March 2010 Archives

Over 30 million Americans will receive health insurance because of the historic Health care bill that was passed last week. This week President Obama signed an executive order ensuring that public funds are not to be used for abortions except in the cases of rape and incest.
Personally, I think that it was wise for Obama to do this. It would have been nearly impossible for the Health care bill to pass if there was no limits on the amount that tax dollars used to fund abortions. Although I disagree with pro-lifers, I think that it's unfair to force them to pay for something that they adamantly detest. Imagine if it were the other way around and it was the conservatives voting to outlaw abortion...I'm sure you would greatly appreciate it if they took your values into consideration. What do you think?
Here is the link to the CNN article:

Here's another take on feminism and raising kids...

Check out this series at Bitch magazine--called Raising Trouble--about raising children. Scroll down to the bottom of Featherstone's profile page to find links to her various entries. Here is Liz Featherstone's description of the series:

Sex differences are an endless source of playful, even raucous amusement in our household. It's gender that causes confusion. Experts like Diane Levin (co-author, with Jean Kilbourne, of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids) tell me that young children are attracted to neat dichotomies. Preschoolers are struggling to figure out how the world works, and where they fit in; that's why they're so compelled by gender stereotypes, especially those marketed to them by kiddie pop culture.

In this blog, "Raising Trouble," we'll be exploring this state of affairs extensively over the next couple months. Anything in particular you'd like explored? Let me know in the comments section!

This article gave a brief analysis of the Icelandic political system, which has many more women than almost every other country world wide. They have recently banned stripping and lapdancing - what is interesting, however, is that this law was based in feminist reasoning, instead of religious reasoning. I think it raises a couple of issues. First of all, I was slightly annoyed by the line, "Clearly, if we want to live in a more progressive country, we should be electing more and more women. Granted, some would probably be Republicans." I think it's a common misconception to equate feminism with liberalism. But that's mostly unrelated. Do more women automatically mean more feminist policies? Also, I think this topic will be even more interesting as we start to think about the sex wars topic - what about those women who feel empowered by taking control of their bodies and WANT to strip? How can be balance exploitation with personal desire? Does it make a difference what the logic behind our laws is, if they have the same effect (Feminism vs religion)?

Direct Engagement Q #8


Since William is a boy, people around him including his parents want him to act like a "male". This song has a sexist issue, and William's grandma solves the problem. People think he should not play with a doll, because it's a girl/female thing. They think since he is "Physically" a boy, he cannot play like girls do. This is a sexist idea. I remember that when I was young, I did not just play with dolls like other girls; I also played with toy robots and legos, and played sports with my boy friends and girl friends. I have not been grown as a girlie girl. I guess my parents wanted me to be grown as a girl who can learn both males' roles and females' roles like William's grandma. In this song, William's grandma wants him to play with a doll so he can learn how to be a father who can take care and support his kids like his future wife. Females and males only have physical differences. This song is trying to say, no matter whether you are a female or a male; you all have similar roles and responsibilities, so don't separate two different genders to divide their roles.

William's Doll

This clip I found on You Tube is related to the lyrics, "William's Doll". Check it out if you are interested!

Tracking Prison Industrial Complex

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This is an interesting chart that I ran across. It show the number of people incarcerated over time.
This drastic increase of people incarcerated frightened me a lot because I don't know if we live in a completely safer state than the 80's. I also don't believe that my tax dollars are being used to their highest potential if they are being dedicated to sustaining a huge amount of people in prison. I am not saying that these members of society are or are not guilty. I am saying that regardless of their crime, we are paying for it as a society and it is costly. I find myself often forgetting about prisons like I do trash in the garbage. That is as terribly inhumane analogy, but it is true for me. I have a friend from high school that was convicted of two accounts of first degree murder without parole. What he did was heinous, but I have all but forgotten that he even existed. Truly I have treated him as a dead person, it was extremely sad what he did and what he has to pay for what he did, but that sadness is gone and I do not keep in touch with him. I see our justice system as being flawed for this lock-up and forget the key mentality. I do not have any resolution for my questions now, but that is why I am tracking this issue!

gay rights.jpg

I ran across this article as I was looking for articles on the Prison Industrial Complex. The sum of this article is the complete ban and fear of homosexuality within Zimbabwe. This country is currently writing a new constitution and there has been a strong push to include gay rights in the constitution and this has been flatly declined by the president. Even the president's opponent agrees on the anti-homosexual policy that is currently in place. Two men are currently facing 14 years in prison for their homosexuality. My first reaction to to most articles that pass this blog is shear shock! I know that there are strong feelings on homosexuality, but for a country's opposing government parties to agree on a complete ban of homosexuality is astonishing. Usually I see bipartisanship as a good thing, but not in this case. It makes me sad to think that a government would have such a detrimental policy even if members of a government party did not subscribe to the same beliefs and lifestyles. This is an issue that America has fought consistently throughout its conception and I feel that I take a lot for granted in comparison. One of the most sobering lines in the article was " Homophobia is the norm throughout Africa. In Uganda, a lawmaker has proposed harsh penalties for homosexuality, including the death penalty in some circumstances". The death penalty??? This extreme oppression is tragic and I believe that this is definitely a feminists issue because it restricts the freedom for people to choose a way of life and happiness. This is a direct infringement on people being able to express forms of love and a government should not have the power to dictate forms and qualities of love.

