
            Jackie and I have developed a good relationship, and I think we both appreciate the services we exchange, as well as the conversations we have.  It was when Jackie told me “If you ever need a ride to school because of weather conditions, you call me and I’ll come pick you up” that I realized how I almost let my judgments and thoughts build a wall that would have prevented such a friendship.  I wonder how many other opportunities and people pass us by because of our subconscious and stubborn mentalities?
            I really want to thank everyone in the “F Word” for their contributions and challenges to the structures and labels of our society and for pointing out injustices in the culture we are swimming in.  It has really taught me a lot about analyzing my own judgments and thought processes, and about having compassion for all people, even those who pass judgments like my mom did.  Although I didn’t necessarily take action in relation to this situation, my plan is to understand this family more openly through the ideas from our class, as well as from exploring their values through their religion.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A conversation with a republican...who happens to be my mother.

I just had a rad two hour conversation with my mom and her boyfriend about nearly every issue that we’ve covered in this course!!! These are two people that are extremely conservative, republican, and anti-immigration, yet they listened to what I had to say with open ears and hearts. We talked about how screwed up the messaging is that we receive from the media; about violence against women, about messaging regarding masculinity and about what we can do as individuals to change this.
One of the most important points for me was when I told my mom a little bit about the horrific events happening to migrants traveling through Mexico. She seemed overwhelmed and I thought she was going to leave the room, but she stayed and I was able to explain why it’s important to realize that these acts are taking place. I told her how I cried for two days after reading Because She Looks like a Child and watching DeNadia. She looked at me and asked why I let myself enter that state explaining that I can’t let these issues get to me in such extremes. I told her that we must face violence against women and all humans in order to care enough to want to change it. If I keep living my life in ignorance it means that I will be living a life of negligence. She then told me that I can’t change the whole world and gave examples of how there are always going to be greedy, messed up people who you can’t change. I agreed, but said that she and I both can work towards change in our immediate communities by: changing the way we use language as a tool of oppression and engaging in constructive conversations regarding sexism and racism. We can speak to children and those who will listen and pass on these tools. In this way our compassion will radiate out from us in concentric circles.
I won’t reiterate the entire conversation here. What’s important to me is that I feel as though I now have the knowledge and vocabulary to articulate why oppression, in the broadest sense, is of utmost importance for everyone to recognize if we are going to create any sort of forward momentum.
At the end of the conversation I asked my mom if she considered herself to be a feminist; she looked at me and asked, “what’s the exact definition?” to which I replied, “to be honest, it’s complicated, but do you agree that women, and minorities are being oppressed pan-culturally, and that it needs to change?” Her answer was this: “well then hell yeah I’m a feminist!” Woohoo!

Becky Rae

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Male Messaging

I'm glad that Jordana spoke to the problems in messaging that males receive in out society. It's something that I've always paid a lot of attention to, and been very saddened by.
I'm at home right now, and I feel compelled to share what I can hear next door, even though it's extremely infuriating to me and unbelievable. I guess this constitutes as a rant.
I have some neighbors with small children, and they have friends over alot (often with small children of their own). There's alot of sitting outside and drinking beer that goes on. They have a friend over right now that has 2 small boys, probably about 2 years old and 4 years old. They got in a bit of a sibling argument and the older boy shoved the younger one to the ground, stepped on him, kicked him in the head, you name it. The child started crying, and the FATHER laughed and as a result, for the last hour or so, has been teaching these two boys of his to fight one another.
Comments such as:
"Punch him in the face if you wanna be my badass kid"
"If you don't get up and try to fight your brother back, im gonna fuck you up"
"This is REAL playing!!"
and "Are ya'll boys, or did I have daughters?"........have been some of the most common in his dialogue with them over the last several minutes.
The worst part is that the kids are doing what he's telling them, as though they're being asked to do chores. They don't seem to be looking at it like it's a game. The younger child is still crying, as a matter of fact.
No wonder kids grow up to have problems co-existing with one another.
Additionally.......this, in my mind circles back to our studies of "Partners as Parents". In what way is this individual's right to raise his children as he likes preferable or more "safe", just because he appears to be a heterosexual male and is not  feared to be teaching his kids to be gay??

