Tag Archives: Feminism

Yes, I will March…

Yes, I will march for:

  1. To stand for equality.
  2. The belief in the goodness of democracy built on freedom of speech.
  3. Any person feeling disenfranchised.
  4. A promise of education as a cornerstone for excellence and societal progress.
  5. Ensuring Americans access to voting.
  6. The voice of three million voters not factored into the outcome of the election.

Yes, I will march in protest of:

  1. Glorifying a bully.
  2. Discussions of race narrowly construed in terms of criminality.
  3. Framing an entire religion as an enemy.
  4. Dismissing the seriousness of sexual assault.
  5. Reducing the worth of a woman to a scale of attractiveness.
  6. Ignoring science and its important contribution to evaluating environmental policy.
  7. Encouraging shouts of jailing a political opponent.
  8. Building walls.
  9. Calling the profession of journalism fake.
  10. Not disclosing tax returns so that the public can be informed of conflicts of interest.
  11. Painting America as a dystopia.

 


I Feminist

I do not hate men.

I do not wish to eclipse the achievements of men.

 

I strive to become the best version of myself.

I delight in thinking, creating, and participating.

 

I refuse to give any credibility to the belief that the female body into which I was born is evidence of a diminished capacity to thrive.

I rebuke claims regarding what characteristics and wants I ought to embody because I am woman.

 

I will not apologize for my emotions as though they are a deficiency of character rather than a healthy expression of being.

I will not classify strength as merely an exertion of might.

 

I stand with women of all economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

I stand with men who know that love and care are more important than masculine posturing, a prescription weighing down authentic enjoyment.

 

I long for a society that values contributions of heart and mind in equal measure and respects existence as such instead of determining one’s role on the basis of body.

I long for the peace, the space, the dignity to inquire about the world, reflect, and unravel my potential without the damning cultural echo: “Just a girl.”

 

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On Harassment

Harassment has everything to do with the character of the perpetrator, not the person on the receiving end.  It is an action reeking of contempt and misplaced assumption about power.

How did Trump reply when asked if his daughter were to be in such a situation? “I would like to think she’d find another career or find another company if that was the case.”

To clarify, his son, Eric Trump added, “I think what he is saying is that Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman; she wouldn’t allow herself to be.”

Allow herself to be?

This struck a nerve with me, a nerve I’d buried and forgotten.  Until now.

On two occasions in my career I’ve been caught off guard by inappropriate and sexually suggestive behavior while at work.  Both times I was alone in my office.  Both times the person was of a higher rank and older.  Both times I was paralyzed with a running loop of ICan’tBelieveThisIsHappening racing in my mind.  Both times I was embarrassed.  Both times I walked away in a daze wondering how I’d pull off getting back to work.

I did not allow this behavior.  I’m about as flirtatious as a brick and my attire is a degree less conservative than a Mormon fundamentalist.  But even if I had the appeal of a Samantha Jones or Sofia Vergara, harassment could not possibly be justified or described as relevant to the person being harassed because it does not stem from them.  The action belongs to the perpetrator.

Harassment is uninvited.  In fact, that’s pretty much the central nature to harassment.

On a rational level I know that I did nothing wrong; nevertheless I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I left my office both times feeling shame and contemplating what I had done to make the men believe that was okay.  Now, after reading about Trump Inc’s position on the subject I see why.  I’m wrapped up in a culture where the woman’s actions and credibility are called into question as a matter of course.

Deep down, I absorbed the lie of victim-blaming.  And this is the unfortunate truth despite the fact that I know better, that I’m a Ph.D., a vocal feminist, and a proud Beauvoirian.

If you’re perplexed as to why I didn’t say anything, the only response I can offer: I was in a state of complete shock.

I imagine other women, all the unreported cases, have a similar narrative: alone, no witnesses, not another career to run to, a perpetrator with a higher standing.

Note: another career wouldn’t make sense for me because

1) I love my job

2) See number 1.

