Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
looking forward to feeding you cookies, DZ
Friday, March 28, 2008
derek, here's that discussion on the view on transgender kids and boys wearing dresses. i'm not an avid view watcher, but loads of stay-at-home moms watch this all the time--listen to the bullshit sherry shepard says and the applause she receives from the audience.
Friday, March 21, 2008
"Because males are often the so-called dispersing sex, while females stay behind in the support network of family kin, females form the political backbone among many social mammals; the longer-lived the species, the denser and more richly articulated that backbone is likely to be."
Why is it, then, that women are often criticized for job-searching in their local community rather than accepting jobs that require relocation? As a post-grad, there seems to be the idea that committed, career-minded individuals will move across the country on the whim of an employer. But for women searching to maximize their influence, a large network of contacts and support might be more valuable than the "perfect job."
Also, if women have more influence because they maintain stable communities, shouldn't we see more women in politics?
Here's the article from the NY Times, if you'd like to read the whole thing.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
I just wanted to write a quick thank-you note for our conversation at last night's meeting. As some of you may or may not know I've been dealing with a break-up over the last couple of weeks that has been quite difficult for me, primarily in the sense that I've felt a pretty profound sense of loss over the relationship and the fact that this person was, at one point, someone I really felt I could grow with. In an effort to keep this short and in order to respect the fact that this group is not primarily meant to be "group therapy" I won't go into more details. However for some reason at last night's "session" (there I go with the therapy terms...) I was finally able to come to really internalize the possibility and even the likelihood that this person may not ever be able to provide the intellectual and emotional encouragement that I would look for in a committed, romantic relationship. Also, the idea that each individual is a whole person, even without a man (*gasp*) was really reinforced by our thought processes yesterday; and, although I have always readily and eagerly embraced that fact regardless of what is going on in my life, I was not really "feelin' it" enough to apply it in my current healing process until last night. It really helped me to reflect on these issues with an articulate group of individuals such as yourselves - sometimes even though you "know" something, it just needs to be said in a different way (or many different ways) in order for it to really apply.
So, I won't make you spend any more of your time reading this, but just thanks very much for inadvertently (or advertently) providing me this emotional clarity through your logic and conviction. I can now go to Spring break in Mexico ready to show off my toddies in a more empowered and feminist-inspired manner.
Kisses and margaritas on the beach,
Friday, March 14, 2008
I entered this conversation late, and so I decided that it needed it's separate post...And I threw in a picture to make it more entertaining.
I understand that you feel a great passion for the English language and all of its abilities, as well as acknowledge your urge to keep it pure and untainted by the feminist minority. The English language has been around for quite a long time, and it has, as mentioned in other posts, changed, and changed, and changed, through a process of linguistic evolution, if you will. The words that we use now in our correspondences, our explanations—our descriptions of everything—are completely different than what would have been used hundreds of years ago.
Language is ever morphing into something different than it was before. And usually the change is forced. Especially if commonly used words are realized to be offensive. Think of only a few decades ago. Our country had a whole slew of accepted yet incredibly offensive words for every single minority that “invaded” our soil. I use the word “invaded,” because with slang words like “chink,” “nigger,” and “spic,” it is pretty obvious that the diversity was not welcome.
There were publicly correct terms for the immigrants that came from their respective countries, but many people continued to refer to them using disrespectful slang. And it wasn’t because of a loss for words, or laziness, I would argue. It was because the majority of people in this country had their feet plunged so deeply and securely in the mud of tradition, and they weren’t going to budge. They did not want change—as people in power usually don’t. If they accepted the change, they would have to accept the fact that their traditional life would end. Disrespectful slang is the byproduct of that unhappiness, and it shows an unwillingness to change and progress forward. To change the language and begin using “PC” terms would be to accept that change was happening, and it was there to stay. And it would also give respect to the people that they so deeply despised at that time, and ultimately didn’t want to give equality to.
I know that I have been speaking about racial issues and terms, but this is only an analogy for the term issue that has been the topic of this blog. This country’s tradition is so engrained in our language—which is why so many of us love it. Words in the English language are so beautiful and eloquent, but they are also powerful. Each word has years, decades and sometimes centuries of history behind them. Which is also why it is important to remember that in order for our society to progress forward, and let the unequal citizens rise up and become at the same level as the rest—we will have to let go of some words. And with that, let go of the idealistic traditions that go along with them.
