Category Archives: Gender Role

October 11th, “Day of the Girl”

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“In recognition of the importance of investing in and empowering girls during adolescence and preventing and eliminating the various forms of violence they experience, the theme of International Day of the Girl Child for 2014 is Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” -United Nations

(Full text: http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/)

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“In every community across the globe, girls and women should have the opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve their full potential. All nations have a responsibility to protect the basic human rights of all people, and when they do — when girls and women are fully valued as equal participants in a country’s politics and economy — societies are more likely to succeed.” 

“We cannot allow violence to snuff out the aspirations of young women in America, and we must not accept it anywhere in the world. Today, we resolve to do more than simply shine a light on inequality.” -Barack Obama

(Full text: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/10/presidential-proclamation-international-day-girl-2014)


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The Weight Of It All

I think the complexity of it — it being the effect of men on women, their weight and influence on our very existence — scares a lot of women from engaging in the conversation. We view our existence and our lives as our own; our ownership, our choices, our paths. But what if it’s not as simple as that? It’s much simpler to view it in black and white and peg us (females/feminists) as women who care too much/give a damn/make excuses/whatever. I wish women could be enthralled by the idea of diminishing the sexism and roadblocks, instead of being scared by it (it’s easier not to care, though). With the advent of sexism in the workplace and in daily life, I can only hope more and more women can be awakened to the barriers being placed on women. The weight of it all is real. The influence and weight men place on women is heavy and felt.

I’ve been networking the last few months, in preparation to begin a transition from current job into a new field. I made the decision earlier this summer to stop networking with men. It seems a brute and harsh reaction, but networking with men only led to not being taken seriously, connections not being made, and instead an offer to buy me drinks at another date, in perhaps a more “casual setting” (read: take me on a date). This happened to me and several other female friends, who all decided to refrain from networking with the opposite gender. What does it take to be taken seriously? We are all successful and driven; we even made a point to not wear tight-fitting clothes to these networking meetings. Though at the end, we were nothing more than a pretty face.

Though, what about how we women relate to each other? So often the first connection women make is whether or not they have a (male) partner. Half of the conversation is then spent comparing and contrasting experiences with males, with the important characteristics and facts about ourselves being saved for later. Why are men such a defining part of female existence?

Men continue to influence female workplace dress. Prior to interviews with men, I would agonize over what to wear. Would one dress emphasize my hips too much, in a manner that may be “suggestive”? What about a dress that hugged my curves and flaunted my figure? Would a pencil skirt imply I wanted to be fucked? In the end, I always choose clothes that fit somewhat loosely and give only an inkling of a figure underneath. I feel safer being bland and nondescript than being assessed on an underlying sexuality.

How much should we care? How much can be done? Earlier this week, I told a supervisor whom I admire and we have often had many a great talk about feminism, sexism in the work place, etc., that a client made a comment about my “pretty face”. I felt at great unease from this comment and was instantly distraught at the thought of my work being thought of as different, as attached to my body rather than my intellect and follow through. She essentially replied that I shouldn’t fuss/sweat it too much, since worse comments could have been made. Though I realize this is true, I was crushed at the fact that this woman, who has shattered many a glass ceiling in her day (hate that phrase, but it’s true in her case), could dismay my discomfort.

As a mental side project, started tallying how many times per day I’m catcalled on my 1/2 mile walk to and fro the public transit station I frequent for work. It’s disheartening, but telling. I’ve also made notes of whether the drivers are in vehicles that are clearly marked as part of a company, etc. I’ve often wanted to call these businesses and complain, but again, have feared the roadblock of a dissent manager getting in my way to do so. Despite often starting my day with such an upsetting experience, I’d rather brush it off and get on with my day than acknowledge it and have it be disregarded by someone who didn’t experience the tragedy of that moment.

A person very close to me, who is highly successful in a field in which men reign, hates the idea of feminism and all that goes along with it. She doesn’t see the point. She kept her mouth shut, did the work, and laid low to rise up. Why can’t we (again, feminists) do the same? It’s easier to assume instead of understand, and the sadness of that is difficult to bear.

The issue at hand is complex. In fact, there are many issues at hand. It’s more complex than it’s often given credit for (outside of liberal media, that is). The difficulty lies in the notion of getting people to feel that the idea is not “not complex”. There is weight and matters to be sorted through here, divided into layers and split up amongst their fixings.

