Monthly Archives: January 2014

Radical Feminism

I was assigned a section in Susan Mann’s Doing Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity about radical feminism.  Mann’s article was basically a history of radical feminism without much commentary.  She chose to “highlight its positive features” (79) instead of also criticizing parts of the movement, which I would consider a flaw.  It is more beneficial and more conducive to learning to look at both the strengths and weaknesses of arguments, and this can extend to an ideology.

Radical feminism is second-wave feminism.  It concerned itself with “emphasizing how women’s emancipation required that women understand, protect, and control their own bodies” (78).  This focus on the body is still very pertinent in feminism today, but was radical during the time.  This was a time in which men had nothing preventing them from legally raping their wives.  It wasn’t until 1983 in Canada that a man raping his wife was made an illegal offense.  When these kinds of injustices are still prevalent, I think it is natural for women to make an effort to talk about these sorts of issues, and, when necessary, enact or ensure the enactment of laws to protect them.

Mann describes the prevalence and importance of Carol Hanisch’s phrase, “the personal is political”.  It helps us understand why it was so important to enact laws protecting women, and to encourage women who were experiencing abuse and injustices to share their stories.  Mann says that radical feminism “is conscious of how men in particular and patriarchal institutions in general benefit from control over women’s lives and bodies”.  If women are unable to, at a base level, ensure security of their person, or if they do not even have the legal right to have security of their body, it is hard for us to continue to pursue other endeavors to promote equality.  Autonomy and safety seem, to me, incredibly base freedoms, and without them it is difficult if not impossible to progress to other things.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is relevant for this point. Men and patriarchal institutions definitely benefit from control over women’s lives and bodies.  If women cannot act as independent beings and are concerned for their safety, they will most certainly not pursue careers or anything else that threaten men.

I want to be HIlary Clinton.

I want to be HIlary Clinton.

There is a large section in the reading about lesbianism.  Yes, there were lesbians during the period of radical feminism.  No surprise.  There have been lesbians forever.  Just like there have been gay men throughout time.  I think it probably would have been very hard at the time to exist within the confines of a society that had such limiting gender binaries.  I disagree with quite a few of the arguments that those leading the lesbian separatist movement made, recognizing that as a heterosexual woman I am perhaps in an inappropriate position to judge.  Mann describes Charlotte Bunch’s essay where she says that “heterosexuality separates women from each other, forces women to compete for men, and encourages them to define themselves through men” (92).  I think that Bunch’s point is problematic because she leaves out the possibility of platonic relationships between women that can provide for friendship without needing to become a lesbian.  I don’t think that heterosexual relationships blind women from seeing the problems with patriarchy if they choose to look.  I also don’t believe that women are primarily competitive when it comes to men, though I may be biased as I have only lived my own experience, and I really don’t care at this point enough to pursue anyone.  Women during this period absolutely benefitted from heterosexual relationships at this time, at least financially.  But I don’t think you should discriminate based on sexual orientation, nor should you discriminate based on assumed political perspectives of people who engage in heterosexual relationships.  And yes, I think women can sleep with the enemy and still be feminists.  Although I avoid sleeping with assholes, I don’t mind calling men I am in a relationship with out if/when they are being sexist.  It happens.  But I’ve also met quite a few sexist lesbians.

I also think it is important to include men in the discussion about patriarchy, especially as it relates to consent and body autonomy.  As Jackson Katz said in his TEDTalk, our society makes women the victim instead of addressing the person who commits acts of violence.  There are many talks within the student movement about reframing the No Means No campaign to one revolving around enthusiastic consent to be more sex-positive.  It is great to see advertisements targeted at men telling them not to rape instead of just at women, telling them how to protect themselves.

Freud would probably say something about the hammer being phallic, but Freud said lots of stupid things.

Freud would probably say something about the hammer being phallic, but Freud said lots of stupid things.

