. . . from the media. Recently there has been an uproar in the media over Chaz Bono being on Dancing with the Stars. The problem? A transgender person where our children can see him! Or her! “We’re so confused–our children won’t know which gender-specific pronoun to use!” Frankly, I think it’s wonderful that people, young and old, watching the popular show will have to confront their biases and prejudices against trans folk. Chaz has my vote.
I had quite the discussion with a good friend this past Monday. A poem written by a classmate of hers really struck her as truly vile. I interpreted it very differently and saw it more as a beginning (and extremely limited) critique of pop-culture and the social roles that college-aged women (might) struggle with. Our discussion was fairly heated, and in the end we decided we would both write our interpretations of the poem, or rewrite the poem with our own ideas of what it is about. And lets be honest, the poem kind of sucked despite being able to induce a 45 minute debate over its meaning.
She finished her version last night, and I’m still working on mine. I find it very difficult to describe the battle between the expectations I feel are being put on me from certain aspects of college life and the expectations I have of myself as a strong and intelligent woman. It doesn’t help that she is an English major and I am not terribly poetic. Then I came across an article from the New York Times that Feministing pointed out. It discusses the way women in college are “running circles” around their male counterparts in class, but when it comes to outside the classroom the gender roles seemed to have barely changed since the 1950s.
While the article doesn’t answer any of the issues I’ve been considering this week, the fact that it mentioned the challenge made me feel a whole lot better. Does anyone else see what the article is describing? Do you struggle with these issues?
I know I do.
I started reading the book Backlash by Susan Faludi while I was in Seattle this past weekend. First off, we must all read it. It’s pushing 20 years-old, but in the first 200 pages it’s made me realize not much has changed in the last 2 decades and if anything, we might be going backwards. . .
That’s scary. I think the smallest and easiest (kind of easy) way to combat this is by seriously considering the small choices we make every single day and how they impact us as women and feminists and other women within the United States and around the globe.
For instance, I have slowly started seriously thinking about where I buy things. I haven’t bought anything from Forever 21 in a while. I know that doesn’t sound super impressive, but it’s a challenge when you’re semi-interested in trendy stuff sometimes and you want the immediate gratification our culture has to offer and you’re not used to saying “no” to those nearly irresistible $2.80 rings that might (will) turn your finger green, but that just means you have to always wear it. I have stopped shopping there because of the things I have heard and read about the way they company treats their employees. And lets be honest, they rip off other designers, have few pants that fit me and I’m hippy, but not so hippy where I can’t find pants, and it just feels wrong to shop there.
Which brings me to something I came across a few weeks ago that I have been meaning to post. These are the Commandments of Feminism. I found it at the blog Small Strokes, which is pretty neat. Small Strokes is informative and also is very relatable for us younger folks.
1. Thou shalt not see a sexist, misogynistic ad, say “that sucks,” and leave it at that.
2. Thou shalt view all media through a critical lens.
3. Thou shalt watch every movie while wondering if it will pass the Bechdel Test.
4. Thou shalt critique media when it portrays women as one-dimensional, second class citizens.
5. Thou shalt vote with thy wallet (also known as the “I will not pay $12 to see ‘I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell'” commandment).
6. Thou shalt consume shitty forms of media (i.e. tabloids, reality TV) to be aware of what the “mainstream” is saying about women and girls.
7. Thou shalt write letters, make phone calls, send emails to let Dodge know you won’t buy their cars or to tell godaddy.com that you’ll look elsewhere for a domain.
8. Thou shalt utilize social media to get the message out.
9. Thou shalt not feel bad for still being influenced by the barrage of unobtainable images.
10. Thou shalt criticize the culture, not the women.
Obviously you make your own rules, but I think this is an excellent guideline to start from. There will definitely be more to come from Backlash as I read more and the Iowa City Public Library has a copy. Just so you know. . .
Vaginal beauty products royally irk me. Especially when the advertisements try to tell me my vagina’s pH balance is out of whack and can ONLY be “fixed” by using their product.
Uhhhhh, what??? My vagina is fine, thank you very much, regardless of Summer’s Eve and other vagina-“health” based brands’ claims. Check out this post by Maya at feministing.com to read a funny, insightful piece about the femi-do’s and femi-don’ts of Summer’s Eve’s new ad campaign, “Hail to the V.”
