Category Archives: Gender

Why We Definitely Need Feminism

Source: Women Against Feminism

Source: Women Against Feminism

Recently, one of my acquaintances sent me a link to a blog called “Women Against Feminism.” The site is a response to the “Who Needs Feminism” campaigns that emerged a few years ago. Now, anyone who has spoken with me for more than five minutes (or read anything I have written) probably has a clear understanding of my political position on feminism, equality, and human rights. I have spoken and written on the issue of feminism, post-feminism, and anti-feminism so often that it surprises me how strongly I still react to this kind of propaganda. I continue to be shocked and upset by the ways in which feminism and feminist agendas are warped and distorted by both men and women. Thus, once again I felt compelled to respond and defend feminism, the continuous fight for gender equality, and basic human rights.

Here are some of the reasons women today reject feminism:

#1.  “I don’t need feminism because I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions.”

I agree with the latter. I am an adult and I am also capable of taking responsibility for my actions. However, I cannot always be responsible for the actions of others or the ways in which other people’s actions impact my physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

In a recent discussion of sexual violence, this argument about “personal responsibility” arose. Survivors of gender based violence, even the most “perfect victims,” frequently struggle with the line between personal responsible and those things that are beyond their control. The bottom line in this discussion was that no survivor is EVER responsible for his or her assault.

Feminist agendas that follow this line of reasoning are not promoting personal irresponsibility. Rather, they are promoting a culture that does not excuse violence and inequality by framing it as either choice or personal responsibility.

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Men’s Room: why space is a feminist issue

I am lucky, (if you can call it that, as I am fairly sure I can claim some credit for its creation) to spend much of my life surrounded by feminist men. I was raised by one, and have friends and colleagues who are very happy identifying as a (male) feminist. They can deconstruct the patriarchy, discuss oppression and understand intersectionality. They constantly and consistently ‘check their privilege’. And maybe this is why a recent article; ‘20 tools for men to further feminist revolution’ struck such a chord with me. It is written from one male feminist to the rest, pointing out that it is not enough simply just to identify as being feminist. Fighting patriarchy, (whatever your sex or gender) cannot be done apathetically or without actually doing anything.

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Becoming Respectable in Northwest England and Kathmandu Nepal

Source: SAGE

Source: SAGE

 

In working with survivors of human trafficking over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to have a number of very personal conversations with women who are in the process of becoming empowered and rebuilding their self-esteem.  One topic that continues to emerge in almost every discussion is being respectable.  As I have been reflecting on what it means to be respectable in the context of surviving gender violence, I recalled a remarkable text I read a number of years ago and the similarities in understanding respectability among people of different races, ethnicities, classes, and histories. (more…)

Pick-Up Artists and Anti-Pick-Up Artists: Promises of Sexist Gender Ideologies Denied

["White Ribbon". Source: MesserWoland [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

In response to the horrific murders at UC Santa Barbara two weeks ago, many commentators have pointed out the perpetrator’s connection to so-called Anti-Pickup Artist online communities and to the misogynist and racist motivations of the shooting. Whereas the Pick-Up Artist fad has received some media attention and academic study in the past, the so-called Anti-Pick-Up artist scene has received much less attention – with notable exceptions well worth reading – and has probably been completely off the radar even for those of us studying gender. Even though the name suggests an oppositional stance on the idea of PickUp artistry, in reality, these Anti-Pick-Up Artists share in the very same gender ideology as those being drawn to Pick-Up Artist message boards and websites. Add in the frustration with the ineffectiveness of the Pick-Up Artists’ tips and strategies, and the Anti-Pick-Up Artist scene reveals itself as promoting an equally – if note more – toxic gender ideology.

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The Local Face of a Global Epidemic

Source: COPS

Source: COPS

 

In my last posting, I wrote about my concerns as I prepared to travel abroad to volunteer for a NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal. Today, I have settled in and completed three days of my volunteer assignment. In the past few days, I have learned about trafficking in one of the most powerful ways possible, through day-to-day interaction with survivors of the human trafficking trade. (more…)

Whose Voice is it Anyway? Gender and Power in Ventriloquism

Nina Conti (www.youtube.com)

Nina Conti (www.youtube.com)

Last week I went with a friend of mine to see a performance by comedian and ventriloquist Nina Conti. I really cannot recommend her enough, and as with all her performances I was in stitches. Whilst I could easily fill this post waxing lyrical at her talents, there is (as always) as sociological element to her work. Firstly, elements of her performance demonstrate how displays of emotion have become cultural currency, particularly for women. Secondly, it engenders interesting questions regarding power dynamics in interaction; there is a contradiction between her ‘powerful’ role as leader of the interaction, and the power-less position of being female.