There is so much more I could write about this article, but I will conclude by saying that I understand why radical feminists felt like their primary goals should be in ensuring the physical protection and autonomy of women’s bodies.  Even now, quite a lot of feminist discourse revolves around consent and rape culture, which are strongly tied to this fight.  Women are still very much defined by their bodies, and are thus often looked at as objects instead of as people.  That being said, I am glad we have also looked at different discourses, ,especially in broadening feminist dialogue to include race, class, sexual orientation issues.  The lesbian separatist movement was controversial, but I think has its roots in a pretty solid place.  Avoiding the chains of patriarchy by removing oneself from men kind of makes sense.  But abandoning heterosexual women is problematic.  It also seems more like they are giving up on the possibility of men being better people, which is disappointing.  Patriarchy hurts women, but also hurts men as well.  Changing the dialogue benefits everyone and would make this a world that wouldn’t be so shitty to live in.

To end, I am linking a couple funny but awesome articles.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/woman-takes-short-halfhour-break-from-being-femini,35026/

http://elitedaily.com/women/sorry-sorry-20-things-women-shouldnt-apologize/

Carissa Taylor

Pornography: Not a Moral Issue

In briefly scanning over Catharine A. Mackinnon’s article Not a Moral Issue, I first asked the question “what does pornography have to do with feminism?  How do the two even go together?”  however, my questions were quickly answered.

According to Mackinnon “pornography, in the feminist view, is a form of forced sex, a practice sexual politics, an institution of gender inequality” and she is completely right in saying that.  Pornography is aimed for an audience of mostly men and features women being portrayed in highly violent sexual situations such as being bound-up, tortured or humiliated by a male (which they apparently enjoy) and being under the control of a man for profit from viewers.  The way pornography is erotizing torture and abuse is influencing the way some men treat women in the real world as it “causes attitudes and behaviors of violence and discrimination that define the treatment and status of half of the population”.  I don’t know about you, but that scares the crap out of me as it is most likely going to get worse if nothing is done about it.

The next question I found myself asking was “what is being done to change the way in which pornography is portraying violence to viewers?  Can anything even be done to change this?” and that’s where things got tricky.  Mackinnon stated “sexuality free of male dominance will require change” meaning there needs to be change in the ways in which pornography is based on gender inequality.  However, it seems highly unlikely that any change is taking place as the liberal defence for pornography goes completely against the feminist point of view in which it sees the violence and torture featured as passion and love.

The law of obscenity also goes against the feminist outlook in which it “prohibits what it sees as immoral, which from a feminist standpoint tends to be harmless, while protecting what it sees as moral, which from a feminist standpoint is often that which is damaging to women” for example, male morality tends to find the “erotization of dominance and submission” harmless or declares it is “affirmatively valuable”. Not only does the law of obscenity value the complete opposite of what feminism stands for, it has never, and most likely will never consider pornography to be a women’s issue.

So, as it turns out, pornography has a lot to do with feminism as it features a great deal of gender inequality and promotes violence and rape to its largely male audience which is putting many people in danger.  The most infuriating part of it all is that nothing is being done to change the ways in which pornography is eroticizing this cruelty and the fact that it is being ignored that both men and women are being hurt by it.

Kelsey Saban

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This skirt is not consent

I have not much to say about the chapter, “Why Nice Guys Finish Last” by Julia Serano. Although I found it very disturbing reading the paragraph on page, 229. About how women are “whores” if they project themselves in a way that will attract men and how it is basically their fault if they get raped. I really did not know this could be a “right” to rape.

“This is why rape trials have historically dwelled on whether the woman in question was dressed in a revealing or provocative fashion, or whether she met with the man privately, and so on. If she did any of these things, others are likely to view her as inviting her own sexualization, as “asking for it.””

I do not think any person is asking to have sex without their consent. Even if she is wearing clothing that does show some parts of her skin. It is nobody’s fault for getting raped, but the person who physically did it. Nobody is to blame for their actions but themselves. And that is why it is so easy for men to rape, because they can reverse the blame onto women. I think it is fair to ask the women and the man questions to determine whether or not a rape actually went down. But, to blame the women for what she was wearing and doing, is wrong. Another way I think rape will reduce other then what Julia Serano mentioned, is if men start becoming fully accountable for their actions.