The point, at the end of it all, is to have the voice be heard and the weight felt. To know that we don’t have to be silent, but that we can kick and cry and scream to move ourselves ahead if we need to. That we don’t need to mold into what is expected of us nor refrain from speaking our truths. We need not be discouraged. Hope is brewing, simmering, and rising.

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#LikeAGirl

Rhetoric is one of the most effective ways in which the disempowerment of women is perpetuated. In particular, phrases linked to femininity that are intended to be insulting are damaging. This video by the Always campaign captures this phenomenon perfectly.

 

Redefining Hero: Cheree

Cheree O’Shields is a registered nurse who works at Kateri Residence, a program of St. Stephen’s Human Services that serves Native American women and children. She has worked as a nurse and advocate for homeless youth in the Twin Cities since 2005. She is currently working on her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in Public Health Nursing and Adolescent Health at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing.

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My Incompetence as a Farmer and Why I Blame Patriarchy

Okay, so some of you may think this is a stretch, but lemme give it a shot.

Here’s where I’ve thus proven myself incompetent on the farm (I’m interning on an 150-member organic Community Supported Agriculture farm; I’ve been here a month):

I lack hand and arm and core muscle.

I’m not drill savvy – I needed to get a screw into purling (for a hoop house we’re putting together) and I couldn’t tell forwards from backwards in terms of which way the screw was moving. I just struggled for a while and then assumed I didn’t have the arm strength to do it.

I didn’t know that for tractors and stick shift cars, you have to park them in a gear or they roll backwards. I failed at parking the tractor in the proper spot, after multiple tries, and I later almost caused the car to roll into a pond (I was able to save it with 2 meters to spare; it did take out the horse fence).

I didn’t and don’t know what to listen to in terms of an engine (i.e. how to tell when you’ve given it enough throttle).

I didn’t know how to hitch a trailer or a tractor accessory.

I can’t back up a trailer.

I am not very good at starting a fire.

I don’t know to look for plastic on or near a wood burning stove before lighting a fire. I just end up with a pool of melted plastic and a house full of fumes.

Here’s why I think some of these incompetencies wouldn’t exist if patriarchy weren’t shedding it’s lovely shadow over our existence: 

I didn’t have a dad around for much of my life to show me how to use tools. When he was around, tools weren’t something he could afford to buy, and there wasn’t the time or money to do things like camp or hunt. My mom, while quite skillful in a lot of areas, doesn’t usually fix things herself. It might be a lack of time, as she works a lot (blame other structures for that, such as academia and capitalism and the nonprofit industrial complex), but it could also be that her dad passed his fix it skills onto the boys in the family – all my mom’s brothers are pretty savvy – and not the girls. Similarly, my mom’s brother and other men in our lives who were handy didn’t pass their skills onto me. Sure, they tickled and teased me (and there was the time that our tree trimmer friend put me in the harness and let me go up into the elm, and he gave my barbie the name Tree Trimmer Barbie) but even when I got to go fishing, they didn’t put a hook on my line! And I’m convinced it was not because I was 3, but because I was a girl raised by a single mother and an immigrant dad.

Maybe this is a stretch.

The point is, I feel incompetent out here on the farm. I guess that’s what you get with a city girl goes to western Wisconsin. It is quite possible that programs such as Boy Scouts prepare guys for country living a little more than what’s available for girls. And men are told to train their bodies, be tough – women aren’t. Men are supposed to be the handy ones, so I’m guessing they’re more likely to seek out or, through social pressure, be exposed to tools and machines and mechanical skills. Leaving me in the dust.

The farmer I work for is a single woman and she is often defending her know how and her ability to do things herself – whether it’s carrying a heavy load, trouble shooting the new sand point well, or getting the water feature working on her antique transplanter. She tells stories of always being the minority, and perceiving certain attitudes when at a meeting or buying supplies. I am interested in interviewing her about her experience as a single woman farmer in rural Wisconsin. If anyone has interview question suggestions, please post them in the comments. 

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I can, at least, bottle feed the calves.

Ideally, I would have done some research for this post to back up some of my claims about male handiness being socially constructed, but life on the farm means I need to be rushing outside right now. Wish us luck transplanting today!

Written by Magdalena Kaluza

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What’s in a Hero? Wendy. Davis.