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A Sociologist Volunteers Abroad

Source: SASANE

Source: SASANE

 

In ten days I’ll get on a plane from New York and travel for 15 and a half hours to Kathmandu, Nepal.  I’ll stay in Nepal for four weeks, living in a volunteer house with 13 foreigners, all volunteering at various organizations and institutions in and around Kathmandu.  Some volunteers will work in hospitals or medical clinics, while others will teach English in local schools, community centers, and orphanages.  There is even a program through the Ministry of Agriculture Development Department of Livestock Services to work on livestock breeding projects, disease prevention, and animal health policy.  I’ll be working at Samrakshak Samuha Nepal, SASANE, an anti-trafficking NGO established in 2008 by a group of former Nepalese victims of human trafficking.

The sexual exploitation of women and girls in the developing world has once again become a global campaign since the abduction and rumored mass marriages of over 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in mid April.  A-listers from Michele Obama to Ellen DeGeneres have been photographed holding the “Bring Back Our Girls” hashtag.  And a recent report from Amnesty International suggested that authorities in Qatar have failed to protect female migrant workers from abuse, including forced labor and human trafficking.

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‘Real’ Men Don’t Rape, and Other ‘Sexy’ Language Dilemmas

conset

Following on from a report from the White House on student sexual assault, the Obama administration has recently released an anti-rape PSA to launch the ‘1 Is 2 Many’ campaign to address the issue of sexual assault and rape. If you haven’t already watched it then do: it has a refreshing and positive rhetoric, placing the focus on the perpetrator and not the victim. “If I saw it happening I would help her, not blame her”, Daniel Craig states. It follows an argument that is entirely reasonable but often forgotten, that it is more effective to teach people not to rape than it is to teach people not to get raped.

I like this advert for a number of reasons. It is clear and concise, moving and inspiring without being patronising, and doesn’t rely on ‘misery porn’ or fear to get its point across. It has a sense of hope and optimism, a “we can do this!” attitude. It is encouraging rather than threatening and manages to discuss rape whilst being approachable. I say all this because I don’t want to fall into the sociological trap of jumping straight into criticism without saying positive things, or to belittle how progressive this perspective is. This advert is a significant improvement on anti-rape campaigns that blame the victim, and I hope for more. However, there are overarching themes that this video throws up that I have to acknowledge, because despite liking this advert, it still has discursive effects and impact beyond simply preventing rape.

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Throwing like a Girl? The Case for Gender Similarity in Sports

Source: Nathan Rupert (SD) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, it’s almost summer. And as the weather gets better, more and more social life in my neighborhood shifts outside to the street. As I was sitting at my desk the other day, I noticed two kids playing in the street, a boy of maybe 10 years and a girl, maybe 8. The boy was practicing his basketball skills, dribbling the ball between his legs, moving backwards, sidewards, spinning around, all while keeping perfect control over the ball. The girl on the other hand was listening to music and practicing dance moves from the latest music video (needles to say, both kids were far more skillful in their respective activity than I ever will be). Then something interesting happened: The kids started teaching each other their respective activities. And while the boy did quite a good job of learning the girl’s dance moves, the girl struggled when it came to dribbling the basketball: Whereas before as she was dancing, she was able to move extremely smoothly and elegantly, now her body became stiff. Her eyes fixated on the ball so as not to lose control, her upper body moved up and down parallel to her hand awkwardly and in a very choppy way; and she kept losing the ball repeatedly after every dozen or so dribbles. Is this little anecdote proof then that girls are just naturally less adept at ball games than boys [spoiler alert: it's not]?

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Can We Just Say “Menstruation” Please!

Source: Heidi Rademacher, 2014

Source: Heidi Rademacher, 2014

 

Several years ago, I worked on a project designed to examine how menstruation is socially constructed and how this construction has created social taboos that have impacted American women’s attitudes towards their bodies before, during, and after menstruation.  After speaking with women between the ages of eighteen and sixty, I found women today often feel “dirty,” “gross,” or “unclean” while menstruating.  Although some women also associated menstruation positively with childbirth and motherhood, the majority of women I spoke to felt it was a private, if not shameful, topic.

As my research interests grew and changed I put this project in the back of my mind. Then last week while working at my neighborhood coffee super-chain, I noticed a smaller wastebasket next to the toilet.  Someone had made a label on the wastebasket that said, “For girl things.”  I was instantly irritated by the label but I was not sure why. I recognized the label was attempting to be cute or funny.  The problem was the euphemism did not read as cute or funny.  In fact, it was the opposite.  The words could not even be said: Menstrual Products.

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