Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Freedom and Personal Liberties

(In response to the discussion on liberty in class, and how women in different countries view their personal liberties.)

I have always felt that liberty has more to do with freedom of choice, than specific freedoms concerning clothing ect. If someone wants to wear a headscarf, or if they want to lay out in public in a bikini, it should be their CHOICE to do so. The freedom of it lies in their ability to choose which they would prefer and then be act to act upon that choice. I believe that the lack of liberty found in some Third world nations lies in the women’s inability to choose their apparel. Those who can choose and decide to wear the head scarves – power to you. The liberty of America can be found in the “pursuit of happiness” slogan, Americans have the freedom, regardless of gender, to do what they need to (within limits) in order to be happy and feel safe. If the headscarves make the afghan women happy and safe, then they should do what makes them happy. If they wear them out of fear of punishment or because they are legally forced to do so, then that represents a lack of liberty.

hegemonic masculinity rxn paper

Feminist theorizing must at some point identify its place in relation to hegemonic masculinity, as it is typically the same behaviors that reinforce hegemonic masculinity that subvert women. However, just as complex as feminist theory is, so too is hegemonic masculinity. The comparison of two different works on the subject reveals its complexity, as well as its social and theoretical relevance.
The documentary Tough Guise focuses on the representation of hegemonic masculinity in the media and how that leads to a slew of social problems. The news media’s lack of recognition of how violence is significantly gendered is one way in which it reinforces strong messages of masculinity. The reporting how many women were raped eludes the emphasis and consequently examination of the men who were actively committing sexual assault. In entertainment, hegemonic masculinity is represented in such a way to promote images of huge, threatening male bodies, the glamorization of weapons, and a lack of sensitivity which is depicted as weakness. By promoting these depictions in film and sports, young men especially feel encouraged to bring to life these models in order to gain respect from their peers and the community.
The essay Hegemonic Masculinity interprets masculinity in a far more complicated light. For example, the relationship between masculinity and violence is actually more intricate. Men are propelled towards violence and crime not because of instilled values of masculinity but, “through the pursuit of hegemony,” which adds more depth and insight to the concept of hegemonic masculinity. Also the relationship between the reproduction of the masculine image and actual links to power and dominance are seemingly more complex as well. Those who embody what society esteems to be masculine representations are not the same as, “those men (who are) identified by researchers as hegemonic.” Tough gang members may earn respect on the street, but they are hardly the ones in our society who control substantial power and influence. These contemplations add layers of depth that both answer and raise questions and concerns about how men are motivated and compelled to fit the mold of hegemonic masculinity.
Both works are fundamentally important to understanding and relating concepts of hegemonic masculinity to pragmatic society and feminist theorizing. While portrayals such as Tough Guise may oversimplify the masculinity, it does address possibly the most relevant social concern of masculinity which is the enormous proportion of violent crimes committed by men and potential ways in which they could be reduced. But at the same time, it is also important to critically analyze the multiple factors that go into the formation of hegemonic masculinity in the first place. Theory and social action are enriched when working complementarily of each other.

Hegemonic Masc. Throughout Life

Hegemonic masculinity is displayed throughout our lives creating subconscious ideas of how a man should behave. At the gym I was able to find an example of the hegemonic masculinity that is persistent in daily life. It was a flyer entitled “Enhancing Male Body Image” that taught men to “be assertive” when others speak about their body image. It speaks of confronting men who speak about a man’s body image negatively. An example of this is when they are called names such as “sissy” or Wimp”. The suggestion to be assertive when a man’s body is challenged is an example of how men are encouraged to defend themselves when their masculinity is challenged. One sees how action is encouraged for men when they are mocked and why there are large rates of violence in men. The standards in place create high standards for men to live up to making men go to extreme lengths to achieve the high standards.
In the movie Tough Guise the extreme act of male violence is discussed, pointing out how men utilize many methods to achieve hegemonic masculinity. It clarifies the problems that accompany our social standards that men feel pressure to follow, showing the need to end the hierarchy of gender based on high, often unattainable, characteristics. From the reading “Hegemonic Masculinity”, I drew the conclusion that within society there is hegemonic masculinity but everyone has their own idea of what it is. Hegemonic masculinity is created during a child’s development through the checking of gender that occurs and the images they are exposed to at a young age. I saw the checking of hegemonic masculinity while teaching preschool, when a boy told another boy during a game of dress up that he was unable to wear both high heels and a space pack. These words created a gender check of the situation explaining that boys who wear space packs do not wear high heels, and more importantly, that a boy who wears high heels does not play with the other boys but with the girls. Hegemonic masculinity asserts itself in most situations, instilling certain ideas in men, causing them to try to achieve hegemonic masculinity by any means necessary. Ultimately, men are looking for the validation of another man. They wish to be recognized as masculine and that they have achieved hegemonic masculinity.

Monday, May 07, 2007

hand maid's tale rxn paper

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale certainly offers insight on issues relating to women’s subjugation, but a well versed reader can not help but notice the undertones which comment on Atwood’s feminist contemporaries. It seems to serve as a premonition for any type of radical movement, especially for ones that claim to serve the interests of women, be it on the left or on the right.
By illustrating the horrors of a society that has leaned so far that it has fallen into the radical religious right, Atwood also puts into question the morality of radical feminism. Catherine McKinnon’s crusade against sexualized violence led her into a much criticized alliance with the religious right. Tactics that McKinnon and other radical feminists proposed for helping women curbed freedom of speech and expression in order to limit pornography. That combined with Offred’s feminist mother burning books, are scarily similar to the totalitarian tactics used in the Republic of Gilead, which also supposedly protect women from violence. Instead, they do this by severely restricting women’s freedoms, as well as men’s accessibility to them.
In the context of the novel the feminist approach had failed to stop the eroticism of dominance and sexual violence. The failure made room for the conservative backlash, which protected women by removing sexuality from dominance. The mechanical act of the Ceremony demonstrates how it is possible for women to be oppressed through sexuality without dominance or submission or anything sexy (though dominance and submission do still certainly exist). Atwood’s critique of McKinnon and radical feminism is not scathing; it merely shows its possible dangers as well as its wholes.
Disability is also a pervasive motif throughout the novel. In the Republic of Gilead, environment factors have caused infertility in men and women, though only women bare the consequences. Disability theory shows how not being able to conform to physical gender expectation, i.e. by not giving birth, women considered defective non-women. Thus this “disability” (even if it is the man who is disabled/infertile) causes women to lose their status as women, and thus as persons and they are consequently sent to die in the colonies. Even when pregnancy results in live birth, deformed infants known as schredders are sent away and presumably euthanized. This shows how obsolete the notion of disability is, especially when environmental factors practically make it a norm.
Patricia C. Collins’ literature also has a place in analysis. The rulers of Gilead use a complex social system of race and gender to create a hierarchy of subordination and domination for the women of Gilead – with the privileged white Wives working alongside the stigmatized possibly black Marthas, who work together to control the bodies and sexuality of the Handmaids.
Twenty years after its publication, The Handmaid’s Tale still serves as a reminder to avoid any type of totalitarian action regardless of the philosophy it backs up. It is also concerning because of the ever-growing power of the religious right, who gear their activism towards denying women reproductive freedom, as evident by the symbolic illegalization of “partial birth” abortions. Today, perhaps the greatest message we can take away from the novel is “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Is freedom relative? Analyzing FGD

In class for the past few weeks we have been discussing freedom, in its application to both Western and Third World Countries. Furthermore, we discussed how freedom is different from women based on geographical location. I find that although this may be true in some situations (such as dress), it cannot always be applied to traditions "valued" in a society. The traditional practice of female genital mutilation (FDM) comes to mind. FGM is the predominately African custom in which females (as young as 4 years old) engage in a ceremonial process that results in the removal of part, or all of the genitilia. The procedure may refer to clitoridectomy (removal of the clitoris), excision (removal of the labia minora), or infibulation (removal of the clitoris, labia minora and majora, and stitching together to form a small hole). A female is held down by older women (either the town elder, a traditional midwife or a healer) with her legs open and the incision is done with the use of broken glass, a tin lid, scissors or a razor blade, often without the use of a local anesthetic. (I apologize for the graphics, I just want to get my point across fully). Immediate complications that result from the procedure include hemorrhage, shock due to intolerable and prolonged pain, infection, tetanus and retention of urine. Later complications involve difficult and painful urination, urinary infections resulting from debris collecting, a damming up of menstrual blood and inclusion cysts. At marriage, the infibulation MUST be torn, stretched or cut open by the bridegroom, and then prevented from healing shut. This agonizingly painful procedure may take weeks or even months to complete. Giving birth is quite dangerous due to the inelasticity of her infibulation scar. An estimated 135 million females have undergone female genital mutilation in their lifetime and approximately two million girls a year are at risk of mutilation. So clearly, this is a horrible practice as it has LIFETHREATENING effects on females that have undergone the practice, so why is practiced? While all Muslims do not find the tradition to be a religious tradition specified in the Koran, Muslims of strict Islamic observance believe that a woman should be “circumcised” in order to follow the example of the faith’s prophet, Mohammed, who they believed favored sunnah circumcision (circumcision necessary to preserve tradition and honor). Many Women who are not circumsized are shunned by society and live in fear. For example, during the Muslim month of Ramadan, Muslim men do not accept food from an uncircumcised Muslim woman and she will not be allowed to pray in a mosque. There are even more extreme views, “Leaving a girl uncircumcised endangers both her and her baby. If the baby’s head touches the uncut clitoris during birth, the baby will born hydrocephalic. The milk of the mother will become poisonous."
If this practice is immoral on the basis of a universal set of ethics not traditions, How does one reconcile women rights as a universal value while recognizing culture? How and when is it just to impose one’s (Western) beliefs and system of morals upon another culture? On what grounds are diverse cultures valid?


