A great post to give us all a little focus and perspective.
So, another person calling herself a feminist has posted another public rant, filled with hate and abusive language, targeting a minority group (of women, no less!) lower on the totem pole than herself. I found pieces of it – along with a well-written and delightfully snarky retort – on Consider The Tea Cosy . (As of yesterday or so, the original article was taken down and an apology posted – though I believe one of the Tea Cosy commentariat posted a link hosted elsewhere, if you really feel like slogging through the schoolyard name-calling vitriol.)
It got me thinking: What is the goal of feminism, exactly?
For some, it seems, feminism is about raising the status of women in the world. For some it is about taking power back from men, away from men. For some, it is about the expression of sexuality, gender identity, conformity or non-conformity to societal…
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Interesting read about the materiality of our gendered and sexed bodies.
The Construction of Gender
Many of us may not be aware of the extent of gender differentiation in media like magazines and commercials. While there is the classic pink-blue dichotomy in children’s toys, and the weak woman versus strong man roles in commercials and magazines, there are many more subtle ways that the media suggests how men and women should act and think. This has become so mainstream, that many of us can go through the day without even thinking about the ways our gendered and social lives have been constructed by media. The next time you read a magazine pay close attention to the images you are presented with. What gender and race is featured most prominently? What age group are the models, and how does this reflect what is being marketed? What position are women and men in?
Chances are you will find men in dominant positions, standing…
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The other night I came home from my night class to find a bridal shower invitation in my mailbox. This got me thinking about whether or not bridal showers are a sexist institution or whether they serve no other purpose than to reinforce the man-woman gender binary. Are they just outdated relics from another time? Or do they provide an important site for sisterly bonding and togetherness?
When I think of bridal showers (particularly the ones I have attended for relatives in the past) I think of gendered colours, gendered (and cheesy) party games like doing makeup blindfolded and constructing veils out of toilet paper, and gender-role appropriate gifts like lingerie, cookbooks, recipes, domestic goods, etc. For a long time I have felt like these aspects of the bridal shower just reinforce gender norms: The bride is woman, so let’s make everything pink or pastel because that’s the colour women are supposed to like. Women should be soft and gentle, so soft and gentle colours it is. The most important attributes of a good woman and wife are the ability to look pretty and cook for her man. I mean why can’t someone give the bride a lawn mower, camping gear, or something to do with a hobby of hers? But these initial impressions are hardly the last word on bridal showers.
From a vaguely radical feminist angle, the bridal shower could well be a positive thing. Since men are traditionally banned from the event, it provides an excellent opportunity for women to bond with one another, discuss issues that matter to them, and consolidate their solidarity. It could well be a site of knowledge-sharing between and across generations of women. So, why do we structure this female-bonding time around such stereotypical gender-reinforcing games and gifts?
Maybe the potential for making a bridal shower women-empowering rather than women-stereotyping and women-denigrating is in changing up the games and gifts. Instead of playing games that perpetuate the gendered roles like cooking, cleaning, and appearances (when then bride may well be otherwise inclined) something else could be done. You could abolish the games altogether in order to just visit and enjoy yourselves, do an activity like hiking together, or host one of those woman-friendly, sex-positive toy parties (although some feminists may object to this on the grounds of sexualisation and objectification of women’s bodies).
And what about the gifts? Why do we assume that the bride wants piles of domestic goods, particularly if she and her future spouse have been cohabitating before the wedding? If I give a bride-to-be kitchenware am I effectively telling her that her value as a woman and wife lies in her ability to cook for her husband? Isn’t it a gendered assumption to believe that a woman knows or wants to be the primary food-preparer in the marriage? So, what can a guest bring instead? In the past, I’ve ignored the gift registry full of pricey domestic goods and went for more personal gestures. I’ve bought professional portrait-framing gift cards so that she and her spouse can select a frame to place that special photograph in. I’ve also purchased restaurant gift cards so that she and her fiancé can have a nice night out together. (Luckily, for the bridal shower I was invited to this week the registry is at amazon.com so I can purchase a dvd or book or gift voucher.)
A very interesting post on the way our culture’s myths, stories, and fairy tales create narratives of femininity for young girls to consume and perhaps eventually act out or embody. Check it out!