So, on behalf of any person who has been bullied, harassed, or belittled for gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and/or race, I’d like to say:

Fuck you, Trump and son, for suggesting we are not strong, powerful, or should look for another career.

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Happiness hinges on Gender Roles? That old Chestnut

 

The anti-feminist and self-proclaimed marriage guru, Suzanne Venker wrote a column for Fox News regarding the status of marriage.  She asserts in the title that marriage is not a relationship of equals: “To Be Happy, We Must Admit Women and Men are not ‘Equal.'”

Nor should it be, according to Venker. Thus, one might gather, marriage ought to be an inherently asymmetrical relation…for the sake of “happy.” Venker miserably attempts to avoid that asymmetrical inference with: “Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical or interchangeable.”

The problem according to the author? Feminism destroys marriage. She writes: “Today, men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what.”

Like what, pray tell me. Should I announce at the beginning of my next university lecture: “Ladies, I know you are equal, but you are not equal here. I realize you wanted to become an engineer, a philosopher, a historian; however, this confuses things. Your value is of a different sort. This endeavor will ruin your potential for happiness and marital bliss. University is for men since their role is to…um…do anything other than your role.”

And if a female student quips: “But I’m happy here.” Shall I reply: “Shhh, dear.  See a doctor and get a prescription for a tranquilizer. You needn’t fret about a career.”

And if another female student says: “But I want to earn money.”  Shall I reply: “Oh, sweet fragile being, your role is not to earn money.  Ladies marry money.”

Then once they exit, I too must collect my things and say: “I’ve misappropriated my talent by earning a PhD and daring to stand before you fine male students with knowledge to dispense.  I thought I was happy but apparently I would be happier if I acted natural, and I’ll research how to be natural right away.  So, I will go now.  I’m not sure if anyone else is available to teach you at the moment, but that can’t be my concern.  Bye!”

Let me be blunt. This shit (excuse me) thinking needs to stop. It is not tradition. It is not a “natural” condition.

The notion that woman is not man’s equal is the underscoring reason perpetuating abuse, violence, gendercide, the attempt on Malala Yousafzai’s life, “mansplaining,” and the non-violent yet serious issue of less pay for women, to name a few.

Venker enthusiasts might chant: But that’s not what is meant here! Women should be cared for and put on a pedestal!

And, I ask, what happens when they don’t do as they are told?

To claim that marriage is not among equals is to also claim that women are less than men. There is no circumventing that connection. Venker tried as much by stating that women need to appreciate their “role,” but that simply fails to diffuse the essence of the claim.  I suspect the topic of same-sex marriage renders her completely perplexed.

She hearkens back to the mythical time when men were in charge and the dynamics of marriage offered more for women. Women were the winners in that scenario, right? After all they could focus on pleasing their husband by keeping house and cooking instead of the pesky task of earning money or developing talent.

Unless you consider the massive uptick in pharmaceuticals for the “happy” housewives in the 50s.* Or the alcoholism. Or the assumption that women did not work. Are minority women included in this dreamy 1950s picture?

To buoy her position, she paints a dismal picture of the current culture treating women as equals by referencing the Costa Concordia Ship crash (2012) and contrasting it with the fatal sinking of the Titanic. On the Titanic, during a time when women were “rightly” treated as non-equals, the disaster protocol was “women and children first off the ship.” As a result only 103 of the nearly 1,400 passengers who died were women, Venker notes.

However, with the feminist agenda and a pro-equal policy, more chaos ensued on the Costa Concordia.

Aside from being completely absurd, this piece of evidence lacks a strong (or even a minor) causal connection. When the Titanic was sinking there were only about a dozen people privy to that information. In fact, few survivors reported having felt any sort of impact with the iceberg. By direct order, the ship commenced with evacuating slowly and calmly to prevent panic. Because people were not entirely aware their life faced a serious danger, they boarded the life boats without haste, leaving some nearly empty. Surely the “unsinkable” ship couldn’t sink!