Words are powerful, and with that power should come the knowledge and respect to not use certain words. It may be inconvenient to have to remember what term is “PC” at that time—but I really don’t think that it is that difficult. The common argument against “PC” terms can be turned around. They are just words, and in that aspect, it is easy not to use certain ones and instead replace them with words that people would prefer you to use. It is no sweat off your back, and you didn’t offend anyone. In fact, if you do know the right term, chances are you have been aware your local civil rights or feminist issues.
These are not petty little terms that should be taken lightly, and it is not an issue that should be dismissed or condescended. It is a real issue--because without words, how are our values and traditions expressed?
Now, to finish up this comment, which is already long (I apologize—only to be polite, though, because I had a lot of important things to say), I have two definitions that I would like to share.
The first word is one mentioned in another post:
Stewardess: It is defined as 1) a woman flight attendant, and 2) a woman who attends to the comfort of passengers on a ship, train, or bus.
Steward: It is defined as 1) a person who manages another's property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others, 2) a person who has charge of the household of another, buying or obtaining food, directing the servants, 3) an employee who has charge of the table, wine, servants, etc., in a club, restaurant, or the like, 4) a person who attends to the domestic concerns of persons on board a vessel, as in overseeing maids and waiters, 5) an employee on a ship, train, or bus who waits on and is responsible for the comfort of passengers, takes orders for or distributes food, 6) a flight attendant, 7) a person appointed by an organization or group to supervise the affairs of that group at certain functions, 8) U.S. Navy, a petty officer in charge of officer's quarters and mess.
Now, first I would like you to look at the most obvious visual difference between the two definitions: one is short, and the other long. But wait. There’s something wrong with that. According to your theory, male and female labels for the exact same position should also have the exact same definitions. The only difference should be that one says “male flight attendant” while the other says “female flight attendant.” Obviously, however, this is not true. Instead we find that the steward—the male version of the word—is incredibly long and detailed. The word has many more connotations than simply a “flight attendant” like the female version. It speaks of responsibility, management, financial affairs, property… Even our dictionaries acknowledge that there is a difference between the two so-called “gender-equal” positions.
Now, I won’t go back into what this means—I think that Derek and Mandi did a wonderful job of explaining why these words are not “PC” anymore, and why it is important to recognize and acknowledge the fact that they are not “PC” for a very good reason. I will, however, go back to my first point.
This country has been sexist and racist for years. It would be naïve of us to believe that the residue of such times hasn’t seeped into the language that we use today. It is important to, with every step forward in social justice and equality in all categories—gender, racial, sexual orientation—that we make sure that our language reflects and promotes the change that we have made. We must not hold onto the words that are attached to values and traditions we no longer hold.
Also, why criticize something if you cannot ever be sure that you truly understand the connotations. You most likely will never be a woman, and thus will never understand what these “petty” word differences really mean and to truly comprehend their negative implications. Even if you have criticisms of the “PC” movement (and it’s not just supported by the feminists!), on the off chance that it could help, wouldn’t you? If not, that unwillingness, along with the criticisms that you have for even the possibility that language may be an important factor in changing sexist attitudes today, leads me to believe that you may be critical of the feminist movement itself. Otherwise you wouldn’t be questioning this word game—you would be doing all that you could to change the injustices and the inequalities—even, and especially if it meant having to remember that it is “server.”
Thursday, March 13, 2008
This is going to be a great discussion! What *are* the limits of sex and gender? What is innate and what is learned? Ah, sweet Nature v. Nurture... we'll figure you out someday.
So the problem we are dealing with here is on the unfortunate (and obnoxiously persistent) socially constructed "subtle sexism" that just doesn't seem like a big deal, but its what keeps the problem going.
The big question is why do we need to have separate titles for men and women who are doing the same job? There is no reason why a woman bringing you food & drinks needs to be differented from a man doing exactly the same thing.
Unfortuntaely, in the standard understanding of the difference between "waitress" and "waiter" there is a huge gap. When you first think of a "waitress" (stereotyping here, of course) the image that comes into most peoples' minds is that of a tacky short polyester dress with a ruffled apron and a dorky headpiece. When you think of a waiter, do you visualize sort of a classy dude in nice slacks and a shirt and tie, if not a full tailsuit? (just do a search in Google images...you'll see what I mean. The same goes for the steward v. stewardess argument). Why do we think of waitresses as greasy spoon gals, while the fellows that wait tables are high class gents? The women are also typically portrayed in the images I found as highly sexualized things. The "stewardesses/waitresses" I find look like they are willing to serve passengers much more than a cup of tea...this is why it needs to change. Not because this is true, but we're trying to get rid of stereotypes and automatic associations. So we needed new terms. The industries chose "server" and "flight attendant". That's their choice, we just have to live with it.