Question 8: Transparent


My interest in the transparent was a more than any other articles that we read thus far. The most interesting thing about this article was the fact that the mother gave her daughter the freedom of choice. She let her daughter explore what she wanted to be. By the mother letting her daughter, dress in the way she was comfortable with, made me curious to know if the mother thought about the later situations. As shown in the article, the mother is a great parent but at the same time, she shows that her daughter would have been as strong willed as she is no matter how she is parented. Is the mothers playful parenting responsible for this girls confusion on conforming to a gender and Isn't it ironic that the mother is concerned about what her daughter would be but at the same time encourages her to do what she wants? " her seventh year when Nora began to ask for a short haircut. I discouraged this saying she would be mistaken for a boy.... A week after she turned seven, Nora got her wish" (pg. 273). There are many girls around the world who are tomboys, who don't do the normal girls stuff that we see in society. I remember when I was little I was never interested in the games the girls were playing. I used to love to play with the boys, for example playing soccer and fighting with them to show who was stronger. Does that mean I didn't know my gender? Even though the article was interesting it was a little bit confusing. There were times where she talked about how her daughter changed her gender and in the end, she says her daughter did not change gender but she did conform to gender stereotype. Through the end reading, the mother threw me off when she said, "Ah, she is transitioning again" (277). I am curious to know what people who read this article think.

Direct Engagement


One of the experiences I had that opened my eyes to the idea of children and transgender was when I watch a documentary on the national geographic channel. There was story about a young boy by the name of Josie who knew from a very young age that he is a girl. He loved dresses, enjoyed playing dress up. His parents by no means pushed him to be a girl, he chose it for himself. The idea of child and transgender is something that did not come to mind at all. After reading the Transparent, it helped me understand something as well as reassure my feelings on certain issues. We have, or at least me, assumed that gender is black and white. You are either a girl or a boy. Of course that is not the case. Gender is something that is very ambiguous. What really makes you a boy or a girl? The fact that Nora's' mother allowed her to experiment with gender was okay until a certain point. Trying to break the stereotype of "Some people say a boy is someone with short hair. But Mimi has short hair. And she's a girl." Is a good idea and allows for experimentation but showing picture to young children and explaining the biological aspect of gender is a bit considering to me. The mother had good intention by allowing Nora to get her hair cut and wear swimming trucks rather than a suit. However, it seems to me that it almost did more harm than good. By letting Nora know or get a feel for what she thought she is, is a lot better than sitting down with a five year old and explain the concept of gender, in my opinion. What I took from the reading is that, Nora decided that gender is what she feels like at a given moment and switches to the other. The difference between her and a transgendered is that, they have a fixed or a chosen gender, while she is still confused about what gender she chooses to be. To what extant should nurture have an effect on gender?

No Impact Man, My Movie Notes

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No Impact man
Movie thoughts and notes,

I watched a movie called No Impact Man this weekend and thought it was brilliant and very connected to Thursday's topic and discussion. The following are tid-bits of my own thoughts mixed with movie info. Enjoy! Here is the link to No Impact Man's Blog...

What is too hard to let go of consumerism within our capitalistic society? The average American creates 1600 pounds of trash within one year.
The purpose of the No Impact Man seeks to have no waste within one year. Diapers are the third largest cause of waste in America. His family seeks to live off of food that is within 250 miles of where they live. Here in the USA the average food item has traveled 1500 miles to get to the consumer.
World wide meat eating is responsible for more carbon emissions than automobiles. One important aspect of eating local is getting to know the farmers that grow our food. This is a common disconnection point within Americans today. We do not know where our food comes from and most consumers do not really care as long as it is cheep.

Organic marketing can have a bad impact upon farmers because it does not allow the use of any antibiotics for sick animals. The reason that antibiotics are not allowed in organics is that they are over used by non-organic high production farmers that keep cattle in poor living conditions.

The first rule of No Impact Man is to not purchase anything but food and essentials. He wants to get away from creating any waste... i.e "No Impact"
They even turn of their power to their apartment for 6 months and go without TP.
Society either accepted or rejected who the No Impact Man decided to become.
People feel guilty of their consumerism in comparison to the extremism of No Impact Man. This is threatening to consumers.... i.e. "me"
People are traumatized of the idea of going without. It is "anti-American" to go without and to let go of consumerism.

The history of our society is to be connected to nature and to be connected with the earth. Our current mode of consumerism does not allow for this connection to take place. We need to figure out how to get people what they need in a sustainable way.
"This project is not about going without or depriving yourself, it is about learning to get what you need sustainably."
"A political stance should reflect a lifestyle and a lifestyle should have a political stance. "
To No Impact Man, from Steven Colbert "I don't want to promote what your are doing because it is very dangerous".
Consumerism induces an ethical coma
Individual action causes people to be engaged in social issues. International committee on climate change states that wee need an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2050.
We are so disconnected in the city to the natural rhythms of nature and I found that it is actually a great feeling to be connected.
The most radical impact that a person can have on politics is to be an optimist and believe that change can be enacted.
Without community none of use feels accountable to anybody else.
My mind keeps telling myself that I am the only one that is important but I need to keep teaching myself that it is not true.

I am writing this Direct Engagement in response to Sara's question regarding gender/sexuality in terms of child rearing and the development of gender identities. Karin A. Martin defines her argument through the following key ideas from her article "William Wants A Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender Neutral Child Rearing".

