Tag Archives: equality

Access for Voters With Disabilities

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A new campaign promoting access for voters with disabilities has released a string of ads depicting physically disabled individuals with the slogan “He/She has issues.” While this is the first thing to catch the viewer’s eye, upon closer look these “issues” are revealed to be things like the environment, immigration, women’s rights, and the economy. These ads play on stereotypes and hint at prejudices surrounding the disabled by showing disability in a normative way – one man is in a wheelchair, another walks with a cane, and one woman has a guide dog. At first glance, the viewer may think the “issue” is the person’s disability, when the purpose of the ad is to say “Yes, I’m disabled, but this is not my only issue, and may not be an issue for me at all. My disability should not inhibit my rights.” The ad raises awareness of the challenges faced by disabled individuals but also reminds us that the label “disabled” is just that – a quantifier of their condition. Campaigns like this one, as Dean Spade points out, work in concert with the disability rights movement, which “is about pointing out that disabled people are capable of equal participation in, but are currently barred from participating equally by artificial conditions that privilege one type of body or mind and exclude others.” The campaign for increased access for voters with disability is a physical manifestation of this conviction.

Sources:

<http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/access-for-voters-with-disabilities-dennis-18320855/&gt;. Web. (Photos).

Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Print.

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WHAT IS EQUALITY: IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO SHARE IT ALL?

In 1961, Kurt Vonnegut published a satirical dystopian short story, “Harrison Bergeron”. In this futuristic short story, every American is finally equal. No one person is smarter, stronger, more skilled, or more beautiful than the other. People who are born smarter or stronger are fitted with handicaps (bags filled with birdshot, heavy weights, disruptive radios, etc.) to bring them down to average. Through government regulated handicaps and Diana Moon Glampers, Handicapper General, this absurd standard of perfect equality is enforced on the population.

The basic premise of Vonnegut’s story is that perfect equality, down to having equally shared preferences and intelligence, isn’t possible. Reading through Lisa Belkin’s When Mom and Dad Share It All, I can’t help but be reminded of Vonnegut’s story and wonder if such an equal 50/50 split of housework is possible. Belkin provides a lot of examples of equally shared parenting, and the potential problems that arise. In one case, it’s a matter of preference; the wife enjoys doing the shopping for her child’s clothing while the husband doesn’t. Another is feasibility – what if one spouse/partner would prefer to work at home rather than work outside? How does one deal with the question of money and finance? If one partner earns a higher salary, is he or she required to contribute more to the house financially? The questions that arise are endless.

Personally, I prefer Marc and Amy’s (of the Equally Shared Parenting blog) response to shared parenting. On their blog, they start off with the codicil that 50/50 split of housework and childcare isn’t for everybody. What they emphasize more is the equality of choice, that both parents have equal say and responsibility in both housework and childcare. For example, when they discuss “breadwinning” they write that both spouses’ careers, regardless of what kind of career, are equally important and both partners are required to make equal sacrifices in order to balance the house with their careers, such as leaving work to take care of a child or passing by promotions. It is less about both father and mother making the same amount of money, or spending an equal amount of time at home, but rather assuming and equal amount of responsibility at home and receiving an equal amount of respect and consideration for their chosen career. Marc and Amy emphasize the importance of equality of choice in other aspects of shared parenting as well. For example in “childraising”, they write about how both parents, including the father, have a right to decide what is best for their children. While Marc’s parenting decisions are not necessarily the same as Amy’s, she still respects the decisions that he makes regarding their daughter, just as he does hers. With the removal of “mother knows best”, the arguments of men not knowing how to handle children or that women should know how no longer apply. While their daughter’s clothes may not always match perfectly and the house may not be ordered the way Amy wants it to be, they manage an amiable 50/50 split of responsibility, with neither Amy’s nor Marc’s contributions being deemed more valuable than the other. Marc and Amy may not have a perfectly equal 50/50 split of housework and childcare, but their equal split of responsibility for the house and their child appears to me like a more feasible and workable model of keeping house.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All”” NYTimes. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 29    Nov. 2013.

