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.


I believe that disability can be defined as anyone who is different from how a society views a person’s mental and physical health. In this definition, many people are disabled in varying degrees. Many people have anxiety disorders, broken bones, and drunken nights where they cannot act normally. What is unfortunate is the stereotypes and presumptions people have about people who are severely disabled and therefore “abnormal”. For example, I watch a few TLC shows about dwarf families and they are more than capable of doing anything that average height people can do. Society needs to get rid of the assumption that they are weak and need to be talked down to and help them in useful ways like catering to their lifestyle needs such as height adjustments in cars, houses, etc. I feel that many obviously disabled people are pitied and stared at. Sure, they have a few more challenges than the average person, but who wants to be average anyway? I think that fatness, especially extreme obesity is most definitely a disability. Fat people are often not anymore lazy and unmotivated than skinny people, it could be a result of millions of things such as genetics, a thyroid problem, abuse they’ve experienced, or just a severe addiction to food, etc. What obese people need is as many supportive people as possible by their side and for people not to look at their body to judge what kind of person they are. The extreme pressure to be thin in our society leads people to be desperate for diets that are not maintainable and destined to backfire. For people who don’t physical look like what society deems as beautiful, the truth of the matter is, are treated like they have a disability. In conclusion, the word disability I think is a very broad statement.

White Privilege

Even though our culture today seems to make an effort to emphasize the importance of diversity and equal opportunity for all, the way it operates still meets the needs of what is a “typical” white American. This unfair advantage for whites is called white privilege. In our law system, whites do get arrested but tend to get off the hook easier than other races. Our school system is supposed to be equal, but standardized tests cater toward children whose first spoken language was English. An important standardized test like the SAT or ACT may be harder to pass for students of different backgrounds but it is a way for our capitalistic society to set a limit on equal education. Very alarmingly, employers who are white tend to veer toward judging the black person poorly at an interview. Unfortunately, this results in a black person losing out over a white person for a job who is just as or less capable. However, with the exception of a few shows starring black families, the lifestyle of the typical white person is portrayed in our culture and media. For example, even the black models in the magazines are more often seen with sleek, smooth hair and many African-American women desire to “tame” their poofy locks. In movies, more often than not, white characters are playing the lead and the black ones are more likely to be poor, the comic relief, or criminals. Discrimination is far from over and you can tell this is true when people are fearful when a black man walks behind them, when people judge the white or Asian person is naturally smaller than a black person, and the millions of racial stereotypes that kill people’s self esteem and make them want to fit an image other than their culture. Sure, whites are faced with stereotypes, but they are trivial because the important things in society still ring in their favor.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Theorizing Privilege

Growing up in Northern VA, I feel that I was not as exposed to hard core prejudice. This is because at my school, I was so intermingled with people of numerous ethnic backgrounds and languages. I am Caucasian, but I had friends of a range of cultures that I surrounded myself with. Throughout my schooling, I watched countless multicultural fairs and lectures that celebrated the achievements and unique contributions of different races. However, because I am Caucasian, I probably couldn’t tell you the whole story of how certain groups were treated at my schools. I’m sure there was certainly still race discrimination. I have noticed that, due to a high percentage of Asian students present in my schools, there have been comments, not necessarily negative about their culture. They most likely face pressure and encounter annoying situations where other kids will try to sit next to them during a test because the stereotype is that they are all very smart. The problem I see with stereotyping is that draws attention to what should be important, the uniqueness and variations of each individual person. Stereotyping is like taking a person and seeing them as part of a group of a very specific type and ignoring the person’s true self.

I do recall experiencing gender inequality in my life. For example, I started Tae-Kwon-Do when I was five years old. I was especially weak even for a girl but I think that I was treated differently as opposed to the boys in my classes. For example, we were not made fun of if we did the “girl” pushups with our knees on the floor but there was no excuse for the boys. Also, they seemed to baby us more and have thinner boards for us to break. I think the instructors expected more of the boys and therefore pushed them to be superior to us..this can be applied in many things in life. Just because women are very rare in the Computer Science field doesn’t mean they are less capable, certainly many are. They are just not pushed hard enough or are discouraged from society to pursue the field.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Romance and Relationships

At a young age, parents, whether intentionally or not, talk and interact with their sons and daughters differently. Mothers talk to and pamper their little girls more and therefore they generally are the more verbal gender. Fathers take their sons to sporting events and don’t coddle them as much when they fall down playing soccer. Chores that children of different sexes have also vary. Fathers are more likely to makes sure the son knows how to do things like changing a tire or mowing the lawn. Girls are encouraged to learn to cook, clean and be nurturing to those around them. These reinforcements of stereotypes translate into the dating world as the child gets older.