I love this poem by Adrienne Rich, probably because its science related and reminds me of Vera Rubin (this amazing astronomer I met who discovered dark mass). Astronomy is a very discriminating field that does not easily accept women into its research and study. Anyways, this poem is about the astronomer Caroline Herschel who discovered eight comets. When she was 10 she had typhus, stunting her growth; because of her malformation her father advised her that she would never marry and would live her life as an "old maid". She never ended up marrying and was one of the first women recognized for a scientific position, she received pension from King George III, the Gold Medal of Science from the King of Prussia and numerous presitigious awards.

by Adrienne Rich

A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them

a woman ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled
like us
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
ribs chilled
in those spaces of the mind

An eye,

‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
from the mad webs of Uranusborg

encountering the NOVA

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

Tycho whispering at last
‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse
pouring in from Taurus

I am bombarded yet I stand

I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep
so invo-luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me
And has taken
I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lessons through generations

One of my favorite readings this semester was Uma Narayan’s Contesting Cultures. I enjoyed it very much because of how much it related to my own life. I especially liked her discussion about mother-daughter relationships. My mother and I get along very well; she is one of the closest friends I have. However, as I grow older I can see more contradictions in the way she raised me, as Narayan described. For instance, she is very supportive of my academic pursuits. In some ways, she has made my goal to become a lawyer hers as well, through her constant support and encouragement. She wants me to learn all I can in college, allowing me to venture to D.C. and giving me my independence instead of keeping me near home. It is as Narayan claimed, “Both our mothers and our mother-cultures give us all sorts of contradictory messages, encouraging their daughters to be confident, impudent, self-assertive, and achieving, even as they attempt to instill conformity, decorum, and silence, seemingly oblivious to these contradictions.” My mother teaches me to be strong and independent.

At the same time though, she unconsciously instills the passive characteristics of Asian culture in me. By innocently telling me how she asks my father before making any major decision, she is establishing the ideas of patriarchy in my mind. I understand and take to heart all her lessons on respect for my elders, but how to balance my quiet docility with the freethinking independence I’m supposed to live by?

These questions lead me to think about how I will raise my daughter. Will I emphasize heavier on Western ideals or refer to the Eastern principles of my parents? I have been raised with a mix of two; I can only imagine that the generation after me will receive a even more diluted upbringing. I am often confused by the two forces in my life, I’m not sure which one I’m more predisposed to and how they will carry through to my adulthood. As I mentioned in class, luckily this hypothetical daughter is a long way off.

Anzaldúa & Rushin: Identities

Everyone possesses multiple identities, whether those involve one’s position in a family, work place, age group, social environment, etc. These identities can act as fluid markers depending on the context, add to the complexity of individuals, as well as present difficulties to a person when separate identities clash. When one is classified as the product of a plurality of races, the tension that often can arise from conflict of identities is tremendously augmented. Gloria Anzaldúa’s La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness addresses the unique and distressing position of those with a combination of Spanish, Native American, African, and Anglo roots. She describes the uncomfortable position of both men and women labeled mestiza, and the need for a mestiza consciousness fixed upon the concept of inclusivity and acceptance. Anzaldúa addresses the need to require equal treatment from the men of same unique racial makeup, and the necessity of creating a fresh definition of masculinity within this new consciousness as well. She posits that the creation of this consciousness cannot come without an acceptance of the tensions, contradictions, and ambivalences which mark the unique identities of those like Anzaldúa, including the recognition of past and present injustices inflicted by/upon such people. “We can no longer blame you [oppressors], nor disown the white parts, the male parts, the pathological parts, the queer parts, the vulnerable parts” (386). Her work shares some paramount concepts with black feminist writers. The issue of identity multiplicity is very integral to Black Feminism, given the continuing conflict of whether to unite with men of color or predominantly white feminists in order to fight subjugation. The distinctive intersection of race and gender is considered home to many. To Anzaldúa this space is the called “Borderlands”; to Donna Kate Rushin, it is a “Bridge.” Anzaldúa’s Borderlands poem demonstrates the alienation, invisibility, and vulnerability which accompany the mestiza experience. Her assertion that survival entails “being a crossroads” certainly parallels the idea of multiple identities creating a bridge for others to tread on, as put forth in Donna Kate Rushin’s Bridge Poem. She denounces this kind of bridging of identities because she must first build a bridge to her “true self” in order to be “useful”, much in the same way that Anzaldúa recognizes the need to internally accept the plurality of identities in a mestiza. Both women shed light on the extreme pressure to explain themselves, externally and internally, and their continually contradictory and conflicting personal and cultural histories.

The Bridge Poem

Another interesting poem we discussed was the Bridge Poem by Donna Kate Rushin. I remember my initial reaction was feeling a little repelled. Her wording was very strong and I felt as if she was bragging about carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. I was especially skeptical about the excerpt

I am sick/Of having to remind you/To breathe/Before you suffocate/Your own fool self

I mentioned this to the group and we had a discussion about whether she was arrogant or rightfully proud of what she has done.

In the end my mind was changed as we concluded that she was indeed bearing a heavy burden. Her poem reflected the frustration she felt over being alone and the sole bridge. At the conclusion, she decided the most important bridge she could build is the one to her true self. If venting her anger in this poem counted as the first step, I don't see it as arrogance at all.

Lines you can't cross

Looking back at the semester, one discussion particularly stands out to me. We had just read Anzaldua's poem the Borderlands and someone had commented about the dangers of rigidity. Anzaldua's poem referred to an internal conflict within herself about her mixed identity, as well as external problems with the way people perceived her. Our group discussed the dangers of drawing too many lines between people. I believe that these categories and labels only serve to divide us further into even more little niches and cliques. Another problem is people are forced to identify with one "prime" identity- whether it be young, old, heterosexual, lesbian, white, black...these divisive lines make it difficult for people to be themselves. We are byproducts of many factors and characteristics but the groups society makes for us force us to repress all in favor of one.

Elaboration on Tough Guise

Ninety-nine percent of the time when I introduce myself as a women’s studies major, I face the same three responses.

“Uh-oh, you must REALLY hate men.”
“Oh so are you a crazy feminist?”
“Hey, where’s the men’s studies?”

The last comment, usually quipped by some guy trying to be cute and witty, actually underlines a problem that the film “Tough Guise” highlights. Though men are considered the “dominant” gender group, they are growing increasingly invisible, enabled unconsciously by our society. For instance, news headlines do not say “Man killed wife,” but rather make the woman the subject of discourse by announcing “Woman murdered by husband.”

The invisibility of men can be attributed to their majority status as it is the norm. For instance, the film listed categories such as race. My mind immediately reverted to African, Asian, Latina. Never did I think Caucasian, because they are the majority. Their actions, thoughts, and beliefs are thus considered the norm and free from observation, which becomes a great danger.

I was very struck by this phenomenon that the film brought up. I love women’s studies and have accepted that we are indeed the “minority” gender. However, I had never realized how powerful this implication was for men. Because of this, men as the majority group are allowed to slide under the radar. Thus the cheeky question actually has some validity- where is the men’s studies? Connell’s article on masculinity is a start. By examining hegemonic masculinities, we can explore a lot of what creates the typical image of a “manly man” and begin to understand the roots of many problems.

Studies such as Connell’s become even more important with the invisibility of men. We need to study men just as we study women, especially if men’s majority status allows them to slide by. For instance, “Tough Guise” often brought up the need for young boys to act tough and macho. This leads to violence, as numerous statistics show the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by males. Connell also elaborates on this danger, citing the relationship between hegemony and force.

If men have the protective shield of invisibility, granted by their dominant status, I am in full support of a men’s studies programs. Perhaps even men don’t understand what makes them who they are. Women’s studies has certainly taught me a lot about being a woman and opened up another level of understanding to me. I believe men could benefit from the same. Traditionally, soul searching and discussions over identity has been scorned by men but perhaps this is what we need. Connell sums it up with, “The cure lies in taking a consistently relational approach to gender- not in abandoning the concepts of gender of masculinity.” An even more radical idea could be studying men and women in relevance to one another instead of separating the sphere. A better understanding of ourselves would benefit all sides.

Women vs. Women

The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a long time. Until I came to complete this reaction paper, I had no idea that it was written even before I was born. As I read the novel, I could see so many issues prevalent to today’s society. However, now I can also see the debates over feminist theory of that time.

