I'm on the verge of adulthood, womanhood, self-discovery, creativity, and sometimes a whole lot of emotions! Feel free to follow my journey!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Women and Witches

I've been watching the movie Stardust and thinking of one of the biggest sexism fables of all time - the witch.
In this particular movie, Michele Pffeiffer's character is a witch who is trying to kill Clare Danes (a star) and eat her heart out so that she can gain back eternal life. What struck me was that she starts out eating the last another star's  heart so that she can gain back her youth and beauty, but she loses it each time she casts a spell, getting older and uglier. True, this character is portrayed as evil, however, it really irritated me that as a woman, she is unable to be both powerful and beautiful at the same time.

This movie is not the only one I've seen where this is the idea. The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz (who people hate and fear, unlike the pretty Good Witch who doesn't really do much besides fly around in a pink bubble), the witch in Into the Woods (as soon as she gets her beauty back at the end of Act 1 she loses her powers), the witch in the new Disney movie Rapunzel (who can only be beautiful with the aid of the magic of Rapunzel's magic hair).

Why, even in Disney movies being marketed to young girls who we'd like to be strong and independent,  are women still showing women as either powerful, ugly, antagonistic hags or sweet, pretty, childish (for the most part) girls? Why are we still feeding into the princess thing in 2010?

In one of the last songs in Into the Woods, The Witch sings "I'm not good, I'm not bad, I'm just right." As women, maybe that's what we should aspire to be. Just ourselves, whatever we want to be. Because, contrary to what mass media wants us to believe, we can have both - we can be powerful, and that's beautiful.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Do We Value?

I just love Facebook. All my friends, even the obscure ones, give me such great ideas for this blog!

I read this note on Facebook that I thought was fantastic. It made me think about something our teacher has been talking about in class a great deal that I have actually been thinking about quite often. I don't usually throw out judgements like this in writing, but anyone who says we live in a classless society is living underneath a rock:

What do we value? (this could also be titled "Who Do We Value?")

  • We say we value education, that that's one of the most important parts of society. So why is everyone scrambling to cut teachers salaries, drop most or all of their health benefits, firing music and art teachers (and in places without state mandated physical education, phys. ed. teachers). Also, college expenses, in my opinion, are laughably ridiculous at this point (I'm sorry...$46,000 a year NOT INCLUDING books, meal plan, student medical insurance, or job certification costs.
  • We say that we value care of those unable to care for themselves - but childcare workers get paid just above minimum wage (this is not including teachers in Montessori settings, who get paid a bit more), as do people who work as aids in hospitals, nursing homes, etc. 
  • We say that we value small businesses, but they have to buy their own health insurance and the health insurance of their staff and the government bails out big businesses that are failing so that the CEO's can get their big severance packages. This is also true of anyone the service industry (food service, shoppers assistants, secretaries or receptionists, janitors or maids, and how about snow removal?, etc.)
  • We say that we value parenting, especially mothering (I mean GOD FORBID you ever do anything to make you a bad mother), but women get 6-12 weeks of maternity leave, get mommy tracked out of moving up the corporate ladder, and get all kinds of grief for taking days off or leaving early. And forget about any time off or help for the fathers. We also have a shockingly sparse range of services to help families with both the financial and emotional challenges of parenting.
  • We say that we value a woman's right to pick whether she wants to stay at home or work, but working moms are "absent mothers" and stay-at-home mom's "don't do anything all day." 

This is not solely a women's rights issue, which is usually the focus of this blog. But first of all, many women are affected by these issues. Also, it is a societal issue. As individuals and as a culture, I think that the time is ripe for a shift in consciousness. Our actions need to match our spoken values. We need to value the quality of life rather than success measured by wealth.

So what can you do, what can I do? You and I can't change their salaries tomorrow, but we can change how we interact with the people around us. Tomorrow, why not thank a teacher, be nice to the secretary that's helping you make an appointment at the health center (even if she's being grumpy) or the person that makes you food at the pub. She or he may not have a high profile job but they are providing a service that you would be VERY unhappy without!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Women Working

Last week in Women's Studies we watched a really great documentary about women in the creative arts who were balancing work and family. While their specific career path was what we were learning about, I think that many of the ideas presented in the video could be applied to working women in general. All these issues intertwine but here are some of the ones that I have thought of in terms of my own personal journey:

Issue #1 - Mom, will you stay at home or keep working?
So you have a baby. Now everyone around you is asking, what now? The first issue, obviously, is money. Can you afford to stay home or work? According to the U.S. census., the average woman in 2005 made $33,075 per year and the average man in 2006 made 43,317 (insert anger and disbelief here...). In many households, the choice of "stay at home or not?" is irrelevant, there isn't enough money for one person to stay home. Or one person makes the bulk of the money and the other has all the healthcare benefits.

The second, is what do you and your partner want for your family? In my family's case, my mom and dad both decided early on that my mom would stay at home and my dad would work. They worked together financially and logistically after they married to make sure that this would be possible. It's not my ideal partnership for me but they're very happy and I've had an extremely stable, loving household all my life.