[It is] through socialization (and the management, negotiation, and resistance of it) that children learn
• how to operate in gendered structures (Lorber 1994)
• the repetitive stylized performances that constitute gender (Butler 1990)
• how to do gender in interaction and how to avoid sanctions for doing it wrong (West and Zimmerman 1987)


Child rearing, when concurrently identified as "parenting", can be defined as the process for promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Many other species in the animal kingdom exhibit characteristics of parenting, and is a trait that is passed on "naturally" in a biological sense. What feminism and Karin acknowledge is that many of the things that make us who we are as people is brought onto us from the way in which we were raised, including our notions of gender and sexuality. The sort of structures that Karin and is referring to in her argument are those setup around a white privileged patriarchy, which actively enforces gender binaries and narratives. Those who first sought to challenge these norms in child rearing saw it as a way to "open up possibilities for girls and to remove limitation on their lives" (458). A more complete feminist look at child rearing would, however, not limit itself to the advantage of women, but also open up possibilities and remove limitations for boys. Martin says that the progression towards a gender-neutral child rearing is stalled by the fear of homosexuality, and how boys (and girls, too) may become homosexual by "queering" these heteronormative binaries of child rearing.

I find this to be a compelling argument, both for her complete look at socialization of gender and sexuality in terms of parenting, and that a child's access is limited by their gender. It is also important to acknowledge that we are all active participants in these social system of constructing what gender and sexuality mean.



Reading Bernstein's "Transparent" convinced me that gender-neutral child rearing is indeed possible. I always thought that children cannot be reared in a gender-neutral way because "gender-neutral" seems to always end up as opposite gender child rearing. In other words, girls end up becoming more masculine and boys feminine, as defined by the norms. However, in the case of Nora, she freely explored both genders and did not commit herself to one specific gender, which may be the closest definition of the phrase "gender-neutral." Although Bernstein was sometimes worried that she may be confusing her daughter's sense of gender identity, I think there is no reason to worry because as described in the reading, Nora appears to be confident and secure about herself. Nora freely changes gender roles through her appearance. I think that Nora emphasizes the fact that gender should not be defined by a set of norms that tell you how you should look, dress, act, etc. She shows us that gender is part of your identity, which means it should be shaped by you in order to demonstrate who you really are.

Do you think gender-neutralization is possible? I think that complete gender-neutralization is not possible because of the inevitable differences between men and women such as differences in chromosomes. Nevertheless, allowing individuals to shape the way they are and to form their own definitions of "being female" or "being male" is what gender-neutralization means to me.

One part that caught my attention was when Nora said "It's a man's world." This made me think about whether she had short hair and wore boy clothing to have more power and freedom or is she did that because that was what she truly wanted. Throughout the reading, I had a sense that Nora acted and dressed the way she did because she wanted to, but unless we tap into her deep emotions and thoughts, we cannot exactly find out her true motivation for gender exploration.

Direct Engagement Entry, Q. 8: Sexuality


I have two cousins who have recently had children, both boys; one has just started school and is absolutely obsessed with baseball (specifically, he's obsessed with the Brewers), the other will be starting school in a year and loves toy cars and hunting-related things. Neither of my cousins are trying to force their children to be manly in the stereotypical sense, they learned this behavior because they have always wanted to do whatever daddy does, "monkey see, monkey do" that occurs as a natural learning behavior. Because of this, I don't see how it's a bad thing when kids are raised to be stereotyped into a certain gender. Both of these children, I am more than sure will grow up just fine and be whoever they want to be. I highly doubt it will even come close to affecting their sexuality.
One of the main parts of Martin's article that made me think about how raising children with specific gender roles affects them in the future is when Martin talks about (on page 5) how liberal feminists wanted gender neutral child rearing to become a common practice so that parents don't raise their child in fear of that child becoming homosexual. Pogrebin is one of Martin's sources, and she specifically tells the reader that one of the "erroneous assumptions of our culture" is that sex roles determine sexuality. I agree with her completely, children barely remember their childhood when they grow up, and they definitely don't remember enough to shape their perceptions of the world, not through toys or colors anyway; even more, those toys and gender-specific colors are not going to interfere with sexuality~sexuality won't begin to shape until they hit puberty.
Futhermore, I disagree with Martin's introduction to Greenberg's book, for the same reasons. Sexuality isn't something a child experiences, and until any child reaches puberty, that is the only time that will matter in shaping who they are. Gender roles are unfair because we say they're stereotypical, sexuality is a huge deal to some parents and that topic is very important, however, I'm not quite sure they do any harm to a child. If William got his doll and the rest of the world followed, how would that change anything?

This is a feminist issue because... fairy theme park

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I read this article and wow, is this one heck of a theme park. To sum up the article, there has recently been a theme park opened in southwestern China called "The Little People's Kingdom of Magical Dwarfs." Basically, this theme park is manned almost completely by little people who put on skits, dress up like fairies, and entertain guests (who pay 80 yuan as an entrance fee - to put this in perspective, a bus ticket or subway ticket in China is no more than 2 yuan one way.) The owner of the park defends it by staying "I'm very happy with it [...] Because some people don't get it, they think we are using the dwarfs [...] But what we are actually doing is giving them a platform to live, giving them worth and the ability to work freely, to exist freely."
dwarf theme park.jpg
What's interesting about this topic is the viewpoints of many of the workers. Because of traditional Chinese culture, there is much discrimination against dwarfs. Upon some further research and reading more articles, it seems that it's pretty much general consensus among the workers that their work at the theme park is better than any other work they might find.

