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Being Fierce in ’15 – Dispelling the False Association Between Feminism and Misandry

12 Feb

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We’re going back to basics. Have you ever heard the term misandrist? It’s like the antonym for misogynist and pertains to hatred for men instead of women.

Lately, discussions of feminism have been at an all-time high as celebrities such as Emma Watson are taking a public stand on the issue of inequality between sexes. Consequently, most backlash and negativity seems to attack feminism at it so-called weak spot, calling supporters “man-haters.” When did feminism become code for “person who hates men?” When did feminists become viewed as individuals who believe all men are predators? After all, feminist is just a word. A word to describe people who believe everyone should have equitable places in society regardless of their gender. Hey guys, that means we support you too!

Some feminists are misandrists, but it is not a criterion to join the movement. A portion does not equal a whole, even if that portion is very loud.

What matters is that feminism, distilled down to its most inner core, is about gender equality, with the goal of creating a society or utopia in which gender does not restrict an individual from an equitable shot at success and happiness.

Most feminists, including myself, politely disagree with the belief that women are better than men, and conversely try to convey that we’re all deserving and worthy – women, men, trans – and should be treated as such.

Man-hating is unfortunately a reactionary sentiment identified with feminism.

So…What Does Feminism Say Is Bad?

Feminism came about because of sexism – it’s historical presence as well as its existence today. Sexism is the problem, and a problem that is largely engaged in by men, and a lot of women internalize. Because men are largely the vehicles for sexism, they oftentimes wrongly associate feminism as an attack on men. But we’re not out for your blood in particular, our sights are on the patriarchy.

Men become participators in sexism because they have been taught to behave and think that way. Women internalize it for the same reason.

Aside from seeking equality, feminism asks both men and women to think about those normalized behaviors created by society, and calculate the impact. More than anything, the movement asks to hold people accountable who perpetuate sexism whether they realize their behavior is sexist or not.

It’s easy to get defensive about this. Whenever my boyfriend and I debate if feminism is relevant or even needs to exist today, he oftentimes brings up the belief that men can’t be accountable for sexist behavior they never thought/knew was wrong. To no avail I argue that this does not make it acceptable.

It all comes down to society and educating our peers how to treat each other with equity. That is what feminism seeks to achieve.

Saying all feminists hate men is a stigma, which closely relates to the notion that college is just one big beer fest. But you and I both know that college is more than that, isn’t it? Maybe I went to the wrong university…

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Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’ Campaign Undermines Women

13 Mar

Sheryl Sanberg’s new Lean In campaign, ‘Ban Bossy’ is being backed by many strong female celebrities and organizations that operate for the advancement of women (Girl Scouts)

While I love Sandberg’s tenacity, I simply do not agree with ‘Ban Bossy.’

I think it’s absurd to ban a word that is neither gender specific nor insulting.

My boyfriend and friends would describe me as sassy, independent and bossy. It is true: I enjoy being in control and managing others. However there is a difference between “assertiveness” and “aggression” that the campaign fails to distinguish.

I believe girls are strong willed, and ‘Ban Bossy’ underestimates their ability to be go-getters.

The word “bossy” doesn’t discourage female leadership aspiration, environment does.

I have always been a very motivated girl and so needed to adapt a thick skin. There will always be people who say you’re ugly, stupid, or not good enough, how are these any less of a concern for girls than being called bossy?

Not all girls want to be leader.

‘Ban Bossy’ is biased in promoting that society equates leadership and bossiness.

There are countless ways of leading without being domineering. There are infinite ways of being bossy that don’t involve the intent on wanting to lead.

Furthermore, the idea that all girls want to be leaders is ridiculous. I know many people who function better  as part of a team. ‘Ban Bossy’ doesn’t speak on girls finding their voice to assert themselves and be strong women in a communal setting. No, it shames the more shy and less outspoken, suggesting that every girl should strive to be president.

The Veil of Sisterhood in Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”

5 Mar

Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” is the type of poem I cherish not only because it’s lucid, lively, and genius for its time, but because there are so many ways of interpreting the language.

It’s freezing here in Jersey, it’s hump day, I got out of work early… my first thought…”I have plenty of time to lose myself.” This is what I came up with. Some ideas are not exactly complete, but I’m sure it will rain or snow in the next few weeks-giving me plenty of time to revise 😉

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            Goblin Market, under the veil of sisterhood, narrates the homosexual relationship between sisters, Laura and Lizzie. The text speaks on the nature of homoeroticism amongst women, and its influence upon the dominant patriarchal code. This code accommodates an environment where being a woman is of consequence to sexual and emotional vulnerability, allowing masculinity to control by assault as the central expression of power.