But if both parties are working, the baby needs to be in childcare. According to the National Association of Child Care Resources and Refferal Agencies, infant child care in a center costs anywhere between $4,560 - $15,895 a year in a center. That's a huge chunk of someone's paycheck!

Issue #2 - Okay, you've made the first decision, what now?
If you're staying at home, what are your responsibilities? Are you completely responsible for all cooking, cleaning, laundry and childcare? When do you get time for yourself during this 24/7 job? How long will you stay home and will you be able to still qualify for jobs when you enter the workforce again?

If you're going back to work, how much are you working? Full time, part time, out of your home? Are you staying in the same job or taking a different, more flexible position? Where will your child go for childcare? What happens if your kid gets sick? Will you be "mommy tracked" in your job because of your split focus (or have you been "mommy tracked" already before even having a kid)? How will the household duties be split, now that they will grow exponentially.

Issue #3 - Living "The Dream"
So you make all these decisions, you're at home or you're at work; you're doing the cooking and he's cleaning, whatever. How will it actually work? Are you in a partnership where your goals are the same as your partners? Do you have schedules where you can work, take care of baby, get everything else done, and still make time to be a couple? How supportive of your family life is your job?

One thing that really depressed me (and others in the class) about the women artists film was that 3 out of 5 of them ended up divorced. It makes me wonder, can you really "have it all"? As a woman, can you be happily married, be a good parent, have a career you enjoy and not collapse from a nervous breakdown?

"The master's tools will never destroy the master's house"

One bright side of the film that I liked was the ability for these women to stop trying to "make it" in already created, male dominated structures, but to create their own life pictures that worked for their lives, families and selves. One woman stopped auditioning for Broadway shows and started her own business doing theatre camps. For years I have wanted to eventually become an entrepreneur because of the freedom I think it can create. My hope is that I would be able to do what I love, create my own schedule, be financially independent and feel fulfilled.

Check back on me in about 20 years if you care to! haha

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"The Healing Vagina" - What REALLY Happens at the Gyno?

Yep, the "v-word" is officially on my blog! If that offends you, by all means, don't read this blog post. No hard feelings!

For Women's Studies, we have an assignment to read an article in the book We Don't Need Another Wave. The article is about a woman who is a gynocological teaching associate, that is, someone who educates aspiring doctors to give gynecological exams in a sensitive, professional manner through actual hands-on experience.

Without going into TMI details of my own life (this is, of course, the WORLD WIDE Web and God-forbid some tight laced potential job employer stumbles upon this blog) this article really spoke to me. The gynocologist's office has been a source of extreme anxiety to me for the past 5 years. My experience up until a few years ago has always been associated with some high level of anxiety (to the point of having to take valium each time I go, yup, that's right) and always somewhere on the I-hate-my-life scale of "embarrassing and painful" and "humiliating and excruciating".

I have no problem with doctors or gynocologists as a whole. However, even some of the nice ones don't want to talk about your fears and worries, don't want to teach you about your body and don't care if you're absolutely terrified at the thought of inserting what looks like a medieval torture device into the most private part of your body.

*sigh* Alright, off my soap box.

I thought that the career of a gynecological teaching associate (GTA) was absolutely amazing. Someone is sitting there teaching doctors how to give an exam without giving me a full scale panic attack? HALLELUJAH!!

I wanted to learn more about these people, so I did another lovely Google search! I came across this great website called Project Prepare. If you don't want to browse the website like I did, you can get a great overview about this organization by going to their youtube video. I was interested to learn that this has been going on since the 1970's, since I've never heard of it before! There is also a male component that helps doctors perform urology exams. I learned and read about the people that work in this organization, who train doctors to perform everything from routine gynecological exams to male breast and rectal exams.

I feel like I've spent a great deal of time this semester railing against "the man," both in and out of the classroom. Seeing that there are still really positive things going on in women's issues  really gives me hope for the future of medical care for women. In my own life I've recently found a doctor who is starting to help me heal as well, and that gives me even more hope!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World...

Today I was thinking about writing more about the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion" bill, but, once again, something else dropped into my lap. Gotta love Facebook.

I found out that Ithaca is on the MTV website! Check it out and watch the video first because it is absolutely adorable.

But how is this a women's studies topic, you might ask? Well, here's why.

After an 75 minutes of exciting discussion in class on Thursday, our teacher told us, "Okay, you've talked about all this, now go out and do something about it!" I thought...I've considered myself a feminist for years and I really haven't done anything about it besides throw a hissy fit after every family holiday after watching my female relatives do nothing while the men sit in the living room chatting. I'm definitely not setting the world on fire here.

Watching this video, which is made to raise money for the Trevor Project, a group dedicated to "crisis and suicide prevention amond lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth," made me feel really proud to be a member of Ithaca College, specifically a music major. I know Adiza and almost every one of the members of Ithacapella. And watching the kids, they seemed like they were having so much fun and feeling so empowered that they're wonderful just the way they are.