Wendy Hero ReThink History: Hero Project

If you don’t know Wendy Davis, here’s the scoop. In my opinion she’s about as BA as it gets. She’s a democratic politician running for governor in the most notoriously red state in the country – Texas. Not to mention, she’s a woman. That alone takes an enormous amount of moxie (new fav word) and determination, and still it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

To her supporters and fans she may be a lot of things: a rags to riches success story, a ray of hope for Texas democrats, an abortion clinic guardian, a Harvard alumni lawyer and, of course, mom. The list could go on, however, what tends to be missing is the title Hero. So, what’s in a Hero?

☑ People who become heroes tend to be concerned with the well-being of others.

☑ Heroes are good at seeing things from the perspective of others.

☑ Heroes are competent and confident.

☑ Heroes have a strong moral compass.

☑ Having the right skills and training can make a difference.

☑ Heroes persist, even in the face of fear.

 MALE

She more than fulfills every requirement on typical qualities of a hero (spare you the details) except for the tacit and most basic of them all. Everyone knows a hero is a man. And not just any man, a strong, self-sacrificing man with a furrowed brow and a disciplined mind, ready to rescue the helpless, the unfortunate and the women.

Our image of who should be powerful and heroic extends beyond conceptual ideas and has very real consequences for Wendy and her campaign. For example, the majority of the oppositions attacks are not on her political stance, but her personal life and backstory. She’s not traditional enough, she didn’t even struggle that much, she abandoned her family, she didn’t dedicate every waking moment to her children while she was at Harvard law school… and so on.

A man going pursuing a degree in another state while the wife stays back with the kids is seen as a necessary sacrifice. A woman doing the same is seen as a unjustifiable atrocity. A male politician’s home life is barely acknowledged in most cases, while a female politician must be prepared to reveal and defend even the most irrelevant, personal details of her life.

Anyway, the election will be this November and I have no idea what to expect. I do know that the republican candidate Greg Abbott is outrageous and of course wants to cut pre-K education for only minorities, plans to vote against the equal pay act, continue the abortion clinic destruction and the usual. I 100% support Wendy in doing just the opposite.

#TeamWendy 4life

Check out the website: http://www.wendydavistexas.com/

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and tell your friends!

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Rewriting our Story: Equal Pay

RSVP for Panel Discussion Attendance

Tuesday, April 8 is National Equal Pay Day.  A day dedicated to advocating, highlighting and eliminating the wage gap between men and women. Even after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, women in 2014 are paid $0.77 to the dollar earned by a man. On the other hand, women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) make 33 percent more on average. With the demand for STEM jobs and equal pay, join the conversation on #EqualPay and #STEM.

The YWCA’s across the US and the Department of Energy are teaming up to host a live panel and Tweet Up on “The STEM Promise: Opportunities for Economic Empowerment.” The conversation will focus on #EqualPay #STEMjobs and how the wage gap can be impacted.

TWEET with US! Raise awareness and join the conversation on April 8, 2014, from 3-4pm EST

• Watch #STEMEqualPay on Tuesday – @YWCA_NCA, @ENERGY, @YWCAUSA, @wusa9 talking #womeninSTEM go.usa.gov/KhMY

• #womeninSTEM have smaller wage gap. Join @ENERGY and @YWCAUSA on Tues to hear why. go.usa.gov/KhMY (#STEMEqualPay)

• join @ENERGY @YWCA_NCA #STEMEqualPay Tweet Up Tuesday & share entry-level #STEM job advice to advance pay equality go.usa.gov/KhMY

 

 

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Baby’s First Zine

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Hi Real Life Athena readers!

My name is Rose, I’m currently a senior at Barnard College out in NYC, and I’m a new member of Real Life Athena! Today, I’m going to show you all the first (and so far, only) zine I have ever made.

Zines are awesome.  They’ve been around for as long as printing has been a thing and have been used historically by activists, feminists, anarchists, and all kinds of rad people to publish all kinds of rad ideas.  They’re all self-published and made without profit as the goal, and technically a zine shouldn’t have a circulation of more than a thousand copies.  Other than that, they’re all completely different! There are comic zines, political zines, fanzines, fiction zines… basically, anything you can think of, there’s a zine for. I’m currently using a zine as a source for a final paper for my class about anarchism and the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the New York City Feminist Zine Festival, which was a public event held at my school.  It was so amazing! I walked around the all the booths, talked with people selling their zines and went to a zine reading session where seven zinesters read aloud from their work.  Some of my favorites were Suzy X (who does The Best Song Ever comics for Rookie!), Annie Mok and Jenna Brager.

