Community hubs

This is the global Feminist Blogs aggregator. It collects articles from many smaller community hubs within the Feminist Blogs network. For stories from particular places, groups, or other communities within our movement, check out some of these sites.

“You can’t self-help away deeply-ingrained structural discrimination.”

The Confidence Code book coverJessica has a good piece in The Guardian today on the gender confidence gap and the new book The Confidence Code which “argues that what’s truly holding women back is their own self-doubt.” As Amanda Hess has noted, this book is part of a genre that’s enjoying popularity right now — one that she describes as teaching women how “you, too, can become a successful blowhard.”

As Amanda notes, it’s worth questioning if we really want to be imitating the attributes of overconfident high-achievers. And it’s also debatable if that’ll even work. The confidence gap, Jessica argues, is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured.” So you can “fake it ’til you make it” all you want, but real change won’t come until the culture shifts.

In girlhood, starkly-divided toy aisles teach us that engineering, electronics and science toys are for boys, that the futures for which we should be preparing are those of the Barbie Dream House variety. Adolescent girls – especially girls of color – are given less teacher attention in the classroom than their male peers. A full 56% of female students report being sexually harassed. Sexual assault on college campuses is rampant and goes largely unpunished, women can barely walk down the street without fear of harassment, and we make up the majority of American adults in poverty.

The truth is, if you’re not insecure, you’re not paying attention. Women’s lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them.

While encouraging women to have more self-esteem is not a bad idea generally, there’s no evidence that being more assertive will change the way women are perceived in the workplace. Confident women at work are still labeled ”bossy” and “bitchy”, to their own detriment – unless they can “turn it off”. And despite all the gains women have made, most Americans – men and women – would still prefer a male boss. While Kay and Shipman give a nod to ambitious women who are judged more harshly than their male peers, they seem to have no solution – other than putting the onus on women to change.

For example, when Kay and Shipman talked to young women participating in Running Start – an organization that trains college-aged women to run for public office – they heard from one woman worried about being labeled a “bitch” if she was too assertive. Another spoke up about the difference between going to an all-girls school – where everyone raised her hand – and her current school, where women didn’t speak up in class.

Kay and Shipman’s response is to bemoan “what a waste of energy and talent all this agonizing can be”. But where they see agonizing, I see identifying discrimination – a first step in taking action to end sexism. In the 1970s, this kind of consciousness-raising sparked a new wave of feminism. Now, decades later, women are perplexingly being advised to turn inward to solve external problems.

I think that last point is really key. As we discussed during the whole Ban Bossy debate, instilling more confidence and leadership skills in women and girls is good. It only becomes a problem if we pretend that these individual empowerment efforts are all it takes to end gender inequality. So yes, go ahead and work hard to try to unlearn the self-doubt instilled by a sexist society — but, far more importantly, talk about that shit. With everyone, all the time, until it stops being so hard.

Maya DusenberyMaya still finds it easier to speak up in class on the internet.

Predictions

Reader Stringer Bell asked a very interesting question:

There are things that will annoy or offend me, but nothing ever shocks me anymore. Do others feel the same? My generation sort of shocked my parents generation with our thoughts on sex, homosexuality, race, etc.

I’m sure the next generation will do the same to us, but I can’t imagine how. Like, how much progressive than me can my children be, haha?

So here are some of the predictions that I made:

♣ I think that we will see a very swift erosion of the boundaries between the public, and the private and the new generations will be a lot more comfortable with that than we are.

♣ I can also see people going in the direction of “endless childhood”, which is not a bad thing per se, but it can make old fogeys like me feel exasperated.

♣ Another thing I think might happen is people turning inwards and disentangling themselves from any political engagement. When I’m in a particularly bad mood, I envision presidential candidates having – instead of the debates in the format we are used to – singing or cooking competitions. The show can be called The Real American Idol and would be massively popular.

♣ I also think everybody will have their own online channel where they will stream live footage of their existences 24/7.

OK, that’s all I’ve got for now. What can you think of that might shock us about the future generations?