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Nice Guys are in the Race!

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After reading the Chapter Julia Serano (2008). Why Nice Guys Finish Last. Yes Means Yes, pp. 227-240. I stopped and reflected on how I have treated women…

After realizing that the author has made some valid points about how “Nice Guys Finish Last”  I stopped and thought is it really nice guys finishing last or is it actions growing up and imprinted behaviour towards others have an effect?  Having strong female role models in my own life, I reflect on this chapter from a perspective of parenting, treating people nicely is a learned behaviour. I think about watching american TV and seeing vignettes from, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where these canned messages where about virtues around parenting and patience.

I feel that this chapter discusses the underlying issue of speed, we live in a society where hypersexuality is all around us. If it’s not porn on smart phones, it’s Miley Cyrus singing Blurred Lines. I don’t think it’s an issue of nice guys finishing last, the effect is more of an issue of how fast is the race? What are we in a rush for, is there a prize that we don’t know about?

One issue that is not contextualized is the author does not know how growing up as a boy, it is imprinted on us males that boys are tough and should not cry, I believe that imprinting happens from birth. This happens if we want it our not.  In elementary school we segregated the boys from the girls to discuss matters of human sexuality.  My beliefs come from researching where our moral standards come from and it seems that the church has had a huge influence in both law and good order. This has led me to think that the unwritten rules where made to be broken. It would be nice to see one day where segregation does not take place. If we want nice guys finishing first we have to stop segregating  and let actions speak louder than words.

Posted By: Greg Bartlett

 

The Beauty Myth

I have never really been one to understand the concept of “beauty.” I mean to me, the meaning of the word seems much more complicated and complex than it sounds. It has to do with so much more than appearance and can apply to many different areas like a persons’ spirit, how they behave, or their personality.

The definition of what is considered beautiful varies from culture to culture, so whatever seems attractive in one society may not be seen that way in another. But it amazes me how much the physical appearance is advertised and enhanced to give off this kind of vibe that outer beauty is what is most important among women. It’s like there’s specific “criteria” that is set, which kind of pressures women into thinking they have to do this or that to become what is known as “the ideal woman” by that society, and shape them all into one, stereotypical, cookie cutter image that is perceived as “more desirable.” Image

When I was younger, my mom actually threw out all of the scales that we had in the house so my siblings and I wouldn’t obsess about our weight as we were growing up and I’m so glad she did. As I got older, I noticed some of my friends would keep putting themselves down about their weight and saying they weren’t pretty enough because they weren’t as skinny as the models you see on magazines and their self-esteem would go way down. I was a tomboy for most of my teen years, but that didn’t exactly keep me shaded from being criticized at least a little for not being very “ladylike.” It made me uncomfortable because it made me feel like I was violating some kind of norm when certain people would tell me to “Keep your legs closed when sitting!” or “Stand up straight!” and “Stop twirling your hair!” It’s like there was the expectation that because I’m a girl, I had to follow these “rules” and there was some kind of secret guide to reaching societies’ standards of becoming an ideal woman. I also found it interesting that my brother would never get in trouble for doing those same things and I didn’t understand why it was okay for him to behave a certain way, but it was inappropriate for me to do the same thing.

Naomi Wolf explained that “’Beauty’ is not universal or changeless,” and that “Its ideals change at a pace far more rapid than that of the evolution of species.” I agree with this because society changes so fast and what might be “hot” today may not be so much tomorrow. There is a reason we were all created differently and I believe that there’s nothing better than being your own “beauty” instead of going by what society expects you to be.