I truly believe that how a man treats a woman while dating reflects the gender expectations he was raised with as well as the role he expects to play in marriage. Although dating roles are becoming slightly less traditional, oftentimes the man plays the dominant role. Perhaps the modern woman will take some initiative and ask the man out herself or make the first phone call. Usually, however, once at the date, the man will be the one driving, holding the door open, paying for the meal, etc. Early on in a relationship, men tend to want to feel masculine, in charge, and generally more powerful than their female partner. It is also more normal for the woman to be the most expressive and loquacious in a conversation while the man sits and admires her beauty; the sex object in front of him.

Once a couple is married, the man carries this attitude into their social life where still today; women usually take over the responsibility of inviting friends over and setting the social calendar. When married couples have disputes, again the man more often than the woman will shut the topic out and bottle things up inside instead of communicating.

This is why it is so difficult to carry through an equal marriage. In order to do so, men and women have to question taught values and gender characteristics that seem to be a given piece of them. The truth is, men and women usually have a mixture of both feminine and masculine traits but repress certain ones because they feel it is inappropriate in our society. An example of this may be a woman holds in a belch and dirty joke at the dinner table or a man who pretends to have an object in his eye when he cries during a sad movie. This repression can truly be a sad way to live, because we are all actors in this big game of life.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Inscribing Gender on the Body

Have you ever wondered why women are much more scrutinized for every flaw on their body? Why is it that women’s beauty and sex appeal are valued so much in women’s magazines? I believe that this is because our society, as far as we have come with equality, is still patriarchal. This means that our life tends feed the interests of men and masculinity. Men typically are taught from a young age that they should take charge over a woman and feel confident about every situation they encounter. Women are often depicted through the media as sexual beings and have to fit a cookie cutter body type not attainable for many women. Women’s self consciousness of their bodies reinforces the idea that women are weaker than men and therefore inferior in some way. While certainly men are pressured to be more muscular, they face less pressure as far as looks are concerned. It seems as though as long as men act macho and have a sexy and appealing women by their side, they are king of the world.

These images of “beautiful” women are everywhere and impossible to ignore unless you are completely sheltered from the world. It is sad because many women go to extreme measure with exercise and diet not with the intention of becoming healthier, but to look like models or to be appealing to men. I believe that life is much more comfortable and rewarding when we are not so absorbed in “fixing” our unique bodies that will never be perfect. This is easier said than done, especially for young women like myself who are immersed in the dating world. I often find myself with negative thoughts toward my body but then I simply go out in public and notice all of the shapes and sizes of women and do you know which people look beautiful to me? The women with confidence! I think that women must simply show more confidence in everything they do in life and these changing attitudes will eventually lead to real change.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Second Wave Feminism

I think that conscious raising groups were especially important during the time of the feminist movement because women were so tied down to men and rarely had time to gain insight into other women’s feelings. Conscious raising groups were small groups of women who got together maybe once a week in a member’s living room. They considered themselves radicals in that they felt that extreme thinking and action is required in order to start a mass movement. They talked about issues pertaining to women’s lives and could gain support and awareness for problems feminist problems of society without the company of men. Through these groups, I feel that women could stop disregarding their problems as silly or personal and start becoming awake to the fact that they were oppressed.
In today’s society, there are numerous groups for women to go to discuss problems, so addressing these problems has to go about differently. I think more men today wish to support women in their equality and should be more of an ally for these causes. A Gender Manifesto could still be used today, however. This is a common set of harsh demands that promote women’s equality. However, I don’t think it is necessary for the list to be harsh because changes must happen gradually at this point. Our social ways are so deeply rooted that it may cause a great uprising of anger from many who have not yet become aware. This manifesto should address things like sexist language, rules on the objectification of women in the media, and equal pay in the workforce. These are all issues that are far from being fixed despite the courageous and ambitious women of the feminist movement.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