“Equally Shared Parenting” Amy and Marc Vachon (2011)             http://equallysharedparenting.com/index.html

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Harrison Bergeron”. 1961.

AD CRITIQUE: NOT WITH A BANG…

After the 2011 fiasco of “Dad-Mom”, Tide seems to be turning over a new leaf. Their latest advertisement, released in January of this year, addresses a growing population of men who share the housework. Unlike Tide’s earlier overcompensating attempt, this dad doesn’t feel the need to “use brute-strength” or go do push-ups after folding his daughter’s frilliest dress. Rather, he behaves like a normal person, a parent taking care of their normal (neither ultra-feminine nor ultra-boyish) child, and in essence, like how a dad should behave. He plays with his daughter, launders her clothes, and in general just takes care of her. He doesn’t feel the need to posture his masculinity or reaffirm his manliness despite helping out around the house. In fact, this ad completely removes the idea of having to reaffirm masculinity. Unlike “Dad-Mom”, this ad doesn’t gender housework. This dad isn’t doing “women’s work” and compensating by being overly manly. No, he is doing “parent work”, un-gendered work, necessary for keeping up the house and taking care of his daughter.

Tide’s advertisement is representative of the new direction media should be taking. Bucking gender roles is far more complicated that merely placing a man in a stereotypical women’s role. First, the concept that there are “women’s roles” must be done away with. This is particularly difficult as evidenced in Tide’s unfortunate (but well-meaning) “Dad-Mom” and even in Katrin Bennhold’s In Sweden, Men Can Have It All article. Bennhold starts off her article by describing Mikael Karlsson, snowmobile driver, hunting dog owner, and a true man’s man as an ideality of what a dad, who still helps take care of his daughter, should be.  Her insistence on using such stereotypically masculine men in her article implies a gendering of child-care. While she argues that men should play a part in childcare, she is still defining it in terms of “women’s work” in the sense that she is trying to say “Look, here are manly men, with undiminished masculinity despite having the ability to change a diaper”. Even her title – “Men Can Have It All” – implies some kind of exclusivity of childcare between the sexes. In contrast, Tide’s quiet “ordinary dad” advertisement refuses to gender childcare and housework, consequently going a lot farther in establishing equality between the sexes than Bennhold’s article. While Bennhold’s intentions are good, pointing out that housework and childcare should be shared, her attempt is eerily reminiscent of “Dad-Mom” and could have done without the gendering of different kinds of work.

 

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

Big Question: Do Women Respect One Another’s Choices?

Big Question: Do Women Respect One Another’s Choices?

 

In her article, “When Mom and Dad Share it All,” Belkin explains that inequality persists inside the home as women still shoulder the bulk of domestic responsibilities (4). This topic triggered my thinking about the way that jobs were divided between my parents. While the housework was shared between the two, my mother (who is a working professional) was the main childcare provider.  I don’t think that she is unique since it seems that division of childcare has been the most resistant to change. It is unclear whether this responsibility continues to fall primarily on women by choice, default, or familiarity. Do women feel compelled to exercise control in this domestic sphere because the role of nurturer is so closely tied to their gender identity or biological makeup?  A recent study at University of Virginia suggests that women may end up with more of the parenting burden because they “like it more” than men and their “parenting skills are deeply rooted in biology” (infant.http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/do-women-like-child-care-more-than-men/).

 

A guiding principle of the Women’s Movement is empowering women to make choices, and for some, this includes choosing not to change certain aspects of the status quo (such as childcare).  Bell Hooks asserts that solidarity between women is essential in transforming society as a whole (127). Can those who challenge the patriarchal system resist the tendency to criticize women who choose a traditional path or opt to embrace change in its modified form ? Do the differences (in cultural, racial, economics, and geographic backgrounds) which impact women’s choices pose a threat to solidarity, or is the failure to accommodate and accept these differences responsible for sidelining childcare and stalling out the Women’s Movement ? When we silence (and do not respect) voices that are different from our own, are we modeling equality or another form of social oppression?

 

Works Cited

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” The New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

Hooks, Bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women.” Feminist Review (1986): 125-38. Print.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “Do Women Like Child Care More Than Men?” The New York Times Magazine 25 Mar. 2012: n. pag. Web.

