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.

MacKinnon

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.

Borderlands

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Welfare: What Of It?

Gwendolyn Mink’s lecture about the impacts of the current welfare system on lower-income women was really eye opening. I constantly struggle with my understanding of women’s role in today’s society. Mink discusses how in order to prevent welfare from discriminating against women and treating them in an unequal way, domestic policy and opinion will need to shift. She described how thirty-seven million women currently live below the poverty level ($17,000/yr. or less for a family of three), seventeen million are living in severe poverty ($8,000/yr. or less for a family of three), and fifty-four million women live on less than $34,000/yr. for a family of three. A major concentration of Mink’s lecture was how single mothers are affected by the current welfare system: thirty-six percent of single mothers live in poverty. Mink said that she believes that in order to fix the problem of incredibly high female poverty, welfare and the American government need to recognize motherhood as work and compensate women appropriately. My sister and I have had many discussions on this topic and I constantly struggle with my feelings regarding this topic.
Many feminists now are saying that women need to be compensated financially for their work as mothers and caretakers. It is my understanding that this is the result of a fairly recent shift in feminist values, and it is one I am having trouble accepting. I have learned about the history of women and how we have been so oppressed by men and restricted to the field of motherhood. As soon as women were able to branch out into different careers and participate in the workforce with men, we took advantage of the new opportunity and began to believe that we were created for more than just motherhood. I guess that I am still of the feminist mind that parenting is the duty of both parents and, since discussion of caretaking and motherhood as a form of social work has arisen, that paying mothers for their services will only institutionalize the parenting hierarchy and continue to allow fathers to shirk their duties as parents. However, attending Mink’s lecture has helped me to realize that something needs to be done for women and single mothers in particular. Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform bill that declared that marriage is the basis of a healthy and productive society, and denounced single mothers for having children when they were single and poor, is not the answer. This problem requires a serious solution.
I am not sure if treating motherhood and child care as social work is the answer. What I do know is that, while we may not be demanding the same rights as Mary Wollstonecraft, and Harriet Taylor, and Betty Freidan, women today are still discriminated against and we are still fighting for equality. Based on the debates over this issue, I can see how gaining women’s rights has been so challenging, but I think it is high time that men and women took equal responsibility in our world and considered each other equals. I mean, we’ve been trying for over two hundred years and this whole inequality thing is getting rather obnoxious.

VA Tech Shooting...

In response to the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech, I can't help but think about the tough guise video. Does this fit with the authors' point about hegemonic masculinity? The shooter was young male who recently came to American from Korea (I think). Does this add or take away from the authors' theory about American youth???

In Response to Third Wave Feminism Discussion

I was compiling my ideas of third wave feminism based on the readings and yesterday's discussion. In terms of comparing our ideas of second and third wave feminism with an actual sea of waves I quickly realized that no matter which wave we are referring to, they are both based on the same original ideas just as waves big or small are composed of the same water. Mother and daughter or a sisterhood, both forms of feminism are based on ideas before. I think it is more important to concentrate on deciding for one's self whether she will devote herself to the cause rather than which form of feminism or sit back as everything our formers have worked for is snatched before our eyes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Third Wave

It was interesting that we were assigned the third wave readings this week because of a conversation I had with another girl this past weekend. She made some comment regarding feminism, deeming it “ridiculous,” saying that there is basically no need for feminism, especially radical feminism. I quickly responded, telling her that she was obviously entitled to her opinion, but that I felt she was making ignorant comments--the same could be said about any type of movement. I felt as if she was only referring to the negative stigma feminism has commonly been associated with. In an attempt to redeem herself, she said that she was “all for women’s rights and gender equality,” but didn’t see the need for women’s studies and all that “I don’t need a man” talk.

As I was reading the article by Astrid Henry, the conversation I had with this girl kept coming into my mind. Henry discusses how third wave feminists rarely “articulate unified political goals,” rather choosing to argue against second wave feminists, allowing for the entrance of many third wave-identified thinkers. She says that third wavers define feminism in their own terms, which was similar to what this girl was doing. She criticized things about feminism that are typically considered to be second wave and made it clear that she was for “gender equality,” but that was it. I suddenly found myself explaining the things that I enjoy and feel passion about in women’s studies and feminism, and then the things that I don’t really care about. It was then that I realized I was fitting the third wave description. I didn’t have a strong argument in defense of feminism, and felt as though I was meaninglessly arguing for “girl power.”

