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.