Monday, November 16, 2009

To Wear or Not to Wear?: The Debate Surrounding Niqabs and Burkas

There is an interesting debate going on in Canada about whether to ban the wearing of burkas and niqabs.

According to, the Muslim Canadian Congress is lobbying to end the wearing of these garments because members feel it is a tradition meant to oppress women and can be a security risk as women must conceal their identity.

However, this article also explains that many of the wearers like to wear the modest apparel and feel that it allows them to avoid being looked as sexual objects by men. Jennifer Gilbert, 26, is quoted: “The very idea of knowing that no matter what part of my body shows it creates disgusting things in men's heads made me that much more sure of my decision.”

Many also argue that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows for religious expression in such ways.

This is definitely a tricky situation. On the one hand, it is important for a democratic society to allow individuals to freely express their beliefs. On the other hand, it is evident that concealing most of one’s face could become a security risk and the question of whether a woman is being forced to wear a niqab or a burka also lingers.

The first step may be to question the reasoning behind wearing these garments. It is problematic for some women, like Jennifer Gilbert, to think that all men look at all women in sexual ways. Certainly, this is not always the case.

Still, if a woman wants to dress in a certain way, who is to hold her back? The real questions are does this woman really want to dress this way and does she face punishment if she doesn’t?

This might just be an area that the law cannot touch unless these garments are considered security risks. Just as one may argue that these garments oppress women, another may argue that these garments allow women to exercise their freedom of expression.

The one thing that is for sure is that it will be interesting to see how this all unfolds.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill: The Modern Great Purge

Although I had heard from a friend last week about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that Uganda is currently considering, it was not until just now that I really read up on it.

According to the news post on IPS, this bill would not only make homosexuality illegal, it would make homosexuality punishable by death in some cases and life sentences in all others, punish homosexual supporters, and force family members, friends, teachers, and all other people to report suspicion of homosexuality (sounds like a repeat of Stalin’s Great Purge to me—how does one prove homosexuality?). This bill also criminalizes any help given to homosexuals (medically and educationally), therefore, it refuses homosexuals basic human rights.

What is additionally upsetting to me, as an American, is that this bill began as a result of a group of U.S. fundamentalist Christians berating homosexuality as a “threat to ‘family values’” at an event in Kampala. I do hope that these groups understand the effects their words will have on many, many lives; I also personally hold these individuals partially guilty for what is going to happen (mass murders of homosexuals and heterosexuals who are “turned in to” authorities). I cannot imagine this group had no idea what their claims would result in.

What is further terrifying is that this bill crosses country lines as Ugandans anywhere can face punishment.

While this started as a result of a concern for family values (apparently homosexuals cannot have children and therefore, the family ideal is destroyed), the bill in itself is a threat to families everywhere. First of all, forcing family members to oust each other to authorities for homosexual behavior (excuse me, suspicion of homosexual behavior) doesn’t necessarily promote a healthy family dynamic. Secondly, as in America and elsewhere, there are numerous examples of healthy families that include homosexual individuals—both homosexual parents and parents parenting homosexuals (and why do we need examples anyway? Shouldn’t this be common sense by now?). A bill such as this then does not protect families but, rather, is a threat to Ugandan families. In this way, it is a threat to all families everywhere and to all homosexuals everywhere (this destructive mentality is as contagious as H1N1).

Please check in for updates. It is important to remain knowledgeable and to lend support when and where possible.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cosmetics and Science: Connecting Women and Animals

The way women are treated and the way animals are treated are intricately connected. It seems that in order to better the position of women, it is also important to consider the treatment of other and all beings as well.

After reading Lori Gruens article, “Dismantling Oppressions: An Analysis of the Connection Between Women and Animals,” I realized just how closely the treatment of women and animals are linked.

One major way that this connection is perpetuated in our society is in the dressing up of women. Through magazines, movies, and television, women are told how to act and look. This can frequently invole women covering their bodies in products that cause harm to animals.

For example, women are often told via advertising and other media that they must wear makeup. Many of these marketed cosmetics are tested on animals and as a result, force animals to undergo very harmful procedures. After the animals bodies have been used and abused during tests often performed by white men, they are killed and tossed away.

Where the real connection between animals and women comes in is that women are told to wear makeup because it pleases men. Therefore, the pain that animals undergo for cosmetics and the conditioning of women to wear the cosmetics are costs that are made to please men.