In contrast, the Costa Concordia’s passengers were overwrought with panic. “The ship hit rocks, creating a huge gash in the hull and forcing the evacuation” (The Guardian). Of course, that would force a behavior resulting in a by-pass of conventional pleasantries. (Note the devastating Boston Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942.)

Venker’s evidence regarding problems with equality rest on a rather murky foundation and an awkward scare tactic. For example, other causal factors are more likely to explain the difference in evacuation. Because feminism exists, it does not follow that women died on the Costa Concordia as a result. Venker’s ability to thread a causal connection is about as strong as me announcing: “Every time I wash my car it rains the next day.” While that has unfortunately been true, I couldn’t conclude that the act of washing my car caused the rain.

Venker clings to the notion of gender roles and disputes the concept of social construction. Her evidence? “We know little girls love their dolls and boys just want to kick that ball.”

This does not prove a “natural tendency.” Who provides these toys?  What happens when a boy plays with a doll?  When a girl kicks a ball?  Are they encouraged? In fact, her example lends itself to the exact position she wishes to strike down, namely the possibility of learned behavior. What one “likes” or gravitates towards can be attributed to environment and condition. Don’t believe me? Pull out your seventh grade school picture, take a look at your stylish outfit and do, and reminisce on what was “cool” at the time (or rad or groovy). Still think environment has nothing to do with what you are drawn to?

For the record, let’s review what is “natural,” shall we?

Thinking, creativity, and the desire to play (be it music, sports, or logic puzzles). These are aspects of the human condition, and to dismiss, stifle, or infringe one’s expression of these is wrong.

To tell any human being they are less than another human being based on the body into which they were born is wrong.

To tell any human being they are destined to serve another human being based on the body into which they were born is wrong.

 

 

* From ‘Mother’s Little Helper’: The Crisis of Psychoanalysis and the Milton Resolution by Jonathan Metzl. “Emphasis on the Valium craze of the 1970s, however, has caused many scholars to overlook the 1950s as a decade in which key links were forged between ‘mothers’ and psychopharmacological medications….Thanks to psychopharmacology, ‘emotional’ problems could be cured simply by visiting a doctor, obtaining a prescription and taking a pill. Invariably, these problems ranged from a woman’s frigidity, to a bride’s uncertainty, to a wife’s infidelity. The predominance of such conditions suggest how psychopharmaceuticals came of age in a post-war consumer culture intimately concerned with the role of mothers in maintaining individual and communal peace of mind. As a result, the 1950s set precedents connecting women and psychopharmaceuticals that lay the foundation for Mother’s Little Helpers in the decades to come.”


Feminist? But but but!

 

Confused Individual: Come on. Feminist? You?

Me: Yep. Feminist. Me

CI: But you’re not (whispers) a lesbian?

Me: (whispers) Nope.

CI: But you don’t hate men?

Me: Nope.

CI: But you shave your legs.

Me: Yep.

CI: But you clean your home. Confess! I’ve seen you with a Swiffer.

Me: Yep. I have a thing against dust.

CI: But you respect your friends who have chosen to be stay at home moms.

Me: Yep. They’re awesome, loving, and wonderful women who work hard.

CI: But you don’t keep a copy of The Feminine Mystique by your bed to read and highlight every night.

Me: Nope. Actually, I’m partial to detective stories. There are other books on feminism, by the way. Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Carol Gilligan…

CI: Huh?

Me: Never mind.

CI: But I know you sometimes watch FOX.

Me: Yep. I have a sense of humor.

CI: But you’re not angry all the time.

Me: Nope.

CI: But you wear make-up!

Me: Yep.

CI: But you wear uncomfortable shoes!

Me: Unfortunately.

CI: But you teach Aristotle, and he thought women were underdeveloped men.

Me: Yep. Even Aristotle made mistakes.

CI: But then how can you be a feminist? You obviously don’t share any of the characteristics of Feminists.

Me: Feminism is the advocacy of equality, of treating people as human beings first and foremost, and that one’s potential for flourishing ought not to be stifled by prejudice based on the body into which one was born.

CI: But, when you put it that way…um…well, that makes sense.