Bell Hooks talks often in her book about creating a dialoge about feminism at a young age. How wonderful would it be if every girl from now on grew up in even a slightly less culture than we did? If going through puberty was a little bit easier, if dating was a little bit easier and safer, if girls could dream about being whatever they wanted to be and doing just as well as the boys.

I think that music can do this, and it's one of the reasons I stick with being a music major even when it really sucks (which is more often than some might think). Music can touch people in a way that I don't think anything else can. It can reach out to people no matter where they come from or what they believe, it can bring people together for a common goal and it can empower people in wonderful, unexpected ways. Maybe if more girls grow up listening to (and singing!) more songs like this, it will break some of the barriers of sexism which leads to poor self esteem.

The LGBTQ community is out there doing it, why aren't we as women?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Redefining Rape?

I went online last night and a topic for this blog literally fell into my lap. A Facebook friend of mine had a status relating to a new bill that legislators are pushing through. It is being nicknamed the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." As of right now, women can get federal help with abortions relating to rape, incest or if the woman's life is in danger. The term that has been changed in this legislation is "forcible rape"- meaning violence is involved. The speculation is that this would rule out coercive rapes, statutory rape or situations where the woman cannot give consent because of drugs or alcohol, which means it has been getting a great deal of backlash.

First off, a little bit on my own opinions on this super touchy subject. I was raised Catholic. Everyone in my family was staunchly pro-life so I was too by default. Then I read The Second Sex by Simone DeBeauvoir. After a great deal of consideration, I believe that a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body. Denying the woman the right of choice basically turns her into a walking incubator, not a human being. While I don't know what I would do if I was ever in the situation,  knowing that I had the right to decide, especially in a case where I was raped or sexually assaulted, makes me feel like my life and opinions are valued by the society I live in.

Rape is rape. If the woman is forcibly, violently assaulted, that is rape. If a woman is drugged or is too drunk to legally give consent, that is rape. Statutory rape is rape, especially because these laws are put in place to protect women from being taken advantage of. If a woman is coerced into sex verbally or intimidated into sex, that is rape.

Here are some rape and sexual assault statistics that I found:
  • According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.
  • In 1 in 3 sexual assaults, the perpetrator was intoxicated — 30% with alcohol, 4% with drugs.
  • 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger, 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriend
Starting to "redefine rape," especially by people who have absolutely no experience in the matter, is just the tip of an extremely slippery slope. What's next? A woman who can't afford to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease won't be able to buy birth control or Plan B? The legality of any abortion gets repealed? There is a group of people in this country who I truly believe think they are doing what is best for society, but who are passing laws that make our country a more dangerous place to live in, a place where women will be unable to have sex safely or have a safe, clean abortion if that is their choice.

If you would like to read more about this issue, here are some articles I found:

P.S. As a semi-happy ending, Republicans dropped the term "forcible" from this bill. Unfortunately, this bill is still a step backwards for the women's movement and the pro-choice movement.

I am incredibly thankful that this particular issue has never hit close to home in my life or the lives of my friends. I hope that I never have firsthand experience, but if I do, I hope that the country I live in will help me make the best decision and not perpetuate the feelings of helplessness and worthlessness that rape causes. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Global Feminism

 For our first assignment for Women’s Studies, we read about half of a book called Feminism is for Everyone by bell hooks. There were SO MANY things that caught my eye and have made me think over the past few days, but the topic I’m choosing for my first blog post is from the chapter “Global Feminism” and has to do with sexism and body image, something that I am extremely interested in.
The specific quote that I put a star next to in my book was:
“A decolonized feminist perspective would first and foremost examine how sexist practices in relation to women’s bodies globally are linked. For example: linking circumcision with life-threatening eating disorders (which are the direct consequence of a culture imposing thinness as a beauty ideal)…would emphasize that sexism, the misogyny, underlying these practice globally mirror the sexism here in this country.”
We are told constantly, even by so-called feminists, that American (as well as Western European) women in the “luckiest women in the world,” because we do not have to deal with “barbaric” sexist practices such as female circumcision. But is this truly a good thing or is it more like being the best house on a bad block?
Having struggled myself with anorexia and bulimia in high school, this is a topic that is very close to my heart. A recent goal of mine is to go to graduate school for music therapy and use my music to help those with eating disorders regain their lives. I feel that developing my own feminist perspective is crucial for this goal. While I believe that unrealistic body image is just a part of this lonely, scary illness, I do believe that sexism is a huge factor.
I wanted to know more about this so I looked up some statistics, first from the World Health Organization website about female genital mutilation:

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
·      Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
·      An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
 and then from the National Eating Disorders
 ·      In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder. The incidence of bulimia in 10-39 year old women tripled between 1988 and 1993.  ·      Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness
·      Only one-third of people with anorexia in the community receive mental health care and only 6% of people with bulimia receive mental health care.
Perhaps if American women will look at the sexism in our own country and how it can fatally effect women, we can work globally to create a culture where people are valued for their individual selves and not on the basis of gender, race, creed or orientation.