When my daughter got into fairy tales and princess things, she would dress up and play pretend every chance she got. She would construct elaborate stories and wear as much of her costume jewelry as possible. If her dad or I were around, we would usually be added to the cast of characters. Daddy was the King or the handsome Prince, and I was the Evil Queen.
At first, I was totally taken aback by this label. EVIL QUEEN?!?!? Was this an early rebellion? Was I coming down too hard on our preschooler such that she had already identified me as the “mean” parent? I don’t WANT to be evil. Something had to be done!
But as I paid closer attention to what my daughter was actually watching, the innocuous Disney dramas took on a slightly sinister role. Fairy Tales were teaching my daughter that while girls were good, women were…
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Trigger warning for transphobia.
By Kate Harris
On Thursday 17th January I went to the ‘Protest Transphobia at the Guardian’ protest.
The protest was called because of a hateful transphobic rant published in the Observer, written by Julie Burchill, which has since been removed. Burchill’s piece aimed todefend her friend Suzanne Moore, who used what she thought was a throwaway phrase in an article, saying the body type women are expected to have was that of ‘a Brazilian transsexual’.
Burchill’s piece called trans people critical of Moore ‘a bunch of dicks in chick’s clothing’, ‘trannies’ and ‘a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.’ She also made jokes about ‘having one’s nuts taken off’ and, in relation to trans women, ‘lovely big swinging PhDs’.
This was nothing more than vile hate speech, setting out to provoke and saying absolutely nothing other than being insulting towards the mean ‘trannies’ and telling us…
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Is Pinterest perpetuating sexism/existing gender binary biases? I want to explore this question from a few different angles.
But first, let me admit my personal biases so that you know where I am coming from and what kind of socialization might be lurking behind my thoughts. I do have a Pinterest account… but I don’t use it because I don’t really get its user interface. I am not tech-savvy enough to really get the site and it doesn’t appeal to me all that much. I am much more comfortable, technologically speaking, using the various types of Gawker.
USERS: Who are the people behind the computer screens and keyboards using Pinterest and Food/Wedding/Dwelling/Craft Gawker?
-Some might be inclined to argue that due to the traditionally feminized nature of the content on these sites, their primary users are women and girls. But is this really the case? There is no way that the administrators of this site (even if they so desired) could exclude men or anyone from any other gender/sex/sexuality binaries from joining the sites and generating content of their own.
DESIGN/CONTENT: What about these sites and what is on them that genders them?-So, why then do we associate these sites with everything womanly? Is it the pink colour of the Pinterest’s homepage which subtly hints that this is a women’s space? Is there anything in particular about these sites in the way that they appear to users and visitors that gender them?
-Arguably, the gawker interfaces appear fairly neutral (with the exception of the purple header on the weddinggawker page). Yet, the content on the stylegawker from page seems to be directed at women. Here I think it is important to remember that is users (and not site creators) who have placed this gendered content on the site. For some reason, we as netizens have chosen to interpret these sites as gendered and therefore generated content that was appropriate to that gendering. Then, because we see gendered content on the site, we assume that this is the norm and continue to perpetuate it by conforming. We participate in both the production and performance of Pinterest’s gendered structure. Therefore, if Pinterest is sexist then we as users are to blame.
POLITICS OF HOME AND WORK: Why is it offensive to some feminists that women are crafting, and baking, and doing other traditionally-feminised activities based on the ideas they find on these sites?
-My theory is that these sites are gendered (and therefore possibly biased or sexist) because of their association with the home and homemaking.
-Historically, the home has been the domain of women and the professional space has been the domain of men. Men were paid, professional musicians. Women learned to play in their homes for the unpaid amusement of their husbands, children, and guest. Men earned accolades and salaries as professional chefs. Women prepared their family meals without the expectation of remuneration. Historically, women’s labour in various productive fields has been exploited while men were paid for and made careers doing similar things. In this way, Men have been artists but Women have been crafters.
-Therefore, Pinterest may be sexist because it implies that these women (if the users are indeed women) are putting their creative talents and energies into the creation of these crafts for their families. The implication is that they are not being paid for all the work that goes into making these beautiful, intricate and/or delicious things. In this way, it is possible to understand Pinterest as exploitative of women’s labour. (But what do we make of the fact that these women may not want compensation and do this because it is a public and creative outlet for their many talents?)
Let me know what you think in the comments!