Written by: Mariah Swaine

“I Choose My Choice”

While reading Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism, the chapter My Big Fat Unnecessary Wedding and Other Dating Diseases she caught my attention on the ridiculous stigma’s surrounding dating and weddings. In all honesty, when I was a kid I totally thought about what my wedding would be like. My friend was the one girl in my life who literally was the ‘girly’ girl who played with dolls and had ‘wedding boxes’ and pink fluffy everything, and she showed me what a ‘real’ wedding should be, according to every stereotype pulled out of wherever. A wedding should be planned, and it should involve huge princess dresses, and large cakes, and groomsmen who look like models, and don’t forget the ridiculous venue – like, Cuba, or Mexico.

My mom on the other hand always told me when I find love I shouldn’t have to think of weddings, and there is no reason to have a huge wedding because people shouldn’t have to express to anyone else other than your ‘hunny’ that their love is for ‘real’. So, you could imagine the confusion I always had over weddings, do I have one, or would my mom hate me if I did? Obviously, now that I am older, and my mom now married, I have realized it doesn’t matter, whatever I feel like doing I will do.

In this chapter, Jessica Valenti mentions the cost on these weddings and instantly I thought about one of my (this is embarrassing) favourite show – Say Yes to the Dress, and the weird amounts that people would spend, literally I think the least amount of money that I have ever seen spent on a dress was probably one thousand dollars. “What worries me is that young women are being taught that unless you have a Tiffany ring and a Vera Wang dress, your wedding and marriage are crap.” (Valenti, 147) This statement is so true, and whether or not someone goes through the whole wedding expense, either way people are going to want to see the rock on your finger, and they are going to want to ‘oooh and ahhh’ and you want that response. So, in other words women are taught right away that the bigger the better, forget the amount of love someone holds for you – how big is the diamond going to be? While scrolling around on Netflix, you can come across a show called, Bridalplasty where, literally brides alter their body to make sure they look the best on their wedding day – I kid you not, this is a real show.

The main thing that gets me through shows like Say Yes to the Dress is the fact that they will show same sex marriages and women trying to find wedding dresses for each other so they both look beautiful for their wedding day. Which, comes to the topic of governments not allowing same sex marriage in the states, this topic is talked a lot by Valenti, because how could it not? Why should I be able to get married or why should someone be allowed to go to a place like Vegas and walk into a small wedding place, and drunkenly get married, while people of the same sex – who really love each other can’t get married in a majority of the states. “It’s pretty unbelievable when you think about it: How do you legislate love?” (Valenti, 153)

Valenti also mentions how the biggest issue surrounding same sex marriage is human rights, and how can someone relegate certain people to second-class citizenship because people think being gay is wrong. The fact that we can get married at 18, or drunkenly get married. without any love involved but two people of the same sex who are madly in love with each other can’t get married in a church, and claim to be mrs & mrs or mr & mr is absolutely stupid.

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– Alex Holiday

 

My Big Fat Unnecessary Wedding and Other Dating Diseases

In Full Frontal Feminism, Jessica Valenti discusses not only the aspects of inequality and sexism in relationships, but also consumerism that influences how we treat each other. Valenti sheds light on the idea that women are expected to spend their lives chasing after, getting, or getting over a man. She also touches on the topic of the changing dynamic of weddings and homophobia.

Why do we need dinner and a movie to show our affection to one another? According to main stream society, you have to spend your hard earned cash in order to express your feelings toward that significant other. I have to admit… I am guilty of having indulged in a few expensive dates where I did not have to pay, but this doesn’t mean I expect this from guys. I am more than willing to share the cost of these outings, and in fact, I would prefer to. It somehow gives me a greater sense of self-worth and allows me to show that I do not need to depend on a man; I can pay my own way.

Now spending money to earn someone’s attention begins earlier than dating. Valenti talks about how the “5$ vodka tonic” at the bar should buy your attention for an evening, and in some men’s opinions.. An entire night. I can definitely relate to this. Being a young adult in university, the “bar scene” is a welcomed change from dorm rooms and text books. Valenti is completely correct when she talks about ladies night. I definitely am your stereotypical, broke university student. Ladies Night, $3.50 drinks and dancing with my friends is a welcomed relief. But Valenti makes the most relatable statement (for me anyways) when she points out whom else Ladies Night attracts… not just us poor university students, but the sick perverts who “prey” on these people… the girls in particular.