Me: Yep.

 

Your misconceptions displease me.

 


Heavy Thoughts: Women’s Issues Are Human Issues

“We are governed not by armies and police but by ideas.”  Mona Caird, 1892.

Catherine Mackinnon, professor of law, wrote a provocative essay “Rape, Genocide, and Women’s Human Rights” examining the nature of what is legally deemed a human rights violation.  In time of war it is well documented that rape becomes a method of terror.  The perpetrators of this systematic terror are not held accountable for this because rape is not classified as a crime against humanity.  Mackinnon points out that if soldiers were to march from village to village and cut off the arms of civilians then that would be a crime against humanity–and rightfully so.  She writes:

“What is done to women is either too specific to women to be seen as human or too generic to human beings to be seen as specific to women.  Atrocities committed against women are either too human to fit the notion of female or too female to fit the notion of human.”

What is the reason for leaving rape out of a legal discourse as a human rights violation?  Is it because the act of cutting off arms is identified as impacting all people whereas the raping of women during wartime as a method for attacking the “enemy” only physically impacts one gender?  How much do women count?  She continues:

“This problem is particularly severe for women’s human rights because women are typically raped not by governments but by what are called individual men.  The government just does nothing about it.  This may be tantamount to being raped by the state, but it is legally seen as ‘private,’ therefore not as a human rights violation….When men sit in rooms, being states, they are largely being men.  They protect each other; they identify with each other; they try not to limit each other in ways they themselves do not want to be limited.  In other words, they do not represent women.”

At the heart of the matter I am wondering if the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby didn’t succumb to some of the same problematic thinking.  I realize the issue is not of the same magnitude as rape during wartime, but I’m not looking to the actualization of the actions; rather, I am questioning the underscoring point of view that may contain a similarity.

The Supreme Court carefully stated that while Hobby Lobby was exempt from providing coverage for four types of birth control due to “belief,” this could not translate into a company opting to withhold blood transfusions based on belief.  What is the difference?  First, let’s examine the essence of the belief.

Those opposing blood transfusions are basing this on the belief that it is a means of consuming another’s body (or one’s own in the case of receiving one’s own blood).  This hinges on an interpretation of the Bible stating that one must not consume another.  That is, people abiding by this interpretation believe the taking of a person’s blood falls into that category. This belief, and I’m not advocating for it, is not something that can be “proven” false, which is primarily what makes it a belief and not a fact.  Yet, it is a serious and deeply held belief, but not serious enough for the Supreme Court to consider as protected.  Why not exactly?  (I’m being rhetorical, please note.)

On the other hand, birth control acting as an abortion is not a belief, even though it is characterized as such in the ruling.  It is, rather, a false claim.  One can prove it is untrue.  Please read this insightful blog post for a thorough understanding by Defeating the Dragons.  Abortion by definition ends a pregnancy, but the contraceptions in question prevent a pregnancy.  That little tidbit is apparently unimportant, as the ruling made the effort to acknowledge that Hobby Lobby’s and thereby the court’s decision was not based on medical facts.

Is there a parallel here between Mackinnon’s concern for how crimes against humanity come to “count” as crimes?  Notice the act of cutting off arms impacts both genders as would the withholding of a blood transfusion.  Men, the ones making the laws, can identify with that.  They “get it.”

The desire to not be pregnant (one of the health issues) only physically impacts women, and it has been decided is not worthy of being protected legally.

But “Belief” should be protected!  Well, then, why not the belief about blood transfusions?  Although, as previously stated there is a stark difference here, for that does qualify as a belief whereas the other, contraceptions as abortions, amounts to a false claim.  Note the quote below that demonstrates what is called a straw-man fallacy; namely, the position is reframed from its original claim and then argued against.

Nonsense with an audience is dangerous.

Nonsense with an audience is dangerous.

In this case, keep in mind that Americans never argued for abortion inducing medications; moreover, the “medication” is misnamed here (as abortion inducing), and its actual functions are not mentioned.  This also mistakes a company’s role with respect to insurance, but that topic can be for another day.

