Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Big or Beautiful

In American culture today, we are obsessed with fat. We like to cook with it, we try to loose it, and some of us try to gain it. Radio stations like PBS warn us about the raising obesity rates, especially among American children. TV is filled with ideas about fat. There are tons of TV shows that surround the idea of being fat. There's shows like The Biggest Looser, and Dace Your Ass Off that show case large people and their struggle to lose weight. ABC Family just launched their new summer sires Huge staring Nikki Blonsky, from Hairspray. Huge takes place at Camp Victory, a camp designed to help overweight teens get healthy. The catch comes when the star of the show, Willamina (Nikki Blonsky) declares that she doesn't want to lose weight but gain it. Why should she have to change herself when she likes who she is?
This show offers a very different perspective on body perception and what makes a person beautiful. I watched the season premiere of this show last Tuesday, and was really impressed. TV has never addressed fat like this. We get a look into the lives and feelings of very overweight teens, and start to understand "fat" a little better. One female camper post pictures of fashion models and titles them as "Thinspriation." We are always encouraged to be thin. The media, and fashion magazine use models that tend to be stick thin as their spokes person or representative. We idolize thinness, and look down upon fat. I think this show will be an extremely good look into America's perception of beauty, and how people perceive themselves.

CR Groups

Before the second wave movement, women were had become isolated. There was not a lot of discussion happening about women’s oppression and position in society, but that soon changed. Radical Feminists in particular adopted the practice of hosting Consciousness Raising Groups, or as the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (CWLU) refers them, CR Groups. CR Groups consist of a group of women and a topic. Women come together and discuss things like their role in the family or workplace, or even about political issues like abortion. The idea behind CR groups is to get women talking to each other, and break away from isolation.

CWLU hopes to inspire discussions about “the ideas and actions that helped women liberate each other from oppressive beliefs and old social habits.” CWLU encourages women everywhere to start talking. They eve have a FQA section for college students, and a list of colleges that have already started chapters of their own. I think it would be great if JMU started their own form of CR Groups. Our school is mostly made up of female students, and I think we could come up with some really great topics to discuss. JMU is a great school, and I love coming here, but even in some of my classes I feel that I’m being treated differently because I am a woman.

I think starting CR Groups at college campus would benefit a lot of women. As educated women discussing topics like Career vs. Family Responsibilities would be extremely beneficial.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 in Massachusetts. By the age of three Anthony could read, and was well versed in her love of learning. Anthony was extremely bright, and was one of the most active women suffragettes. She met Cady Stanton in 1851, and ever since then was a forerunner for the Women's Right Movement. She traveled around the United States giving speeches and protesting for Women's Rights. She was arrested in 1872 because she refused to pay the free the street car. She said she was protesting at the government's expensive. She was found guilty, and was fined $100, which of course she refused to pay.
One reason why I chose to write about Anthony was her versatility and dedication. Anthony was not just a suffragette. She was a school teacher, an abolitionist, and writer. She used all of her talents to gian equal rights for all, not just women. While doing some reading on her, I found this quote, and I think it describes the whole attitude of the First Wave. She said, "Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences." To me this quote means a lot, and I found it quite reliant to some of today's issues like Gay marriage.
A recent Supreme Court case questioned the public's ability to have access to the names of the people who signed a petition against gay marriage. People who signed this petition were afraid of "intimidation" and did not want their names released. However, the court ruled against keeping the names privet. They signed a public petition and the rest of the nation has a right see that petition names and all.
Like Anthony said, if you believe in something you have to fight for it regardless of social discrimination, and I have to agree. If you want to make a change you have to be willing to stand for it publicly, and that is exactly what Anthony, and other suffragettes did.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We Can Do It!

It wasn't until 1976 that women became a part of the army. After that year women were integrated into non-combat units and were officially members of the US Army. This means that if I wanted to join the army 34 years ago they could have turned me because I am a woman. What ever happened to Rosie the Riveter and her inspiring catch phrase? No we couldn't!
Today women in the army still face many obstacles. Monica Lin Brown an 18-year-old army medic was awarded the Silver Star in 2008. Brown was awarded this honor because she used her own body to shield wounded men while they were under fire. However, there was a lot controversy surrounding this award. Many people believed that the only reason she received this medal was because she was a woman. Including members of her own unit. Some people believed that if she had been a man and done the same thing then she would not have been given the medal. She would simply have been doing her duty. She is only the second woman to receive this honor.
I believe that Brown deserved this reward regardless of the fact that she was a women. At the time of the incident Brown only had 4 months of training and was the only medic on scene, and she was only 18. I think these three factors add to Brown's heroic deed. However in this video one of the men she saved was quoted to say that "women have no business being on the front line." Clearly there is still some animosity in the army related to women soldiers.