Alright, so everyone is different and that’s great. But you know when someone starts asking you about your “thing” and then that person clearly disagrees with everything you start saying? Yeah, we all know you disagree and as the conversation continues it just becomes even more clear that person is an unintentional bigot.
I know, I know those are fighting words, but seriously. When asked about feminism I am typically good natured, knowledgeable, and try my best to be friendly despite recognizing the fact that many people fear the word or label “feminist”. When a person begins asking questions and I start answering to the best of my ability, and their responses turn into “yeah, but that happens to men too” or “but as a guy, I mean, I’m discriminated against and whatever” or “I’m not a feminist cause I would never think of myself above my boyfriend/future husband”. My first response is, what the fuck? My actual response is typically, “Well, it’s not really that women are trying “take over” or that women are the only group being pigeonholed. It’s a problem for everyone when men and women are expected to take certain roles.”
Usually I get worn out pretty quick when these conversations start because, unfortunately I am used to being on the defensive and a lot of times I am just unwilling to go there again. But I just want to throw out a question to our readers who maybe haven’t yet identified as a feminist, or maybe friends that are reading because you’re one of our friends, but maybe still refer to feminism as “that feminist thing” (usually implying we’ll grow out of it) . . . when you aren’t dating someone and you hang out with someone that you don’t talk to everyday, what are the odds they’ll ask you who your dating? If you’re female, how often do people get excited for you to be single? How excited do people get when you say you are indeed dating someone? Males, how often are you asked about who you’re dating? How often do you get the pity card when you say you’re not in a relationship?
Alright so those were quite a few questions, but what I’m trying to get at is yes, everyone is subjected to expectations that they don’t like, but there are certain things where women are expected to be doing things that not only can affect their self-worth (being valued higher because of a relationship, for example) but it also affects men, children, teenagers, young adults, and especially women.
Ultimately what I’m trying to get across is that we’re all fucked into these small roles if we don’t change. I’m more than a relationship; someday I might meet the man of my dreams and get married and maybe adopt a kid or two, but until then, I am going to live my life and stop asking if I’m dating someone, ask how my internship is, what I’m planning to do after I graduate, what books I’m reading, or how I feel about what’s going on in Iowa politics. Do you see what I mean?
Also I am going to get better at talking about feminism with people that disagree from the get-go.
I recently checked out a book from the library about finding the hidden messages in women’s fashion. I thought it sounded really interesting. I read the first 20 pages maybe and found out that turquoise blue is a comforting color in an office setting, navy blue implies trustworthiness and responsibility, and hot pink is actually a good idea in some office settings.
I also “learned” that your favorite pencil skirt/blazer combo ACTUALLY makes people think your a power-crazed bitch, your favorite sexy, tight dress that barely goes to there ACTUALLY makes you look desperate, not sexy. I’m not totally convinced on those, because I really do love my purple pencil skirt with my $3 blazer together and sometimes when I’m actually not bloated from nature’s wonderful gift to me I want to show that I do have lovely curves.
I think that this book probably has some practical information and some pseudo-psychology that would be enjoyable to read and interesting to discuss, but overall you should wear what you want. You think my leggings and XXL Tall Hanes t-shirt makes me look dumpy? Turns out that’s what I was going for when I got dressed 10 minutes after I was supposed to leave to get to class, work, meet a friend on time. I like to call it “frumpy chic”, or probably better named, “these are my pajamas and I was running late, but the necklace makes it fashionable, right?”
So to recap here, wear what you want, anything you choose to wear is going to be judged in a way you probably didn’t see coming from someone, but they probably won’t tell you anyway. Apparently as a lady, no matter what you wear will make some guy or some gal think you look desperate or frumpy when really you were going for sexy or classic.
AND coming soon we’ll be posting pics of Iowa City folks and their styling ways. I am going to go out and creep and find people that will (hopefully) be interested in being photographed, and talking about their style in a brief interview.
The picture above came from games.yahoo.com and the other from tvfanatic.com.
The Society Pages is a great place if you are interested in just about anything, and who isn’t interested in PORN?! There’s a ten minute video from Cindy Gallop, the creator of Make Love, Not Porn and IfWeRanTheWorld if you click the link above.
I know, I know the first 20 or so seconds are a little awkward, but it’s totally worth it.
She also has a shorter Ted Talk that pretty much summarizes the longer video here.