So digging down, I feel that the basic reason that this is a feminist issue is not dealing specifically with the morality of the park itself, but the reason for which these workers have no choice but to take these jobs. Discrimination against anything that is not "normal" has been a recurring theme throughout this course so far: transgendered people, "non-traditional" households, etc. Also, the park is definitely not helping tone down stigmas and stereotypes that little people are "freaks" and "abnormal."

Between 2000 and 2008, more than 4,300 women were murdered in Guatemala. According to the online magazine, Upside Down World, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, and Guatemala Human Rights Commission, Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America. This is because it is considered "fashionable" for Guatemalan men to murder women, often torturing and or raping them beforehand. Making this matter even worse, most of the murderers, 98-99%, have not been prosecuted. With only a 1-2% chance of getting caught, many men are literally getting away with murder. While the Guatemalan congress passed a law against femicide and other forms of violence against women. Below is an excerpt from the documentary "Killer's Paradise."

How is femicide in Guatemala a feminist issue? How much responsibility for these murders rests on the government's shoulders and how much on its citizens'? What does it say about Guatemalan culture that a law against killing and hurting women had to be passed? Why does it take so long for such heinous crimes against women to decrease?

As a freshmen, I took an anthropology class: Understanding Cultures. In it, we were exposed to many different cultures and subcultures. One of the topics was female genital mutilation/cutting/circumcision, which primarily takes place in Muslim countries in Africa, and some still occur in Asia and the middle East. It is banned by most western nations, and the World Health Organization, Amnesty International, and the United Nations have all taken a stance against female genital mutilation Putting it lightly, the graphic movies we watched and revealing literature we read were horrifying and made me cringe. There are a variety of ways that females' genitals are mutilated for the purpose of maintaining "purity," becoming a woman, and reducing sexual pleasure (for just the female). They can involve cutting, removing, burning, or sewing shut various genitals, as explained in this article. Many who undergo such procedures are very young girls (sometimes infants). Many are forcibly held down and must endure great pain with these often irreversible alterations, often without anesthesia. These practices are unsafe, using knives or razors for cutting, which can result in excessive bleeding or death. Despite this, some still support female genital mutilation. Below is a video explaining the cultural significance of female genital mutilation to a Sierra Leone community.

How is or isn't this a feminist issue? Should the WHO, UN, and Amnesty International take a stance or get involved, or should tradition be respected? Is it acceptable for infants and children be performed on or just adult women? Is it okay only if the procedure is reversible? Should western countries be more open to this, allowing it in hospitals (and, perhaps, providing a safer experience)? Do you see this as a way in which women are honored and cherished or violated and reduced?

I was really racking my brain trying to think of feminist issues that aren't already on the blog, and I ended up focusing on female "purity." Female virginity is a big deal in most cultures, usually accompanied by a double standard for men. Prized particularly by men, women often go to extreme lengths to remain or seem "pure." Some take preventive steps, such as female genital mutilation; others may break their hymen before marriage by: rape, premarital sex, strenuous exercise, tampon usage, or some childhood accident. For women who have a torn hymen, their value as a woman, wife, girlfriend, family member, or whatever is diminished if anyone were to find out. Women often resort to hymenoplasty so that no one knows. Unfortunately, many cannot afford such surgeries; however, Gigimo has created an "Artificial Virginity Hymen" (for the low, low price of $29.90), which a woman can insert in her vagina before intercourse and contains fake blood so that her husband doesn't know that she's not a virgin. Also, this device protects her from the shame or violence of (male) family member(s) in response to her lost virginity. The above audio, as well as articles from NPR and LA Times, explains the backlash this device has received from lawmakers in Egypt, claiming that it encourages promiscuity.

Why is or isn't this a feminist issue? Should feminists be for or against such devices? (Should women feel empowered to be able to rely on a device like this as a way of rebelling against "tradition," or should they be more saddened by the need for such a product?) Could banning the device be positive, causing women to speak out, or would it quash any efforts from women to gain equality?

Question 8: 3/30-4/1

Here are two options for your direct engagement:

OPTION 1: As I mentioned in last week's question, several of you indicated that the question prompts were too restrictive and didn't enable you to engage with the readings in the ways that you wanted to. Therefore, I am opening up the direct engagements by asking one broad question in terms of the readings: How do the readings (Martin, Berstein) make you curious? You can engage with this question in any way that you wish as long as you follow these basic rules:

  • Your direct engagement must address at least one of the readings
  • Your direct engagement should be aimed at making us curious and demonstrate a respectful and critical engagement with the ideas/readings
  • You may include your own opinions about the readings, but those opinions must be  explained and supported by examples (from the readings, your experiences)
  • You should include some sort of question that you pose to your readers
large_f2b.jpgIn discussing how the readings make you curious, you could think about these questions--Were there terms or concepts that didn't make sense or that you weren't familiar with? Are there certain issues that you would like to know more about? Were any aspects of the readings confusing? Are there certain claims that you strongly agree/disagree with and that you would like to read how others feel/think about them? What issues did the readings fail to address that you think are very important for discussing family values, feminism and child-rearing strategies?