The theatre industry is working on a similar problem. The "actress" image is that of a swooning woman in a puffy dress. They decided that all performers are now "actors". There is a lot of enthusiasm for this movement, but the word actor is still associated with the male sex, so the women who choose to be called "actor" immediately get a masculine tag attached. (They're trying).
This is why people in the service industry are using new terms that are (at this point) not gender classifying. Because a person's sex and their ability to do a particular job are completely unrelated and that idea needs to become part of everyday life.
Jobs that have always been traditionally male have never had this problem, so as women FINALLY make their way up the ladder of career success there is no preexisting name to denote gender. I mean, no one has ever heard of an investment bankerette? Or a divorce lawyeress?
Its just another tiny branch of the "abilities and sex are not related" argument, which will continue to arise until women are fully immersed at an equal level in the career world.
"A Saudi woman courageously defies driving ban..." It was her protest in honor of International Women's Day. No doubt many of her counterparts in the U.S. protested in like manner.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I come to this blog with the sole inference I can draw, namely, that I have been invited to taint the textual lines herein with a splash of devil’s advocacy and to provoke – perhaps unwittingly – conversation among the like-minded and good natured gentle membership of this site. I write today with a purely inquisitive frame of mind, and do not intend to toe the line of rhetoric- no matter how seeming it may be to the subjective mind of the reader.
Whether one agrees with the central aims of the post-modern movement toward what many identify as “political correctness,” no one can deny without losing all standing for intellectual honesty that the movement was largely, and continues to be, driven by feministic thought. I often find myself committing that fatal error of pronouncing some un-PC utterance, but after all, I am admittedly antiquated in my notions; perhaps I’m just too lazy to stay abreast of the evolutions our language undergoes. One day its “waitress” the next its “server.” It really is too much for me. Yet, must it be?
I pose this question in the hope that someone might enlighten me, for I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for the alterations made to my beloved linguistic fabric. My quandary is perhaps best analyzed by anecdote. I was out to dinner with a female friend of mine. In an offhand remark, I queried as to what my date would like to drink “when the waitress gets back.” By the look on the face across the table from me I thought I had unknowingly desecrated her family’s ancient scrolls. ‘Twas not the scrolls however, it was my use of “waitress.” I was frankly puzzled, I was at a positive loss for words. I was also three sheets to the wind.
I still have yet to understand why “server” is somehow inherently better, and thus preferred, over “waitress”. The only explanation I have ever received is that “waitress” is not politically correct. But why? And says who? If the word is deconstructed to its syntactic components, is it because “waitress” somehow sounds like someone is waiting on me and is thus my subordinate? This can’t be so, because “server” is much more similar – both linguistically and phonetically to “servant”, and surely servant is far worse than the impliedly demeaning nature of one who waits.
The same goes for “steward” and “stewardess.” My last flight would’ve been pleasant but for the uncomfortable correction at the gate to the effect that: “Sir, it’s flight attendant, not stewardess.” I felt shame. But why? Why is “flight attendant” the preferred jargon? Is it because it abolishes sexual (sorry, gender-based) distinctions? Both men and women (and other?) can now fall under the all-inclusive umbrella of “flight attendant?” I fail to see the virtue in that. All it does is strip our language of its enticing diversity. It also threatens, in the long-haul to reduce the pages necessary in dictionaries, and after all, this site is in part sponsored by Merriam Webster. But I digress...
In the totality of the world’s ills, my point seems miniscule, flippant even. But I am weary of the English language losing its color and clarity, and the exactitude I've come to love. I hope someone might set me right and satisfy my desire for an explanation.
And in the spirit of blogging, I cannot take leave without linking to at least one site in support. See Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D for a brief essay on this topic.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Getting out of a marriage is rough, though, and not just for the legal/financial complications or the massive lifestyle upheaval. (As my friend Deborah once advised me wisely: "Nobody ever died from splitting up furniture.") It's the emotional recoil that kills you, the shock of stepping off the track of a conventional lifestyle and losing all the embracing comforts that keep so many people on that track forever. To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. I rediscover this truth every time I go to a big reunion of my mother's family in Minnesota and I see how everyone is held so reassuringly in their positions over the years. First you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent, then you are retired, then you are a grandparent - at every stage you know who you are, you know what your duty is and you know where to sit at the reunion. You sit with the other children, or teenagers, or young parents, or retirees. Until at last you are sitting with the ninety-year-olds in the shade, watching over your progeny with satisfaction. Who are you? No problem - you're the person who created all this. The satisfaction of this knowledge is immediate, and moreover, it's universally recognized. How many people have I heard claim their children as the greatest accomplishments and comfort of their lives? It's the thing they can always lean on during a metaphysical crisis, or a moment of doubt about their relevancy - If I have done nothing else in this life, then at least I have raised my children well.
