Monday, April 30, 2007
Mary Wollstonecraft reflects that only in an autonomous state can any creature of reason and virtue find fulfillment in her life, and asserts that this must remain independent of factors of love and companionship. “…whether she be loved or neglected, her first wish should be to make herself respectable, and not to rely for all her happiness on a being subject to like infirmities with herself.” Friedan’s piece, especially her emphasis on women’s desperate search for men demonstrates this salient similarity that is present throughout these two pieces. However, for Friedan, education is not the simple answer, as Wollstonecraft envisioned its ability to facilitate autonomy of women. It seems as though the growing consumer culture of the time, coupled with the frenetic life-style led women of the 1950s and early 1960s, affected even the most educated of women who were supposedly valued as equals to their male counterparts. The need for women to have a separate identity independent on others (as a mother or wife) is addressed as Friedan relays the way many women claim to feel a void where their own distinctiveness and personality should be housed. This theme is present in Wollstonecraft’s discussion of the artificiality and transient nature of the woman who betters herself physically to impress a man while neglecting her spirit and mind, the only transcending aspect of her being. This obsession with beauty, even as women are being admitted into universities at higher numbers then ever before, still continues, although I believe it is indicative of our affluent consumer culture and is extended to both women and men. Such historical and economic changes continue to prove the elasticity of our ideas of femininity, although at the core, the desire to please men continues to be engrained.
One of my group members reminded me today that in Atwood's book Offred (or "Of Fred") must engage in the fertilization process with the Commander, but the way it is done involves Serena Joy appearing to be the one impregnated. With her skirt above her head, it appears as though Offred isn't even there; she is just the vessel, but the child would belong to Serena Joy. Perhaps Atwood was making a commentary on the sometimes vicious competition for adopting that some couples enter into. Infertility is an issue that is highly sensitive for many women and men, and I think a lot of couples would rather pretend that the birth mother never existed.
Something as simple as picking out a Valentine’s Day card for someone in a bi-racial or homosexual relationship, for example, could be difficult. The faces and imagery of love are typically the majority status, a white male and female, and if you don’t fit that quota there are very few cards that deliver your message of love. If you are not involved in a Caucasian heterosexual relationship, is your message less significant, less meaningful?
Similar to Bell Hooks’ introduction of All About Love, greeting cards- like art- should pertain a universal meaning of love. Rather than categorizing messages of love by the involved participants or by the author of those messages, shouldn’t we create a universal meaning? Isn’t the love that is shared between a man and woman the same love that is shared between gay couples?
Greeting cards, like art, are the vehicles used to express love. Regardless of who the message is for or from, the message of love is consistent. In the introduction to All About Love, the author expresses her strong connection to graffiti art that declared, “The search for love continues even in the face of great odds.” She explains how she was recently dealing with a separation from her partner of fifteen years and the words lifted her spirits. She later finds out that the construction company painted over the graffiti because they learned that the “words were a reference to individuals living with HIV and that the artist may be gay.”
Messages of love can be interpreted by the viewers and applied to their own life. It shouldn’t matter what the original intent of author was or whom the message was directed to. Love is a universal concept and shouldn’t be labeled or categorized.
Valentine’s day is nothing more than a holiday invented by the greeting card companies; however, it somehow reinforces cultural norms and class systems.
I met her in a club down in old soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-cola C-o-l-a cola
She walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said lola
L-o-l-a lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well Im not the worlds most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well Im not dumb but I cant understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Well we drank champagne and danced all night
Under electric candlelight
She picked me up and sat me on her knee
And said dear boy wont you come home with me
Well Im not the worlds most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes well I almost fell for my lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
I pushed her away
I walked to the door
I fell to the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her and she at me
Well thats the way that I want it to stay
And I always want it to be that way for my lola
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
Its a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for lola
Well I left home just a week before
And Id never ever kissed a woman before
But lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said dear boy Im gonna make you a man
Well Im not the worlds most masculine man
But I know what I am and Im glad Im a man
And so is lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo lola
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
In Rebecca Walker’s “Becoming the Third Wave” she begins with a discussion on the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill controversy in which Hill accused Thomas of sexually assaulting her. As Walker stated, women in the United States not backing up a fellow woman is disastrous for our future as women. If we cannot stick together, we will probably fail in our attempts to equalize our relationship as compared with that of men. Walker is a strong advocate for joining in a sisterhood that is the third wave, rather than referring to it as a group.