Valenti also talks about the dynamic of the modern day wedding and the trend of homophobia that seems to accompany it. Weddings not only cost copious amounts of money (according to Valenti, the average U.S. wedding is almost $28,000) but seems to be more of a challenge on “how much should I spend to prove that my new husband is worthy?”. I believe that marriage should be a symbol of union and an expression of love between two PEOPLE, not summed up in dollar signs. Beyond financial influence, marriage (in my opinion anyways) is supposed to be a sign of love and union. Shouldn’t it be available to ANYONE regardless of their sexual orientation? It disgusts me to know that it’s 2014 and people aren’t allowed to show their commitment to each other through marriage just because their significant other happens to be of the same gender.

At first, I questioned my position as a feminist. Was this really how I wanted people to see me? Would it change my friends’ opinions on me? Jessica Valenti has opened up my eyes towards things that I never would have seen as anti-feminist. From weddings to Ladies’ Night at the bar… gender inequality can be found almost anywhere. Eventually, I learned that feminism is more than just equality for women… It’s equality for everyone. It’s the belief that people should be treated fairly regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. I am no longer afraid to think of myself as a feminist. After all, I DO believe in equality for everyone… And so what if some guy thinks that just because I’m a feminist that I don’t shave my legs? (For the record… I do!)

Written by: Morgan Stewart

The Beauty Myth

I can still remember the first time I had decided I wanted to put on make up; although I had always been told  that I was beautiful, I saw the other girls around me putting on make up,  and I thought, “if only I could put that on, I would be even more beautiful”.

I am not trying to say that putting on make up is wrong, or that being skinny is absolute insanity, but how is it that we have been taught as women, about the kinds of things that make us beautiful, and those that do not? A little more make up? or a little less weight? Are these truly the things that define what makes us beautiful?

According to Naomi Wolf, the beauty myth is; ‘ An ideology that makes women feel “worth less”, that was needed urgently to counteract the way feminism had begun to make women fell worth more’.

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I agree with Naomi Wolf because even though there are men out there who are concerned about their weight and their looks, it is quite different from the way women are “expected” to care about such things. Women are expected to look beautiful (put make up on), be skinny or have a slender shape, and whatever else defines what makes her beautiful. There are little, to no men, who are found to be anorexic or bulimic, and definitely none of them crying in bathrooms, or in front of mirrors because they have not been able to reach the standards set for them by society.

I believe that the beauty myth is as Naomi Wolf put it, ” the result of nothing more than power structure, economy, and culture, attempting to mount a counteroffensive against women”. Women are beginning to make waves in history, and yet we are still bound by things like the beauty myth.

However, it is important to note that; there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting on make up and looking good, but I believe we should also not be constrained by the idea that if we do not look a certain way, then we are not good enough. I am definitely not an expert when it comes to make up, but I love to look good and I embrace it, however, my confidence does not come from the way I look, but from the fact that I am smart and I have a lot to offer. If we teach such ideas to our young girls, we would definitely have more confident young women, fewer eating disorders, and concerns with getting cosmetic surgery in future generations just for the sake of reaching the standards of beauty set by society.

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Written By: Faith John Praise

What qualifications do you need to be a feminist?
Some would say that native women would not be feminists because they were already treated with respect in the community, that everyone was equal and all roles in the community were considered important. There are, however, many native women who consider themselves feminists, and believe that feminism, which Andrea Smith mentions, is an indigenous concept that white women had adopted.
In fact, in another article by Sally Roesch Wagner, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other feminists were inspired by the women of the six Iroquois nations.

As I read both articles I couldn’t help but wonder where the idea of feminism came from. Who would you consider to be the first feminist? I would assume that feminism has been around since the beginning. Maybe the word was different, but there must have been people who questioned the role that they had been assigned based on their gender and didn’t blindly accept it.