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Take that, Mother Nature!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about menstruation and its bad reputation. Personally it has taken me many years to be at peace with this biological phenomenon that so many people regard as a nuisance and a hindrance to enjoying life fully. It bothers me that women are expected to, “suck it up” and continue with their busy routines even if they experience extreme physical discomfort and emotional stress during any time of their cycle. Essentially, we are expected to function like gender-identified men who do not experience (to the same extremes) the monthly hormonal ebbs and flows of this cycle.
Language and attitudes surrounding menstruation act to perpetuate the current male dominated gender hierarchy because it labels parts of our cycle as gross, unspeakable or just down-right wrong. For example: the fact that PMS stands for Pre-menstrual Syndrome is disturbing.  I looked up some definitions for syndrome and here is what I found: A group of symptoms or signs that are characteristic of a disease or a group of symptoms and signs of disordered function related to one another by means of some anatomical, physiological or biochemical peculiarity.
I’ve been scratching around in my head trying to find a word to replace “syndrome” that doesn’t make it seem so abnormal. Any suggestions? 

And then there’s the media acting to strongly re-enforce negative attitudes towards menstruation. 
Here is one example:

From Tampax:
Take that, Mother Nature!

Serena Williams vs. Mother Nature 

P.S. Don't forget to look at the comments under the video...they're golden...

Becky Rae

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feminist Activist Team Go!

How sweet is this street art!?!?!?

If you can't read the text, it says...
Emma Goldman. Her Weapon: Pen of Poison.
Rosa Parks. Her Weapon: Full Fare Bus Ticket.
Everywoman. Her Weapon: Rising Up.
Phoolan Devi. Her Weapon: Code Breaking.
Mother Theresa. Her Weapon: Relentless Compassion.

This mural was created by a group of young women from the incredibly inspiring and badass Oasis For Girls project... check it out here:

Excerpted from their title page:

The long-term social change that we would like to see for girls and women in our community:
  • A future in which all girls and women are educated and empowered to make healthy choices in their lives; therefore significantly lowering the rates of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and incarceration.
  • A future in which all women have the opportunity and ability to be employed in careers that are meaningful to themselves and their communities, feed their mind, bodies and spirits, and fully provide for the lives that they envision.
  • A future in which all girls and women are educated and empowered to identify abusive situations and take active steps to seek help and remove themselves from these environments.
  • A future in which all girls and women receive the best health care possible, regardless of their economic status.
  • A future in which all girls and women have complete choice and control of their bodies.
  • A future in which all girls and women have a strong voice and impact in our communities and the future of those communities.
  • A future in which all girls and women are educated and empowered to fully realize happy, healthy, and productive lives.


-kelsey aka bell left-hooks

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rape Culture pt. 1

Okay, here's a little run down on the term "rape culture" that came up last class. Essentially this term defines a culture in which sexual harassment and assault are encouraged/condoned/perpetuated by cultural attitudes about men, women, & sexuality. 
Rape culture is complex -- this is a very brief, general overview of a few aspects of our society which contribute to the encouragement/condoning/perpetuation of sexual violence. (I'm addressing two aspects right now, then going to bed and writing up more after tomorrow's class.... yeah an excellent topic to dwell on pre-bedtime).

Models of Men's and Women's Sexuality
... are ridiculously problematic. The ideas we have for how men and women approach and 'get' sex reflect our deep-seated association of certain qualities with masculinity and femininity (assertive/passive, productive/receptive, etc.).
Male sexuality is often framed as conquest, (hence some of the terminology of domination and violence we use for sex... "scoring" "nailing" "banging" "fucking" "screwing" etc.). Indeed, masculinity is often dependent on whether or not you can prove your virility by 'getting some.' Men are supposed to be always on the prowl, unrelentingly aggressive, seducing their prey until they give in (or skipping seduction altogether and asserting their power without bothering for consent).
Women, on the other hand, are supposed to be temptresses, but not sexual aggressors. Women's sexual power lies in their ability to attract, flaunt, entice. The role is one of passive seduction.
Women are also seen as gatekeepers of sexual experience -- they have the power to either 'put out' or withhold their bodies when a man makes advances. Combined with the expectation that a woman be simultaneously nice and naughty, virginal and sexually available, this allows for the male narrative of "she says no but means yes": women are thought to secretly desire sex but want to uphold their reputation and respectability, and so need a man to push them where they won't allow themselves to go.

Dehumanization of Women another aspect of rape culture. As we all know, women in the U.S. are extremely sexualized. In entertainment and advertising media, women are made into objects... reduced to their bodies (or specific body parts) and treated as accessories to powerful men or as objects of desire to consume. So not only are women's bodies made into non-feeling, non-thinking objects, but they are also made into commodities. I would venture to say this is why some men speak of going out and "just taking it" in reference to rape.
Women are also dehumanized & made inferior in the language we use. Not only do we constantly use femaleness as an insult... "stop being such a little bitch" "pussy!" "grow a pair" etc., but titles for women themselves are also derogatory and dehumanizing... "bitches," "hos," "chicks," "tricks," etc.  Psychologically, it's a lot easier to assault a "bitch" or a "piece of ass" than a woman.