Karl Marx in Capital, (Das Kapital) defines a commodity as “an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of sort or another” (Marx, 125). Marx attempts to explain that a commodity is only valued in relation to demand or otherworldly conditions, and therefore is an ideal item for the capitalist economic system. The relationship between the materiality of an item and its perceived societal value is illusory—It’s value solely determined by desire.

In her book, This Sex Which is Not One, Luce Irigaray uses Karl Marx’s definition of commodity relations and values within the capitalist market, in comparison to the cultural structure and values of patriarchy’s own ‘market,’ which she asserts pre-dates capitalism: “From the very origin of private property and the patriarchal family, social exploitation occurred…all the social regimes of History are based upon the exploitation of one class of producers, namely women” (Irigaray, 173). Irigaray substitutes men as the ‘exploiters,’ a position Marx reserves for capitalists. She argues that under patriarchy women are oppressed, serving only as exchangeable property, while men are “exempt from being used and circulated” (Irigaray, 172). Irigaray’s interprets female homosexuality from the response of patriarchy, as a product which is to be consumed—a commodity—in which women become men because the code of patriarchy dictates that only a man can desire a woman. Irigaray questions, “what if these ‘commodities’ refused to go to market? What if they maintained ‘another’ kind of commerce, among themselves?” (Irigaray, 196). Irigaray believes female refusal to participate in masculine society would allow for a new society to form, in which, women are empowered and masculine systems of barter abandoned. Goblin Market also seeks for utopia, as throughout, the sisters challenge the conventions of patriarchy. However the end is troubling, whereby it ends not with abolishment of the patriarchal code, but a restoration of it through childbirth.

Goblin Market can be interpreted as both a didactic story of the importance of sisterhood, and a subversion of patriarchy, whereas Rossetti creates a world devoid of masculine hostility, where women are dependent on one another. Laura and Lizzie live in a feminine society which is depicted as ideal. However, each evening the utopia is threatened by goblin men who are selling their seductive fruits. They become a catalyst in the sisters’ transition from childhood into adulthood, and allow them to also realize their sexual potential, thus destroying their utopian, female society.

Whereas Laura is wary of the goblin men by warning her sister of their intentions, she is not strong enough to resist their temptation. Lured by the chanting, “come buy, come buy” (Rossetti, 4) and the exoticism of the produce that “men sell not such in any town,” (Rossetti, 101) Laura submits to exchanging a lock of her golden hair for the fruit. Irigaray observes that “heterosexuality is nothing but the assignment of economic roles: there are producer subjects and agents of exchange on the one hand, productive earth and commodities on the other” (Irigaray, 192). By substituting her hair for money, Laura ‘commodifies’ her body—allowing the men to determine the terms of the purchase, and situate herself within the patriarchal economy whilst rejecting participation in the female community. Through force, Lizzie is able to rescue her sister from the economic code of the goblin men, and create a new society which closely resembles Irigaray’s vision of utopia for women, where they possess agency and “exchanges occur without identifiable terms, without accounts, without end” (Irigaray, 197). However, before this new society can be formed, both sisters must negotiate within the goblin men’s economy.

When Lizzie goes to the goblin market she assumes the masculine role of “an agent of exchange,” (Irigaray 192) when she carries her coin. The goblins though, reject her money and therefore deny recognizing her as an equal agent of exchange. They try to force her to eat their fruits, rubbing them into her skin, and saturating her with their juices in a violent manner which echoes sexual and physical abuse. Lizzie manages to be triumphant against the goblin men, and while holding her coin, rejoices to Laura,

“Come and kiss me.

Never mind my bruises,

Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices

Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,

Goblin pulp and goblin dew.

Eat me, drunk me, love me;

Laura make much of me” (Rossetti, 465-72).

Laura offers Lizzie her body, requesting nothing in exchange. What follows is an erotically charged, homosexual salvation, as Laura is saved by consuming the juices from her sister’s skin. It can be said that sexual love offers a fulfilling experience of healing, much like spiritual devotion.  As the sisters are brought back together, their utopia can be more fully realized. “Nature’s resources would be expended without depletion, exchanged without labor, freely given, exempt from masculine transactions: enjoyment without a fee, well-being without pain, pleasure without possession” (Irigaray 197). Laura and Lizzie have placed themselves outside the control of the masculine system; however they have not abolished it. They may be able to save themselves as well as each other, but their children will have to fight for themselves.

