Category Archives: Big Question

What justice are we trying to achieve?

After watching our in-class film, “La Mitad de Todo” (2012), I began to wonder: what justice are we trying to achieve?  If we are creating theoretical frameworks, which will, in effect, inform our practices and function in the real world (and hopefully, one day, make a more just world), how are we prioritizing feminism to our understanding of other forms of oppression?  To better contextualize the question, we can analyze this through Julia Query’s (“Live Nude Girls Unite!”, 2000) negotiations with the owners of the strip club. Was their effort to become a closed shop union a feminist struggle or a labor struggle? If it’s a combination, what needs to be considered if an endeavor necessitates compromise on some goals over others? I ask this because, in any struggle, there are intersecting issues at hand. Going back to Query’s situation, how could we evaluate the success of the union if they conceded racial equality to better salaries and overall benefits?

Although abstract, this notion of priority is important. When discussing feminist ideas and even feminist utopias, we need to keep in mind other forms oppression that have become entangled with patriarchy. Doing so, helps us understand if a solution to a certain oppression creates another oppression for others. Of course, this question of priority would need to be contextualized with some specific situation. Firestone sets a good example in her utopia, “A cybernetic socialism would abolish economic classes, and all forms of labor exploitation, by granting all people a livelihood based only on material needs.”  (Firestone, 274). Here, Firestone prioritizes a feminist revolution but within a socialist change. In closing, as we further our understanding of gender and sexual oppression, we need to continuously create notions of justice that encompass other struggles to achieve the best understanding of the justice we want to see in this Earth.

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What is Beautiful?

Reflecting on the female obsession with weight loss, and the unrealistic images of woman as very skinny, perceptions of beauty in the United States are extremely skewed. It makes me wonder how we arrived here. Is it the media’s fault for projecting these images, or the consumer’s fault for enabling them? As we’ve read in “Can’t by my Love,” the advertising industry is worth billions of dollars exerting enormous influence over what is portrayed in the media. However, advertisers attempt to please their audiences by selling what they want. Therefore, what makes women crave the ideal body and perfect face? Not only do they crave this type of beauty, they spend millions of dollars attaining this ideal through surgery. They spend exorbitant amounts of money on dieting and weight loss regimes desperately hoping to reach this nearly impossible goal.
In “Reading the Slender Body,” Susan Bordo explains that although elective surgery is considered at least a bit more extreme, “…Preoccupation with fat, diet, and slenderness are not abnormal” Indeed, such preoccupation may function as one of the most powerful normalizing mechanisms of our century, insuring the production of self-monitoring and self-disciplining.” But still, it leaves the large question unanswered. Where does this preoccupation originate from? I believe that at least partially it stems from the way women construct their self-identity. In “Ways of Seeing,” John Berger asserts that women present themselves in the way that they want men to view them knowing that men are constantly surveying them. Consequently, at some point, a man’s ideal beautiful woman became extremely skinny with large breasts, and in response to this, women torture themselves in order to emulate this conception of beauty. With this norm present in society, women and men will continue to perceive beautiful in this way until culture gravitates towards a new standard of beauty.

Sources
Bordo, Susan. Umbearable Weight. Berkeley : Univ of CA Press, 1993.

Kilbourne, Jean. Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Thing and Feel. New York: Touchtsone, 1999.Print.

Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. By Amelia Jones. London: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

What is domestic fairness in the Home?

The dynamics in which individuals, and partners choose to run their households is as diverse as the billions of people there on living on this earth.  Some might make the strong stance that everything must be split equally and evenly between both people.  This would include such responsibilities as, the division of chores, financial expenditures, daycare, and more.

However, I do not feel this approach is necessarily true.  It cannot be fair to demand domestic fairness within households, but then impose one possible method to ensure that equality is achieved.  As with everything in life, people should have the freedom to choose whatever they feel is fair in their home.  Lisa Belkin states in her article, When mom and dad share it all, “Gender should not determine the division of labor at home” (Belkin 2).  To me this is a perfect answer to such a convoluted question.  Domestic fairness in the home happens when both parties feel it is fair, period.  Whichever way they feel comfortable with dividing up the tasks, should be solely up to them.  The crucial point being, that society should not be able to rear its ugly head and influence the decision making process.  Gender should be left out of the equation, and moves should be made based on those particular individuals comfort level and personal desires.

Though, the ultimate question may be, can there ever really be 100% domestic equality in a home?  Is it ever really possible to maintain fairness in the home all of the time? The combining of two separate lives is a difficult task.  It has to be known that sacrifices will be made and following personal desires are not always an option.