One of the most interesting points was the classification of women. Through these, Atwood highlights some important debate in feminism. There are the Handmaids, such as the narrator Offred. As the story progresses, we’re introduced to more Handmaids, such as Ofwarren and Ofglen, all without proper names and only considered an extension of the male they belong to. Offred describes herself as nothing but shell hiding a core. For instance, Handmaids are denied lotion as their outer appearance is meaningless; they’re only used for their fertility. This brings into question the worth of women- are we nothing but baby producing machines?

In the Republic of Gilead, women are prevented from reading and making choices. There’s a sense of women subjugating women, as the Wives hold sway over the Handmaids. For instance, Offred often mentions how Serena Joy passively emphasizes her power over her, such as barring the door and refusing her entrance until she pleases. Also, the Marthas dictate Offred’s physical wellbeing by feeding and washing her. The Aunts hold power over the Handmaids as well, reshaping them mentally. However, none of these classes of females have any liking or respect for each other. They are in a constant battle and struggle against each other, trying to keep their own heads above water.

In a way, this relates to feminist issues today. One of the problems with feminism today is the gaps in our movement. Whether they’re caused by age, social class, or race, there are many divisive factors that hold back the women’s movement. Often, it is said that women are the ones hurting their own cause. This can be seen in the Handmaid’s Tale. Though the Commander was the highest in the hierarchy, he was actually very passive. He was even kind to Offred, giving her hand lotion and spending time with her. It was actually Serena Joy and the other women who kept Offred suppressed. In this sense, it is a shame that women are actually the ones who uphold the hierarchy of oppression.

This also relates to issues dating even farther back. The lack of unity amongst females has been a prevalent issue; even Simone de Beauvoir mentioned it in The Second Sex in 1949. She concluded that the division is because “…women lack concrete means for organizing themselves into a unity which can stand face to face with the correlative unit. They have no past, no history, no religion of their own.” Classically, women have had trouble uniting and fighting as a cohesive group. Their division further hurts the movement when they become the sources of other women’s suppression.

Classifications and distribution of roles, divisions amongst the feminist movement and women hurting women has been an issue that’s been passed down through time. Unfortunately, this is not the type of inheritance we want to leave behind for our daughters. Hopefully in time, a solution will be reached and when themes such as these make their way into literature, we can rightfully call them history, and nothing more.

Excerpt of Reaction Paper on Gloria Anzaldua

Gloria Anzaldua’s poem “Borderlands,” highlights a concept of identity that is becoming more and more relevant each day as the world grows smaller. In particular, Anzaldua speaks of the difficulties that come with being a part of the intersection of multiple cultures, races, and languages. Yet, she also briefly brings up the idea of being “both woman and man, neither—a new gender.” The role of this statement in the poem is ambiguous. Through these words, does Anzaldua mean to convey how having to be “the forerunner of a new race” feels as impossible as having to be the forerunner of a new gender would be? Or, is Anzaldua saying that the border between female and male is yet another blurred line for her that makes her identity something that she has trouble with? It is quite probable that she means both, though either way her poem clearly embraces borders of all types.

Thoughts on MacKinnon

According to MacKinnon “all women live in sexual objectification the way fish live in water” (171), an idea that comes through pretty strong in the aboutface website’s criticism of “the offenders” in the ‘gallery of offenders.’ In fact, for years, I have been taught to hate the media because of the “sexual objectification” of women that is central to most advertisements. Yet, while looking through the gallery, I couldn’t help but feel that some criticisms may be a bit too harsh. There is no doubt that women are sexually objectified and much more prominent in advertisements than men, but when male models are depicted, they too, are sexually objectified. Just as most women are not as thin as most female models, most men are not as perfectly built as most male models. It is the advertisements that depict women as both sexual and childish or women as docile or incurring violence that really upset me. For example, the advertisement that depicts a woman’s legs hanging out of the trunk of a car, I find infuriating. An advertisement where a woman is simply being sexual and is thin, however, has never angered me as much. In that sense, I believe MacKinnon’s placement of all the blame on men goes a bit too far. At the same time I am very intrigued by some of her ideas. For example, the simple statement, “what is sexual is what gives a man erection,” while perhaps an over simplification, did make me wonder about whether men can actually act sexual without making a joke of it. While men’s bodies are often sexualized in advertisements, sexual actions made by men, such as male striptease, often seem to be simply comic attempts at copying what is considered sexual female acts. Her analysis of pornography as something that “shows what men want and gives it to them” also makes me wonder if there is not a type of film that ‘shows what women want and gives it to them.’ What about romance films? Are women not taught to want and believe in unrealistic images of men just as men are taught to want and believe in unrealistic images of women? I am by no means saying that ‘chick flicks’ are as dangerous as pornography. In fact, I fully support her argument that pornography normalizes violence, hate, and oppression against women. It’s just that I believe her arguments would be more valid if she at least acknowledged that sexual inequality is not simply a one sided issue.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Afghanistan Unveiled and Mohanty

Both articles of Mohanty apply well to the film Afghanistan Unveiled. Her first essay Under Western Eyes can be used to both praise and criticize the film. Mohanty preaches about the importance in not making broad generalizations for the various plights of third world women, but instead to arrive at conclusions about their struggles only after going through culturally and historically specific analysis. Although the film itself does not make the “women in the third world are…so therefore” kinds of statements that Mohanty so dreads, it does manage to show how even within the same country the circumstances which constitute women’s hardships differ drastically.
It would have been simple for the European film makers to spin the film so that al strife was due to the oppressive Taliban, and that because the Taliban had been removed by foreign troops everything was just peachy, or at least improving. Rather the film acknowledges the destructive force of the Taliban and also manages to exhibit its ripple effect on very different women, thus creating very different results. For example, the first women we encounter live in ancient Buddhist caves with their children and grandchildren, as all of the male and many of the female parents have been killed by the Taliban. As a result they have no viable means to earn a living and are destitute and malnourished. Another segment shows the troubles of a young mother, whose husband, as well as two of his male kin, was killed by an accidental bombing from American troupes while she was pregnant. These two contrasting stories create a more complex situation than “the Taliban is bad, the Taliban being gone is good.” For the first woman, though the Taliban was the source of much of her grief, its removal has yet to benefit her, and for the other it was just that, the Taliban’s removal, which caused her grief in the first place. In this way the film is successful under Mohanty’s eyes, for its specific conclusions relating to third world women.
The film is less successful when it is through the eyes of the narrator of the story, a young, beautiful, wealthy, educated woman. In this situation she seems to represent the viewpoint of the Western feminists who Mohanty so criticizes. It seems that her privileged standpoint blinds her to the real hardships that her fellow Afghani women suffer, while she blithely travels through the countryside in a jeep proudly gushing about how far women have come in Afghanistan that a woman could be a journalist and about how excited she is to ride horses. As is made evident by the film, her situation is not at all representative of progress for Afghan women, as many are still afraid of being unveiled in public and of constant threats of rape and kidnap. This aspect of the film can also be appreciated by Mohanty’s second work, Under Western Eyes Revisited, where Mohanty implores her audience to take the viewpoint of the worlds most subjugated and exploited women, because it is only from their eyes that the complex networks of oppression become visible. It is hard to conclude whether or not the film actually achieves this goal, for though it does show the hardships of the least well off, it is through the lends of the best off. Regardless, it is still a useful tool in showing the complexity of the infrastructure of a third world country, and the multifaceted factors and consequences that go into and come out of the adversity of Afghan women.

Hegemonic Masculinity

The concept of hegemonic masculinity has done much for the cause of deconstructing that which is rarely questioned. Masculinity, although the dominant gender in our current dichotomy, often remains invisible from scrutiny and challenge, paradoxically enough, because of its omnipresence. Any discussion of “gender”, according to Jackson Katz, elicits an immediate assumption that it solely involves women, never men. This phenomenon renders masculinity obscured and directs all focus on women and femininity instead of the way in which both masculinity and femininity exist relationally. It also discounts the social constructionist viewpoint which seeks to untangle common understandings of gender as necessarily attached to sex. Connell and Messerschmidt identify gender as an active process in constant need of reconstruction and enforcement. Hegemonic masculinity requires the “active struggle for dominance” (p. 832) and therefore points to the nonessential quality which defines gender. This concept allows one to reject the category of “man” as monolithic, and recognize the hierarchy of masculinities located within relations among men and women, which change given the context—historical, cultural, social or otherwise. The concept of hegemonic masculinity necessarily relies on subordinated others, either those enacting other masculinities (homosexual males, for example) or women. Connell and Messerschmidt emphasize that it is a position held by few but maintained by many, and because of this, it signifies a certain consent on behalf of the all parties involved. Masculinity, at first glance, may appear static, but once one recognizes the constant struggle on the part of men to sustain the particular dominance definitive of hegemonic masculinities, and how the qualifications change (often drastically) over time, one can clearly detect countless contradictions. The historical and cultural (re)construction of masculinity is demonstrated in the film “Tough Guise.” The representation of the gun-wielding man, the epitome of masculinity and power, has undergone tremendous alterations since the Humphrey Bogart’s of the 1940s and 50s. Jackson Katz maps the increase in size of gun and sinisterness of the pose in images of leading males in films from the 1950s-the 1980s, culminating in the enormity of the gun and muscles exhibited by the hyper-masculine characters of Rambo and the Terminator. His discussion of the influence of white Italian mafia portrayals on black rap culture and the subsequent influence on white suburban boys truly reveals the process of cultural and historical construction of masculinity and in turn de-essentializes the category itself. Both the Connell & Messerschmidt piece and “Tough Guise” portray the constant construction and reinforcement of masculinity and display the contradictions of the seemingly “inherent” nature of gender. Gender is a performance, influenced and changed by interactions with subordinates and so-called “equals”, although hegemonic masculinity rarely allows for this at all.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Little Wollstonecraft and Friedan Comparison