Although I do not think that the characterization of third wave individual opinions and perspectives regarding feminism is a bad thing, one thing that Henry said really struck me. Henry writes that by allowing feminism to be whatever it wants to be, it loses its critical political perspective, and becomes nothing but “a meaningless bumper sticker announcing ‘girl power.’” I really do believe that we take feminism for granted because it has always been readily available to us. We study and discuss all the accomplishments and shortcomings of those before us and it becomes easy to pick and choose what we believe and want to acknowledge. But after reading Henry’s article I now realize the importance of some type of unified perspective, or we will continue to be labeled as the meaningless advocates of “girl power.”

A Really Cool Blog

Hey Feminist Theorists!
I wanted to recommend people check out this cool blog:

www.feministing.com

The woman who created it is in her 20s and is a really powerful, cool lady. I think it has some really great stuff on it and will be interesting for all you rising Feminists out there.

There is no such thing as too much Anzaldua!

Gloria Anzaldua’s poem and essay deal with huge issues relating to race in America. And while many whites believe they have no prejudice or bias, and America tackled the race problem long ago, Anzaldua’s work confirms that the opposite is true. Many people, including myself, believe that they are completely accepting of other races, sexualities, etc, but I think this is exactly the wrong attitude to have. Everybody has prejudices, whether big or small, and until we can accept that we have them, there is no way to deal with and fix them.
Anzaldua describes, what she calls, the Borderland: a place where races, sexualities, and genders intersect. She discusses the dichotomies in genders, sexualities, and races, and how these differences cannot be reconciled until we recognize that we are diverse and become educated about our histories. While reading this essay and poem, I was reminded of a struggle that I have been dealing with in regards to the United States and its race problems.
The United States has always represented itself as the place where anyone can come, no matter race or economic standing, and with a good work ethic can succeed. The phrase, "the American Dream, " has encapsulated the spirit of the United States for more than a century: a country that is open and welcoming and conducive to achievement. However, we have a serious history of oppressing minorities. When the Irish came to the United States in the late eighteen century, they were oppressed and not considered “white” until they had lived here for long enough and had proved themselves to not be incredibly threatening. During WWII, the Japanese bore the brunt of America’s oppressive and non-accepting nature when President Roosevelt placed the entire Japanese population living on the West coast in internment camps. Now, it is Mexican immigrants. Obviously, American Indians and Black Americans have received the worst treatment by White America.
I have struggled to understand why the United States could claim to be a country that welcomes all people, where everyone can succeed, as it simultaneously discriminates against every different ethnic and racial category of people that migrates here. As Anzaldua argues in her poem and essay, these different ethnicities are struggling in America, especially when they are of mixed heritage because, she says, “In the Borderlands you are the battleground.” The racial problems in our country are magnified and maximized for those people who belong to more than one ethnic category. Until we honestly recognize that there are differences between us, and that White America has discriminated against these minorities, we will never understand how to reconcile the races in our country, and we will never live together peacefully.