The idea of third wave feminism as a sisterhood is a recurring one which is mentioned in Astrid Henry’s “Solitary Sisterhood: Individualism Meets Collectivity in Feminism’s Third Wave” as well. In this chapter, Naomi Wolf claims, “true sisterhood can only be achieved by incorporating diversity into feminism (Henry, p. 89)de.” I agree with Walker in that we should each define feminism as it applies to each of us but overall I think that this true third wave of feminism should be a sisterhood rather than “the mother-daughter trope” that some young feminists are beginning to side with.
I believe that third wave feminism is a necessary and engaging form of feminism, one that could possibly solve equality differences sooner than past or other forms of feminism. I do believe that we should each define feminism for ourselves but finally I think that every woman should take some time to decide for herself if she will truly devote herself to the cause or watch as everything that has been worked for by our sisters past is taken from us before our very eyes.
Mohanty’s “Under Western Eyes” concentrates on western feminist discourse on Third World women. She explores many different aspects of the lives of Third World women. She touches on female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East that was quite disturbing. Her discussion on Bemba women’s marital rituals can be related to the marriage that took place in Afghanistan Unveiled in which the women seemed forced to cry, to seem sad to be leaving their families. The woman in the film was allowed to choose her prospective husband unlike traditional Bemba marital traditions. Mohanty’s discussion on veiled women elicits that the more women who continue to wear veils only make life for women more sexually segregated. In the film I thought it was very interesting how in one of the villages she visited that she didn’t interview the women because they were veiled and not allowed to have their faces on camera.
In Mohanty’s “Under Western Eyes-Revisited,” sixteen years after her publication of “Under Western Eyes” she explores the indigenous struggles of third world women. These struggles can be related to the women living in caves in Afghanistan with no water or electricity. Mohanty discusses the decreasing power of self-governance in these countries as well. I found it very interesting when she made a point about the fact that we commonly used the terms north and south to distinguish prosperous communities from those that are not, similar to the use of the terms of Western and non-Western.
These readings by Mohanty and film on women in Afghanistan depicted the struggles Third world women face but also expresses a sense of hope for these areas as this woman was given the ability to learn to film, to express her newfound freedom and the struggles her country still continues to face.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
In the second essay “Under Western Eyes Revisited” Mohanty ‘revisits’ her initial views and extends her views to include the globalization movement. She also attempts to clarify many of her writings, readjusting them to fit today’s issues. She writes that “In terms of women’s movements, the earlier “sisterhood is global” form of internationalization of the women’s movement has now shifted into the “human rights” arena. This shift in language from “feminism” to “women’s rights” can be called the mainstreaming of the feminist movement—a (successful) attempt to raise the issue of violence against women onto the world stage.” The shift of the women’s movement into a movement for the preservation of humanity offers both advantages and disadvantages, most importantly if opens up for more understand and aid to people of different heritages, especially those within the “third world”
Mohanty’s writing, when viewed in terms of Afghanistan Unveiled, become clearer and much more pertinent to modern culture. Her arguments for the recognition of the Third World not just through oppression but in terms of its historical complexities and the many struggles its citizens have encountered to change their oppressions are clearly shown in the lives of the Afghan women in the movie. The women of the nation want to be known for the fight they have won, and the vital fights that they have won in order to survive, rather then being recognized as the women behind the veils, rules over by male guardianship. Many of the women in the movie expressed their disappointment with other nation’s stereotypical views of their cultures and lifestyles. They want to be accurately represented within the global sphere. Mohanty’s discussion of the growth of human aid from the feminist movement offers hope to these women that aid might reach them, regardless of their gender or geography.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The mestiza people that Anzaldua writes about suffer from a lack of ethnic identity. Anzaldua writes about the often opposing messages sent out to the mestizas. In an attempt to reconcile all of their respective cultures, the mestizas are sometimes universally rejected for not fulfilling each ethnicity to its status quo. This inner war takes away from their confidence in their person.
