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, March 24, 2011

What Makes a Slut?

Damn you, Women's Studies! I come out of that class and just want to research feminist theory all day instead of doing the other 49 million things on my to-do list! Maybe I'm just a nerd...haha.

Anyway, we started class today talking about work - what is valued, what is acceptable, how are certain people treated in jobs, etc. Not surprisingly, the topic quickly turned to sex. Teachers having sexual relationships with their students, prostitutes, strippers and porn stars, there was even some talk of sexting (ohh to live in 2011...). 

People used a lot of words. Degrading, sexist, objectification of women etc. But I kept thinking of the classic, colloquial words we use: whore and slut are the most popular today. And I sat there quietly, hungrily listening to peoples points, trying to figure out what I thought of all this. What makes someone a “whore” or a "slut"? Sending someone a sext? Wearing a low cut shirt (whether it's to get a phone number, a one night stand, or a tip while serving or bartending)? Dancing on a pole in a thong? Having sex for money? Having 3 partners...or 10...or 100?

So I thought, what does the dictionary think of this? Well, apparently, alot. Here are some of the things I got back from my search:

Slut: –noun
1. a dirty, slovenly woman.
2. an immoral or dissolute woman; prostitute.

Okay…well that’s one of the most vague, subjective definitions I’ve seen in a while. Just to see, I typed in "loose man." Big surprise, I got no results except "Did you mean...ladies man?" Uhh...sure. Here are some synonyms I got for that:

Casanova, Lothario, Prince Charming, Romeo, charmer, heartbreaker, ladies' man, lady-killer, lady-killer, libertine, lover, philanderer, playboy, rake, seducer, skirtchaser, smooth operator, stud, wolf, libertine, womanchaser

First I thought, why the HELL do we get stuck with “tramp” and “hussy” and man get  “charmer” and “seducer?”

Then, I had a light-bulb moment. Even in my Women’s Studies class, where everyone there considers themselves a feminist, women’s sexuality is still looked at as a passive act. Men are considered aggressive, women passive. We “give up” our sexuality, our virtue, our so-called purity, our power. It is 2011, and sex is still not considered an equal act. Our bodies are still not considered ours to do with what we will, but rather objects that we have to protect from abuse.

People kept talking about “objectifying bodies,” but I don’t think it is all about the body. It’s sex, and it’s gender. Sex for women “takes away our power” and “turns us into an object.” But men have sex all the time! Why do men keep their power after engaging in a sexual act but women don’t? Why is men’s power tied up in action and women’s in sexuality. If we “give away” our sexuality, is that all we had to give?

Also, if a woman has had…lets say 10+ sexual partners (depending on her age and the culture she lives in) she gets some side eye. If she has a one-night-stand, or several. We are taught that we should wait until the man in question respects us (through realationship or at times a marriage ceremony) before we “give it away.” But in a one-night stand, does the woman necessarily respect the man?

Why are women not considered human beings who have sexual needs, sexual desires and fantasies, that we have every right to satisfy?

Logically, I know there some pretty good reasons for this. Pregnancy is a biggie. Before birth control, there was no way a woman could have sex and not have a huge chance of getting pregnant. And since they were financially dependant on men, if the men didn’t step up to the plate they were pretty much SOL. Even now, with the pill, the patch, condoms, the ring, etc., there is still the chance of an STD. And there are emotional risks as well. Women literally secrete a chemical that makes us feel closer to the person we’ve slept with afterwards. It’s biological. So I get it.

But it’s 2011. You can protect yourself very well from pregnancy and pretty well from STD’s if you are smart. Wear a condom. Get an HPV shot. Don’t have sex with the guy that apparently gave that girl in your Psych class chlamydia. Don’t send random people naked pictures unless you want yourself all over the internet. Don’t expect to marry the guy you hook up with after you’ve been at Moonies until 1 am. Don’t use sex as a bargaining chip for intimacy.

If a woman is smart and safe about sex, why is there still a stigma? When a woman uses her sexuality, why is it automatically assumed that she has also given away her soul, her power?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Women Working - Take 2

I love when my boyfriend finds subjects for me to write about here! We are often looking at research where women are getting paid less than men (we still earn $0.80 on the dollar that men do), but there are some jobs where women are statistically getting paid more. Some are rather surprising!