The concepts of autonomy and independence, while approached in differing ways, flow incessantly through A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and the opening chapter of The Feminist Mystique. Both authors, Mary Wollstonecraft and Betty Friedan, speak with a tone of elitism and, while the points discussed warrant careful attention from the audience, both appear to locate themselves above the duped women who aim all their energies toward the pursuit of men for their happiness. However, these two influential women recognize with passion the massive weight of societal expectations and the amount of training which renders women necessarily dependent on men, although there are innumerable differences between what these women (Friedan and Wollstonecraft) deem meaningful in women’s lives.
Mary Wollstonecraft reflects that only in an autonomous state can any creature of reason and virtue find fulfillment in her life, and asserts that this must remain independent of factors of love and companionship. “…whether she be loved or neglected, her first wish should be to make herself respectable, and not to rely for all her happiness on a being subject to like infirmities with herself.” Friedan’s piece, especially her emphasis on women’s desperate search for men demonstrates this salient similarity that is present throughout these two pieces. However, for Friedan, education is not the simple answer, as Wollstonecraft envisioned its ability to facilitate autonomy of women. It seems as though the growing consumer culture of the time, coupled with the frenetic life-style led women of the 1950s and early 1960s, affected even the most educated of women who were supposedly valued as equals to their male counterparts. The need for women to have a separate identity independent on others (as a mother or wife) is addressed as Friedan relays the way many women claim to feel a void where their own distinctiveness and personality should be housed. This theme is present in Wollstonecraft’s discussion of the artificiality and transient nature of the woman who betters herself physically to impress a man while neglecting her spirit and mind, the only transcending aspect of her being. This obsession with beauty, even as women are being admitted into universities at higher numbers then ever before, still continues, although I believe it is indicative of our affluent consumer culture and is extended to both women and men. Such historical and economic changes continue to prove the elasticity of our ideas of femininity, although at the core, the desire to please men continues to be engrained.

Uma Narayan Rocks!

The reading we had titled "Contesting Cultures" was particularly great because it speaks to so many women in the U.S. and abroad who struggle with feeling "forced to give an account" of their identities. One can feel pushed and pulled in so many directions because family, friends, and strangers alike always question the identity and motives of a Third World feminist. Narayan points out that cultural context means everything in evaluating one's perspectives; it is unfair to slap labels onto people and assume, yet we all do it - even to ourselves. There are so many contradictions involved in defining oneself as Thid World feminist when one lives in Westernized nations, particularly in the U.S. where we are so priviledged that we define ourselves as "so priviledged." This makes it all too easy to look down on other women but also to be angry with them for not doing more to "free themselves." We get lost when we ask ourselves what exactly they are freeing themselves from, because the cultural nuances are more complicated and intricate than that. There are so many small things we don't think about, like the way children become attached to the smells of their homes, and how that represents another thing, which is linked in their minds to something else, and it is that something else Americans are trying to eradicate. It is all too easy for us to clumsily gloss over the details of other people's perspectives. Narayan explains this so well, and her writing is very inspiring to me.

The Handmaid's Tale Comment

While this book was obviously intended to make a feminist statement, it's debatable exactly what that statement is. I found myself horrified throughout most of the story, thinking it was a distopia comparable to Animal Farm or the human rights violations currently happening in North Korea. However, it seems as though under any kind of system, women will always have to fight for our rights. This is so disheartening.
One of my group members reminded me today that in Atwood's book Offred (or "Of Fred") must engage in the fertilization process with the Commander, but the way it is done involves Serena Joy appearing to be the one impregnated. With her skirt above her head, it appears as though Offred isn't even there; she is just the vessel, but the child would belong to Serena Joy. Perhaps Atwood was making a commentary on the sometimes vicious competition for adopting that some couples enter into. Infertility is an issue that is highly sensitive for many women and men, and I think a lot of couples would rather pretend that the birth mother never existed.

Semester Reflection

Upon reflecting on the semester's readings, I found that the bell hooks article, All About Love, resonated with me the most. I found the narrative particularly interesting and the message of the piece poignant and meaningful. Particularly reading this around Valentines Day, I found many similarities between the article and the "holiday."

Something as simple as picking out a Valentine’s Day card for someone in a bi-racial or homosexual relationship, for example, could be difficult. The faces and imagery of love are typically the majority status, a white male and female, and if you don’t fit that quota there are very few cards that deliver your message of love. If you are not involved in a Caucasian heterosexual relationship, is your message less significant, less meaningful?

Similar to Bell Hooks’ introduction of All About Love, greeting cards- like art- should pertain a universal meaning of love. Rather than categorizing messages of love by the involved participants or by the author of those messages, shouldn’t we create a universal meaning? Isn’t the love that is shared between a man and woman the same love that is shared between gay couples?

Greeting cards, like art, are the vehicles used to express love. Regardless of who the message is for or from, the message of love is consistent. In the introduction to All About Love, the author expresses her strong connection to graffiti art that declared, “The search for love continues even in the face of great odds.” She explains how she was recently dealing with a separation from her partner of fifteen years and the words lifted her spirits. She later finds out that the construction company painted over the graffiti because they learned that the “words were a reference to individuals living with HIV and that the artist may be gay.”

Messages of love can be interpreted by the viewers and applied to their own life. It shouldn’t matter what the original intent of author was or whom the message was directed to. Love is a universal concept and shouldn’t be labeled or categorized.
Valentine’s day is nothing more than a holiday invented by the greeting card companies; however, it somehow reinforces cultural norms and class systems.

Identity Intersections

Mohanty's article discusses the complications that arise from a woman's intersecting identities. Feminist anthropology has suffered a long history of inaccuracy and misunderstanding due to the misconception that all women are equal and one in the same. While important information about indigenous populations can be learned from the work of Margaret Mead, her work transposes Western symbolism and significances onto the populations she is trying to understand. By interpreting other women through a Western women’s language and belief systems, complicates the way in which women can understand each other. One realizes that women do not identify with their fellow sisters, they identify with their class, with their race, with their religion, with their geographical location. This becomes blatantly obvious when viewing the film Afghanistan Unveiled. Women bounded by the same country, the same religion, similar ethnicities and linguistics, can still be completely unable to understand each other’s complex histories. In Afghanistan Unveiled, a group of female Afghani filmmakers from Kabul who traveled around for their first time ever to see how different women lived and were affected by the Taliban regime. They expected to meet women with different stories but similarly altered lives and similarly ethnic backgrounds, however, what they found was quite different. Not only did other women not have the same amount of freedom as they did in Kabul, but different areas had different access to education, to independence, and even to basic items like shoes or proper nutrition. The Westerrn/third world dichotomy can occur within the boundaries of one nation and the intersectionality of female identities must be acknowledged. Women do not possess the category of woman at their foundations, they possess a multitude of categories, all of which shape and alter their views of the world and how they themselves are presented to the world. Very little comparisons can be drawn between the impoverished Hazara widows who live in caves and have no male companions due to the Taliban massacres and the women of Kabul who now enjoy increased access to education, basic goods, and individual thought.

Sexuality in Mackinnon

Mackinnon’s “Sexuality” discusses the difficulties of writing a truly feminist theory since our patriarchal word has left women with very little space to define them in. Audre Lorde discussed similar ideas in her article “Uses of the Erotic: Erotic Power,” women are only given the opportunity to form an identity within the confines given by men, and are only able to express their sexuality if it is for the benefit of a man. Similarly, MacKinnon examines the sexual objectification and abuse of women pervades our society. One advertisement for Bebe is particularly striking when looking at how women’s identities are only available within a male context. The advertisement pictures a highly sexualized woman crouching in an oversized birdcage as she sexily pouts at the camera. The desire to confine women and place their sexuality in the metaphorical “bird-cage” is overwhelming in this image. Furthermore, Mackinnon examines how Freud’s derepression hypothesis lists female sexuality as repressed in the male dominated world, but the solution has been the sexual revolution “freeing” women and making women as sexually aggressive as men. However, the imagery in some advertisement campaigns provides an excellent critique of how this revolution has failed. Instead of liberating and equalizing women, the sexual revolution has created a culture where rape and violence against women is not viewed as an act of crude male aggression, but as the failure of a woman to possess “equal sexual aggression,” instead providing resistance. An advertisement for Roberto Cavalli perfectly defines this moment, displaying two images of a man holding a scabbard to a highly sexualized woman while her gaze is off in the distance. This image seems to suggest a crucial moment: the woman can either return to the moment and reciprocate the man’s interest or she can be mauled by his sword or “sword”. The acceptability of violence against women is extended in several other advertisements, displaying sexualized women or female body parts in the morgue, sticking out of a car trunk, or murdered at a crime scene. What’s even more powerful is that the About Face site displays one advertisement showcasing violence against men, where a man is bound and gagged with his hands behind his back. However, the image evokes an instant uncomfortable reaction, and even the angles used to capture the image are at an awkward angle, helping to emphasize the social acceptability of violence against women juxtaposed with the unacceptable image of violence against men.