Grappling With My F-Word

Come On Feminists!
I was really affected by Astrid Henry’s Solitary Sisterhood. I thought it was a fantastic piece and it really spoke to many of my personal discussions and conflicts with feminism and the world today. Henry discusses Third Wave feminism and how it differs from Second Wave, or at least how modern day feminists like to view themselves. I personally struggle with the lack of connection I feel with not only my fellow feminists but also my fellow humans, and I how I reconcile that with living in the 21st Century. I think that the third wavers definition of feminism (that there is not really a universal definition that applies to all women, but rather all feminists have their own definitions), and the fact that “’sisterhood’…has not been a major priority,” is representative of the current generation and is reflective of my feelings on other issues as well.
I think that I have grown up in the wrong generation because I long for the days when college campuses shut down because the students were protesting the war (Vietnam), and when feminism was sisterhood. More broadly, I think that my generation is nearly incapable of accomplishing anything that requires serious collective action and as Henry said in her essay, we are less able “to affect real political change, particularly if such change is premised on collective action.” Henry says that my generation expresses opposition to the Second Wave’s exclusion of many groups from their definition of feminism and has turned to a virtually indefinable feminism that is more welcoming of all types of people. I don’t think that a complete upheaval of the old feminist system is required, simply some tweaks.
My frustration with the Third Wave has been with what Henry describes very accurately in her essay: “third wave feminists rarely articulate unified political goals, nor do they often represent the third wave as sharing a critical perspective on the world.” I recognize that it is nearly impossible to identify one comprehensive position that will be representative of all women’s issues and will protect all women from inequality, as is the case with almost every topic. However, I think it is necessary for the third wavers to acknowledge that we all want what is best for women, and while what is right for one woman may not be right for another, we need to join together in a sisterhood whose mantra is, “whatever is best for a woman, even with differing situations, is what we support”. And until we turn the personal unto the political, women will not be able to move forward. And while I agree with Bust magazine in their urge for women to “define your agenda. Claim and reclaim your F-word,” I think that “the presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted,” and whether we embrace the philosophy of the third wave or the second wave will not matter because we won’t make any progress until we implement what Rory Dicker and Alison Piepmeier suggest in their book, Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century: “feminism must be politically rigorous…if it is to transform our lives and our world.”

Third Wave

Astrid Henry’s article “Solitary Sisterhood” brought up many things I could directly relate to as well as ideas which really got me thinking about this gap/difference of the third wave feminists from the second wavers. Although my feminism came into full fruition when I was in college, I would have to consider myself part of the third wave of feminists. I have struggled with defining that definition and I think Henry brings up some interesting and crucial points about third wavers that I would have to agree with. Third Wave Feminists do seem to be on a much more individualized path versus a collective one than the second wave. This is not necessarily bad. Of course a solid collectivity amongst all women is pivotal in the feminist movement, but I do believe it is important to give more merit to women’s individual allowances and definitions of feminism. Perhaps this will help shape a more diverse movement and discussion amongst women. The Second Wave was the milestone which gave third wavers a platform to speak. Us third wavers grew up having a right to abortion, more political leverage, a louder and more equal voice than those of our mothers. Yet, what sometimes I think gets lost is the fact that just because the second wave gave us a stepping stone does not mean that these fights are over and all we can focus on is our individual, feminist selves. I think third wave has opened up some doors of discussion that were still slightly taboo and off limits during second wave such as the interconnectedness of race, class, and sexuality, which is incredibly significant to the promotion of a collective and equal feminist movement. I do agree that third wavers have stressed identity categories in order to express individual perspectives instead of using those categories to speak as a collective voice. Im not sure speaking as a collective voice on behalf of an identity group is good, but I do believe that opening that identity group to others is crucial. Individual identities are important to the growth of the women’s movement and if women of all different backgrounds can openly discuss their individual identities in relation to broader political and social issues while including others then I think this will encourage a stronger and more adhesive generation of feminists.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where are we going?

If I was asked to draw how I defined third wave feminism, I would draw the second wave feminists, our mothers, our aunts, our professors, clad in their business suits, lab coats, and uniforms holding with them the tools to fight patriarchy. I would then draw the young women of the third wave following behind carrying the white flags of surrender. The current feminist movement has become one where the second wave is continually battling the fights they fought as young feminists. They fight for reproductive rights, equal pay, and being able to be both a mother and a professional. One may ask, where are the young women of today? The young women of today have become the silent fighters of their movement. Women of the third wave are women who have been unable to recognize their relevance within the women’s movements. They embrace the security blanket provided by women of the second wave and many see no need break out of it. Women of the third wave do not unify with other women to discuss their own views of how they can defeat patriarchy or how they can define themselves as the third wave. Many seem to have the notion that their continued presence in the universities and corporate world is their contribution to keeping the movement alive. What many have failed to admit is that the second wave provide us with this identity. Our mothers have encouraged us to go to school and to lead successful lives. This identity has caused women of the third wave to ask the question, what is it now that I have to fight for? As Astrid Henry argues women of the third wave have shared together the fight against the second wave and second wave feminism. They have fought as daughters and not as sisters. While this is a powerful statement, women of the third wave have not used their mission to portray a unified message. This is not to say that these women have not allowed feminism to not progress. They have in face included the voices of those women who were silenced during the second wave movement. The voices of women of color and the queer community have come into prominent feminist theory and have shaped the ways discourse has challenged gender and women’s place within the world. Despite these strides, there still seems to be such division. Women are not coming together as they once did and there seems to be more of a competitive nature amongst women. I believe that unity can arise through movement of open mindedness. It is a hope for equality and a desire to bring forth the need of social barriers to be destroyed. With women developing a strong active voice, history and society will ultimately alter. It is the desire of those who want to learn about the advancement of women that will allow women to become more prominent within society. With the challenge of ignorance, gaining empowerment and embracing diversity, women can bring power to themselves once again.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another Response to Anzaldua