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The personal is political, and also personal: Why choosing to date within your race isn’t racist

I fear that I’m about to wade into all kinds of messy territory, but alas, that is the work of feminist critical thinking. This morning I came across a Slate piece by Reihan Salam about why expressing a same-race preference on dating websites is racist. I beg to differ. Salam’s main argument comes down to this:

“There are good reasons to question the moral appropriateness of strong same-race preferences and their close cousin, in-group favoritism. In The American Non-Dilemma, Nancy DiTomaso argues that persistent racial inequality in the United States is not solely or even primarily a reflection of racism and discrimination. Rather, it reflects the fact that whites tend to help other whites without ever discriminating against or behaving cruelly toward blacks and other nonwhites. As long as whites tend to dominate prestigious occupations, and as long as they control access to valuable social resources like access to good schools, the fact that whites, like all people, will do more to help family, friends, and acquaintances than strangers will tend to entrench racial inequality, provided that white people choose to associate primarily with other whites. DiTomaso observes that while Americans place very high value on the idea of equal opportunity, virtually all of us seek ‘unequal opportunity’ in our own lives by leveraging our intimate relationships to achieve our goals, including our professional goals. Yet most of us don’t see the help of family and friends as an unfair leg up. This kind of ‘opportunity hoarding’ is accepted as par for the course.”

Interracial dating is not the ultimate manifestation of an anti-racist society, nor is it a walk in the park for the people in those relationships. For those who want to date outside of their race, it can mean damaging relationships with their families, becoming a target for discrimination, or being asked ridiculous questions like these. And in case some of you are thinking, “They shouldn’t  let the ‘racist’ actions and ides of others stand in the way of their diversity-tolerance-and-unity-building love,” I’m here to politely remind you that this isn’t Romeo and Juliet. These are people’s lives. I’m not sure about you, but if I knew dating a white girl would be grounds for me to lose my job or get kicked out of the house, I’d go ahead and pick from another dating pool. I’ll take “bills paid and a roof over my head” for $800, Alex. 

The situations I note above are extreme examples of negative outcomes from being in interracial relationships and involve the discomfort and disapproval of outside parties. But there are valid reasons for wanting a partner that shares your racial background. Relationships are personal. They are informed — and sometimes regulated — by politics, but they are also often special and meaningful in our lives. For me, just a few of those reasons are:

  1. It is important for me to share certain cultural experiences with my partner that are specific to Black communities. This is particularly important living in the United States, where your race absolutely dictates the experience that you have here.
  2. Dating a Black girl does not erase internalized racism and sexism, and those biases can still permeate relationships. I face enough micro-aggressions throughout the day, I definitely don’t want to have to deal with them in my relationship.
  3. Part of my personal (spiritual and political) growth has involved embracing Black love in all of its forms. In my specific case, dating within my own race is doing anti-racist work.

Throughout the article its unclear whether Salam has more of a problem with people preferring to date within their own race or the fact that they are willing to admit it publicly. I find myself questioning why that distinction matters. The question isn’t: “Are you adamantly opposed to dating people of the following races?” — which I agree would be kind of racist. Admitting that you are more comfortable dating within your own race is being very vulnerable and honest about what you are looking for in a partner. Furthermore, if an unwillingness to date outside of your race is the cause of “in-group favoritism,” lying about it on your online dating profile is hardly the solution. Nor does it make for a very fulfilling relationship.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a difference between a white man only dating within his race and say…me, a black queer feminist woman. On the one hand, his preferences just so happen to reinforce the devaluing black beauty in favor of that of white women in our racist, sexist society. I, on the other hand, am intentionally reclaiming and celebrating black beauty, which is a subversive act in the context of that same society.

Ultimately, Salam agrees that there is plenty that we can do to break down the social and economic barriers that marginalize communities of color besides interracial dating. He points a dissertation from the philosopher Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman called ”The Duty to Miscegenate,” which emphasizes inter-dining.

“Despite the title of his dissertation, Coleman does not see intermarriage as a solution, as ‘the production of cross-caste children has proved unreliable in giving rise to cross-caste commonality.’ Rather, he emphasizes the importance of routinely putting members of different castes on an equal deliberative footing by encouraging the sharing of cross-caste meals, or ‘inter-dining.’ Eating together can serve as a solid basis for companionship, a word that is itself rooted in the sharing of bread. The rural white Southerner who dines with nonwhites as a matter of course is doing more to tackle stigma than the urbane white hipster who hardly ever does the same.”