(to be continued in comments section)


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Business of Being Born

Here is part one of ten of the documentary.  The links for the rest of the movie should show up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Media's Expectations...

Hey ya'll

I was watching this comedy show of Margaret Cho's the other day, and if you can get past the first couple of minutes of this video, you'll find that she begins to make some funny, but very profound commentary on her experience as a celebrity that has been considered inferior to the "standard" -particularly in terms of weight. This reminds me of all of the discussions we have had lately about our "messaging" from mainstream culture. So this is just one example of how it affects the individual...

Hope you enjoy :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Woman's Success

“A woman like that should have a sign tattooed to her forehead warning men to back off if they don’t want to loose all their money.” Says my well-educated uncle, who lives on a tightly calculated budget, but holds undeniable wealth and privilege in this society. Over coffee on a lovely Saturday morning, talk about economics lead to talk of law suites and the “sue-happy” nature our society has adopted. When I chimed in with a story about my good friend who has been exposed to lawsuits from a very young age, and is very aware of the possibility of extracting money through the court. The comment above was my uncle’s reaction.
            I had to remind myself: 
Stop. Don’t react. 
            There were many levels on which this comment felt inappropriate, but what triggered the biggest level of frustration, was the perception that women are gold-diggers. Nothing was said about the father of my friend who in fact conditioned his daughter to understand the advantages one can have in the courtroom (if one has the money to hire a strong enough lawyer… but that is another discussion), or the society that encourages such a crude form of money exchange. So I prompted my uncle:
            “So do men like that need a tattoo as well?”
            Chuckling my uncle responds, “No. They just need to be executed.”
            Laughter spread across the table, and I said nothing. Caving in to the silence that perpetuates this system of inequality and misread assumptions. However, I do realize I have to pick my battles, and challenging my uncle in this moment would not have been wise.
            However, this comment truly ignited a curiosity within me. The comments made by individuals who consider themselves informed and progressive can be astounding. This idea that women are manipulative and gold diggers, is quite offensive, but unfortuantly is widely accepted. “Those women” – the branding of them – it is almost as if they could be excused for their actions, if they are labeled and put in a box. But the men –  just get rid of them, so they don’t continue to contaminate this idealist image of what a man should be.
            This also prompted me think about this idea of exploitation – is it the man, woman, or both who get exploited when it comes to money. Lets take the example of the bars that employee exotic dancers: are the women exploited because of the way they behave, or the men because of the money they loose. Depends on who you talk to. In court, a divorce case perhaps. Is it the woman, who may (or may not) have entered a relationship with money as a motive, or the man who may not have met the expectations one would hope for in a relationship. Recently, British comedian, Stephan Fry commented, "sex is the price [women] are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want." ( This idea spurred backlash from men and women alike. One has to acknowledge that these comments continue to come up in discussion today, and distorted perceptions of women are still very much part of our reality.
            Be it in the context of a friendly chat or on TV, this idea that women are in relationships for money can be true, but it does not have to be the norm. However, it is more than apparent that a woman’s body can be seen as an object in this society, and therefore can be used as a tool in this societal structure. This image of the powerful, sexy woman has become interlaced with an image successful women (in many cases – media especially), creating a distorted image in ones head, that leads to a whole slew of issues on what it means to be a woman… But the problems that form from that widely accepted image of "woman" could lead to another blogpost and a half.
            It is interesting to think about. I am going to encourage myself and those around me to observe and question their perceptions of women, and how they “get ahead” in this society, what it means to be a successful woman… and question what values or resources I may be giving up in order to meet societies expectations, and in order to gain the resources I need for survival. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Queen of the Scottish Fairies

The wonderful pumpkin fairy costume made me think of this story.

Hope you all enjoy,


woms & consumerism

Here's an interesting article I found while checking out the feministing blog we brought up in class (the actual post that led me to big think's website can be accessed here: in the third paragraph):

It really corresponds to Shula's comment about intentional purchases, and voting with your dollar since "women have become the major drivers of the consumption economy in the United States". I would also like to leave room to problematize the article's heavy promotion of consumerism...
Thought you might find it interesting, looking forward to a wonderful potluck soon :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Man-Up campaign

The tea party women have adopted a policy to challenge the "man hood" of their male running mates.

Sharron Angle told Harry Reid to "man-up" in her Nevada campaign debate against the senate majority leader. Sarah Palin also told Democrats that it's time for them to man-up.

Christine O’Donnell (Delaware, and the lady against masturbation!) said this about her opponent Mike Castle in September. “These are the type of cheap underhanded un-manly tactics that we’ve come to expect…this is not a bake-off; get your man-pants on.”