The Dreaded V-Day

Valentine’s Day, a “holiday” dedicated to Hallmark, teddy bears, boxes of chocolates, flowers, and fancy dinners has taken on tremendous meaning and significance for the majority of the population. It is the day to show your love, and more importantly, remind those around you that you are loved and they, perhaps, are not. For feminists, the holiday has become a site for resistance and debate as the significance of Valetine’s Day and the traditions commonly associated with it have been seen as yet another site of oppression for women. According to Audre Lorde, author of “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic Power,” traditions like Valentine’s Day are one of the few occasions where it is acceptable for women to express their own eroticism, although on an extremely superficial level, since women are told to oppress this inner power unless it is expressed in the service of men. In Firestone’s “The Culture of Romance,” her theories seem to similarly argue against Valentine’s Day as an institution. For Firestone, the idea of romance and wooing a woman is really just another method of oppression to prevent her from realizing the state of her condition. In this sense, Valentine’s Day can be seen as the ultimate insult to women, since it is a holiday based on showing the women in your life you care for them through romantic acts. When reflecting on this theory of romance, it begins to make quite a bit of sense: how many women have had a man show up at their door with flowers, candy, or a dinner invitation after he had crossed some line or done something unforgivable? This statement actually leads into the third theorist’s, Bell Hook’s, ideas. She argues that people have become scared and cynical about love, and in this sense, Valentine’s Day could serve almost as a “safe room,” a day where people are permitted to express their love openly without any fear of scourn or rejection. While al three theorists have different ideas, it is clear that the day of St. Valentine is one that inhabits a plethora of underlying meanings and symbols. However, the apparent question to me, which all of the theorists address in different ways, is why do we even need Valentine’s Day?

"Lola" by the Kinks

This song has been stuck in my head for a while and I think its interesting how most people don't really pay attention to the lyrics/ know what its about. After our class discussions on trans gender issues, I thought people may find it interesting to look into the lyrics a bit more:

I met her in a club down in old soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-cola C-o-l-a cola
She walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said lola
L-o-l-a lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well Im not the worlds most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well Im not dumb but I cant understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well we drank champagne and danced all night
Under electric candlelight
She picked me up and sat me on her knee
And said dear boy wont you come home with me
Well Im not the worlds most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes well I almost fell for my lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
I pushed her away
I walked to the door
I fell to the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her and she at me
Well thats the way that I want it to stay
And I always want it to be that way for my lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
Its a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well I left home just a week before
And Id never ever kissed a woman before
But lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said dear boy Im gonna make you a man
Well Im not the worlds most masculine man
But I know what I am and Im glad Im a man
And so is lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola

what is the third wave??

After completing the two required readings for today I remain a little confused as to the concept of third wave feminism. Astrid Henry attempts to make the concept more clear in stating that third wave feminism is much more about the individual rather than a group of women rallying together. However, this confused be because it was also mentioned in the reading that third wave feminists are more prone to addressing their movement as one of daughters rather than sisters. If I clearly understand this portion of the explanation of third wave feminism, it means that by addressing themselves as daughters they recognize the achievements of the second wave before them and show that they are a new movement.I feel although I need to read more third wave literature in order to figure out what exactly third wave feminism is. The argument because third wave feminism is more focused on the individual and therefore will become indefinable is one with which I do not agree. I think that addressing feminism on a more personal level is extremely important. The idea of banding women together does seem to be an effective mechanism for feminist education among women, but in this most seconds wave feminism it seems that much of that education has already taken place and it is not time to focus on individuals interpretation of feminism. I am not completely sure I agree with that either. I would address our generation as one of third wave feminism in that we are the daughters of the second wave and do need to being to acknowledge individuals interpretations of feminism as valid. I do understand the concern that it will become a little bit wishy-washy but I do not think that it will necessarily get in the way of the acceptance and understanding that will be facilitated by this more radial and lenient interpretation of feminism. I defiantly lean toward identifying with the third wave with my continued reading of third wave literature.

tough guise

I found the film, " Tough Guise" extremely interesting in addressing the struggle many men face in attempt to adhere to the social norms, or stereotypes of a muscular, tough, man's man. Although the article on " masculinity" presented arguments against the concept/study of such, i find that it is important to study the reasons why men act this way, and subsequently, the reasons why they treat women in such a way.I was stuck by the aggression depicted in sports and reminded of one of my mentors in high school. I find that the high school I attended, and most likely all other high schools in small town America, gender roles are exaggerated more so than they would be in the real world. The emphasis on big jock football players on steroids and skinny cheerleaders ( taking up small amounts of space, and only cheering in response to some sort of violent act committed on the football fields) is remarkable. However, an interesting way to think about masculinity arose in a a conversation I had with the male leader of a peer advocacy group in which i participated in high school. He made the point that he is so interested in male participating in sports because it provides an outlet for the aggressions that most teenage boys feel. This man is an anti violence activist and also an assistant football coach. I asked if this was contradictory since so much violence takes place on the football field. Eric said that it is natural for men, especially at this hormonal period of their lives to want to be aggressive. He said that in an organized fashion it is acceptable on the football field, and hopefully will decrease the likelihood of acting on aggressive feelings outside sports.This argument presents a contradiction in terms. Is this just another means to enforce violence into the male psyche or does it really act as a controlled outlet? As it was shown in the movie in class, men participate in most of the violent acts against both women and men. Is it a natural tendency, or just a means to appeal more tough in order to fulfill a gender role presented by society? The article on masculinity states that the flaws in masculinity lie in the fact that it only addresses men’s relations with each other and does not focus so much on the concept of gender. I agree with this statement but i do think it is important to examine the tendencies of men to be violent and what can be done to change those tendencies.

V-day assignment

It is interesting to compare the first two readings. The primary reading, The Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic as power by Lord, focuses on eroticism being frowned upon by society but as a tool of empowerment for women, if embraced and used in our every day lives. One of the secondary readings, The Culture of Romance, by Firestone, addresses that romance and eroticism actually negatively effects women and contributes to their sexploitation by men. In regards to Valentines day these two authors would have extremely different outlooks. My perception is that Lorde would say that if a woman takes in to account her feelings of intimacy and eroticism and does not merely allow for the pornographization of Valentines Day, this holiday can be legitimate. Omitting the obvious commercialization of this Hallmark/ Hershey’s promotional day if legitimate feelings are addressed, this could be a day by which to model all others. If emotion can be taken into account and appreciating of feeling between two people then this could be the focus on eroticism that would compete with our every day pornographic perception of love. Firestone suggests that the structure of romance in general contributes to the subjugation of women. Therefore I am sure that she would not be a fan of Valentines Day. Firestone addresses that when we perceive that we are involved in or witnessing romantic love we are merely victims of circumstance. She addresses that Romanic love is really just a means to reinforce the sex class system. She also touches on a rather cynical note saying that men classify women based only on sexual desire. Discussing the recognition of blonde’s, legs, breasts, etc. She even says that we have been trained in society to feel flattered if a man addresses those characteristics when he is actually sexualizing us and placing us in a group, lacking individualism, with all other women. Because of the idea of the nonexistence of romantic love, the structure of relationships, and the beauty ideal, my guess is that Firestone would not have been a large proponent of Valentines Day. It seems as though she is not willing to embrace or even admit to the fact that legitimate egalitarian relationships can exist and be celebrated. I am sure she would be even more opposed to the over sexualization of Valentines Day. In my current and cynical circumstances I should be more likely to agree with Firestone in saying that Valentines Day is demeaning for women. She would argue that its only success is promoting the sex class system and duping women into thinking their relationships are based on something more than sexual attraction. However, the idealist in me must agree with Lorde. Although I am not currently involved I do think that eroticism is an important part of life and should be embraced. It is possible that a day that embraces the love between two people could be a model for embracing love and eroticism in every day life.
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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hegemonic Masculinity + Tough Guise

“Tough Guise” is a film which discusses the construction of masculinity, the performance of masculinity, sports in connection with masculine identity, sexualized violence amongst men and boys, along with a variety of other topics related to masculinity. Violence has a strong connection with proving masculinity and has become a gendered masculine trait. Due to this association violence in boys and men has become normalized and somewhat invisible. In the article “Gender & Society” by RW Connell and James Messerschmidt they discuss the concept of hegemonic masculinity and the issues contributing to it. One thing they emphasized was the role of the media and its representations of men, particularly images of men in sports or in war. Contact sports, particularly, are a strong symbol of masculinity which involves the most violence. “Tough Guise” offers similar theories about the construction of masculinity in connection with sports and violence. Being a real man is playing sports and demonstrating intimidation and control. If a boy or man is not physically as strong or large as some of the others they can still prove their masculinity by increasing their violence and becoming a threat, a goal of hegemonic masculinity. Violence is not only displayed on the sports field or solely between boys and men but violence is acted out upon women by men, again to prove their masculinity. This type of violence is also normalized. We see images of men subordinating women in all arenas of the media and advertisement, especially in pornography where women are often sexually abused, assaulted, and objectified. By portraying men in dominant violent roles, and women in submissive ones, deserving of the abuse, reinforces the patriarchal power structure and creates a false allowance of these behaviors. “Gender and Society” discusses hegemonic masculinity as a practice that permits men’s collective dominance over women to continue. Violence certainly helps reinforce the gender dominance. However, hegemonic masculinity is not always negative traits. It can be associated with actions such as being a good father and sustaining a sexual relationship. Yet to be a hegemonic man you have to acquire ALL the traits, good and bad, and perform them on a consistent bases which is almost impossible.


