Wednesday, May 09, 2007
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.
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 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
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
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?
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
she whom the moon ruled
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses
Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
in those spaces of the mind
‘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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
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.
Monday, April 30, 2007
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.
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.
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.
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
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
Its a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for 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
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
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.
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
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
Sunday, April 22, 2007
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.
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 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.
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
“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.
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
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
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
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.
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.