The first time I read the ‘Borderlands’ poem I was taking ‘Difference and Diversity.’ We read the two books which Anzaldua edited called “This Bridge Called My Back” and “This Bridge We Call Home.” I enjoyed the many works in these books because it presented the difficulties and triumphs of women whose life experiences all varied based on their citizenship, race, nationality, language differences, and so forth. Every time I read Borderlands or something by Anzaldua I find myself trying to relate to her and her experiences. The trouble is that I cannot. I walk away from Borderlands feeling as though I lack any experience at all.

If we are defined by our differences then I am defined by very little. Being a white, middle class, heterosexual, female I have this "privilege". Although my religion is technically Jewish I have never practiced before. My memories of Passover are having our family over for Soul Food (in which everything is cooked in pork fat, and not to mention all of the cornbread!). My mother was Catholic and converted to Reform Judaism before she married my father. Many people do not even consider me to be Jewish because of that. I identify with Jewish culture because of my family but I do not identify with the religion (or any religion for that matter). My freshman year I was seeking some sort of identity so I took a Judaism class. It was in that class that I learned a little about the invisibility of women in the Torah. Plaskow’s piece reintroduced to me to the ways in which women must ‘take back’ and ‘reshape’ Jewish memory. My problem is that I cannot identify enough with the Jewish religion to even know how to reshape Jewish memory.

In my own memory, I have never been prosecuted based on my religion, skin color, and nationality. I do not know what it feels like to be judged and discriminated against. But I also do not have the same sense of culture, identity, and pride that comes with being different. I walk away from ‘Borderlands’ feeling envious of her difference and the inspiration to keep seeking an identity of my own.

After writing this piece and discussing it with my group members in class. I realized that although I may not consider my identity to be unique, other people do. Also, I was able to recognize that I am not alone in feeling like this. We live in this so called "melting pot" and I am one example of what happens when religions and cultures mesh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Response to Gloria Anzaldúa's Work

In the poem Borderlands, as well in her essay La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness, Gloria Anzaldúa talks about balancing so many identities that she looses her own definition of self. Because she is so many things, so many nationalities and ethnicities, she doesn’t know how to perform as a multicultural woman. She writes about her struggle with forming her identity and the hardships she encounters.

However, her essay, Anzaldúa goes more in depth with her balance of nationalities and writes about her creation of her “new” identity. “I am cultureless because, as a feminist I challenge the collective cultural/ religious male-derived beliefs of Indo-Hispanics of Anglos; yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet.”

Anzaldúa’s “new” identity is a very significant idea. Rather than defining herself according to societies definition of what a Hispanic/ African/ Caucasian is, she is “an act of kneading, of uniting and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meaning.”

I don’t come from a mixed race/ religion/ ethnic background. I could never explain what it must be like to relate to one culture over another or to blend several different ethnicities and make them your own. However, growing up in a very homogeneous neighborhood where everyone was an affluent-Jewish-Caucasian, I can say that identicalness is boring. Sitting in classes and being friends with the same type of person is repetitive and dull. Everyone has the same answers and opinions because their lives are the same. I have found that my most favorite courses and class discussions have derived from controversial topics with a wide range of opinions for classmates. Therefore, I believe that multicultural is beautiful and imperative to productivity and creativity.

My roommate and best friend is an Asian-Caucasian Jewish girl. She celebrates Hanukkah, Christmas and Chinese New Year. I commend her for ability to relate to numerous types of people and to have such a diverse background. Being from varied religious and ethnic groups, she has been able to celebrate various holidays and celebrations and be amerced in different cultures. She is able to associate with many groups and interact with them on a level that I can never achieve. She is an “insider” to different nationalities and has a passport to numerous cultures.