Catherine MacKinnon’s article “Sexuality” covers a variety of issues ranging from the formation of both women and men’s sexuality, sexuality as a social construct, the objectification of women, and the connection between sex and violence. MacKinnon talks about the how sexuality becomes a feminist methodology when it is treated as a social construct of male power; the sexuality of dominance and submission. If men are in the position of power then they are the ones with the ability to define women’s sexuality. Dominance becomes socially constructed to be paired with masculinity and, oppositionally, submission becomes associated with femininity. Women therefore become objects to be dominated and controlled. The pornography, entertainment, and advertising industries certainly have not helped this harmful image by the way in which they portray women. On the about-face website you can see a variety of advertisements of women. Not only is there an unattainable standard of beauty often being projected, but many of these ads place women in doll-like positions making them appear not as women but as literal objects. By transforming women’s bodies into innate things, men begin to view women as such, making violence and rape against women more justifiable. This is true in pornography as well. Women become less than human in these films, adhering to all sorts of domination and abuse. MacKinnon discusses how pornography “constructs women as things for sexual use and constructs its consumer to desperately want women, to desperately want possession and cruelty and dehumanization.” (p.167) Viewing pornography with women being degraded, humiliated, and abused and most importantly NOT resisting, men begin to believe that they are allowed to act in these manners in real life. This creates an unclear sense of reality and instead creates a false illusion of women’s sexuality. By watching women in pornographies accept submissive positions where they are objectified and violated, creates the assumption, according to MacKinnon, which I agree with, that women really want what men want from women, which is being dominated to any sort of extreme. This makes male force and violence against women in sex non-existent, which then makes sex synonymous with rape.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Assumptions of Americans on the Middle East

I just returned from the Middle East a couple of weeks ago and I can't help but think about my experience there when reading Abu-Lughod's article. The aspect of the article that intrigued me most was the controversy over Laura Bush's radio address. I had never before realized that she is in some way blamed for destroying the vital distinctions that were once present of Taliban and terrorists. This "monster identity" that Abu-Lughod discusses is just as bad as the assumption of many Americans when they visit Israel that anyone but Israeli's might perform some act of terrorism. This is not the case and Israelis know this, but it confused me where this association came from. These days we are too quick to judge, too quick to make assumptions such as these, and way too quick to presume that anything we hear is the truth.

Never too late to have an opinion on third wave...

My ideas of third wave feminism seemed to have been altered by the assigned readings for this reaction paper. I have been informed of situations and basic information on the history of feminism that I was not aware of until now. In a society that is primarily based on each man or woman for him or herself, I find it easy to abide by the beliefs of third wave feminists. I have chosen to agree with bell hooks’ definition of feminism as “a struggle to end sexist oppression (Henry, p. 93).” I believe this to be a basic definition that perfectly depicts what I now believe to be the true definition of feminism.
In Rebecca Walker’s “Becoming the Third Wave” she begins with a discussion on the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill controversy in which Hill accused Thomas of sexually assaulting her. As Walker stated, women in the United States not backing up a fellow woman is disastrous for our future as women. If we cannot stick together, we will probably fail in our attempts to equalize our relationship as compared with that of men. Walker is a strong advocate for joining in a sisterhood that is the third wave, rather than referring to it as a group.
The idea of third wave feminism as a sisterhood is a recurring one which is mentioned in Astrid Henry’s “Solitary Sisterhood: Individualism Meets Collectivity in Feminism’s Third Wave” as well. In this chapter, Naomi Wolf claims, “true sisterhood can only be achieved by incorporating diversity into feminism (Henry, p. 89)de.” I agree with Walker in that we should each define feminism as it applies to each of us but overall I think that this true third wave of feminism should be a sisterhood rather than “the mother-daughter trope” that some young feminists are beginning to side with.
I believe that third wave feminism is a necessary and engaging form of feminism, one that could possibly solve equality differences sooner than past or other forms of feminism. I do believe that we should each define feminism for ourselves but finally I think that every woman should take some time to decide for herself if she will truly devote herself to the cause or watch as everything that has been worked for by our sisters past is taken from us before our very eyes.

Under Western Eyes

After delving deeper than Mohanty’s articles “Under Western Eyes” and “Under Western Eyes- Revisited” and watching the film “Afghanistan Unveiled,” I have gained a greater understanding of the situation of women in the Third World. The effect that the Taliban have had on the Hazara in Afghanistan is quite astonishing. Soaring past the borders set upon them by the Taliban, this film was created by a woman one who was trained in camera studies. This her father described was a newfound freedom, one in which she explores via her film to distinguish the freedom she has been exposed to as compared to the barbarous lives of other groups of women in Afghanistan.
Mohanty’s “Under Western Eyes” concentrates on western feminist discourse on Third World women. She explores many different aspects of the lives of Third World women. She touches on female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East that was quite disturbing. Her discussion on Bemba women’s marital rituals can be related to the marriage that took place in Afghanistan Unveiled in which the women seemed forced to cry, to seem sad to be leaving their families. The woman in the film was allowed to choose her prospective husband unlike traditional Bemba marital traditions. Mohanty’s discussion on veiled women elicits that the more women who continue to wear veils only make life for women more sexually segregated. In the film I thought it was very interesting how in one of the villages she visited that she didn’t interview the women because they were veiled and not allowed to have their faces on camera.
In Mohanty’s “Under Western Eyes-Revisited,” sixteen years after her publication of “Under Western Eyes” she explores the indigenous struggles of third world women. These struggles can be related to the women living in caves in Afghanistan with no water or electricity. Mohanty discusses the decreasing power of self-governance in these countries as well. I found it very interesting when she made a point about the fact that we commonly used the terms north and south to distinguish prosperous communities from those that are not, similar to the use of the terms of Western and non-Western.
These readings by Mohanty and film on women in Afghanistan depicted the struggles Third world women face but also expresses a sense of hope for these areas as this woman was given the ability to learn to film, to express her newfound freedom and the struggles her country still continues to face.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

“Under Western Eyes” and “Under Western Eyes Revisited”

Mohanty’s writings “Under Western Eyes” and “Under Western Eyes Revisited” both hit on important issues that the film Afghanistan Unveiled displayed. In “Under Western Eyes” Mohanty analyzes the portrayal of the “Third World Woman” as she is presented in western feminist works. Describing them as women of color from around the world, Mohanty writes about how the image of the veiled virgin is too often used to portray all of the women who live in these “third world” countries. Mohanty’s women of color can be divided and described in the same ways that western women can be, however these divisions are not widely acknowledged by western feminist writings. In “Under Western Eyes” Mohanty concludes her argument by saying that the true advantage that western women have over “third world women” is that their western countries are better developed with stronger economies. Socially they suffer from many of the same disadvantages of being female.

In the second essay “Under Western Eyes Revisited” Mohanty ‘revisits’ her initial views and extends her views to include the globalization movement. She also attempts to clarify many of her writings, readjusting them to fit today’s issues. She writes that “In terms of women’s movements, the earlier “sisterhood is global” form of internationalization of the women’s movement has now shifted into the “human rights” arena. This shift in language from “feminism” to “women’s rights” can be called the mainstreaming of the feminist movement—a (successful) attempt to raise the issue of violence against women onto the world stage.” The shift of the women’s movement into a movement for the preservation of humanity offers both advantages and disadvantages, most importantly if opens up for more understand and aid to people of different heritages, especially those within the “third world”
Mohanty’s writing, when viewed in terms of Afghanistan Unveiled, become clearer and much more pertinent to modern culture. Her arguments for the recognition of the Third World not just through oppression but in terms of its historical complexities and the many struggles its citizens have encountered to change their oppressions are clearly shown in the lives of the Afghan women in the movie. The women of the nation want to be known for the fight they have won, and the vital fights that they have won in order to survive, rather then being recognized as the women behind the veils, rules over by male guardianship. Many of the women in the movie expressed their disappointment with other nation’s stereotypical views of their cultures and lifestyles. They want to be accurately represented within the global sphere. Mohanty’s discussion of the growth of human aid from the feminist movement offers hope to these women that aid might reach them, regardless of their gender or geography.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Reaction Paper #5