I left the festival armed with the zines I’d bought and feeling pretty inspired.  Then, I went on to spend the rest of the night making my own zine! I’m a huge comics nerd, so I took a comic-y route.  I also used the one-page set up (which you can see below) that I’ve used before for my own mini-comics.

tumblr_l8srhjyjkj1qz6f4bo1_500(Illustration by Beth Hetland)

This semester I’m doing a club-thing called CU FemSex, taken from the original Female Sexuality club at Berkeley.  Basically, it’s really awesome and I had to come to our meeting the next day with a Body Project, hence, my zine became my Body Project. I don’t usually go the personal route when I’m doing my artwork.  Usually, I’ll do little comic story lines or I’ll draw interesting looking people that I conjure up using my imagination, so doing a zine that was all reflections about my body was a little uncomfortable and scary.  Ultimately, though, it was pretty awesome and got me thinking it might be something I continue to do.  After all, I’ve been pretty inspired by a lot of comic artists that do personal narratives (Vanessa Davis, Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel to name a few) and maybe it’s time that I try my hand at it.

Anyways, here’s my zine! Click on the images to see them bigger and go into the slideshow mode.

*Just a tiny note: when I say that I became body positive and also say that I didn’t shave my legs, I don’t mean it to seem like not shaving is the only way to be body positive.  I just personally don’t really like shaving and like my body hair. There’s no wrong way to be body positive!

**Barnard shout out: my school has an amazing zine library (and our own zine librarian!).  Our zine library collects zines by women (cis- and trans*) and with an emphasis on zines by women of color, about a myriad of feminist/activist/identity topics.  It’s pretty awesome.  Go here to learn more: http://zines.barnard.edu/blog.

ReThink History Project

Introducing the ReThink History Project:

From the moment that individuals are introduced to structures and individuals in ‘power’, there is an underlying systemic bias towards white individuals. The history of our country cannot be discussed without first addressing the historical trauma that colonialism has imposed on individuals of color within the boundaries of the United States, and beyond. Iris Young discusses the five faces of oppression as: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence.  The main oppressive event that everyone’s mind jumps to is slavery. While slavery was not just taking place in the U.S., it has greatly shaped how our country developed policies and laws that may still be in place today. Not only have our political institutions been formed under this social construction of ‘whiteness’, but so has popular media, the entire academic system, and the cycle of socialization in our world.

In Winston Churchill’s 1946 Iron Curtain speech he addresses the all-too-often-phenomena of history being written by the victors. Our stories and our history should never be forgotten, yet so often there are individuals whom have made powerful changes in the United States, whose stories and names remain out of our history curricula and classrooms. In her TedTalks speech, Chimamanda Adichie speaks to “the danger of a single story” representing an entire group of people. The true American dream of a ‘Land of Opportunity’ has been lost.

Through the ReThink History project we aim to bring light to those individuals not recognized in our history textbooks, or discussed in the standard classroom setting – yet should never be forgotten.  We believe taking an honest look at the past and questioning the normal history narrative can help everyone understand, and improve, our world.  We would like to acknowledge the many different lenses and approaches that could be taken for this history project, yet we choose to specially focus on female identified individuals. Through this project we will post on Thursdays, around topics relating to this subject matter, in order to help us all become more educated on our past and present.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask either in the comments section below or through personal email: rethinkhistoryproject@gmail.com

Please take a look at the first project we will be leading:

Redefining Hero

Words—an interlocking web of significance. Life is breathed into an idea through them. With the power that a single utterance can provide, we began to think, “What does “hero” mean?  This word has worn many faces. A great uncle who beat cancer, a next-door-neighbor who volunteered abroad, a famous deep-sea diver—the list is endless. With this in mind, we wondered, “What is the commonly assumed embodiment of a hero?” “What is the stereotype?” “What is the definition of a hero.” According to Oxford Dictionary:

he·ro

ˈhi(ə)rō/

noun: hero; plural noun: heroes;


”A person, typically male, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

We are curious if this one-dimensional depiction of what a “hero” is limits the exposure of other important heroes. Throughout history, white males have been featured in many positions of power, and thus have been seen as heroes. Undeniably, there are countless white men who have done great things in this world. However, the way our media, textbooks, and cultural perpetuation shape our understanding of what it has meant and what it means now to be a “hero” often confines our perspectives to one narrative.

So, we are interested.

  • How do you define “a hero?”
  • Who inspires you?
  • Who is your hero?