Furthermore, the fact that men own most corporations that market women’s products and that science is mainly driven by men drives the connection forward. In order to change the way women are treated and judged, it is necessary to also understand the effects hierarchies have on other facets (animals and nature) of life as well.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

“Dirty laundry keeps women busy”; The Corporate Cold Wash

On the inside label of enjoi shirts, even before the washing directons, there says: “Dirty laundry keeps women busy.” Although this message is harmful to any and everyone who reads it, the fact that these shirts are targeted for adolescent and young adult boys is particularly frightening.

These messages that enforce traditional and damaging gender roles can be found anywhere; one needs only to turn on TV and watch for 30 seconds to prove this. Perhaps the new Reebok commercial will flash on in which the focus of the commercial (and the camera) is the buttocks of a woman. Is this really necessary? Will beer only sell if it objectifies women and conditions men to treat them in this way? And even so, is it okay for corporations to become morally bankrupt just to increase sales?

The close connection between marketing and objectifying women while hyper sexualizing men is a larger problem than many want to acknowledge or admit. Because this connection is evidently marketed to very young individuals, there holds little hope for the future as far as the freedoms and treatment of women and men.

In the instance of the enjoi labels, the narrowing down of women to the domestic sphere is completely unnecessary; I would imagine this to be true even for their sales. Since the label is inside of the shirt and away from the visibility of the buyer, it certainly doesn’t seem like it would affect sales either way. However, what it does affect is the many women who are continuously being pressured to perform in particular ways because of these messages.

Furthermore, if people are buying these shirts and supporting the companies—despite whether he or she knows about the label on the inside of the shirt—it is unlikely that these messages will change. For big corporations, little else matters other than sales. It is important to know what we are buying and to make sure we agree with any and ALL the messages the companies sends out. If the sales are not affected, these harmful messages will continue.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Domestic Violence Increase with Packers' Loss

I am particularly worried about the Packer vs. Viking games that is on right now. While I tend to take on a disinterested attitude towards sports all together, a connection between the Packers and domestic violence that I recently found has forced my interest in this game.

Although the correlation between domestic violence increases and the Packers losing football games has been mentioned briefly on a few websites such as flyertalk and jsonline (it has been noted that the increase is at a 50% rate) no official statistic has been reported. In an effort to verify this connection, I called the local police who confirmed a connection but had no specific stat to offer.

I can’t help but wonder if the efforts that the Packers have made in the last few years to combat domestic abuse is a confirmation of this connection. On a Packers blog, I found that Verizon Wireless and the Packers first teamed up in 2001 to fundraise for domestic abuse organizations. In another blog, I found that the combined efforts will continue until 2013.

I think that these efforts are very important; by supporting domestic abuse efforts to stop violence and publicly talking about it (like the three hour discussion about Hopeline that took place on Lambeau field today before the games started), Wisconsin’s increasing domestic abuse will hopefully come to a halt and begin to decrease.

Still, it is important for everyone to take responsibility for domestic violence, not just major corporations like Verizon and the Packers. We must continue to talk about these issues and support victims and shelters.

As the Viking vs. Packer game is coming to an end, please remember the connection between domestic violence and lost packers games. We must all be advocates for those who may be in an abusive relationship.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Seventeen Magazine: Linking Transgendered to the Perverse

In the October issue of Seventeen Magazine, one of the cover stories portrays transgendered individuals very negatively. Although Seventeen is not necessarily known for positively representing the queer community, the way this article is edited is especially upsetting

In this article, Sheri shares the story of her first love in which she found out that her boyfriend “Derek” was actually a biological female. The story as told by her is somewhat neutral. While she does explain that she was upset when she found out she had been lied to for their entire relationship (and who wouldn’t be initially upset?), she does say that if he had just told her the truth, she would have stayed with him.

The way that the story was edited, however, both misrepresents and degrades the transgendered community. First, on the cover of the magazine, the headline reads “True Life Drama: ‘My Boyfriend Turned Out to Be a GIRL!” Although this Derek may be biologically female, this does not make him a girl. In the actual article, Sheri explains that Derek identifies as a man. By labeling in this way, Seventeen ignores the fact that gender is different from sex.

Also, at the bottom of the article, Seventeen provided other instances of “Total Betrayal.” These experiences include a “pervert” and a “druggie.” The way the article and this blurb are set up together, it is evident that Seventeen is relating transgendered individuals with these negative concepts.