I agree with Salam that we should be a little reflective about our personal choices in dating. We have all internalized prejudices about people who are different from us, not just along race lines. But it’s ok if that reflection doesn’t leave you with a case of jungle fever. We all — white people who “voted the right way” included — resist racism in the ways we can and that doesn’t have to mean enacting an equal opportunity policy in our love lives.

Avatar Image Sesali answered yes to that question on OKC and that didn’t stop a whole army of white dudes from messaging her.

Russia Criminalizes Blogging

Russia has adopted a law that will punish with fines and prison sentences bloggers who express opinions that are not approved by the government. Every company that offers a blogging platform or a discussion forum is obligated to keep all records of who said what and transfer these records to the state investigative services whenever needed.

Bloggers will also be punished for comments left by anonymous commenters on their blogs that do not reflect the official views on history and politics. Everybody becomes a snitch and a censor of everybody else. The alternative is to become a criminal.

Anonymous blogging is also now criminalized. All bloggers will be put on a registry and their activities will be monitored. The hilarious part of this law is that it obligated foreign online services (such as, say, WordPress, YouTube or Facebook) to participate in identifying Russian bloggers and spying on their verbal communications. The law doesn’t specify what will happen to WordPress for not snitching on bloggers and refusing to censor them, but it is quite clear: access to such web sites on the territory of Russia will be shut down, just like it’s done in China.

It is especially hilarious that this comes only a few days after Snowden gave Putin an opportunity to market himself as a defender of true freedom. Now, I hear, Snowden is making noises to the effect that he didn’t mean for his question to be so helpful to Putin. Of course, he must have thought that Putin would hear his question and exclaim, “God, you’re right, I’m such a tyrant! You just made me realize that I should stop oppressing people, incarcerating peaceful protesters, destroying freedom of speech and promoting fascist ideology! Thank you, you changed my life with your insightful question!”


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Student kicked out of her prom for wearing pants

Shafer Rupard

Shafer Rupard’s red skinny jeans got her kicked out of prom.

Ah, the prom. That awkward night of teenagers dressing up and pretending to be adults remains one of our most long-standing and universal rites of passage. As such, it often seems to reveal a lot about how far we have — and haven’t — come in breaking down traditional norms around gender and sexuality. For every trailblazing trans teen who runs for prom king, or cross-dressing boy who wins prom king, or gay boy who wins prom queen,  you’ve got teachers lobbying for LGBTQ-free proms and lesbian couples prohibited from attending or sent to a fake prom instead.

The latest tale of gender policing at prom comes from Cherryville High School in North Carolina, where high school senior Shafer Rupard was kicked out of her prom for wearing…pants. Via WBTV:

“The teacher tapped me on the shoulder and said she had a problem with what I was wearing,” said Rupard. “I thought it was because of the hat or the leather jacket and I was like well I’ll take those off and she was like no, it’s the pants.”

Seriously? I know part of prom’s charm is that it’s a quaint little throwback to the 1950s, but a woman wearing pants hasn’t even been close to scandalous for decades. As Rebecca at The Mary Sue asks, “Were the pants made of anthrax? Were they toxic pants?” I mean, I know proms are typically semi-formal, but Rupard’s red skinny jeans looked sharp. And there’s nothing in the school’s handbook about a dress code for prom.

Rupard’s mother said, “It’s just the way she’s always been and she wanted to feel comfortable in her own skin. We want to put out the message to all teenagers that you should be allowed to be yourself.” Word.

Maya DusenberyMaya wishes she could pull of red jeans.

Your Daily Poem: Eileen Myles

Ed. note: For National Poetry Month, we’re highlighting one feminist poem each day in April. See the whole series here.

Today’s poem is “An American Poem” by Eileen Myles.