Many of the ideas in Anzaldua’s “Borderlands” poem feel very familiar to me because I am biracial. Also, in “La Consciencia de la Mestiza” her discussion of the “coming together of two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of references” causing a “cultural collision” (Anzaldua 2) may be linked to W.E.B. DuBois’ concept of “double consciousness”(DuBois 9) as introduced in his classic The Souls of Black Folk. I believe that in South as well as in North America, racial categorization makes many mixed-race individuals feel confused and left out of the feeling of belonging that many racial groups find with each other. Anzaldua writes of “not knowing which side to turn to, run from;” (2) which describes the challenges to finding and defining one’s own identity in the midst of what feel like other people’s groups. There is great guilt in the mixed-race individual because one or another race within seems to be calling for loyalty to that group. “Borderlands” speaks to this, and describes the feeling of being a stranger everywhere yet belonging to all cultures at the same time. Mixed heritage means confronting and questioning the self, but also having an invisible key allowing one to witness life on both sides of the “border.” Anzaldua says we will “see through serpent and eagle eyes” (2); here she uses the Mexican flag as a metaphor for the value of different perspectives: the serpent lives on earth and the eagle can see from above. As a mestiza Anzaldua sees from both sides – the way reality appears in our daily lives and the truth of our shared humanness which is so clearly seen from a different part of the same landscape. I recognize her patchwork perspective as my own, wherein one lives at a “crossroads” and is forced to develop uniquely. Sociologist and civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois defined double consciousness as African Americans’ dueling identities. As both Blacks and Americans in a country where Blackness is vilified, DuBois posits that African Americans struggle with knowing who they really are while simultaneously seeing themselves as Whites see them. This is relative to Anzaldua’s “Borderlands” because she reflects on the difficulty of being accepted by others and how this sometimes makes it hard to accept oneself. So hard in fact that one must fight escapist temptations into alcohol or even suicide. In describing the African American experiences with identity struggles in the U.S. DuBois says, “One ever feels his two-ness...two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder” (DuBois 9). It seems that all in cultures which demand justification for being different, or which insist on exacting labels for racial grouping, those with mixed-race or mixed-cultural heritage exist in a whirlwind of ambiguity. Bi and multi-racial people owe no explanations to those who see them as bizarre outgroups. Yet they have many distinctive perspectives to share that obviate the impermanence of socially constructed limitations we create for ourselves through naming and grouping. I agree with Anzaldua that in the future the lines of the “borders” will fade with continued interracial mixing. I am hopeful that they do.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

BorderLands Reaction Paper

The “Borderlands” poem paints a clear image of the internal and external struggles experienced by bicultural and multicultural people. The lack of constructed identity and cultural representation are painfully described by Gloria Anzaldua. When read in terms of Gloria Anzaldua’s “la conciencia de la Mestiza”, “Borderlands” paints issues that are present in the lives of every “mestiza” person.

The mestiza people that Anzaldua writes about suffer from a lack of ethnic identity. Anzaldua writes about the often opposing messages sent out to the mestizas. In an attempt to reconcile all of their respective cultures, the mestizas are sometimes universally rejected for not fulfilling each ethnicity to its status quo. This inner war takes away from their confidence in their person.
“half-breed caught in the crossfire between camps while carrying all five races on your back not knowing which side to turn to, run from”
“Borderlands” suggests that because of this inner war, the mestizas people find that their voice has been taken. “… People walk through you; wind steals your voice…” Because they are unable to take a specific culture, they become overwhelmed by the multitude and fade away into their confusion. They are the scapegoat, and are forced into fulfilling stereotypes. Anzaldua’s “la conciencia de la Mestiza”, talks about how they must remain flexible as people within the larger culture. If they should try to be rigid and construct an identity within their multiple cultures they would, according to Anzaldua, die. Borderlands references this, discussing the dead of the mestizas, wounded in battle, trying to fight back and assert their independence as a person, unlimited to their ancestors. The road of the mestizas is a rocky one. Because of their affinity to multiple cultures, most of which are not Aryan, they receive the backlash connected with being all of them. Instead of receiving the stereotypes and racism attributed to one ethnicity, they receive the unwanted attending connected to two or three cultures.

My ThirdWave Reactions

I had always thought third wave feminism was about angry lesbian poetry and diatribes against conventional living and the status quo. While to an extent this is true, it does not represent the entirety of those involved in the third wave. My original, unfortunately slightly stereotypical, view of the third wave also does not recognize the characteristics that make the philosophy different from that of its mothers and grandmothers.

As I read Astrid Henry’s “Solidarity Sisterhood”, I found myself recognizing and agreeing with many of her points concerning third wave feminism. Third wave feminist have grown up within a society that had been heavily influence by the actions of the second wave feminists. Described as “waves” these two movements are separated by a generation, they are mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. The influence that one has had on the other is a very important part of their development. While never knowing complete equality, they have always known the possibility of such an environment, and the inequalities that they have faced are much more subtle than those that their female predecessors fought against.

The change from second to third wave feminism brought about many changed within the structure of the feminist groups. The most influential of these changes was the loss of Sisterhood within feminism communities. As the issues became more intricate and the immediate need for change less necessary, third wave feminism never developed the sense of sisterhood and female community that the second wave had so cherished. The third wave developed an emphasis on the individual. Astrid Henry talked about this change and how it can be seen through the popular feminist writings of the times. Second wave feminists wrote about sisterhood and its many bonds. Third wavers concentrate on their own personal thought on feminism in their works. They write as individuals, with personal aims, beliefs, and goals. I agree with Henry that because of this separation found in the third wave, the feminist presence in the government sphere is much weakened to the point of non-existence as a national group.

I personally feel that the third wave’s loss of sisterhood will be its downfall. Without a strong community that holds the same or at least similar goals, those in the third wave will never be able to make real, long lasting, widespread changes. In terms of national politics, the third wave does not represent a unified front, and will not be taken seriously until they do. I am not sure if I feel myself as being part of the third wave. I believe in many feminist beliefs, but because there is no platform, or set of ideals, I have no way of knowing if what I believe is consistent with the third wave. However I was about 30 years older I have no doubt I would have been a proud member of the second wave.


I truly enjoyed Anzaldua’s poem “Borderlands” as I feel that it poetically portrayed the life of a minority individual immersed in the Anglo culture of the modern United States while trying to develop her identity. She describes how difficult it is for one, in this case as a Mexican-American, to exist in a society where there is no place for one and that denies one’s culture; she coins this place of dissaproval and conflict of cultures as the “Borderlands.”
I found Gloria Anzaldua’s imagery of Mexican women as a new race creative and extremely powerful, “You're a burra, buey, scapegoat forerunner of a new race, half and half - both woman and man, neither- 
a new gender.” Through language she draws Mexican women to be a new race that is not defined by the gender roles of male and female but is so different and subordinated that it has its own gender. In addition, I found the part comparing the Borderlands to a battlefield intelligent and influential, “In the Borderlands 
you are the battleground where enemies are kin to each other; you are at home, a stranger.” It describes how minorities living in the United States are in a consistent cultural clash with their neighbors and are attacked for their differences in their own home, the United States. I found her piece to be particularly fresh and intriguing because it brings binaries (such as, race and ethnicity in a white dominated “Anglo” American society) into question when discussing feminism. It is particularly hard for women of minority groups to gain rights and respect, as they are put into almost a different category than females.
As a daughter of two Indian immigrant parents, Monisha Das Gupta’s “Dissonances” hit very close home. Gupta describes her identity struggle as a student in the United States and as a native of India. She feels as though she cannot identify with white women and when with only African Americans she cannot associate with colored women either. However, in a clear-cut scheme of she associates herself with black rather than white. When she travels back to India she looses her identity as minority female student and her identity shifts to existence as a 33-year-old unmarried woman. In Indian culture marriage is the most important thing for a woman; it is the “purpose” of her existence. It is emphasized and engrained in young girls at even infant ages: a nice Indian girl respects her parents, cooks Indian food and gets married by her early twenties, any less of that is shame to a family. Even within modern Indian-American families, these so called cultural values are emphasized and viewed as doctrine. I can speak from experience, my parents and relatives who are very well educated and well-off ask me, yes me at the tender age of 18, if I have found a suitable Punjabi Jatt Sikh boy (a caste within a caste within a region) yet and if I had not yet then I better soon because “if you don’t find a boy at this age you’ll never get married”. As an Indian American it is difficult to create an identity that embraces self respect, integrity and independence, that breaks socially constructed gender roles and incorporates American culture without devaluing or disobeying Indian culture and tradition. This is an even greater struggle for females as they must be categorized within a category and must strive to create an identity and place in society for themselves.