First Wave Feminism

One of the strategies Mill highlighted in the First Wave Era was that the feminine ways of women are so ingrained in themselves because of how they were raised. Therefore, it is difficult to change them and the only way to do it would be to experiment. Mill thought that there would be benefits in this to both human development and the emotional happiness of women. More people would be at work and being productive in society if women were equal and women would be feel more confident and fulfilled in life not tied down to the home. He also highlighted the positive for men; competition will make both men and women work harder in society and women will be able to better communicate intellectually with their husbands. Mill argued that women are half of the population and they should be able to vote and be equal because political decisions affect them as well.

I think that the more traditional ideas of womanhood are fading in society now. More couples are raising girls to be ambitious, successful, and dominating women who are encouraged to compete with men. We no longer need to experiment with women’s equality; most people will agree it is a positive thing. On the surface, we have achieved equality between man and women, but people must look closer. Yes, women are starting to dominate the workforce. But, we still get paid less than man for the same job. Also, though women are usually not bound to the home, men today still feel awful if their wife happens to be the breadwinner and often judge a woman as gay if she is a tomboy.

Successful First Wave activists were both men and women. However, they all had to be very strong-willed, tough, and ambitious to get the movement to where it is today. Women activists undoubtedly faced severe criticism for behaving in “unladylike” ways but it was worth it. However, I think that because young people didn’t grow up with repression of inequality, we just don’t appreciate the opportunity when it comes to voting. It is more common for people middle-aged and up to vote probably because they knew a world where they had to struggle to be where they want to be.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What does public policy matter for women?

The state maintains inequality in most areas of our society; it just takes a little bit of mindfulness. I think that most people feel that inequality is a thing of our past, but it is still very prevalent. One of them is through the system by which people first build upon their social ideas; the school system. Schools in poorer, inner city areas don’t receive the same budget and care that schools in middle-upper class areas have. People don’t give a rat’s tail about those poor children’s education and therefore they continue to be stuck in a trap of poverty. Higher SAT scores can be obtained by students who pay money to take prep classes that guarantee to raise their score, but don’t really enhance their knowledge about subjects and only how to play the test. Poorer students can’t afford these classes and therefore can’t always get into college, can’t get a higher paying job, and are again stuck in poverty. Our capitalist society seems to value only money and in order to function, people, often minority groups must do blue-collar jobs and pay taxes to feed the system. It is a sad situation that is not going to be controlled until some power can be taken away from the tiny percentage of people who hold most of the nation’s wealth. These people are usually white males who probably don’t understand the true problems the average citizen faces. I think that these desperately needed changes can only come with conscious raising groups and maybe small and incremental changes developed over time. However, I am hesitant to say that full equality can be achieved.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Feminist Theory

Radical Feminism stood out to me as quite an interesting topic. According to radical feminists, there are only two types of people, male and female, and they are biologically different. Because of these apparently concrete differences, they are used as ways to oppress women. Patriarchy is the main problem in our society according to these feminists. Patriarchy is the idea that everything is dominated and centered in the interests of men.
The fact that women can give birth seems to me like something that should make people respect and admire women. However, in a patriarchal society, this can give men more of a reason to sexualize women and take advantage of their sexuality. Maybe when women are pregnant, they are seen as weak and need to be babied and protected; another way for men to dominate in their relationship.
I think that this type of feminism makes sense in that I believe SOME of the differences in men and women stem from nature. Also, a patriarchal society is a major reason why women continue to live in oppression and small changes DO help. Radical feminists work to promote change in small and seemingly insignificant ways as well such as language. “Due to this, some female radical feminists refer to themselves as “womyn” in order to dissolve any ties to men or males” ( I feel like small, yet conscious and progressive changes such as this will cumulatively help because society will not accept a radical change so fast. However, I do not agree that all of the “feminine” characteristics should be the norm instead of the “masculine”. I think that it takes a mixture of these traits, inside of every individual, to promote a sound and peaceful society.
Because of the varying degrees and beliefs of feminists, stereotypes can certainly not be seen as viable ways of judging the idea of feminism. It is someone’s attitude and ideas that make them a feminist, not how much they refuse to look like society expects them to look or how badly they hate men. Most feminists do not hate men, and in fact, are married to men and wish for them to become allies in their cause. Something that all feminists want though, is equality for women and this should not be far fetched.