An American Poem

I was born in Boston in
1949. I never wanted
this fact to be known, in
fact I’ve spent the better
half of my adult life
trying to sweep my early
years under the carpet
and have a life that
was clearly just mine
and independent of
the historic fate of
my family. Can you
imagine what it was
like to be one of them,
to be built like them,
to talk like them
to have the benefits
of being born into such
a wealthy and powerful
American family. I went
to the best schools,
had all kinds of tutors
and trainers, traveled
widely, met the famous,
the controversial, and
the not-so-admirable
and I knew from
a very early age that
if there were ever any
possibility of escaping
the collective fate of this famous
Boston family I would
take that route and
I have. I hopped
on an Amtrak to New
York in the early
‘70s and I guess
you could say
my hidden years
began. I thought
Well I’ll be a poet.
What could be more
foolish and obscure.
I became a lesbian.
Every woman in my
family looks like
a dyke but it’s really
stepping off the flag
when you become one.
While holding this ignominious
pose I have seen and
I have learned and
I am beginning to think
there is no escaping
history. A woman I
am currently having
an affair with said
you know you look
like a Kennedy. I felt
the blood rising in my
cheeks. People have
always laughed at
my Boston accent
confusing “large” for
“lodge,” “party”
for “potty.” But
when this unsuspecting
woman invoked for
the first time my
family name
I knew the jig
was up. Yes, I am,
I am a Kennedy.
My attempts to remain
obscure have not served
me well. Starting as
a humble poet I
quickly climbed to the
top of my profession
assuming a position of
leadership and honor.
It is right that a
woman should call
me out now. Yes,
I am a Kennedy.
And I await
your orders.
You are the New Americans.
The homeless are wandering
the streets of our nation’s
greatest city. Homeless
men with AIDS are among
them. Is that right?
That there are no homes
for the homeless, that
there is no free medical
help for these men. And women.
That they get the message
—as they are dying—
that this is not their home?
And how are your
teeth today? Can
you afford to fix them?
How high is your rent?
If art is the highest
and most honest form
of communication of
our times and the young
artist is no longer able
to move here to speak
to her time…Yes, I could,
but that was 15 years ago
and remember—as I must
I am a Kennedy.
Shouldn’t we all be Kennedys?
This nation’s greatest city
is home of the business-
man and home of the
rich artist. People with
beautiful teeth who are not
on the streets. What shall
we do about this dilemma?
Listen, I have been educated.
I have learned about Western
Civilization. Do you know
what the message of Western
Civilization is? I am alone.
Am I alone tonight?
I don’t think so. Am I
the only one with bleeding gums
tonight. Am I the only
homosexual in this room
tonight. Am I the only
one whose friends have
died, are dying now.
And my art can’t
be supported until it is
gigantic, bigger than
everyone else’s, confirming
the audience’s feeling that they are
alone. That they alone
are good, deserved
to buy the tickets
to see this Art.
Are working,
are healthy, should
survive, and are
normal. Are you
normal tonight? Everyone
here, are we all normal.
It is not normal for
me to be a Kennedy.
But I am no longer
ashamed, no longer
alone. I am not
alone tonight because
we are all Kennedys.
And I am your President.

“An American Poem” originally appeared in the collection Not Me by Eileen Myles, published by Semiotext(e), 1991.

sm-bio Syreeta McFadden is a co-curator of Poets In Unexpected Places.

What Do Professors Do All Day?

Anthropologist John Ziker decided to try to find out.  Ziker recruited a non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days.  In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day.  In total, he collected data for 166 days.

It’s a small, non-random sample at just one university, but here’s what he discovered.

All ranks worked over 40 hours a week (average of 61 hours/week) and all ranks put in a substantial number of hours over the weekends:

1

Professors, then, worked 51 hours during the official workweek and then, in addition, put in ten hours over the weekend.

What were they doing those days?  Research, teaching, and service are the three pillars of an academic workload and they dominated professors’ time.  They used weekends, in particular, to catch up on the first two.  The suspension of the business of the university over the weekend gave them a chance to do the other two big parts of their job.

1b

This chart breaks down the proportion of time they spend on different activities more clearly. Ziker is surprised by the amount of time faculty spend in meetings and I’m particularly impressed by the amount of time they spend on email.  Most professors will probably note, with chagrin, the little bars for primary research and manuscript writing.

1a

Interesting stuff.

This was just a first phase, so we can look forward to more data in the future.  In the meantime, I’ll add this data to my preferred answer when asked what I do all day:

5

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

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Film: How to Lose Your Virginity

I have a little sister and, like any good feminist, I spend a lot of time making sure that she knows that her worth extends beyond her beauty, her body, and her sexuality. As she is still a teenager, a big topic in her life and that of her peers lately has been virginity. Personally, I don’t think that my sexuality or “virginity” is an object to lose, or give away, and I don’t want her to think that either. That’s why I was so excited to watch How to Lose Your Virginity with her.