In dramatizing this story in a way that gives transgendered people a negative depiction, Seventeen changes the meaning of this individual’s story. Rather than emphasize the unequal and unfair lives of a transgendered person, Seventeen adds to the hurt that this community undergoes on a daily basis. Also, since the audience of Seventeen is young women, stories like this negatively influence the way the readers will perceive transgendered people.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rethinking the Menstrual Burden: Ugandan Girls' Menstrual Cycles

If you think menstruation is a burden on the typical American woman, think about the burden it puts on young Ugandan girls.

In an IPS article titled “UGANDA: Lifting Silence on Menstruation to Keep Girls in School,” Joshua Kyalimpa exposes the over-complicated situation surrounding Ugandan girls and their menstrual cycles.

This article explains that there may be a correlation between the Ugandan girls’ menstrual cycles and school dropout rates. Many young girls in Uganda lack the emotional, physical, and financial support to deal with their menstrual cycles.

Sanitary pads prove to be too expensive for many of these girls, and the fact that the beginning of their menstrual cycles is an indication of their readiness for marriage leave the girls little help from members of their families and community. Thus, it is believed that many of these girls must drop out of school after they begin menstruating because they must find money to buy sanitary pads or are being forced to marry.

It is disturbing that menstruation for many of these girls means the end of their adolescence and education. While there are current tax waivers for sanitary pads, the stress this puts on these young girls is not enough.

The Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is working to ends the silence surrounding these issues. They have already helped lower the prices of sanitary pads and now want the government to pay for sanity pads for females in primary schools.

Until the decision is made to help pay for these Ugandan girls’ needs, it is important to support these girls. After doing some research, I found that you can make a 5 dollar donation to Afri-Pads; this organization sends menstrual kits to Ugandan girls in need.

You can also help by following the stories surrounding these issues on websites like IPS, AllAfrica, and FAWE’s homepage.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Female Independence and the NEED to Hook-Up Jennifer Aniston

An interesting article came out of OK magazine yesterday: “Experts Analyze Jennifer Aniston’s Love Life.” It appears many people are set on finding Aniston’s next man. Apparent dating “experts” from Patti Stanger of the Millionaire Matchmaker, author Andrea Syrtash, radio host Patrick Meagher, and Jennifer Armstrong of all provided their best advice for Aniston.

While Meagher made a joke out of the situation, both Stanger and Syrtash pinpointed an exact type of guy that would be good Aniston. Armstrong was the only one to offer the possibility that Aniston can and should have control over her own dating life.

Why is it that so many Americans are invested in finding Aniston’s next beau? Why do so many people feel unsettled by Aniston’s single status?

The stigma of successful and single women runs rampant in our society. The idea of a woman having complete independence from men (both financially and sexually) is still frightening to many; thus this thinking that it is only right for women like Aniston to be with a man.

Furthermore, the fact that Aniston, whose relationship with Brad Pitt was once the epitome of a happy, successful, heterosexual couple, is now single also seems to frighten many people. The OK article cites PopEater’s finding that “over 270,000 people, according to Google, still search for ‘Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt together’ each month.”

The inability to let go of the Aniston-Pitt pairing reveals the need for many people to have is once considered perfect model of dating back. This perpetuates the idea that Aniston should be dating a man and as well as the idea that the ideal relationship is between two financially successful, idealistically beautiful, and heterosexual couple.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Balloon Hoax Reveals Abuse Reality

I am hardly surprised that the Heene family balloon incident has been found to be a hoax. For the last week, this story has made many headlines and now the two parents, Richard and Mayumi, may be facing felony charges after Falcon, the child supposedly floating away in the balloon, unintentionally revealed the scam. It also appears that the police officers working on this case are concerned for safety of Mayumi and her children: “Records show that police have responded to the house at least twice in the past year, including a possible domestic violence incident in February." (NPR News).

After seeing the Heene family on the ABC Reality television show Wife Swap, I am surprised that Richard has not already faced charges for domestic abuse. I clearly remember him having major anger management problems on the show and throwing multiple tantrums over minor problems. I also remember his wife, Mayumi, defending her husband and making excuses for him. Perhaps this explains why she still refuses to go to a safe house even after officials have recommended such action (NPR News).

Unfortunately, this sounds like the reality of many women and children who are facing domestic abuse. Many women experiencing domestic abuse are reluctant to leave their situation and find help; this puts both themselves and other members of the household at risk of experiencing ongoing abuse.