But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? What if you step out? Where do you sit at the reunion? How do you mark time's passage without the fear that you've just frittered away your time on earth without being relevant? You'll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being. I love children, but what if I don't have any? What kind of person does that make me?
Virginia Woolf wrote, "Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword." On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where "all is correct." But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, "all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course." Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous.
I'm lucky that at least I have my writing. This is something people can understand. Ah, she left her marriage in order to preserve her art. That's sort of true, though not completely so. A lot of writers have families. Toni Morrison, just to name an example, didn't let the raising of her son stop her from winning a little trinket we call the Nobel Prize. But Toni Morrison made her own path, and I must make mine. The Bhagavad Gita - that ancient Indian Yogi text - says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live and imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly.
so i had mentioned that horribly sexist article in the washington post where the author, charlotte allen, falls into some god-awful sexist language in her article we scream, we swoon. how dumb can we get? here's just a little taste:
"I swear no man watches "Grey's Anatomy" unless his girlfriend forces him to. No man bakes cookies for his dog. No man feels blue and takes off work to spend the day in bed with a copy of "The Friday Night Knitting Club." No man contracts nebulous diseases whose existence is disputed by many if not all doctors, such as Morgellons (where you feel bugs crawling around under your skin). At least no man I know. Of course, not all women do these things, either -- although enough do to make one wonder whether there isn't some genetic aspect of the female brain, something evolutionarily connected to the fact that we live longer than men or go through childbirth, that turns the pre-frontal cortex into Cream of Wheat."for more of her awesome insights, check out the whole article. like i said, the feminist "blogosphere" erupted with quite the furor--thank god people were appalled like me. the always fantastic katha pollitt wrote a reaction piece, also in the washington post, blasting gender stereotypes and saying pretty much everything i wanted to say. furthermore, so many people were outraged that charlotte allen, who claimed that the article was "tongue in cheek" (coughbullshitcough), had a live chat where people could send in their questions to her regarding the article. it lends itself to some good reading, if only to make you more angry that the washington post actually gave this woman a platform for her sexist dribble.
anyways, i spend far too much time at work reading things online, so i'm sure i'll be hella annoying in posting links to articles and such all the time. what can i say, i work in a library and i read a lot.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Anyway, as I was continuing to think about all of the many topics that we covered tonight, I realized that though we went into great depth about sexuality, and how we express it through our dress, I did not say all that I wanted to say. Our conversation dealt primarily with dressing and the fine line between dressing sexy in an empowering individualistic way, and dressing for the purpose of the male gaze.
It got me thinking about why were conversing about that topic in the first place. Obviously, it is a severe problem in our culture. Rape, teen pregnancies, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, are only some of the severe gendered issues that are prominent in our culture that inadvertently correlate--whether we like it or not--with the issue of women's dress. But I think that it is easy to take this topic of women’s dress, and take it out of the context of society and see it as mainly a women's issue.
But I ask you: why are we only talking about the way that women dress--sexy or not sexy. Empowered or not empowered--all the while, the topic of men's dress not mentioned at all. Why aren’t we talking about the sexiness of the male half of our culture? Do they dress sexy to feel empowered? Last I heard, that was not so much the case. So how is that equal? Isn't that the goal in the end? Equality?
Currently, there is no caveat on men's dress. The only comparison that I can think of is the male style that has been labeled as "metro-sexual." Let's just try and use this manner of dress as the male equivalence of "sexy". Clearly the males that dress in this manner are doing so to look attractive, but even so, if a man dresses "sexy" at the work place, he will most likely never be questioned. He can wear whatever he wants. The manner of his dress will most likely never be brought up to him by a superior.
Is it possible that the patriarchal society was once again taken for granted as "normal" in our conversation? Did we forget that the reason that particular clothes may be categorized as "hooker dress,” is because of the objectification of women in the first place--which is also caused by male dominance?