What is equality in the household?

I believe equality in the household is a sentiment and not a number. Two parents may divide up hours of housework and childcare exactly even and still not be equals. A true sense of equality in the household begins with a simple acknowledgement – that you are my partner – and a fundamental, mutual drive towards an agreed-upon goal. Certainly, this is easier said than done; in fact, reaching an absolute equilibrium may be extremely difficult. A vast amount of implicit respect for one’s partner is essential for a “shared” system to work. Lisa Belkin writes about a couple who uses a computer chart to help them adhere to their “shared parenting” plan (Belkin 7). While concrete measures like this are undoubtedly helpful in sticking to any goal, in no way is it a guarantee of equal dedication to tasks or respect for the other. Factors that affect this sense of respect do not just exist within the household or the relationship; they are largely societal. Katrin Bennhold points to increasing cases of “daddy leave” in Sweden as proof of greater equality in the household. However, I think the bigger force at play here is the tacit, growing acceptance of men’s doing domestic work – a growing legitimization of parenting as real labor and as both a man and a woman’s duty. While societal biases and stereotypes are a huge hindrance in the quest for domestic equality, it can certainly be achieved. True equality, though, cannot be measured.

 

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web.

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

What Is Inequity: How Strip Clubs Reinforce Male Privilege

In a world where women are gaining economic status and independence, inequity between women and men is still perpetuated in establishments like strip clubs, where women are viewed by customers as sexual objects. Strip clubs provide a way for men to “relax” and “be a man” (Jeffreys 167) without having to worry about feminist women being offended by sexual objectification. Strip clubs promote the idea that it is natural that men need time to unwind and do “manly” things, like drink, smoke, and carry on with their friends while objectifying women. But why does this need to take place in a setting that subjects women to male control? Men have control over women in strip clubs by determining the size of strippers’ tips and how long and to what extent interactions with the women go, reinforcing the power disparity between men and women. According to Jeffreys, strip clubs “provide a compensation for the decline in power that men have experienced as their wives, partners, and women workmates have shed their own subordination, begun to compete with them, and demanded equality.”

Though the act of stripping is seen as empowering by some women, many men do not see it this way. Thus, strip clubs extrapolate the inequity between men and women by creating a place where men can openly objectify women, where women not in the sex industry are unwelcome, and where men do not need to treat women as equals.  

Jeffreys, Sheila. “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 34.1 (2008): 151-73. Print.

What is the modern woman?

And can we change what we are supposed to be?

It used to be that a woman was something to neither be seen nor heard. She was a being of silence, a being hidden within the walls of the home and behind the masculine form of her husband. She was a being meant to bring children into this world, a being who was “biologically distinguished from men” and “culturally distinguished from ‘human'” (Firestone 232). She was a hysterical, unable to have control over her own body, and forced into situations and relationships that she did not necessarily want.

But what is the modern woman? Have we really come far from the days of being specifically present at home? Of having children and raising them being the specific role she has been given? The modern woman has to ‘do it all’: she must “produce a full-time career, thriving children, a contented spouse, and a well managed home”, an ideal which is hard to always achieve (Ehrenreich 445). Today’s woman, in this world where equality is apparently supposed to exist, still bears the majority of the housework and child care. She still is not equal in her relationships with men, and in order to compete in the career world, she has to resign some of her caring duties to other women, such as nannies and maids.

But what if there could be a new modern woman? A woman who was not pressured to have children, who was not pressured to be married, who was able to live outside of the mold of society? This woman would not be penalized and found on “the margins of a society in which everyone else is compartmentalized”; she would be free (Firestone 261). Free from the biblical destiny of bearing children, free from the pressures of having a man by her side, this modern woman would not have to do it all in order to be seen as successful: she could do what she wanted, and she would have ultimate support to do so. This woman could be a single mother; she could be a married woman with no child. She could stay at home or work. Having the freedom to choose, without judgment or distress, what life a woman wants for herself is what the modern woman should be.

 Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Hoschschild. “Global Woman.” Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. By Estelle Disch. 4th ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Pub., 2000. 443-51. Print.

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