#solidarityisforwhiteartists: the oppressive nature of a white artist’s message

Lily Allen’s music video for her single, “Hard Out Here”, is yet another installment of how white artists implicitly add a racial dialogue to deliver and solidify their messages. What is oppression? Oppression is when your culture and bodies become tools to promote white artist’s careers and criticisms of society. It is how musicians’s “anti-consumerist” messages have been embedded in consumerism closely associated with hip-hop and thusly African American culture. In “Hard Out Here”, Allen asserts that you would never hear her talk about her chains.  In becoming “anti-consumerist”, Allen only targets one type of consumer: African Americans. Oppression is also having your body become hypersexualized and on display in an effort to critique sexism while reinforcing negative stereotypical representations of your identity. Allen, while fully clothed, is surrounded by mostly women of color who are: twerking in bikini coverage style outfits, provocatively touching themselves, and dowsing themselves in champagne. Although this video is meant to be a parody, Allen’s representation of African American women just reinforces racist tropes about them in music videos. Oppression of this nature between women is nothing new, as bell hooks pointed out that “sexism is perpetuated by institutional and social structures” (127). The institution of racism still permeates our society and divides our women’s movement, as seen in the popular twitter movement over the summer started by Mikki Kendal #solidarityisforwhitewomen. There’s much to do for gender equality, but if we’re getting there through putting other women and cultures down, can we really call it progress?

Works Cited:

Hooks, Bell. “SISTERHOOD: Political Solidarity Between Women.” Feminist Review 23 (1986): 125-138. Print.

What is privilege?

Different parenting styles call attention to the vast differences in lifestyles between people of different socioeconomic classes. The historical precedent of women serving a “childbearing and childrearing role” (Firestone 233) has persisted to the modern day, as mothers are more involved than fathers with the childrearing process in the majority of families. While it is simple to acknowledge the need for mothers and fathers to share in the responsibilities of childrearing, this is simply not possible for all families. Equally shared parenting, in which both partners “spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home” (Belkin 1), is a privilege that most parents do not have.

Equally shared parenting requires a high amount of resources and stability. For example, the Taussig parents described in the New York Times article was only able to make the arrangements necessary to spend time at home because they had stable jobs that permitted them to take time off. Additionally, time spent at home displaces time spent at work, resulting in a loss of income. Even though “equality in parenting should be every couple’s goal” (Belkin 6), it may simply be impossible for lower SES families to practice equally shared parenting, due to time and money constraints.

While I agree that we should be wary of stereotypical gender roles within families, I also think that equally shared parenting is an ideal that most parents do not have the means to actualize. We should not be too critical of families that do not practice equally shared parenting, since it is a privilege based on socioeconomic status. How can we create conditions that are more conducive to equally shared parenting? It may be necessary to restructure the economic system, as Sweden began to do through implementing and normalizing paternity leave (Bennhold).

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Firestone, Shulamith. “Conclusion: The Ultimate Revolution.” The Dialectic of Sex ; the Case for Feminist Revolution. New York: Morrow, 1970. 233. Print.

What is Privilege?

Privilege is something hard to define and very difficult to detect if you’re in a place of it. I find that in trying to answer what privilege is, it is often much easier to look at experiences one has not had.

intersectionality

In Ellen Jean Samuels’s essay “My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse” I was faced with the difficulties of simplifying the intersectional approach to feminist discourse. I’m very used to picking out white privilege and male privilege in the world, but am still a novice at examining heterosexual privilege and able-bodied privilege. So my running list of “have you evers” that signify privilege (the fewer you check, the more privilege you have) was full of items like this:

Samuels, despite her argument that we must be careful in finding broad similarities, caused me to add another broad term to the list:

Have you ever had to come out?

The mere statement “come out” without the preposition “to” is open as it allows for the interpretation of the phrase to apply to one’s personal grappling with an identity they’re not sure they can share with the world (237). Though I may have thought of this as an item on my mental list for heterosexual privilege, I never would have thought of it as something that could cover the experiences of the invisibly disabled or even myself as a racially-ambiguous mixed-race girl.

Samuels, “My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse”

Equal parenting: What is fairness?

In reading The New York Times’s article “When Mom and Dad Share It All” by Lisa Belkin, I could not help but think about whether or not the “equal shared parenting” described here is really the best option in a household. It seems that what we have read about and what tends to be posed in literature when it comes to the splitting of parental roles are the two extremes: the traditional model with the maternal figure being the primary or sole caretaker and this “equal parenting” with a 50-50 split between the two parties. An example of this latter strategy can be seen in the Vachon family, where “They would work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home. Neither would be the keeper of the mental to-do lists; neither of their careers would take precedence” (Belkin).

But what if one has a naturally more demanding career and does not have as much free time? Or what if one person loves cooking and another hates it? Should these things still be evenly split no matter what? Perhaps rather than splitting each task itself in half, tasks can be split according to skill set or flexibility. Even in just remembering that long list that we came up with as a class of household tasks one must oversee, it seems inefficient to try to split every single one up, and potentially unfair if it puts more of a burden on one parent to meet those needs.

Judith Warner supports this notion and even takes it a step forward in her Time post “Equal Parenting: Why We Need to Rethink a 50-50 Split.” She talks about how, if one partner wants to do more of the caretaking role, should they not be allowed to because it would break that balance? Or if the breadwinner of the family — and in her case she talks about instances where the wife inhabits that role — feels they are unable to dedicate their full half, does that make them an inadequate parent? I think that rather than “equality” necessarily, we should focus on the concept of “fairness” when it comes to the matter of shared parenting.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Warner, Judith. “Equal Parenting: Why We Need to Rethink a 50-50 Split.” TIME.com. TIME, 1 June 2012. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.