Here is the link that will show you an interview with Brown and some of the men who believe Brown received the medal because she was a woman.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To be a Feminist or Not to be a Feminist?

I always saw myself as a strong and independent women, but after I dated for the first time I was shocked to discover how traditional I was. I felt that I had to cater to him and his interest. I found myself downloading his favorite bands, and reading his Twitter Posts. (I am extremely adverse to twitter). He never asked me to do any of these things, but I felt like in order to be a "good" girlfriend I should take an interests in what he likes regardless of whether or not I liked the things he did. I found myself agreeing with him even if I thought he was wrong. After a few months we went our separate ways, and I looked back on our relationship and was horrified with myself. Twitter really? Why did I do those things, and why did I not speak up for my beliefs?

After some soul searching I realized that I was the one monitoring my own behavior. After years of watching Disney, I subconsciously acted passively and never challenge his thoughts. I realized that I was the one repressing myself. I acctually believed that I had to be passive in order to be liked. This was a big eye opener to me, and I realized the long term effect of my Disney and Chick-flick addiction. I don't blame the media for my lack of self-confidence, but that was the image I had in my head. I just forgot that those movies aren't real. I still feel embarrassed about how juvenile my beliefs were, but at the same time it made me realize how important Feminism is.
Being a Feminist doesn't mean you have to be marching up the steps of the capital screaming for equal pay, (although if you do that's great!), it means standing up for yourself.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Boys will Be Boys and Girls will be Girls

When I was little, I used to play with the boys next store. One day while we were playing dress-up in my basement, we thought it would be funny if we all dressed as members of the opposite sex! Digging through my dress-up boxes I quickly discovered a pair of black pants with a matching black top. I tucked my hair into a cap and put on a green vest. My neighbors found some of my old dresses complete with lace frilling around the edges and put them on. They continued to accessorize with some kitten heals and strands of plastic pearls. Giggling ferociously, we went to find our parents. They boys shuffling in their over sized shoes, while I kept trying to shove my unruly hair back under neath my cap. Finlly arriving in the kitchen we found our parents smiling from ear to ear. I can't remember exactly what their reaction was, but I do remember the sound of boisterous laughter. I think it was my neighbor who took the picture. Two boys in blue and green dressed standing next to a girl in a pants vest combo ages 8-12 all dressed in drag and completely happy.
I still smile when I look at this picture, and at the three beeming faces, but I wonder how happy our parents would be if we had been just a few years older. What if my neighbors were 13 and 14 year old boys who were trying on their neighbors dress? Would they have been so quick to pull out the camera?
Gender roles in America are pretty straight forward. Young boys are tough, mischievous, and active. While young girls are cute, charming, and little. Grils have tea parties while boys play monster trucks. But what about the little boys that play with Easy Bake Ovens, or the girls that want Hot Wheels for Christmas instead of Malibu Barbie? Does that make them any less of a boy or a girl?
No. The little girl is still a girl, but we might call her a tom boy, and the little boy is still a boy we might call him confused, yet what happens when they grow up? Suddenly the girl is butch, and the boy is effeminate.
Our society says that boys should be this way and girls should be that way. This is the way Americans have constructed our gender identity. Gender is not a concrete idea, in fact every culture has its own ideas about what is masculine and feminine. In Japan the famous tea ceremonies were only conducted by men until the late 1800's before the country began to welcome western influence. It was considered a very masculine job, and only male members of the higher class could enjoy. Nothing is inherently masculine or feminine, it is societies influences that tend to push aspects of life like work, looks, dress, and costumes to be associated with gender.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is Women's Studies?

Well to be honest, I'm still not completely sure that we can define exactly what Women's Studies is. It's not like Physics, history, or even English. It can't be broken down into digestible bits, which can be repeated, calculated, and recycled. Women's Studies is ephemeral, and with each new generation the content of Women's Studies changes. For example, they way the world looked at women in the 1800's is very different from the way the world viewed women in the 1950's. Women's Studies tries to examine the "experiences that recognize women's achievements, and addresses women's status in society." In other words, Women's Studies explores what women do, and have done. Each new achivemnt adds another faset to the genre of Women's Studies. If we're trying to understand women of the 19th century we would study aspects like, clothing, traditions, and family, but if we were trying to study women in the 21st century we'd have to study different aspects of life like the influence of technology, and the media on women's life. In order to learn about women, we need to explore the environments women lived or live in. Women's Studies is not about feminism and the "wrongs of men." It really is the study of women. Sure feminism is a big part of Women's Studies, and so are the oppressive male figures of the past and present, but the point that I am trying to make is that Women's Studies is not a judgment or a venting place for radical feminists. It is simply the study of women and their accomplishments.