What is a woman?

Sex and gender has been socially constructed in my life in uncountable ways. I grew up with an older brother who was allowed to be a little bit sloppier than myself, always mowed the lawn, but was also blamed for many of my hissy fits to be honest. I am a daddy’s girl and therefore, to this day, my father has a few more wrinkles on his face when I don’t call him the second I get back from a road trip. The way I am treated in public is different from my brother’s experiences as well. For example, he told me I should go to a certain place to get my oil changed because he goes there regularly without being overly hassled about getting taken advantage of. When I came in there, the employees probably assumed that since I am female, I don’t know anything about cars, which I don’t but I know many who do. So, even though I specifically asked for a regular oil change, they kept hasseling me about how I need this and those extra things on top of it. Those employees tried some of their flirting skills in order to make money as well. This kind of attitude men have toward women further leads to feelings of worthlessness and inferiority in women.
It seems like just about everything in society mimics appropriate (stereotypical) ways for men and women to behave. Movies depict male characters as heroic, tough, aggressive creatures and women as sexual, passive people that men can lean on or walk over. Music, especially today’s, is overtly sexual and degrading to women. Parents also pass down these attitudes on to their children by making an effort to educate girls more on manners, giving gendered toys, etc. Learned gender roles are ingrained in our culture with such deep roots that people don’t even think about it by passing it off as just a part of their personality.
Gender is also seen in the way men and women move their bodies. Because of a combination of women’s inferiority to men and the culture of how women and men should look, distinguishable differences arise in body language. Women are told nowadays that they should be model thin and therefore women are more self conscious. When sitting down, women tend to cross their legs and they walk with small and less relaxed movements. Women are not supposed to take up too much space body wise as well as in society. Men, in contrast can usually be seen seated with their legs spread out and walk with big, confident movements. This is an example of how male feelings of dominance and power finds its in the more subtle things seen in life. What is interesting is that these differences in body movements are widespread among males and females, regardless of whether the man is poor and jobless or the woman is in a high place of authority.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is women's studies?

I would consider myself a person who is striving to be more of a feminist. I display many “typical” characteristics of a woman that our patriarchal society approves of. I love children and am pursuing a career in teaching, I am sensitive and enjoy sappy Romantic Comedies, I am passive and let others take the lead in many situations, and I think it is “charming” when men baby women and open doors. Something I hope to gain out of taking this course is to gain some insight as to the gender socialization in my life that might have contributed to the personality I have today. I feel comfortable with my personality but I think that in order for me to contribute, even in small ways to the feminist movement, I need to learn to step out of my box and just relax like it seems men innately know how to do. I need to uncross my legs, walk with long and purposeful strides, and refuse to let people talk down to me! This is of course easier said than done, but it is a goal nonetheless.

I would define feminism as the idea that all women deserve the same opportunities in society as men and they should be valued for what they contribute to all aspects of life. It is also the idea that it should be acceptable for both men and women to display their gender in any way they wish even if they don’t fit the gender norms. Gender stereotypes are a major crisis in society because they can hold people, especially women, back from achieving their true potential. For example, I’ve always wondered why men always seem to be better at math and science and these types of majors are dominated in the universities. I don’t believe this is simply a difference in the biology of the sexes but instead, society telling these boys that they should be good at math therefore boosting their confidence in the subject. On the other hand, I have always been terrible at math to the point where I feel nervous and sick walking into a math test. Perhaps I was not pushed hard enough when I was little partly because of gender and therefore now look at a math problem and give up right away.

I do not believe that equality between the sexes has been achieved. Yes, there has significant progress in the opportunities women have in the workplace and education. On the surface, it all looks fine and dandy. However, what is hidden beneath the surface may seem harmless. These things could include language, small gestures (men holding doors, paying for dinner), and the still widespread wage gap between the sexes for the exact same job. Many people don’t think that equal opportunity is a dire issue any more and therefore say and do nothing, thus encouraging that the cycle of patriarchy doesn’t die.