 Click here for more information on the medical reality of contraception.

The quality of an action or law hinges on the quality of the idea initiating said action or law.  For example, if I wave to someone who is far away (the wave being the action), and then the person approaching turns out to be a stranger instead of my friend, I realize my wave is silly because the idea (that I knew the person) supporting it was erroneous .

To put another way, a boat may have the best navigation plan, but I don’t want to be on it if the captain believes the world is flat.  In both instances, the hand wave and a navigation plan cannot hold much weight because the foundational ideas are shaky.  Something of this nature actually happened with the Titanic.  A series of bizarre decisions were made (not enough life boats, going faster, a nearby ship could have responded to the Titanic’s distress signal and saved everyone but decided not to, the look-out was without binoculars), and they teetered on the idea or false belief that the Titanic was unsinkable.  We know how that turned out.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to belief as such or religious practice.  My concern is twofold: issues pertaining specifically to women are not held in the same esteem as issues relating to men, and that we now find it acceptable to create a law based on a false claim, which thereby threatens the value of the law.

 

 


A Simple Claim, A Major Assumption

My ears perked up and I set my coffee mug down when I heard the following claim thrown into a discussion  over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare):

Young people don’t need insurance.  Barring an accident like skiing or being attacked by a panda, they don’t get sick.

Normally, my coffee and I are inseparable especially in the morning.  This means the comment not only alarmed me intellectually but also got in the way of me enjoying my coffee and that is just annoying.

I don’t wish to indulge in the debate itself; however I would like to bracket this claim.  I’ve heard the comment about three times now and it forces my eyebrows to knit my forehead into premature wrinkling.  Rather than reach for the anti-aging moisturizer I’ve decided to blog.

There is something missing and assumed in the claim.  Do you see it?

In the 1940’s, philosopher Simone de Beauvoir rocked the establishment with her publication The Second Sex.  The central thread to this work evolved around the notion that normal and human were equated with man.  Woman, in contrast, was “other.”  I dare not delve into a lengthy thesis here, but I would be remiss to not mention that her writings delighted me and forged an impression that underscores some of my views.  She is my “Spidey-sense,” if you will: my “Beauvoirian-sense.”

Back to the claim that elicited my Beauvoirian-sense: Who are these “young people” not needing insurance?  Who are the youth involved in dangerous activity that might rush them to hospital?  Close your eyes and try to envision the “young” person of which the naysayers speak?

Do you picture a young man?

Again, my intention is not to debate the pros and cons of Obamacare, but only to examine the implication of this claim, for I believe it thoughtlessly casts aside the realities of women’s health.  The unsaid assumption is that the “young” are men, and it reeks of the very sort of thinking Beauvoir tackled in the 1940’s.  Women are not part of the equation in the claim.  They are “other.”  The “norm” is the young man who never gets sick.

It is quite possible that women’s health, upkeep, exams, and everything that has to do with her “parts” is simply unfamiliar.  Women themselves don’t exactly share stories about doctor visits.  It’s all hush hush.  One doesn’t announce, “I need the afternoon off because I’m going for my pap” quite the same way one freely says “I’m going to the dentist for a cleaning.”

Women do go to the doctor and not necessarily because they are sick.  From the age of 21 to 30, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend a woman sees a doctor every year for an exam (pap smear and pelvic).  These exams detect the early stages of cervical cancer.

Aside from these exams, do you notice anything else about young women with respect to seeing a doctor?

If women are pregnant then they usually seek medical attention.  If women do not want to get pregnant then they visit a doctor for birth control which requires a prescription and regular examinations.  In addition, birth control is sometimes prescribed for other health reasons such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Gentlemen, maybe you did not see a doctor in your youth but that cannot be the standard of measurement for all people.  If we view “youth” to include young women, then the answer is a resounding “Yes” to the question of whether or not they see a doctor.

Where are women’s voices in this debate?  The medical community?  The Gynecologists? Please feel free to comment and share below.


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