The poems ends with a restoration of the patriarchal system as the sisters grow old and become wives and mothers, albeit men are absent in the text. Their children, who are sexless, are told to honor sisterhood, “for there is no friend like a sister” (Rossetti, 562). While the concept of sisterhood is supportive and comforting, it is a continuity of patriarchy. Although women can save each other, they cannot change the system that endangers them. Laura and Lizzie can therefore only hope that the ideals of sisterhood and warnings of the goblin men will prevent their children from falling victim to patriarchy.

The ending of the poem seems to be detached from the earlier sequences. The diction of the poem changes as well as the goblin fruits that were initially described as “sweeter than honey from the rock/ stronger than man-rejoicing wine/ clearer than water flowed that juice” (129-31). They now become “like honey to the throat/but poison in the blood” (554-55). The illusory pleasure and sensual nature of the fruits has been realized. This transition from fantasy into reality also brings a restoration of order. Rossetti appears to imagine a world in which sisterhood triumphs over patriarchy, however the ending in which Lizzie and Laura submit to the order by marriage and procreation, subverts Rossetti’s utopia into sheer intangibility of sole hopefulness. Sisterhood can triumph over patriarchy, but only temporarily—it cannot sustain it.

Sisterhood functions in Goblin Market as a way for women to save one another from the code of patriarchy. Women can disable masculine oppression, but only temporarily. While Laura and Lizzie are able to be victorious over the goblin men, their feat has no causality of change for their condition. Instead of fostering the new society which Irigaray envisions, the sisters reincorporate themselves into patriarchal society, thus allowing the system to persist

Female “Self-Love”- The New Trend in Pop Culture

28 Feb

Love her or hate her, Miley Cyrus has a knack at pinpointing things in the Zeitgeist and turning them into worldwide trends.

A scantily clad Miley Cyrus on stage in LA, hand on crotch

After making twerking so popular that it found its way into the Oxford dictionary, she debuted a racy video for her new song, “Adore You,” in which she rolls around while making masturbatory gestures.

But Cyrus isn’t the only celebrity giving new meaning to the term “self love.” A couple of months ago, Rihanna was spotted wearing a T-shirt saying ‘D.I.Y.’

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Yup, female masturbation is having a another pop culture moment and it’s about time. Still, men tend to have it easier—films such as There’s Something About MaryAmerican Pie, and Don Jon depict it as natural and necessary—and it remains something of a taboo for women.

Which is precisely why provocation-hungry celebs are eager to talk about it. But unlike the riotous, feminist rock stars of the ’80s—such as Blondie and Madonna, who simulated masturbation during performances of “Like a Virgin”—modern provocateurs are presenting self-service as an intimate practice. Instead of seeking out the male gaze, it seems like they’re building an allegiance with womankind. After all, isn’t masturbation social class, age, race, and marital status agnostic?

The shift that has appeared is largely based around an absence of the man: take for example Janet Jackson’s Take Care, where she sings: “I’ll lay here and take care of it ’til you come home to me.” For Jackson, masturbation is a bookmark. The Divinyls’ I Touch Myself– a pro-masturbation anthem if ever there was one – contains the line: “I’d get down on my knees, I’d do anything for you.” When it came out in 1990 it was intrepid. But the song is just as much about giving pleasure as getting it.

In a 2011 interview with CNN, Kathleen Hanna, feminist leader of Bikini Kill and now the Julie Ruin, questioned the purpose of Katy Perry’s sexual presentation on Perry’s 2008 debut single I Kissed A Girl. “The whole thing is like, ‘I kissed a girl so my boyfriend could masturbate about it later,’ said Hanna. “It’s disgusting. It’s exactly every male fantasy of fake lesbian porn.”

Considered alongside a line from the new essay collection by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Is It My Body? – “The body’s not theirs anymore,” she writes of rock stars. “It’s a public domain and public perception” – the discussion over whom a woman’s pleasure serves seems more relevant than ever.

“Masturbation is true girl power,” says Karley Sciortino, editor of the unapologetic, pro-sex website Slutever. Sciortino believes the current trend was influenced by  groups of young underground women artists who “use their bodies to make sense of their identity.” She also predicts that modern feminism will continue to encourage body reappropriation, and thinks that “discussing masturbation is an important step of this process.”

