Friday, July 23, 2010

Theorizing Activism

Before this class, I had some understanding of the various concepts addressed such as oppression and privilege because of Sociology classes I have taken. However, this class delved much deeper into types of feminism I had never heard of, various feminists of the past, how far we have come and still need to come, and ways in which I can provoke some change in my daily life.
I think that many people have thrown in the towel of feminist change so to speak. This is especially true of people in the US because we are certainly privileged when compared to developing countries. Despite the fact that women in the US can now vote, go to college, and start careers while raising a family is a big feat. However, there are gender stereotypes, the media, and attitudes of our culture that are harmful to women. Women can never truly be themselves because they have to speak, look, and act like a woman. Women are still discouraged from working toward certain “manly” careers as we can see from the low number of female computer science majors at JMU for example. You can even say women’s lives are becoming more stressful because many have to juggle both a career and the screaming children.
Educating people about feminism is not enough to promote the change we need. Both men and women alike must be aware of their dialogue, communicate to our partners that responsibilities should be shared, and be mindful of the media and musical culture and how it can subconsciously reinforce our gender stereotypes. We must appreciate the differences of all people and embrace a future of social change.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reproductive Rights

Women too often base their reproductive decisions on the stereotypes of a patriarchal society. Women are identified as the nurturers and caretakers. Therefore, they are pressured into becoming a mother even if it is not in their cards, is damaging to their health, etc. If women have problems conceiving, they often feel like they are not a true women and they won’t ever be desired by a man. Women are looked at by many men as sexual creatures and unfortunately can mainly be defined by this aspect.

Due to class and race differences, some women don’t have the choice in their reproductive rights. Women in impoverished situations are often denied birth control and adequate care if they are expecting. This variation of opportunities women have seems to say, “This wealthier white woman’s health and judgment is more important.” In our capitalistic society, this makes perfect sense because everything is driven by profit and morals are thrown out the window.

Reproductive choices are important for women because it gives them a sense of entitlement. So many aspects are life are controlled by men that is nice to be in control of something so valuable and unique to women. Also, many women become pregnant due to rape which is directly influenced by our patriarchal society. Women don’t often have control over rapes but they certainly should have control of the consequences.

Gendered Violence

When women are immersed in violence in their lives, where women are the victim most often, it seems to strengthen the ties of patriarchy. It makes women afraid and therefore timid and submissive to the man. Therefore, it makes women vulnerable and many women don’t trust any men due to harsh experiences they have had with violence. Violence affects behavior to such a degree that women keep pepper spray on hand and think twice about walking alone at night. However, due to our society’s acceptance of men being more aggressive creatures, it is easier for women to make excuses for men’s outlandish behavior especially when it comes to domestic violence such as wife beating. After all, the dominance of men and the gender stereotype of the “masculine” man I think is the main explanation that the man is usually the abuser.

JMU has several awareness programs about abuse that I’m sure are quite helpful. There are also emergency phones scattered throughout campus so that students can get help if they need it. However, the dorms are easily accessed by perpetrators because many students either hold the door from them to be nice or they follow another student in that has a card. Much to the inconvenience of students, I think that all dorms should have number codes, because this may provide more safety for all. Another thing to keep in mind is what happens on the weekends. When alcohol comes into play at parties, women are at their most vulnerable to abuse by men. Police can only help with underage drinking outside of apartments and school property, but who is going to help those other college women inside those apartments? The bottom line is that we women must be careful in situations such as these, look after ourselves, and stay with a group of trusted friends who care about your well being.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Social Welfare

Welfare reform should be considered a feminist issue because the majority of those in poverty are single women. These women are faced with serious issues such as not having a partner for financial or emotional support, having limited jobs because of their gender, and providing childcare if they do find work. TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) tries to improve this problem through many tactics, one of which is to encourage marriage. I don’t think that anyone, even the government, should force marriage onto anyone. Chances are, if these people are already in impoverished situations, the last thing they probably have on their minds. Day to day survival is what should be on their minds and gradually swimming out of that deep pool of troubles they are entrenched in. This is why I don’t believe TANF’s policy of no cash entitlements. I think that people need a little cash to get themselves going, but of course this should be put on a time limit so that dependence, or taking advantage of the system and being lazy, doesn’t occur. Lastly and most importantly in my opinion, people on welfare should not have to discuss intimately personal details of their life because it is a violation of human rights. However, if it is something important that affects the safety of their children, it is another story.