The man-up is a phrase is used mostly by women from the Tea and Republican Parties. It’s effective because it not only makes the woman look tough; it leaves their male opponents speechless.

When a woman tells a man to “man-up” there isn’t an effective comeback I can think of that would not sound sexist. For example, he can’t say, “Stop crying.” Or, “Stop complaining.”

ABC News said that there’s more to the “man-up” campaign.

They say its part of the Tea Party format that involves labeling your opponent while defining yourself in likable terms (mother, parent, PTA leader); and then saying what you oppose, like it’s the worst thing in the world. Things like spending, health care and fast train.

Maybe that’s why all the ads sound alike.

This campaign man-up phase sounds similar to the Miller Lite man-up ads.

In the “Purse or Carryall” ad, a guy walks up to the bar, orders a light beer and tells the female bartender he doesn’t care about the taste.

She tells him when he starts caring, to “put down your purse and I’ll give you a Miller Lite.” He takes his beer and makes it through the crowd with a big white purse.

What do you think about the man-up campaign sweeping the nation?

For those of you who like Stephen Colbert as much as I do, his Oct. 25th episide (can be seen on hulu), addresses the "man up" campaign in his "the word" segment.

Jordana's Rationale for Using "Wom(s)" and "Ze/Hir" in Writing

Hi, all!
I wanted to provide you with the written rationale I have created for using "wom(s)" in reference to gender-identified females and "ze/hir" as gender-inclusive, singular pronouns. I welcome any questions or critiques. -Jordana

Wom. Both the academy and public domain have long presumed the normative and inclusive nature of masculine terms. Feminist scholars and activists, in particular, have worked hard to receive acknowledgement of the patriarchal reinforcement that occurs when such terms are used. Indeed, Feminist Theory is steeped in problematizing the “taken-as-given truths” about male superordination and female subordination that are pervasive in the very language we use and remain entrenched because they are not critically examined. (Jackson, 1997) Recognizing that academic conventions (and what is considered worthy scholarship) originated from (and are maintained by) males predominantly, feminist theorists offer critiques to the status quo and suggestions for more inclusive scholarly approaches. (Diller et al., 1996; McCormick, 1994)
The extensive literature for and against using the construction “womyn” instead of “woman/women” in writing is impressive, to say the least. While some dismiss it as an inconsequential attempt by 2nd Wave Feminists to establish “womyn” as equal to and apart from “men,” it has been used widely in Feminist Theory. Both because my own political identity is aligned with many 2nd Wave positions and as I see “woman” as, indeed, a subordinate to “man,” I was initially inclined to use “womyn.” Then, I discovered Deborah Hauser’s (2005) incisive exploration of this topic and have been so compelled by her well-researched argument, that I have elected to work with her suggested “wom” instead.
Hauser (2005) traces the etymology of “woman” back, first to the German and then to the Old English “wifman,” illustrating the complicated nature of the original’s unique meaning and discrete morphemes being conflated into its current meaning:
I break "wifman" down morphologically as a compound word created from a combination of "wif" and "man". It is important to note that the original German usage "wif" referred to a woman as an adult female and not as a wife (spouse). It acquired the present meaning of a female spouse after it entered the Old English lexicon ("Wife," def.). I cannot explain why, if "wif" was the word for a female adult, it was ever combined with "man". "Wif" alone is a root morpheme complete in and of itself. However, when combined with "man" it becomes a derivational morpheme in which "wif", for female, modifies and describes "man" for human. The modern word "woman" is no longer a morphological compound but separates out as the root "man" and an affix "wo" further subordinating the female to the male since the prefix "wo" (unlike "wif") is meaningless on its own. This unnecessary welding of "wif" to "man" has irreversibly corrupted the word "woman" by binding the female prefix to the free male morpheme. "Wif", because of the semantic shift from adult female to "wife", is no longer a viable alternative as a term to describe the female without reference to the male. [emphasis mine](¶. 9)

Additionally, Hauser makes the apt point that it is unlikely anyone reads “womyn” without thinking “woman” (thus, defeating the purpose of the spelling change). She arrives at the possibility of using “wom” because it affords the “wif” morpheme’s original meaning of “adult female” and creates a truly distinct signifier. Hauser writes:
I would offer "wom" not as an abbreviated form of "woman" but as cognate with the word "womb" to entirely disassociate it from the word "man". "Wom" from "womb" would represent not just women's anatomical reproductive capabilities but would symbolically represent women as a "place of origin, development and growth"("Womb," def. 1.b.) (2005, ¶. 12)

Though I feel personal resonance with her rationale for “wom” being a cognate with “womb” (as someone who has had the biological experience of motherhood), I am even more persuaded by the second definition of “womb” she provides, as it represents an affirming inclusion of those (biological or transgender) woms who do not reproduce children. Thus, in the spirit of inclusion and experimentation, I use “wom/woms” when writing about female-identified individuals.