Styles of clothing have been and will be forever changing. What was once thought of as scandalous in previous centuries might not be seen as such now. Pictured above, the every-day dress of the Minoan culture, located in the Crete and Aegean area during 1700 BC depended on the exposure of the breasts. All other parts of the women’s dress was fitted, and quite remarkably similar to Victorian skirts from our culture's history. The breasts were celebrated and thought of as beautiful. Though I know nothing about the treatment of the women within that culture, I know that it was acceptable behavior to expose and flaunt their breasts without being deemed as the town prostitutes. In fact, the majority of women who dressed in this manner were of the more wealthy families.
Skin is just skin, so it is our society that determines what is appropriate and not. At this point in time, the women's breasts are deemed "inappropriate" to reveal, while men walk around topless all of the time. Personally, I find that unfair. Just as unfair is the fact that if I happened to wear a shirt that was more low-cut and showed the very tops of my breasts (a bit of cleavage) I would get comments behind my back that go along the lines of, "She looks like a hooker..."
Women are judged by the way that they dress, and like the female rape victim that is criticized for wearing "scandalous" clothing at the time of the crime (she was asking for it, right?), she is somehow held responsible for the emotion and behavior that her clothing supposedly causes. According to this mentality, men have absolutely no control over themselves when it comes to scandalously clad women. They simply cannot help themselves.
Unfortunately, this is the justification for the violent actions that men take against women. Already, there is the male dominance that pervades in our society, and this is just another way that it happens. A woman dressed scandalously just gives society a justification for the crime against her. A socially accepted “reason,” as sick as that sounds. Like the strand of hair that peeks out of a Muslim woman’s scarf in Iran that causes her to be sexually harassed, it only gives a justification to do so. Let’s be honest here. Hair does not excite men to the extent where the only thing that they can do is rape the woman to whom the hair belongs. Similarly, I doubt that a little cleavage is enough to excite a man enough to lose all sense of thought and cause him to use sexual violence against her.
It is all about the symbol of the cleavage, and the justification our society creates for the behavior that surrounds it. “Sexy” and “empowered” are two words that don’t always describe the outcome, when talking about a woman’s outfit. Hopefully with a continuance of education on the gender issues of our society, that will change. Until then, I will be wary of supporting the Cosmo-mentality of thinking that these two words always go together.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
It is suiting that the burgeoning light of the modern feminist movement (A.K.A. “No Fat Chicks” the feminist discussion group) should come just one day after International Women’s Day. Surprise-surprise, but this is not a recognized holiday of the
And on this Saturday, let us remember the intimate connection which the feminist struggle has with all other struggles in this society of oppression. A day founded among perpetual class struggle, International Women’s Day and the women’s struggle will forever be sisters with world class struggle. Their goals are not mutually exclusive nor their struggles separate. But, their successes are wholly and necessarily contingent upon each other. Because of the 1/3 of the world’s population that lives in absolute poverty, according to the World Bank (hardly a beacon of progressive thought), the vast majority of those are women. This statistic does not lie. Let us remember it while remembering the roots behind this great holiday and why it is so important to celebrate.¡Ya Basta!
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The format that we eventually decided upon, is to scan articles, share them with the group through an online blog and then get together on Sunday evenings to discuss what we have read. Also using the blog, we can bring up questions, post additional articles, or discuss the issues if we cannot be at the group meetings. Though we have planned a loose agenda for our meetings and thought out the sequencing of the first few articles, the group will be open to all topics, and group members will be urged to scan and share other articles and lead the discussion as well.
We look forward to seeing everyone! Yay!
In all seriousness, however, I welcome you to THE BLOG! Hopefully, you all received the first email that was sent out this weekend, but if for some reason you didn't (some of the emails apparently ended up being labeled as spam, and were never read...I don't know what the deal is). If that is the case, and you would like to know what it said, feel free to look at the post above entitled, "Email No. 1". It's a good read...
As for the purpose of this blog, I would like to make it an open forum where we can talk about anything. Of course, because it is a feminist discussion group, it would probably be preferred that we talk about feminist issues, though--as it has already been determined above--feminist issues surround us, and most everything has a feminist interpretation.
In all likelihood, it will be a place to reflect on the articles that we read for both the group sessions as well as the supplementary readings that anyone is invited to post. Articles that agree with, contrast, or relate in some way to articles that have already been incorporated in the sessions. The posts can be as casual or as formal as you want. You are even invited to use like a journal.
And that about wraps it up. Again, I will remind you that our first session will be this Saturday, March 9th at 7pm at Derek's apartment. See you there!