We are hopeful that this project will bring awareness and exposure to many different types of heroes.

By submitting your story, you can add to a collection that will be un-uniformed and undefined. We are very excited to see the submissions! They can be submitted in the form of:

  • Written response: The length is subjective, however, the more concise you can be, the better!

  • Video response: A short clip can be submitted to the e-mail address provided.

  • In person video recording with our team: We will be conducting short video recordings at the U of M campus.

E-Mail Address: Rethinkhistoryproject@gmail.com

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Our Blindspot on Dating Abuse

Vegetable gunWhen we hear stories or statistics about dating abuse, we start to form an image in our mind about what it typically looks like, the typical abuser or the typical victim. We might even get better at recognizing a common case and maybe even doing something about it. However, the downside is that any dating abuse that does not fit this description is even less likely to be recognized or addressed.

In an earlier post, I pointed out that domestic abuse does not have to be physical and that emotional and psychological abuse are just as valid and just as damaging. Here, I want to introduce what I think is another overlooked and delicate topic.

Women can be abusers too, they are not always the victim. It sounds obvious. Even though, statistically, the vast majority (92%) of domestic abusers are male and the victims are female, occasionally it does happen the other way around (this differs in same-sex relationships). Still, I would argue because it is far less common, often looks different, and goes against most of our gender stereotypes we are less able to see it for what it is.

Stereotypes associated with women such as weak, passive and nurturing are nearly the complete opposite of those that we associate with somebody who is abusive (e.g. controlling, aggressive, angry). Acknowledging and/or rejecting stereotypes about women does not, unfortunately, mean we are not affected by them. So my point is that abusive behavior by a woman is in direct conflict how they are viewed by other people, and even how they view themselves.

Gender stereotypes in relation to domestic abuse are harmful for both men and women. When women are viewed as weak and passive, it appears more “natural” for them to be the victim and easier for all parties to justify the abuse. Yet, women who abuse will never have to be justified because it sounds like too much of an oxymoron to be taken seriously. For that reason, men who are being abused by women are just as likely to be disregarded.

For men there is so much shame around reporting abuse that a large number of cases likely go unreported. “We tell boys to “man up” and be strong, and this means that they should not have emotions, never feel weak, etc. and continues a vicious cycle of men feeling unable to express themselves about hurtful experiences,” which clashes strongly with the image of a victim.

I was surprised to see how much the statistics evened out in younger groups. One study found that in dating abuse with teen couples girls were more likely to report both being a victim (41%) and a perpetrator (35%), which was surprisingly close to boys reporting victimization (37%) and perpetration (29%). This “leveling-off” was thought to due to recognizing more female abusers, rather than an actual rise.

Emotional abuse, by either gender, is now listed as a common form of abuse, but was under the radar for a long time. Belittling a partner or criticizing them in front of others can be written off as a joke. Having to “get permission” to do something might be seen as acceptable. The silent treatment or emotional isolation might just be their way of handling things. And it’s expected that your significant other should be a priority over all others or else it means that you “don’t love them,” right?!

If it’s harder to see women as abusers and to recognize emotional abuse, in combination it would probably be very easy to overlook. What makes this even more complicated to address is that oftentimes the person does not realize that what they are doing is considered emotional abuse. A whole range exists from mild to severe, and probably fluctuates over time.

What I do feel is a very important distinction between being assertive and being abusive. I’m a huge advocate of people (especially women) being able to communicate their needs and expectations in a relationship and not backing down just to avoid a conflict. Given that, there is a difference between expecting honesty and invading the other persons privacy. In the same way that wanting to be the center of their world and isolating them to make that happen.

As an advocate for awareness of domestic abuse (and dating abuse in younger groups) especially in diverse populations, I still have a hard time getting past the stereotypical case. The man as the abuser, the woman as the victim, physically violent, and blatantly obvious. We need to push ourselves to recognize all forms of abuse and that everyone, ourselves included have the potential to fall into either role.

Missing pieceWhether it’s mild or severe, your best friend or an acquaintance you should consider doing something about it. Don’t give up on a who seems to have isolated themselves. Talk to a friends if you suspect they could be abusive. Monitor how you treat you own partner. Still, remember that not usually straightforward or clean cut so use discretion 😉

Disclaimer:  I am aware that this post is heterosexist in that it uses a heterosexual relationship as the standard and does not address these issues in the context of same-sex relationships. I wanted to specifically address the assumption that women do not abuse men and the consequences of that.

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