OPTION TWO: Does this approach seem too broad for you? Does it make it difficult for you to engage with the readings? Here's another option for your direct engagement: you can respond to one of the ways in which these readings make me curious:

  • What does it mean to engage in gender-neutral child rearing? How can we compare/contrast gender-neutral, as it is defined by Karin Martin in "William Wants a Doll, Can He Have One?," with Riki Wilchin's idea (remember her discussions about the history of sex a few weeks ago?) that we should focus on gender similarities instead of differences?
  • How are gender and sexuality connected in terms of child rearing and the development of gender identities? This is a key part of Martin's argument--I am curious about what you all think she is saying with this argument and if you agree with it or not.
  • We will be watching the clip from Free to and me, "William Wants a Doll" in class on Tuesday (I couldn't find it on youtube to post it, but you can check out the lyrics here). What sorts of strategies (theories of gender, etc) are going on in this song? What do you think about how this song frames William's behavior in terms of his role as a father? 
  • In her essay, Martin describes one of the critiques made against socialization theory, that it offers an "exaggerated view of children as unagentic, blank slates" (457). (How) are children active participants in their gendering process? How do they process and reflect on their own gender performances (their practices, actions, etc)? Are they just products of socialization? Or, are they both projects of socialization and agents who negotiate their gender identities/roles/expectations?
  • How can we apply Martin's/Bernstein's readings to the recent uproar over Brangelina's daughter, Shiloh? Check out what feministing says about it here.

Intergenerational Learning Circle

Yesterday I was not able to make it to class on account that I was participating in an intergenerational learning circles at Augustana Senior Apartments. Because I had to miss class for this, I wanted to connect this experience to this course.
So what is a learning circle exactly? A learning circle is when a group of individuals can come together and share their own life experiences centered around a specific topic. In exchanging stories, participants are able to find common threats in their own stories and derive greater understanding of both their own experience and the experiences of others. Sharing and growing together, the circle hopes to enrich the mutual well-being of all who participate and foster a deeper sense of community.
The learning circle that I participated in on Thursday intends specifically to celebrate the richness of experiences of all ages. The majority of participants were elder residents of the apartments, and I felt extremely lucky to be there to hear their stories. The topic of the circle focused on sharing stories of our experience around food--taking turns telling stories about our connection or interest in growing it. From the many stories, one thing in particular stuck out to me as a curious feminist--the underrepresentation of men in our kitchens and gardens and its harm to the fruition of our traditions. One of the participants, an avid gardener, recounted the days when he would grow flowers in the garden while his wife was more interested in growing vegetables. In reaction to this story, one of the other participants, also a man, regretted that he was not encouraged to learn to cook growing up. He made it quite clear that, in his experience, it was gender roles that prevented him from learning and passing down the important family recipes that have since been forgotten. His comment was an important reminder to me that these debates over inequality of the sexes has a direct impact on many things we have come to learn and cherish from the generations before us, an important one being what we put in our bodies. His message: if you don't want to have to pay a corporation to eat delicious recipes (though that in itself is subjective), we need to encourage all people, men or women, to learn and enjoy cooking and other domestic traditions that often get left to the responsibility of women.

The actual Revised Feminist Reflection Paper

Sorry about the mix-up. Here is the actual revised feminist reflection paper assignment.

D.E. Question 7

The readings made me question the so called structure of family. What constitutes a family? Is it a mom, dad, kids and a dog. Or could it be two dads, a kid and a hamster. What makes one family more important than another? Is it money or status? After reading the article by Pardo I was struck by the audacity of the lawmakers in the East LA area. They treated these families like second rate citizens, simply because of their low socio-economic status. I thought this reading was powerful, the way these women took charge or their town. They didn't wait to be trampled on, they stood up and fought. It is sad though that they had to wage such a war just to have their families lives treated with justice. There will never be an instance where a chemical plant or prison would spring up in a rich neighborhood. They pick these neighborhoods because they assume the people living there wont fight back, and they are treating them as if their families lives don't matter quite as much. I felt very empowered after reading the Pardo article because of how couragous these women were. The thing that did strike me as a bit anti-feminism however was the assumed nature of family structure within the story. All the perspectives given were from a "house wife" perspective. They made it seem like it was just a "given" that then men would work and the women would stay home and protect their children. To me that is absurd. Maybe I just came from a different lifestyle, but I grew up thinking both parents should work and both parents should take care of my well-being. They dad shouldn't be given any slack because he had a tough day job. My mom AND dad had a tough day job and they both came home and expected that they'd equally care for my sister and I. This notion that there is a place for the moms and a place for the dads should no longer exist. Sure if that is what they want, by all means live the life you want. However, if the women are just following some "family value structure" then what they are doing is non-sensible. If anything the most alarming part of Pardo's essay was that the women gave their husbands titles within their group just to get them involved. That seems counterproductive to me. These men should be engaging in their projects not because they get a title, but because they are fighting for their children's safety. Or at least the children of the towns safety. I don't care if you have kids or not, they are the next generation of adults, and they should be protected. The town your in should be your family that you look out for, not just those you share a blood-line with. Overall what made me curious about this article was the structure of family and the audacity of representatives. When did it become assumed that women were care-takers of children rather than both men and women. And when did it become kosher to harm the lives of those less fortunate by forcing them to live by chemical dumps and prisons while our upper, middle class white families live in the safety of our suburbs?

Family Values Event at the Law School

I just found out about this great event happening at the Law School on Friday, April 9. It fits very nicely with the discussion that we are having earlier in that week on gay marriage.