“half-breed caught in the crossfire between camps while carrying all five races on your back not knowing which side to turn to, run from”
“Borderlands” suggests that because of this inner war, the mestizas people find that their voice has been taken. “… People walk through you; wind steals your voice…” Because they are unable to take a specific culture, they become overwhelmed by the multitude and fade away into their confusion. They are the scapegoat, and are forced into fulfilling stereotypes. Anzaldua’s “la conciencia de la Mestiza”, talks about how they must remain flexible as people within the larger culture. If they should try to be rigid and construct an identity within their multiple cultures they would, according to Anzaldua, die. Borderlands references this, discussing the dead of the mestizas, wounded in battle, trying to fight back and assert their independence as a person, unlimited to their ancestors. The road of the mestizas is a rocky one. Because of their affinity to multiple cultures, most of which are not Aryan, they receive the backlash connected with being all of them. Instead of receiving the stereotypes and racism attributed to one ethnicity, they receive the unwanted attending connected to two or three cultures.
As I read Astrid Henry’s “Solidarity Sisterhood”, I found myself recognizing and agreeing with many of her points concerning third wave feminism. Third wave feminist have grown up within a society that had been heavily influence by the actions of the second wave feminists. Described as “waves” these two movements are separated by a generation, they are mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. The influence that one has had on the other is a very important part of their development. While never knowing complete equality, they have always known the possibility of such an environment, and the inequalities that they have faced are much more subtle than those that their female predecessors fought against.
The change from second to third wave feminism brought about many changed within the structure of the feminist groups. The most influential of these changes was the loss of Sisterhood within feminism communities. As the issues became more intricate and the immediate need for change less necessary, third wave feminism never developed the sense of sisterhood and female community that the second wave had so cherished. The third wave developed an emphasis on the individual. Astrid Henry talked about this change and how it can be seen through the popular feminist writings of the times. Second wave feminists wrote about sisterhood and its many bonds. Third wavers concentrate on their own personal thought on feminism in their works. They write as individuals, with personal aims, beliefs, and goals. I agree with Henry that because of this separation found in the third wave, the feminist presence in the government sphere is much weakened to the point of non-existence as a national group.
I personally feel that the third wave’s loss of sisterhood will be its downfall. Without a strong community that holds the same or at least similar goals, those in the third wave will never be able to make real, long lasting, widespread changes. In terms of national politics, the third wave does not represent a unified front, and will not be taken seriously until they do. I am not sure if I feel myself as being part of the third wave. I believe in many feminist beliefs, but because there is no platform, or set of ideals, I have no way of knowing if what I believe is consistent with the third wave. However I was about 30 years older I have no doubt I would have been a proud member of the second wave.
I found Gloria Anzaldua’s imagery of Mexican women as a new race creative and extremely powerful, “You're a burra, buey, scapegoat forerunner of a new race, half and half - both woman and man, neither- a new gender.” Through language she draws Mexican women to be a new race that is not defined by the gender roles of male and female but is so different and subordinated that it has its own gender. In addition, I found the part comparing the Borderlands to a battlefield intelligent and influential, “In the Borderlands you are the battleground where enemies are kin to each other; you are at home, a stranger.” It describes how minorities living in the United States are in a consistent cultural clash with their neighbors and are attacked for their differences in their own home, the United States. I found her piece to be particularly fresh and intriguing because it brings binaries (such as, race and ethnicity in a white dominated “Anglo” American society) into question when discussing feminism. It is particularly hard for women of minority groups to gain rights and respect, as they are put into almost a different category than females.
As a daughter of two Indian immigrant parents, Monisha Das Gupta’s “Dissonances” hit very close home. Gupta describes her identity struggle as a student in the United States and as a native of India. She feels as though she cannot identify with white women and when with only African Americans she cannot associate with colored women either. However, in a clear-cut scheme of she associates herself with black rather than white. When she travels back to India she looses her identity as minority female student and her identity shifts to existence as a 33-year-old unmarried woman. In Indian culture marriage is the most important thing for a woman; it is the “purpose” of her existence. It is emphasized and engrained in young girls at even infant ages: a nice Indian girl respects her parents, cooks Indian food and gets married by her early twenties, any less of that is shame to a family. Even within modern Indian-American families, these so called cultural values are emphasized and viewed as doctrine. I can speak from experience, my parents and relatives who are very well educated and well-off ask me, yes me at the tender age of 18, if I have found a suitable Punjabi Jatt Sikh boy (a caste within a caste within a region) yet and if I had not yet then I better soon because “if you don’t find a boy at this age you’ll never get married”. As an Indian American it is difficult to create an identity that embraces self respect, integrity and independence, that breaks socially constructed gender roles and incorporates American culture without devaluing or disobeying Indian culture and tradition. This is an even greater struggle for females as they must be categorized within a category and must strive to create an identity and place in society for themselves.