The really sad part is that police officers recognize how dangerous Richard is, thus their attempts at persuading Mayumi to leave the house with her children. However, as NPR explains, “[Police officers] have a concern, but [they] didn’t have enough that would allow [them] or child protective services to physically take the kids from that environment.”

When the only way for children to be removed from an abusive environment is to wait until there is physical evidence of it, there is something seriously wrong with our criminal justice system. Shouldn't we be working to prevent domestic abuse before it even happens?

There may be a silver lining to this familial hoax after all; with all the attention paid to the family, it is perhaps less likely that the children and/or the wife will have to experience abuse from their father and husband as both Richard and Mayumi will now be facing charges.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Rock You Like a Hurricane"

While working at the Writing Center in our new Breese Hall location this week, the song “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by the Scorpions was blaring from the hallway. Wow, is 80s rock ever catchy! I sat there, tapping my foot and singing the lyrics in my head, excited about hearing a song that I haven’t heard in a while.

It was not long before I got sick of the song, however, for a few reasons. First, any song that is put on repeat can get annoying, especially a song by the Scorpions. Second, I actually wanted to get some work done in the Writing Center. But the main reason I got annoyed with the song is because I actually started listening to the lyrics. Lines like “The bitch is hungry, She needs to tell, So give her inches, And feed her well”, “The wolf is hungry, He runs to show, He’s licking his lips, He’s reading to win, On the hunt tonight, For love at first sting” and, of course, the chorus “Here I am, rock you like a hurricane” are all very offensive to women. The entire song encourages the representation of women as prey, being hunted by masculine predators.

It’s a bit horrifying to think about many of the 80s rock bands’ lyrical messages. While it is common to hear lyrics that objectify women and promote an ultra-masculinity in genres such as rap and pop, it’s a bit unsettling to think of many 80s songs doing quite the same thing.

This instance brought to my attention that the devaluation of women and violent representations of masculinity is really everywhere, not just rap lyrics and action movies. It is important to be aware of the messages we are receiving and to think about the lyrics and not just getting wrapped up in catchy beats.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gender-Dumb Graduate Applications

I was very disappointed in some of my prospective graduate schools for their insensitivity on their applications. Two of the schools that I am applying to require you to list your gender; the options they provide are “male” or “female.” Since I deliberately chose these schools for their progressive attitudes, I was shocked by their wording and limited options.

If they are asking for an individual’s biological sex that may possibly be answered with “male” or “female,” they should ask for “sex” and not “gender.” Also, why are the only options “male” and “female”? I would at least expect them to have the option of “other” listed; but even listing “other” as opposed to “male” or “female” is off-putting.

I don’t even really understand why schools need to know your gender or sex before you apply. I do understand that statistical information is nice to have, but why can’t this information be collected after the applicant is accepted? I think that not indicating a gender or sex allows for the focus to be the actual application, not on how an applicant will make the university look statistically.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Randy Moss Sports Pink!

In a WEEI blog post this week, Randy Moss of the New England Patriots showed his support for Breast Cancer Awareness. He explained that there was some controversy over whether wearing pink was threatening to the traditional notion of masculinity, but he was proud to support the color nonetheless.

He thanked Reebok for supporting Breast Cancer Awareness and for providing the players with the pink attire, but stated that teams sponsored by Nike did not wear pink. As Moss explains, “everybody wanted to wear pink” but some were unable to because Nike was not able to supply pink attire.

It’s good to hear that Randy Moss was excited to wear pink as a sign of support despite the controversies and to see many players sporting pink during Sunday’s games. However, it is disappointing to hear that ANY man would not be willing to support pink because of its feminine tie. It’s about time that these men give up their standardized masculine ideals. Sporting pink and supporting Breast Cancer Awareness will not turn a man into a woman or even lessen their masculinity.

It’s terribly unfortunate that Nike could not supply teams with pink attire. It’s about time that men like Randy Moss and more companies like Reebok that are active parts of considered masculine sports take a supportive stance on women’s issues and do away with the pink stigma.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Update on UWO's New Childcare Facility Proposal

This semester I have been gathering information regarding the proposal for UWO to buy Lincoln school and possibly use as the new childcare facility. My interest in this project began in a Gender Equity Council meeting. It has been suggested that a new childcare facility in a location such as Lincoln school would provide more space for children slightly off campus; this means that the center would be more convenient for guardians to drop off and pick-up as parking would not be as bad. This also means that the facility can be somewhat to itself, rather than in the center of campus.