  • females working in construction jobs (laborers of supervisors), maintenance painters, aircraft and vehicle mechanics earn more than men even though they only hold 3% of these jobs. This article speculates that women in these jobs are less likely to be associated with negative gender associations.
  • Don't want to fix cars? Female teaching assistants, occupational therapists, dietitians, nutritionists and life, physical, social science and health technicians also make more on average. Perhaps this is because more women go into these jobs and are customers in the first place?
  • I liked this statistic because I occasionally work as a busser at my job (though we get tips from the servers, so this statistic doesn't actually help me much). Women who work as dining room attendants (I'm assuming this is the politically correct term for bussers) and bartender helpers (barbacks, which sadly, in the restaurant I work in, are only guys) make 111% more than men. Also, female food preparation workers and servers earn more as well. Helloooo tips!
  • Bakers - this article speculated that it might have to do with the flexibility of women to work odd hours.
This was interesting information, however most of these jobs are lower level, where the income potential isn't great anyway, even if women are making more. I'd rather have a job with a pension plan and health insurance than making 111% more as a waitress any day of the week.

Also, not to be the complete Debbie-Downer, but are women getting more work in some these positions (specifically in the restaurant business etc.) because of negative sexual gender stereotypes? Female servers, bartenders, etc. are trained and know to dress and sometimes act a certain way (suggestively) in order to get more tips. 

Samantha Jones, in Sex and the City, says "Women are allowed to use every possible advantage to get to the top." But what advantages are actually sexual exploitation? Are these long term successes for women or short-lived victories that are going to blow up in our pretty little faces?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Posture and Power

Last week I went to Chicago for the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Convention. Every 2 years, ACDA has a national convention (two years ago it was in Oklahoma). One of the events at this convention is the Conducting Competition. There's an undergraduate and graduate division and for each category, 7 or 8 conductors are picked out of about 75 each. In the undergrad category there were 2 girls out of 7, and in the grad category there were 4 out of 8. Doesn't sound horrible, right?

So there I am. sitting in 4 hours of this conducting competition... And somehow, only 1 girl went on in each category and neither of them won 1st prize (they both won second, I felt like this was some kind of consolation prize...but maybe I'm just being paranoid. I kept thinking about why, in a convention made up mostly of women, there were no women who won?

Conducting is all about leadership. I started thinking, perhaps the leadership qualities that judges are looking for are typically more "masculine" qualities? Men are naturally taller and have posture and movement that stems from their upper body. Women are naturally shorter (hello...I'm 5'2") and we lead from the hips. Men's voices are deeper and often carry further because of the lower resonances.

Are we- as smart, independent, driven young women- actually sabotaging ourselves with our voices and posture? And what can we do to be taken seriously without sabotaging our true selves.

I started reading articles, like this one, The Eloquent Woman, saying that women shouldn't try to lower their voices to an unhealthy point because it can cause vocal issues like hoarseness, nodes and polyps. That website advocates finding your comfortable speaking voice for optimum power and resonance and gives other tips on "finding your voice," both literally and metaphorically.

I've written about posture a little bit before - in my voice studies I often see that men's posture problems tend to come from stiffness and women's posture problems tend to come from over arching, pulling (such as pushing your neck forward too far) or generally contorting ourselves into strange positions. Are we still holding ourselves like insecure teenagers?

In addition to learning about women's history and gaining the best education they can, perhaps there should be a course available in college on posture, voice and leadership? On looking and sounding confident, healthy and strong when making their way into the fields of their choice, especially in this economy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Women's History Month - Birth Control

Thank my pro-feminist boyfriend for this entry. I was looking for an idea for a blog and he reminded me that it's women's history month! Happy March! :) With all the hoopla related to Planned Parenthood, I decided to look into the birth control aspect of Women's History.

Apparently, according to this site, condoms (both animal skin and "vulcanized rubber") were around as early as the turn of the 20th century, but they were not widely used because they were associated with sexual promiscuity. The sponge was also an option, but they were sometimes dipped in substances that were actually very dangerous to women- vinegar, lemon, astringents (ah!).

I truly believe that the inventors of oral contraceptives deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. I learned that Margaret Sanger, a women's rights advocate, underwrote the research necessary to create the first women's contraceptive and raised $150,000 for the project, after it was learned that hormones prevented ovulation in rabbits. Frank Colton invented the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, which was marketed in 1960. I'd give him a huge hug if he hadn't died in 2003!

Thank god for these people. I actually think a lot about how the entire act of sex has been changed thanks to reliable birth control. As an unmarried, sexually active 22 year old, I know that I wouldn't be able to live my life in the same way 50+ years ago. It is truly incredible that I can have sex without undergoing dangerous, unreliable forms of birth control or having dangerous abortions as preventative birth control.

When I think about Planned Parenthood, I get very conflicted. The evidence I've been reading against them isn't great - especially the fact that they're making millions of dollars in profit even though they are technically a non-profit. But the idea of people without health insurance being unable to get cheap/free birth control, STD testing and gynecological exams really sickens me. Stopping unwanted pregnancies is one of the most fool-proof ways to stop poverty in this country.

I agree with bell hooks on this point 100% - you can decide for yourself that you won't have an abortion, but to be a feminist you need to believe in legalized abortions. Period.