So the essential question in this debate of third wave feminism is: How can third wave feminism be altered and reshaped in order to effectively improve American leadership? In order for an effective female movement to occur society must initially understand and recognize that issues do exist and change through activism is necessary. Some conservative feminists, such as Karen Lehrman, believe that activism is not needed in order to eradicate discrimination, as it not a pressing issue today. In her book “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex and Power in the Real World, she argues “discrimination is not as bad as it’s made out to be… women are not oppressed in the United States, and they’re no longer (politically at least) even subjugated” (Henry 85). According to the Library of Congress in 2007, women hold 16.3%, of the 535 seats in the 109th US Congress. However, 51% of the population in the United States are women, as of July 1, 2004, according to the U.S Consensus Bureau. It is difficult to establish that political discrimination based upon sex is nonexistent today, as there are more females than males currently in the nation, yet only 16.3% of the females in country hold positions that enable them to participate directly in the legislative process of the U.S political system.
Upon recognizing this need for change within the social and political structure of the United States, contemporary feminists must use the enthusiasm and ambition of the second wave movement to transform the present generational stance of third wave feminism into, as Astrid Henry describes a “critical political perspective that acknowledges diversity and differences within feminism while simultaneously stressing the need for collective action to affect social change” (Henry 94). Second wave feminism is criticized for its exclusivity, catering to solely white middle-class women and excluding homosexuals, transgenders, and women of disability and of varying race, ethnicity and class. Third wave feminism, a direct reaction to second wave feminism, includes these excluded groups of women and proposes that females are not females that coexist in a struggle to achieve a universal goal but rather, are individuals with unique experiences that have the capacity to formulate their own definition of feminism and how it applies to their life. Third wave, although admirable, for advocating tolerance by valuing the differences between females fails to create a mobilizing, effective movement. Movement, defined by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, is an organized effort by supporters of a common goal. Collective benefit can only be achieved when females recognize and value one another’s differences and unique experiences (rather than distancing and segregating one another due to differences) and use this knowledge to propose a single goal that incorporates all of their initiatives. This single goal can easily be described as the eradication of discrimination in the United States so that females can be valued for their differences and at the same time, have equality of opportunity so they can coexist with males as strong American leaders in the twenty-first century. As Sarah Boonin describe in her book “Please Stop Thinking about Tomorrow: Building a Feminist movement on College Campuses for Today”, “While feminism does not need to and should not mean same ness, it does imply a certain philosophical and ideological connection. We share a commitment to the pursuit of equality. That common pursuit forms the basis of our community. Unless we think of ourselves as “we—can never be true partners for change” (Henry 93).
It is imperative that feminism be viewed in a positive light in order to improve female leadership. In contemporary American society, being a feminist is viewed negatively, as a threatening, or undesirable attribute. Third Wave feminists have often removed the term feminist out of their characterized identity and have replaced it with the term “individual”. The empowering, positive, concept of sisterhood that once characterized the second wave feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s no longer exists. As author of “Listen up” claims, “These days, whenever someone says the word ‘woman’ to me, my mind goes blank. What women? Sisterhood may be global, but who is in that sisterhood?” (Henry 87); females today find difficulty in identifying themselves as females that share a strong connection with other females. It should not only be socially acceptable to label oneself as a “feminist” but it should be clear that all women share their struggle together; they are all sisters in the sisterhood. However, being a sister in the “sisterhood” does not imply that males are the target enemies. Female leadership does not involve the destruction of men but instead involves all parties to work in collaboration in order to eradicate discrimination and inequality, create a society of respect and integrity and on a larger scale, improve American leadership so males and females can coexist in leadership positions.
Essentially, if females engage in a unified movement embracing their “feminist” existence in the sisterhood, accept and recognize the differences among women, strive to work in collaboration with males, and value and utilize their unique talents, attributes and experiences female leadership will be entirely revitalized and in turn, will create immense improvement to leadership that will positively affect the present and future of American leadership.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
“I had a hamburger for lunch.”