Ze and Hir. While it is no longer academically or stylistically correct to use “man” or male pronouns exclusively, when describing generic humans, there is not a standard and truly inclusive referential technique currently employed. Some writers do the pendulum swing of only using feminine cases, some choose to alternate gendered pronouns from example to example, some choose to put all examples in the plural, and still others use “he/she” throughout. I find all four problematic, when it comes to my academic explorations. First, replacing masculine-normative with feminine-normative terminology may empower some, yet it inevitably alienates more, because it simply replicates the same hierarchical valuation in the inverse direction. (“Othering” in any form rarely is successful in cultivating allies.) Second, because of the predominating force of gender-binary acculturation that so many of us have experienced (particularly in Western, so-called “industrialized” nations, like the U.S.), virtually everyone carries unconscious gender associations, and when reading alternating examples (e.g., one anecdote about a female-identified individual and the next about a male-identified person), there is a tendency to attach the gender-associated attributes one holds to those stories. (I specify the U.S., because there are other cultures that are not as hung up on the gender binary as many “Western” cultures seem to be.) Thirdly, putting everything into the plural is particularly tricky, if certain illustrations are really only about specific individuals. Finally, using the bifurcated convention of “he/she” is not only awkward and cumbersome in writing, but far more importantly, it epitomizes and reinforces a gender binary I categorically refuse.
One of the key exacerbating factors in the disconnect humanity experiences with so many of its relationships is the persistent influence of Modernity’s dualism. Acquiescing to the use of “he/she” perpetuates this duality, which is antithetical to the holism I am seeking. Additionally, it presumes the existence of only two genders. Thus, I elect to use the constructions, “ze” (pronounced “zee”) and “hir” (pronounced “here”), when writing about examples where the individual’s gender-identity is not required or relevant. These pronouns are widely used in the research literature on transgender issues (Boenke, 2003; Bornstein, 1997; Sosin, 2010), and they are recommended in GLSEN’s (the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network) resource materials. They represent my experimentation with gender neutrality in the written form – a potential contributor to deconstructing transphobia, as well as a challenge to taken-for-granted understandings of gendered identity.

Dove campaign for real beauty

Have any of you seen this before? I was introduced to it on good ole facebook.

Dove also has a "pro-age" commercial campaign for their pro-age products:

The pro-age commercial was banned in the US for showing too much skin.

Yes, Dove is a large corporation in the beauty industry, which is an industry that survives by encouraging and playing off of low self-esteem of consumers, but they seem to be making an effort.  I could spend a long time going back and forth between applauding their effort and dismissing it as "too little, too late", or still unrealistic- the women in the pro-age commercial look pretty damn perfect for ladies supposed to be representing how "real" women look- but it is still a commercial.

But on the whole, I appreciate the effort that Dove is making- especially with the "evolution" commercial, to make it clear how much the beauty industry distorts images of women.  It makes me think about a section in the memoir "She's Not There" by Jennifer Boylan that I read for Sexuality and Sexual Outlaws in WB 2008 about the author's M to F transition.   I quoted this chunk in my reflection paper for the book for class:

…[T]he culture had its hooks in me; like it or not. In no time at all I’d internalized many of the things I’d spent years imploring my students to fight against. I worried that I was too fat. I apologized when someone else stepped on my foot, as if it were my fault. My sentences often ended with a question, as if I were unsure of myself. All of these changes transpired without any conscious thought, and if I became aware of them, I felt ashamed.
Partially, I think what I wanted was to belong. If being female—to others, at any rate—seemed to include self-doubt, insecurity, and anorexia, then some part of me felt, Okay, well, let’s do all that, then.
(Boylan, 2003, p. 156)

The ideology of beauty is as pervasive and destructive as any other power structure, telling everyone how they are supposed to be, to look, to act, to be successful and accepted.  It's in the air and in everyone's head, no matter what- Jennifer Boylan had only been taking hormones for a couple months before she noticed the effect of a lifetime of pressure towards women to look a certain way boiling up from her subconscious.  One of the things I love most about Prescott College is that I see so many genuinely beautiful individuals all over campus that don't conform to mainstream image standards. 

What do you think are some good ways to fight against mainstream image standards? How can we bring the philosophy "look real, not good"   (or "look real AND good") to people whose lives are fenced in and tied down by media's dictates?