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.