After meeting with Sandy Kust of the current Children’s Learning & Care Center, it was clear that there is definite excitement about this possibility. While their current location is workable, the Lincoln school would allow the facility to expand and take in more children. Usually, the current facility receives so many requests for childcare that there is a waiting list for infants and toddlers. This puts strains on guardians, especially students who are also mothers, as other childcare facilities tend to be more costly and inconvenient. Extra space would provide more room for extra children and more jobs for more students; presently, there are 70 student workers at the Children’s Learning & Care Center.

In the meeting with Vice Chancellor Petra Roter, she explained that the proposed land is not zoned for commercial business, but it is zoned for institutional development. This means that the supposed proposal by McDonalds, KFC, and Taco Bell to outbid UWO for the Lincoln school is unlikely. While it is unsure as to what exactly UWO would do with the property (there are proposals for the child care center, health care center, and other academic interests), she ensured me that UWO is doing everything possible to secure the area; as of now, we must all sit and wait.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Masculine Side of Michelle Obama: Take No Prisoners!

Michelle Obama is breaking a lot of norms these days! Even though she is still referred to as “the first lady,” which is a bit condescending considering that she is defined solely on her husband’s position rather than her own, she has been taking a more aggressive position on getting the Olympics 2016 to be held in Chicago.

In an interview with CNN, she stated, “It’s a battle—we’re going to win—take no prisoners.” This forceful stance can surely be taken as a more masculine one; I appreciate her willingness to take charge.

Her independence was also noted in this interview. Referring the joint work she is doing with her husband on this project, she joked, “We're not going to do a joint poem together.” The first lady is taking a step to equalize while separating herself from her husband, what a progressive move!

Thanks Michelle!

To see the CNN article, go here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pornography: a sure way to be turned OFF!

This week I saw the movie The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality & Relationships. This movie explored the dangers of pornography and the effects it has on society. I was frightened to find out that the future of pornography is violence. The movie inferred that the watchers of pornography replicate the same acts they see in these pornographic films, pictures, etc. This means that men are learning to have sex with women in dominate, unnatural, and often violent manners. There is then a cyclical reaction. As men begin to have sex with women in these disturbing ways, women learn to be treated in these ways. Women begin to exert their femininity by allowing their sexual partners to dominate and abuse them.

After the film, I was thankful for an answer. Pornography has always disturbed me, but I didn’t understand how or why because it is often not talked about. In the rare instance that I could talk to friends about pornography, I found that most women didn’t care that their partners were avid watchers. It wasn’t that they liked it, but they just accepted it, saying that it is “men’s nature” that “makes” them so sexually driven and as a result, needing pornography. I wasn’t satisfied with this answer, but I didn’t have the support of those around me to help me figure out why. This movie gave me more of an answer than I expected. Although I was both saddened and terrified by the movie, it offered a bigger perspective on the pornographic world and the effects it has on its viewers.

I challenge men to rethink how they treat their feminine partners during intercourse; I also challenge women to relearn their worth and to not let men treat them this way. I encourage everyone to boycott pornography and to stop this violent cycle today!

To get more information about the movie, go here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Playing With Princesses VS. Being Hit In The Nuts!

We all know how popular celebrities’ babies are. I vaguely recall Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt selling their baby pictures to People Magazine for an estimated $14 million. Wow . . . I hope those babies were worth it!

But with this popularity comes a dire question: What stereotypes are celebrities reinforcing with their attitudes towards their own babies?

In a recent “Celebrity Baby Blog,” Matt Damon shared the different experiences dads have with young girls versus boys. He explained that because he is a father of three young girls he is constantly “playing princesses.” How cute, right? However, he has quite a different experience when he visits his brother who his two young boys. Damon states, “I walk in the front door, and I instantly get punched in the nuts.” He goes on to explain the reason for these very different experiences: “I mean, boys and girls are just different.”

I have to say, I was a bit shocked by his simple reasoning. Can Damon really be naive enough to think that there is something essentially different about “boys” and “girls”? I would like to know if he ever asked his girls about their play preferences. I am guessing not. I’m sure if he did, he might be surprised to find that his young daughters might very well want to hit him in the nuts too.

To read the celebrity blog, go here.