In this documentary, filmmaker Therese Shechter uses her own path out of virginity to explore why our sex-crazed society cherishes this so-called precious gift. Along the way, we meet sex educators, virginity auctioneers, abstinence advocates, and young men and women who bare their tales of doing it — or not doing it. How to Lose Your Virginity uncovers how all the hype around virginity is basically a campaign to control and commodify women’s bodies. 

Did you know that the word “virgin” comes from the Latin word “virgo” which literally means young woman?

The film makes it clear that our culture’s obsession with preserving purity and regulating women’s sexuality comes from a time when women were legally considered to be property. If a man bought married a woman who had already had sex, how would he be sure that the children she bore were his? However, this logic only appears to have applied to women who were not enslaved, i.e. white women. Because enslaved African women’s children automatically became the valuable property of their owner upon birth, the more children slaves had, the better. This of course meant that slaves did not have any purity to lose, or really any sense of agency in their sexuality. According to this logic, slaves could not be raped. These cultural practices continue to have deeply painful and harmful legacies on the way we map sexuality onto racialized bodies today.

In spite of the fascinating and telling historical context, the true triumph of How to Lose Your Virginity is in how relatable it is. The first time I had sex, I was surprised at how anti-climactic the whole thing was. Watching this film, it was touching to see my experience mirrored back at me.

After the success of the film, Shechter decided to expand upon that sentiment and create the V-Card Diaries, a crowd-sourced story-telling tool to share virginity stories. The site asks users to describe and categorize their most meaningful sexual experience, serving up plenty of answers that do not involve penis and vagina sex. For many people, their most meaningful experience was becoming comfortable with their bodies or masturbating for the first time. For others, their first sexual contact was through sexual assault.

My sister is a confident young woman, but just the same I’m glad she watched the film with me. In a world where we have to work hard to unlearn so much, it is so meaningful to reaffirm things that we feminists learn over time. Sex is not an object, but an experience, one which every human being should be able to define for themselves.

Related:
Lifetime’s “Preachers’ Daughters” Shows Everything That is Wrong with Purity Culture
“Queer Sex Doesn’t Count” And Nine Other Myths Uncovered- And Debunked- at the Harvard “Rethinking Virginity” Conference
The Purity Myth, the documentary

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Juliana was a sexual person way before she had sex and was still a sexual person after she had sex.

SHAMANISM AS A METAPHOR

To the new left

I have linked psychological states with political outcomes.  But most have been resistant to what I've had to say, because it affects their self-esteem.

Of course it does!  All stages of learning involve having to manage our self-esteem as we realize how little it is we know and how much more we have to develop.  But not listening -- whilst is may preserve your illusions -- leads to succumbing to exactly that which I had warned you about.  Your psychological naivete leads directly to your being politically dominated by all sorts of unscupulous fellows.

Don't think I didn't warn you about this.  But do realize that you put priority on maintaining your self esteem, rather than looking more deeply into the nature of your illusions.

You have commanded that I spend many years looking very deeply indeed into the nature of my own political, moral and historical illusions -- and I have done so.   I've also learned a great deal about the link between psychological states and power structures in the process.   But now that I know all this, it's much easier to see that the majority of people remain stuck at the level of being concerned only with the sensations they have about themselves.  The whole of new left politics is predicated around the need that certain downpressed people feel, to elevate their self esteem.

But I cannot do that!  You must do it on your own.  And after that, when you feel strong enough, it is imperative to make the link between your acceptance of political domination and the nature of your psychological states.   That is work you must do on your own -- or else, succumb to the politics of resentment by voting out left-leaning encumbents because you are not totally satisfied with a less than completely submissive, morally-motherly figure.

You vote in order to enhance your self-esteem, but your actions are an endless well of negativity.  You can't achieve a political outcome that way.   Politics is one thing and self-esteem is another, but you insist on confounding the two, to the extent that a government of the extreme right seems preferable to you than one who fractionally transgresses your pristine morality.

I'm no longer going to promote your right to self-deception, not even when you crave it, like mother's milk, because I will not be your vehicle for self-delusion and political captivation.  You need to work it out for yourselves.

If you are lowly and feel lowly, well, I can see why.  It's because of what you continually insist on doing to yourselves, which is to punish others on your side for not being perfect enough for you.  Well, that is why you are in the mess you are in.

But you have nobody to blame for this but yourselves.  And stop blaming others.  Get over yourselves.