Delphine Gaudy, co-founder of hip Parisian, women-centric sex shop Dollhouse says part of our disconnect from proper sexual identity is that women usually first encounter porn that wasn’t intended for them—or, as she puts it, images that are “projections of male fantasies onto women.” But the landscape is changing. And instead of selling ultra-phallic shapes, Gaudy stocks her shop with pocketsize gadgets in fun colors intended for “yourself only.”

Personally, I’m pumped artists are bringing awareness and acceptance to a practice that was once seen as shameful (although their ways of alluding to such might not be the best, but hey it’s something right?!).

1200 Calories? What Fitness Advice for Women Leaves Out Compared to Men’s

20 Feb

Like myself, Sophie is sassy, and seemingly alarmed by how women and men are targeted differently (and wrongly) by fitness gurus and media alike. Check out her awesome post in its entirety, but here’s a snip-it…

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I don’t know why “1200” managed to be the magic number of calories women should consume if they want to lose weight.

I don’t even know how I know of this number. Only that I know it, and my friends know it, and my mom knows it. Somehow, somewhere along the road, I was taught that if I want to have a flat stomach and tight tushy, I need to limit my calories to 1200 a day and do cardio. I don’t know how it got in to all of our collective brains, but somehow it did (if any ladies remember how or when they first heard the 1200-calorie rule-of-thumb for losing weight, please let me know via comment box).

What I do know is that 1200 is the general number of calories health professionals say women cannot drop below without suffering negative health consequences.

Interesting, isn’t it? 1200 calories. The…

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Russian Coach Says Women Shouldn’t Ski Jump Because It Distracts Them From Housework

27 Jan

“Women have another purpose — to have children, to do housework, to create hearth and home,” Alexander Arefyev said.

Russia’s men’s ski jump coach says he is against women’s ski jumping and believes women’s job is to be homemakers and give birth.

“I admit, I’m not a fan of women’s ski jumping,” Alexander Arefyev said in an interview with the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia Monday. “It’s a pretty difficult sport with a high risk of injury. If a man gets a serious injury, it’s still not fatal, but for women it could end much more seriously.

“If I had a daughter, I’d never let her jump — it’s too much hard labor. Women have another purpose — to have children, to do housework, to create hearth and home,” he added.

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What does this say to our children? Children have no practical use for gender, and the sooner adults conceptualize this in full and choose, to end it an the tradition of promoting behaviors that are only relevant to caricatures of sexualized hetero-normativity, we will finally produce superior kinds of people who who lack the vapid gendered thinking that permeates so much of our lives today.

Nurturing children to be skilled and curious, and by ignoring their sexual organs, we offer the lesson that their worth is determined by what they know and by how they treat each other based on individual merit, and not by gender contribution. The world would be improved as a result, and you would be a rock star parent.

 

Beyoncé Redefines Perfection, Sex, and Flawlessness

17 Jan

Beyoncé has been constantly working toward perfection her entire life. She reminds the listener of this frequently over the course of her newest album, BEYONCÉ, with audio clips from her youth, when she competed in pageants and talent shows. She uses this device best as the prelude to “Flawless,” a reworked and expanded version of a song she released earlier this year as “Bow Down/I Been On.” In just four minutes, “Flawless” shifts from a Hit-Boy produced banger celebrating her competitive drive, to an excerpt from a TED Talk by Nigerian feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about how society places limits on the ambitions of women, to a final sequence in which Bey both mocks the idea of effortless beauty and exhorts her female fans to love the way they look.

“I woke up like this, I woke up like this,” she sings with a wink just before delivering the line, “We flawless, ladies tell ‘em!” with zero irony whatsoever. There are a lot of ideas packed into this relatively brief song, and they don’t all add up, but the conflicts in “Flawless” inform everything else on the album.

BEYONCÉ is the work of an artist who is doing her best to make sense of her role as a feminist pop icon, and working out a way to have a positive influence on culture without apologizing for or disowning anything she’s ever done. She’s putting the idea of flawlessness in scare quotes, and attempting to demystify herself so fans can recalibrate their expectations for themselves and envision a form of perfection that’s within their reach.

She’s asking women to be beautiful on their terms, and for themselves. She’s framing ambition and the will to succeed as a greater virtue than simply seeking the attention of men. She’s declaring that women should not be ashamed of loving sex, and asserting that they should be as open about their desires as men. These ideas have always been big part of Beyoncé’s music, but “Flawless” revises and clarifies those thoughts. BEYONCÉ at large is a manifesto in the form of a stylish, creatively adventurous, and resolutely adult R&B record.