When I was younger I had no idea what feminism was, but I would still question why I was supposed to learn how to clean while my father taught my brothers how to shoot a gun. I constantly asked why I couldn’t do the same things as my brothers and they would reply, “Because you’re a girl.”
Maybe it was just the immaturity of a child, but they already had the idea that certain people had certain roles. And I guess I should consider myself lucky; I was able to do things that many people in my community couldn’t.

 Even in a Metis community, where everyone apparently was treated equally, there was still someone who was at a disadvantage. A friend of mine couldn’t go back to school, not because she dropped out years ago, but because she was pregnant and would give the school a bad image. Neither could her brother, who was denied an education because of a criminal record. If we are considered equal, then why couldn’t a young mother get a higher education so she had the ability to provide for her future family, and why, when we don’t fit into a certain role, are we not important?

No matter where you think feminism came from, or who created it, I believe feminism is fighting for the equality of not only one group, but for all people. 

 

Written by: Kenni Ducharme

I have to give Jessica Valenti the credit she deserves. She mentions in ‘Full Frontal Feminism’ how hard it is to get young women interested and engaged in the feminist movement because it continues to be run by the same “big gals” which limits the amount of decision making they can actually make and the impact they can actually have. Now I don’t have much experience with how these “big gals” handle things but I couldn’t agree more that it is a real task to get young women interested and involved in feminism. I really want to focus on this because it is so relevant to me and in my opinion, to my generation.

Now I have always been the type of girl who just gets along better with males for who knows what reason. I’ve never really been able to narrow down one particular reason that I’ve always had a lot of male friends but not many female friends. Perhaps it’s the fact that when I was a child in day care I was the only girl or maybe its because I was so committed and interested in sports as an adolescent, the second the bell rang for recess I could be found outside with my mini stick or on the football field. Regardless of the gender of my friends (and how I came to be friends with them), until recently (the last couple of years), feminism has never been something that I was concerned with or interested in. Of course I struggled a little bit as a youth because I was considered a “tom boy” and that just wasn’t cool to the girls my age. The thing is, equality between the sexes just wasn’t something that anyone I knew talked about. My girl friends (or lack thereof) never talked about it and neither did the authority figures in my life such as my parents, teachers, etc. In all honesty, as I reflect upon my childhood years, I realize that there were and still are some serious equality issues and I think that because no one took the time to teach all of us (both boys and girls) at a young age that we accepted it as a social norm and never bothered to question it. I used to think that the girls that I grew up with were just plain mean when they made fun of me for playing mini sticks with the boys (ewwww cooties!) but the reality is that they likely just didn’t know any better. While most of the boys my age were totally accepting of my desire to play sports at recess rather than play hopscotch, some of them were just as bad as the girls with remarks like “Why do we have to play with a girl?”. If someone had just stepped in and said to those kids “Girls can do anything boys can do and vice versa” then I can’t help but think that things may have been different for me.

Just like those kids in elementary school, middle school, and even high school, people today are still making judgments based on a persons likes and dislikes rather than who they really are as a person. Just like I got judged for being “not girly enough” feminists everywhere are being judged for enjoying trivial things such as makeup. Why can’t we be who we want to be and believe in the things that are near and dear to our hearts without so much strife?

I think that if we want to get more young women and men interested in feminism then it is critical that we start talking about it at a young age. Lets enforce that both boys and girls, men and women are all equal and that there should be no premise of men making more money than women strictly based on sex, that men have to do the masculine jobs, and that women have to do the homemaker, secretary type jobs. They need to hear that its okay to like typically feminine things and its okay to like typically masculine things. No one is going to force you to wear a dress if you don’t want to!

Valenti enforces that while women and men have made some great advances in feminism that we need to be proactive in maintaining the progress that has been made and continuing to push forward, break barriers, and show everyone how bad ass being a feminist really is! I truly think that if we are going to keep this movement alive that starting at a young age is the best way to get us there.

Written by: Kayla Austin