As Anzaldúa states, “the answer to the problem between the white race and the colored between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our cultures, our languages, our thoughts.” By eliminating the differences between cultures, we can find the similarities.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In response to Anzaldua's "Borderlands" poem

Gloria Anzaldua’s “Borderlands” poem was in my opinion a creative approach in describing the life of a “mestiza.” As discussed in the poem, in “La Consciencia del la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness,” and Monisha Das Gupta’s “Dissonances,” these authors uniquely tell the tale of the way of life, hardships, and advantages to being a “mestiza.” A mestiza is sometimes referred to as “a fifth race…embracing the four major races of the world (Anzaldua, p. 377).” The experiences and imagery suggested by the two readings relates very well in my opinion to the “Borderlands” poem.
In Gupta’s “Dissonances” she describes herself and her story as one of an Indian girl whose background is quite unique, or as she refers to it “fractured between two realities- Third World and First.” This reading was interesting to me because of her choice, which almost seems almost definitely forced rather than chosen, to label herself as a black woman. In describing her inner conflicts it was obvious that it was painful in many perspectives for her. When associating herself amongst Indians it was known that she would be excluded if they realized she had in a sense been a traitor by identifying herself as a black woman. Her formation of the South Asian Women for Action, or SAWA was her escape, a place to freely be any or all of the aspects of her heritage.
In Anzaldua’s “La conciencia de la mestiza,” I found it intriguing to read about her definition of a mestiza and the struggles they are faced with. These struggles she described were mostly inner conflicts, those of which were culturally and communicatively based rather than physical or aesthetic. The “cosmic race” or a fifth race which would support and embrace the four major races of the world was Anzaldua’s positive approach to including every individual for who they are, not based on race. I found it very interesting that when she describes the “machismo” and his lower standard of living caused by hierarchical male dominance, he may face various issues with people of different races. For example, Anzaldua describes the Chicano in the Gringo world suffering from dangerously low self-esteem but when with a Native American would suffer what she called “racial amnesia.”
Anzaldua’s “Borderlands” poem was even more interesting when reread after reading the prior two readings. This poem was a beautifully written description of the life of a mestiza, or life in the borderlands. I especially liked the third stanza in which she used the different staple foods of various groups of people and combines them, for example “to put chile in the borscht.” To live in the borderlands or in other words be a mestiza is saddening based on some of the stories of those who have trouble finding their true selves but in a sense this poem provides hope for those people by giving motivation to change society and gain an appreciation for the different.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Reaction Paper #4 - Anzadua's Borderlands Poem

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 08, 2007

Tough Guise

I felt as though the movie “Tough Guise” was well-developed, using interesting and effective examples to make its main argument about masculinity and violence. All of the ideas that were presented were supported and provided good insight into the ideas of masculinity that our society has constructed. Despite these strengths I felt that the movie oversimplified the concept of masculinity by just discussing “toxic traits.” This is similar to the arguments posed in the article “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.” In regards to this article, I felt that the authors did a good job of presenting the arguments for and against hegemonic masculinity, providing a comprehensive overview of the issue. The article discusses the application of masculinity to crime and violence, similar to the way the video connects the two. Still, there are many other ways to use the concept of hegemonic masculinity which this article clearly articulates, when the authors write that “we reject those usages that imply a fixed character type, or an assemblage of toxic traits.”

While I was reading this article, I kept thinking about Judith Butler’s discussion as gender as a performance. Many of the critiques of masculinity include arguments that it ignores differences and frames ideas within a “heteronormative conception of gender.” These critiques are common of feminist thinkers who discuss the concept of femininity. This is also common within feminist thought when discussing women of different classes, race, and in particular, sexuality. I felt that the two arguments are extremely interchangeable, as throughout most of this article it seemed that ‘masculinity’ could be replaced with ‘femininity’ and ‘aggressiveness’ with ‘passiveness.’ These constant arguments of the construction of ideas of masculinity and femininity prove Butler’s argument that none of these constructions are natural but rather performances. If society scrutinizes differences between men and women and ideas of gender, it seems that we will always be performing to some degree. At one point the article says that gender relations have always been a grey area and I feel that these articles and videos will continually complicate this issue.