Direct Engagement 7: Hill Collins and Family Values

Patricia Hill Collins' article really got me thinking. She proposes that the concept of "family" pervades government, the economy, public and private life-- and that it serves to justify and legitimate inequalities among people. Her theory that the structure of family serves as a metaphor for social structures on a much bigger scale is extremely interesting--I appreciated that she pointed out the contradictions inherent in "the family", since all members of a family are considered equal and part of a coherent set, yet the group is broken up into hierarchies based on a number of factors (age, gender, blood-ties, etc.) I had never thought about the "family value" that positions children as inferior to adults/parents, and how this could possibly inform how race relations play out in broader society (if minorities are portrayed as or perceived to be more "child-like" than whites, than white domination is legitimate). This is mirrored in the ideas of man-as-breadwinner, woman-as-homemaker, and the subsequent inequalities for men and women in society as a whole (as women's power inferiority has been established in the basic "family" structure).
Hill Collins' arguments hold up very well; she manages to draw parallels between power imbalances in the "family" and nearly all power imbalances in society writ large.
I was left wondering about the factors in place that reinforce the "family" as most-legitimate societal structure. Taxation, education, property ownership, (and perhaps above all, capitalism)- inform how families operate and remain intact. The connection between family and the perpetuation of capitalism seems particularly pertinent, and important politically. What other factors can you think of that operate to legitimate/ensure that the traditional "family" structure as we know it stays intact? How do you think the "family" ideology could be challenged or deconstructed?

Feminist Perspectives on Parental Leave

There are several important feminist perspectives that have played an important role in the current understanding of Parental Leave in the workplace. This post highlights several of these perspectives.
1. The Liberal Feminist Viewpoint finds its roots in the political philosophy adopted by the US founding fathers: that all men (and women) are created equal, and that all individuals should have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As such, liberal feminists have been concerned with dismantling structural impediments to equality that prevent women from full participation in the workforce. Standing litigation on work force equality such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). While liberal feminists have been fundamental in breaching discriminatory laws, criticisms of the viewpoint are that the liberal feminist approach have supported laws based on the notion that women can become just like men and that it calls women to change their behavior to more closely resemble that of men, a presumption that becomes problematic when it comes to the debate over maternity rights in the workplace.
2. Cultural Feminism takes a serious look at the specific biological needs of women and the social differences that arise as a result of this as a means of shaping policy around maternal leave. They argue that current policies (the ones supported by liberal feminists) ignore the demands pregnancy places on women, and that biological differences justify parental leave policies that compensate women on leave while not providing the same option for men having children. Criticism of this perspective is that (1) it operates under the assumption that all women are the same and leaves no room for women who do not fit under the traditional conception of womanhood (2) it only perpetuates the cycle of sexism and the assumption that women should remain responsible for the majority of childrearing and (3) that it gives little incentive or possibility for fathers to take time off following the birth of a child as its policies focus specifically on women.
3. Post-structural feminists, unlike cultural feminism that groups all women together, take an individualist approach to maternity leave, believing it is a futile exercise to clump all women (or all men) together as a means of forming policy. As such, they challenge altogether the idea that women are more properly suited for child rearing than men and that policy itself must be derived from local context and individual needs. The proper management around parental leave to a post-structural perspective would be to deal with parental leave issues on an individual cases to case basis since every local context and individual circumstance is different and thus requires due accommodation. Criticism of this approach is that the perspective does not recognize how individuals themselves may inherit oppression through group membership, as well as the long and tedious process of negotiation that it requires.
4. Postmodern Feminism works to combine all the previous theories to include all of their strengths and eliminate their weaknesses. The postmodern approach believes that parental leave should be available for both men and women, but that the length of leave time can vary depending on the demands that come from childbearing itself. This would mean that all parents are eligible for paid leave for a fixed period of time (say 6 weeks) with an extended period of paid leave eligibility for childbearing mothers (say and extra 6 weeks).

Tagged below is a youtube on how Maternity Leave is dealt with at Yale...policies that seem to reflect the post-modern approach.

Family Values

I know it wasn't assigned reading for this week, but I thought I would like to bring the Lehr assigned for next week into conversation with the Feminist Family Values Panel, as this is where many of my questions arise.

The Lehr piece talks extensively about white male alienation and victimization in a time when social roles are dramatically changing and established measures of masculinity are more and more difficult to attain. This issue very much has to do with the rise of the Men's Rights Movement, which I have discussed on the blog before.

In Davis' presentation to the Feminist Family Values Forum, she discusses the need for new radical political activism to put the issues of women, people of color, and queers at the fore, which I don't disagree with. However, the Lehr piece brings up a good point. White male visions of their own oppression are real and present real challenges. Davis points out that we need to think very deeply about who and what are friends and enemies, and I think this pairs nicely with my suggestion that we need to dismantle the stereotype that feminism is a "woman's" thing. I am not suggesting that fantastical notions of white men as an oppressed minority be pandered to, however, they are, and have always been, part of the struggle for the liberation of all people. Is it that new radical activism should simply dismiss the complaints of some of the empire's more privileged citizens and their inevitably neo-con agendas because they work to maintain their privilege? I would have liked to hear Davis talk about this, about how to combat neo-con rhetoric and promote a broader way of thinking about things that does not simply seek to bash perceived "enemies" over the head, thus conflating rights with a violent masculinity. And how do we address this issue without falling into the trap of simply refocusing attention on privileged people who get uncomfortable when they are not the perpetual center of attention? Radical activists must accept that people will not always agree with us, and that we must function on our own council. However, how do radical activists function effectively in a time when the vast majority of political action and thought in the US is violently conservative? Activists who destroy chemical labs that destroy the planet are legally classified as terrorists. Why then are people who bomb abortion clinics and gay bars not categorized this way? What is the process by which radical activists can seek to depolarize political issues away from a black/white, male/female, queer/straight dichotomy while also realizing that we cannot address everything at once and cannot speak for everyone? What would this kind of structurally altering activity and thought look like in comparison to traditional single issue or single constituency activism?