“The Taliban cut off my baby’s ears and stuffed it in his mouth.”
For me, the most frightening part of that statement was not what actually happened but the matter-of-fact way the mother spoke it. There were no tears in her eyes, her voice was completely steady, and she spoke of it in a monotone voice that revealed no emotion. Even as we watched the movie in class, I could see people cringe and react to the graphic visual she painted. She spoke with such an empty manner, as if the event was an every day occurrence. Then I remembered that such horrors really are very much a part of these peoples’ day-to-day lives.
I didn’t attribute her robotic demeanor to apathy or indifference towards her child. I don’t believe any mother could take the death of her child in such a frosty manner. However, I think her lack of emotion came from the horrors she has seen. And it makes me wonder what this woman has suffered, that she can share details about the graphic murder of her child in such an aloof manner. I cannot even begin to imagine what the people of Afghanistan have been through at the hands of the Taliban.
The woman spoke like one who has seen too much to ever be afraid or sad again. There is something worse than despair- the frosty apathy of those whose hearts have been broken and broken again until there’s nothing left for them to fear.
I must also say that it is a piece of YouTube art. Thank you Alexyss Tyler. Thank you YouTube.
Almost forgot to tell you where this clip actually comes from. Alexyss Tyler has a show on Atlanta Public Access TV called "Vagina Power." The woman featured on the show with her (according to sources on the internet) is her mother.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
In my opinion, I think the most interesting aspect of the Unveiling Afghanistan video was the drastic comparison of each woman’s view of oppression. For example, in the beginning of the video, the journalist noted how during the Taliban’s control, she was limited by her womanhood. She couldn’t walk the streets alone or travel inside her own country. However, by visiting the other Afghan women, she finds that her idea of oppression wasn’t as severe as the women living further away from
For me, the most emotional portion of the video was definitely the woman who escaped marrying the commander only to live in fear for the rest of her life. That really made me view my freedom in a different way, as I rarely think about how fortunate I am to live in a society where I do anything I want, and express myself in any way I chose. Watching this video definitely made me think about how fortunate I am.
I truly believe that our generation is the third wave of feminists. Instead of fighting for our right to equality, the third wave of feminism is about choice, it is about individuality. As Astrid Henry states in Solidarity Sisterhood: Individualism Meets Collectivity in Feminism Third Wave, “Third wave feminists rarely articulate unified political goals, nor do they often represent the third wave as sharing a critical perspective on the world.” Rather, the third wave is about individualism.
As Henry states, “Where the third wave has often appeared stuck, however, is in moving beyond self-expression to developing a larger analysis of the relationship between individual and collective experience, culminating in theory and political action.” However, I’m not sure that political action needs to occur in order to define a true “wave of feminism.” If each woman defines feminism for herself as an individual, and lives with the second waves’ accomplishments embedded into their everyday lives, than isn’t that the third wave of feminism?
I don’t agree that my generation of women, the third wave, “takes for granted” the rights given to us. I agree that on most days I don’t think about the previous inequalities women had to endure; however, I don’t undervalue their efforts and accomplishments. Their work paved the way for the third wave of feminists to be doctors, lawyers, writers, politicians, and presidents. The third wave of feminism is taking the second wave’s success and applying it to our everyday lives, our individual existence, and not necessarily relating it to a certain political movement or theory.
I believe that the third wave is about choice. As women, we have the opportunity to be anything or anyone we want to be. We aren’t restricted by our gender any longer. As children, my generation played soccer, practiced ballet, and had art lessons. We were told that we could grow up to be anything and have any career we chose.
As Rebecca Walker states, “I am the Third Wave.” I believe that I embody feminism in my own individual way. I chose to attend an excellent college and receive an education that will be the foundation to my future. I will choose to live with my boyfriend after graduation and I will choose to have a family and a career. My life is about choice.
I believe that the third wave of feminism is exemplified by the “superwoman” mentality. Women can be career women, moms and wives all at the same time. Choice is the third wave of feminism, and I believe that I am truly fortunate to be apart of this generation of females.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
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.
Monday, April 16, 2007
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.”
I wanted to recommend people check out this cool blog:
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.
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.
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.”
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Thursday, April 12, 2007
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
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 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
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
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