Socioeconomic Status

Systems of inequality are present both inside and outside of the home for women. Because domestic work such as cleaning and childcare is said to be a “woman’s job”, the responsibilities of the man and woman in a relationship are usually not entirely equal in this day and age. Sure, men are gradually doing more and more around the house. However, when they do so, he receives responses like, “wow, you are so helpful”. This implies that he is just helping the woman and he should be praised but not obligated to perform these domestic tasks. Women do this work constantly and usually do not receive recognition for it, except for maybe Mother’s Day.

Outside of the home, women at work often work in more menial jobs and if they don’t, they are still getting paid less. The attitudes employers and other male employees have toward them is also not acceptable. Too often, women face sexual harassment and just a general idea that women are mentally or physically inferior to men when on the job.

When I was working as a server at a restaurant, I noticed that my jobs were limited and that I faced a bit of discrimination because of my gender. For example, on a positive note for me, I was not forced to do any heavy lifting. However, there were also distractions that affected my productivity. My fellow employees would be likely to flirt with me to the point of being obnoxious. I also noticed some women flirting with their customers just so they could receive bigger tips. I tried to never to resort to that one for that purpose. I valued the efforts I put into my job and I think all women should do the same; by not taking advantage of the treatment they can receive just for being a woman. This kind of attention may seem nice, but it is counterproductive because it feeds into sexual stereotypes and the inferiority of women.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Feminism is often widely critiqued because it questions the importance of being identified as simply a woman. Too often, this is what people see when first meeting a woman; her gender and nothing else. This completely ignores the diversity of all women which should be welcomed, acknowledged, and celebrated. There is no such thing as an “average” woman and transnational feminists strive to get this point across. If we were all docile, sweet, non-confrontational, and submissive, then there would have been no progress in our fight for equal rights. As the transnational feminists believed, a commitment to activism and stretching our networks across the borders of the world is very necessary. These coalitions can be difficult because of some of the attitudes women have with other women in different societies. Women in places other than the North or the West understandable can feel out of the loop and inferior because of Hegemonic feminism. They are called “third women”. These feminists who reside in the west feel that they are the ones that can decide who is a true feminist and those who need to be liberated. According to them, progress has been mainly achieved in the US. They consider sexism the most important form of oppression which tends to ignore some of the obstacles “third women” go through because of their race, class, economic status, etc. I can see why this would be a problem because these women in more impoverished areas may feel that they don’t have an ally in the US and would probably lead to a feeling of even bitterness toward them.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The socialization of gender affects relationships in that you can never truly be yourself with your partner. Because of gender roles, the man and the woman are expected to act in different ways. What if a man makes less money, is more loquacious, or more expressive than his female partner? This could cause people, or her, to question his manhood. In our society’s gender norm, women are supposed to be the ones who are meek and wait for the guy to take charge in initiating a relationship, but all personalities are different. A shy woman therefore has extreme and sometimes unreasonable pressure to flirt and be open and giddy like women are supposed to act. Same holds true for men of personalities not typical of gender stereotypes. This can surely cause conflict in a relationship or even with your social circle who doesn’t approve of or understand the unconventional way that your relationship works.
Homosexuals probably don’t feel as comfortable with their PDA as heterosexuals do because people tend to judge them negatively. They face a complex, yet most likely freeing situation in their intimacy because they are more likely to be equal and not pressured to take on concrete masculine and feminine roles. Attached to homosexuals, however, are negative attitudes because they are not following the traditional male-female relationship, but do not follow they typical gender roles.