Issue #3: Family Values

After failing to post an entry for issue #2, I want to get back on track with posting my thoughts on the various issues we are covering. So in this post I want to briefly discuss feminist values/family values and how I have organized this section.

The essays that we are reading for Tuesday's class (3.23) are all responding to a particular moment within American popular/political culture when rhetoric about family values was frequently used to critique feminism and to position feminists as against the family and family values. One oft-cited example of connecting the promotion of family values with the critiquing of feminism is Pat Robertson's remarks in a 1992 letter opposing Iowa's equal rights initiative*:

The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.
*Note: When I originally posted this entry earlier today, I indicated that the Robertson quotation came from the 1992 Republic Convention. After further research, I determined that this was not the case (see here for more information).

Another notable (and perhaps the most popular) example of connecting feminism/feminist goals with the erosion of the family and its values is Dan Quayle's (in)famous comments about the fictional character, Murphy Brown in May of 1992:

It doesn't help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown -- a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman -- mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another `lifestyle choice'. I know it is not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we need to do it. Even though our cultural leaders in Hollywood, network TV, the national newspapers routinely jeer at them, I think that most of us in this room know that some things are good, and other things are wrong. Now it's time to make the discussion public. -- Vice President Dan Quayle addressing the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco and criticizing Murphy Brown's decision to be a single (highly successful) mother, 5/19/92.

Important to note is that Quayle's comments on Murphy Brown are part of a larger speech in which he claims that one of the primary causes of the LA riots (which happened in the summer of 1992 right after the police who beat Rodney King were found not guilty) is the erosion of traditional family values. Here is a transcript of the entire speech and a news clip with an excerpt from the speech:

As an aside: Did you watch the entire clip? What do you make of the juxtaposition, by the newscasters, of the clip about Dan Quayle and his description of Murphy Brown as mocking the importance of fathers with the clip about Robert Reed (Mr. Brady) and the revelation that he had died of AIDS and not cancer? Is this merely coincidence that one clip leads to the next? Or, is some connection being encouraged in the viewer?

It would seem that for both Robertson and Quayle, feminism poses a serious threat to the family and its values about "right and wrong"? But, why is feminism such a threat? Why does feminists' desire to work for an equal rights amendment (Robertson) or a feminist's choice to be an unwed mother (Quayle) elicit such extreme responses? What anxieties/fears about white masculinity do these feminists claims tap into (see Chloe's post for more on this)?

In her essay, "It's All in the Family," Patricia Hill Collins focuses her attention on "the family" part of family values by exploring "how six dimensions of the traditional family ideal construct intersections of gender, race, and nation (63) and produce/reinforce gender/race/nation hierarchies. She argues that it is crucial for organizations --feminist or Black Nationalist, for example--to be critically aware how they use/invoke  'family.'

In their various contributions to the Feminist Family Values Forum, Lloyd, Jimenez, Steinem and Davis focus much of their attention on the "values" part of family values. Indeed, the purpose of the forum was to bring a wide range of women together to talk about what values actually mean and what values feminists want to embrace and promote.

In bringing all of these readings together, I want us to be curious about:
  • What are families? What are their values?
  • Is feminism bad for families and their values?
  • What sort of values do feminists promote?
  • What does it mean to value something?
  • Why is language about values (and morality) so exclusively linked with one particular vision/version of the family?
  • What differences do you see between the phrases "family values" and "families values"?
On Thursday (3.25), we will focus our attention on feminist values and the environment. Environmental justice and feminism in relation to environmental issues are important topics for many of the feminists we read for Tuesday and for Pardo, who we will read for Thursday. I wanted to highlight environmental issues because they are mentioned so frequently in our readings for this week (and on the blog throughout the semester) and because they enable us to think about the importance of values beyond the individual family.
  • How might making environmental issues central to the values we develop, live by, and promote enable us to think differently about the language of values and about how feminists are working to promote family values instead of destroying them? 
  • How does our understanding and treatment of the environment impact our families and their values?
Note: Also check out the entry that I posted, "Who is...Dr. Vandana Shiva," in connection with our readings and discussion on Thursday.

Who is...Dr. Vandana Shiva

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In this Thursday's class we will be focusing our attention on feminist family values and the environment. One very important theorist/activist/feminist that addresses this issue is Dr. Vandana Shiva. But, who is...Dr. Vandana Shiva?

Perhaps one of the best ways to learn more about Dr. Shiva and her work is to hear her speak. It just so happens that she will be speaking this Thursday evening--that's right after the class session in which we discuss this issue (thanks Melissa for pointing this out in your comment)!. Here is some more information (see full announcement here):

Dr. Vandana Shiva

March 25, Thursday 7-8:30 pm: Presentation, Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center, U of M, Minneapolis

co-sponsored by the Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, http:/

Dr. Shiva's address is part of the Women and Water Rights Conference (that Rija brought up earlier in the semester). Here is part of the biography they provide about her work:

a world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, physicist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer and science policy advocate, is the Director of The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, India. In 1993 she was the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, commonly known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize". A contributing editor to People-Centered Development Forum, she has also written several works include, "Staying Alive," "The Violence of the Green Revolution," "Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge," "Monocultures of the Mind" and "Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit," as well as over 300 papers in leading scientific and technical journals. Shiva participated in the nonviolent Chipko movement during the 1970s, whose main participants were women.

Also, here is a youtube clip of her speaking:

You can watch this clip and several others on the Women and Water Rights website. You can also read more about Dr. Shiva--her life and work--here.