Redirecting feminist to improve American leadership (excerpt from UW symposium)

The individualist attitude of the third-wave is often criticized for its inability to unify all females, regardless of their physical and emotional differences. In Astrid Henry’s “Different Wavelengths: Studies of the Contemporary Women’s Movement”, Henry criticizes third wave feminism for its lack of collectivity and a sense of sisterhood, finding it to be overly individualistic. According to Henry, this new sense of feminism has forced “many young feminists to enter into feminism with the assumption that differences and conflict are inherent to feminism—that there can never be a singular feminist subject presumed to speak for all women, that feminism is, by feminism, is by definition, made up of diverse interests and constituencies” (Henry 87). This generational approach to feminism, according to Henry, hinders feminism’s capacity and ability to exist as an effective movement as females find it impossible to identify with other females. Henry believes that in order for a feminist movement to be politically and socially successful there must a set of core beliefs and goals that critique white supremacy, capitalism, heterosexuality, the law, racial and ethnic minorities, disabled women and most importantly, the ways in which sexism and misogyny continue to persist in society.
So the essential question in this debate of third wave feminism is: How can third wave feminism be altered and reshaped in order to effectively improve American leadership? In order for an effective female movement to occur society must initially understand and recognize that issues do exist and change through activism is necessary. Some conservative feminists, such as Karen Lehrman, believe that activism is not needed in order to eradicate discrimination, as it not a pressing issue today. In her book “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex and Power in the Real World, she argues “discrimination is not as bad as it’s made out to be… women are not oppressed in the United States, and they’re no longer (politically at least) even subjugated” (Henry 85). According to the Library of Congress in 2007, women hold 16.3%, of the 535 seats in the 109th US Congress. However, 51% of the population in the United States are women, as of July 1, 2004, according to the U.S Consensus Bureau. It is difficult to establish that political discrimination based upon sex is nonexistent today, as there are more females than males currently in the nation, yet only 16.3% of the females in country hold positions that enable them to participate directly in the legislative process of the U.S political system.
Upon recognizing this need for change within the social and political structure of the United States, contemporary feminists must use the enthusiasm and ambition of the second wave movement to transform the present generational stance of third wave feminism into, as Astrid Henry describes a “critical political perspective that acknowledges diversity and differences within feminism while simultaneously stressing the need for collective action to affect social change” (Henry 94). Second wave feminism is criticized for its exclusivity, catering to solely white middle-class women and excluding homosexuals, transgenders, and women of disability and of varying race, ethnicity and class. Third wave feminism, a direct reaction to second wave feminism, includes these excluded groups of women and proposes that females are not females that coexist in a struggle to achieve a universal goal but rather, are individuals with unique experiences that have the capacity to formulate their own definition of feminism and how it applies to their life. Third wave, although admirable, for advocating tolerance by valuing the differences between females fails to create a mobilizing, effective movement. Movement, defined by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, is an organized effort by supporters of a common goal. Collective benefit can only be achieved when females recognize and value one another’s differences and unique experiences (rather than distancing and segregating one another due to differences) and use this knowledge to propose a single goal that incorporates all of their initiatives. This single goal can easily be described as the eradication of discrimination in the United States so that females can be valued for their differences and at the same time, have equality of opportunity so they can coexist with males as strong American leaders in the twenty-first century. As Sarah Boonin describe in her book “Please Stop Thinking about Tomorrow: Building a Feminist movement on College Campuses for Today”, “While feminism does not need to and should not mean same ness, it does imply a certain philosophical and ideological connection. We share a commitment to the pursuit of equality. That common pursuit forms the basis of our community. Unless we think of ourselves as “we—can never be true partners for change” (Henry 93).
It is imperative that feminism be viewed in a positive light in order to improve female leadership. In contemporary American society, being a feminist is viewed negatively, as a threatening, or undesirable attribute. Third Wave feminists have often removed the term feminist out of their characterized identity and have replaced it with the term “individual”. The empowering, positive, concept of sisterhood that once characterized the second wave feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s no longer exists. As author of “Listen up” claims, “These days, whenever someone says the word ‘woman’ to me, my mind goes blank. What women? Sisterhood may be global, but who is in that sisterhood?” (Henry 87); females today find difficulty in identifying themselves as females that share a strong connection with other females. It should not only be socially acceptable to label oneself as a “feminist” but it should be clear that all women share their struggle together; they are all sisters in the sisterhood. However, being a sister in the “sisterhood” does not imply that males are the target enemies. Female leadership does not involve the destruction of men but instead involves all parties to work in collaboration in order to eradicate discrimination and inequality, create a society of respect and integrity and on a larger scale, improve American leadership so males and females can coexist in leadership positions.
Essentially, if females engage in a unified movement embracing their “feminist” existence in the sisterhood, accept and recognize the differences among women, strive to work in collaboration with males, and value and utilize their unique talents, attributes and experiences female leadership will be entirely revitalized and in turn, will create immense improvement to leadership that will positively affect the present and future of American leadership.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Afghanistan Revealed

“The sky is blue.”

“I had a hamburger for lunch.”

“The Taliban cut off my baby’s ears and stuffed it in his mouth.”

For me, the most frightening part of that statement was not what actually happened but the matter-of-fact way the mother spoke it. There were no tears in her eyes, her voice was completely steady, and she spoke of it in a monotone voice that revealed no emotion. Even as we watched the movie in class, I could see people cringe and react to the graphic visual she painted. She spoke with such an empty manner, as if the event was an every day occurrence. Then I remembered that such horrors really are very much a part of these peoples’ day-to-day lives.

I didn’t attribute her robotic demeanor to apathy or indifference towards her child. I don’t believe any mother could take the death of her child in such a frosty manner. However, I think her lack of emotion came from the horrors she has seen. And it makes me wonder what this woman has suffered, that she can share details about the graphic murder of her child in such an aloof manner. I cannot even begin to imagine what the people of Afghanistan have been through at the hands of the Taliban.

The woman spoke like one who has seen too much to ever be afraid or sad again. There is something worse than despair- the frosty apathy of those whose hearts have been broken and broken again until there’s nothing left for them to fear.

Vagina Power.

I must first qualify this posting by saying that while it might make your jaw drop (as it did mine) it deserves to be treated as a text that could and should be critiqued by feminist. I submit it here to be critiqued...

I must also say that it is a piece of YouTube art. Thank you Alexyss Tyler. Thank you YouTube.

Almost forgot to tell you where this clip actually comes from. Alexyss Tyler has a show on Atlanta Public Access TV called "Vagina Power." The woman featured on the show with her (according to sources on the internet) is her mother.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Carnival of Feminists #36

The latest Carnival of Feminists is available on Fetch Me My Axe. And WSTU 125 got linked! Check it out...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Unveiling Afghanistan

In my opinion, I think the most interesting aspect of the Unveiling Afghanistan video was the drastic comparison of each woman’s view of oppression. For example, in the beginning of the video, the journalist noted how during the Taliban’s control, she was limited by her womanhood. She couldn’t walk the streets alone or travel inside her own country. However, by visiting the other Afghan women, she finds that her idea of oppression wasn’t as severe as the women living further away from Kabul.

For me, the most emotional portion of the video was definitely the woman who escaped marrying the commander only to live in fear for the rest of her life. That really made me view my freedom in a different way, as I rarely think about how fortunate I am to live in a society where I do anything I want, and express myself in any way I chose. Watching this video definitely made me think about how fortunate I am.

Is death so bad after all?

Having not yet read Mohanty for next week and only seem the film on women in Afghanistan, I came back to my apartment feeling rather guilty seeing the body size of these people, their rations, and their living conditions. It seems that this film did exactly what it was intended to do, to instill in each and every person who watches it the disastrous status that these Hazara women endure. This may be controversial, but it seemed hard to decipher whether death or those horrendous conditions were worse.

The Third Wave

I truly believe that our generation is the third wave of feminists. Instead of fighting for our right to equality, the third wave of feminism is about choice, it is about individuality. As Astrid Henry states in Solidarity Sisterhood: Individualism Meets Collectivity in Feminism Third Wave, “Third wave feminists rarely articulate unified political goals, nor do they often represent the third wave as sharing a critical perspective on the world.” Rather, the third wave is about individualism.

As Henry states, “Where the third wave has often appeared stuck, however, is in moving beyond self-expression to developing a larger analysis of the relationship between individual and collective experience, culminating in theory and political action.” However, I’m not sure that political action needs to occur in order to define a true “wave of feminism.” If each woman defines feminism for herself as an individual, and lives with the second waves’ accomplishments embedded into their everyday lives, than isn’t that the third wave of feminism?

I don’t agree that my generation of women, the third wave, “takes for granted” the rights given to us. I agree that on most days I don’t think about the previous inequalities women had to endure; however, I don’t undervalue their efforts and accomplishments. Their work paved the way for the third wave of feminists to be doctors, lawyers, writers, politicians, and presidents. The third wave of feminism is taking the second wave’s success and applying it to our everyday lives, our individual existence, and not necessarily relating it to a certain political movement or theory.

I believe that the third wave is about choice. As women, we have the opportunity to be anything or anyone we want to be. We aren’t restricted by our gender any longer. As children, my generation played soccer, practiced ballet, and had art lessons. We were told that we could grow up to be anything and have any career we chose.

As Rebecca Walker states, “I am the Third Wave.” I believe that I embody feminism in my own individual way. I chose to attend an excellent college and receive an education that will be the foundation to my future. I will choose to live with my boyfriend after graduation and I will choose to have a family and a career. My life is about choice.

I believe that the third wave of feminism is exemplified by the “superwoman” mentality. Women can be career women, moms and wives all at the same time. Choice is the third wave of feminism, and I believe that I am truly fortunate to be apart of this generation of females.