The Aurora Center on MPR!!!

Roberta Gibbons, associate director of the Aurora Center was on MPR this morning talking about sexual assault prevention on college campuses! Here is the link!


Health care reform and reproductive rights

I am excited to say that health care reform has passed. I am very happy that the 31 million people in this country who are uninsured have the ability to have health insurance. I am also saddened by the fact that this has come at the expense of poor women's reproductive rights. Poor women cannot afford to pay for abortions and may need to depend on other sources to help them receive a safe and medically monitored abortion. Also, many women who already have children seeking abortions may not be able to afford the ever rising cost of this medical procedure. An abortion can cost between $350 and $1,000--equal to several months of rent or groceries--so the price can be prohibitive. The result of unaffordable abortion is another mouth a working-class mother cannot afford to feed, house, or educate during a time of record unemployment. Once again we have to look at choice through the lens of who can and cannot afford it.

Family Values and Domestic Violence


In the article written by Patricia Hill Collins I thought that it was very interesting how she talked about the correlation between the ideas of family values and the abuse of women and children. For very long time violence against women in the home or wife battering was not viewed as a crime. This was because the man was the head of the house who brought home the money and therefore the woman of the house needed to be submissive and not act - out towards her husband. In her article Hill- Collins suggest that in order to maintain a situation which has a hierarchy in place sometimes violence or force may be used. When thinking about terms like, what happens in the family stays in the family, or , don't talk about our family business to other people, many times this revolves around some kind of harm that is happening within the family. The U.S. has enforced this idea of family values which has limited many women and children from being able to make claims against their family members for things like abuse.

Another interesting point that Hill-Collins makes is the idea that within certain communities going against the family is equivalent to going against your own race. Many women of color who are being abused by men of the same race, particularly African American women, find it very difficult to call the police on their husbands or boyfriends for fear of racism and the potential for their abusive partner to also be abused by the police.

Direct Engagement 7


Reading all of these articles really made me interested in the symbolism and rhetoric of the family. I felt that this was mentioned at least a little in all the readings I did, but most notably in the Patricia Hill Collins and the Pardo pieces. Collins specifically talks about the rhetoric of the family, and how this is used to achieve political goals. I think even more than just individual WORDS, images of the family can also be co-opted by the conservative movements. Pornography seems like the perfect example. Whenever conservatives talk about wanting to increase restrictions on radio, television, or internet content, the most-cited image is the idea of sexuality creeping into the realms of and destroying the family. The family is held up as the unit of perfection - the "American family" is often cited in political or military concepts as something that we need to uphold and protect. Perhaps the most famous argument against legalizing gay marriage (I really feel like I have heard this specific quote on TV, but I don't remember who said it) is that it is tearing apart the fabric of the American family - by letting "non traditional" marriages take place. To me, this argument seems completely devoid of logic, but its definitely possible to see how the image and language of the American family can be hijacked to carry out counter-feminist goals. I became curious about WHY the family was so targeted by political regimes. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that when people refer to an abstract "family", we immediately think about our own family. We are protective of the people we love, so when a politician or other powerful figures mentions that something is "destroying the American family", it's easy to get caught up in emotions instead of logical reasoning. As Collins says, "blood ties" are often the golden standard by which we decide loyalties.

However, this sort of symbolism can also have an upside. Collins notes that while family discourse is "reworked" by "conservative movements of all types", "the alleged unity and solidarity attributed to family is often invoked to symbolize the aspirations of oppressed groups." There are countless stories of people who pull themselves out of poverty or bad living conditions because they are determined to have a better life for their children. The Pardo piece mentioned that many groups of people were forming - groups for fathers, groups for mothers, etc. These types of organizations show that the idea of family can create solidarity in a different way - by letting people identify as a "mother" or a "father", they can find support and feel connected to other individuals. However, I still believe that gendering the roles of the mother and father can be problematic. Collins mentioned that family structures often force people to ascribe to stereotypes of the father as breadwinner and the mother as caretaker. I am curious whether it's possible to create solidarity groups without gendering those identities - could we have just a Parents group? Would such a thing be successful in our extremely gender conscious society?

How can we fight against 'family' rhetoric being used to achieve (sometimes bad) political goals? Is it possible to do this without fundamentally changing the notion of what it means to be a family?

Direct Engagement #7


The Feminist Family Values Forum made me curious about more general aspects of feminism. Reading the opinions of different feminists, it is clear that culture does play a part in gender roles or lack thereof. Gloria Steinem brings up the Bush People's way of life and values (84). Unlike our society, they neither judge people by their sexual orientation nor do they try to limit each other's sexual freedom. In contrast, Angela Davis speaks of the Women's Movement, once uniting Native American, Asian American, Black, Caucasian, and Latino communities with very broad goals (90). What "counts" as sexism? Should all cultures or people find the same things sexist? Certainly there are many factors that do affect our perception, but should they? What does it mean to be truly equal, and is it realistic, or even possible, for women to be equal? Men and women are different physiologically, and there is broad spectrum in between the two socially-accepted sexes. Based on biology, why would men, intersexuals, and women be equal? Chemically, we are different. Different levels of hormones affect how we feel, think, and act. Furthermore, natural selection has eliminated people of certain traits, ill-suited to cope in their environment. Women had an increased likelihood of passing their genes on to the next generation if they stayed with one mate and took care of their offspring. Men also increased their chances of passing on their genes if they stayed with one mate and provided shelter and food for his mate and offspring. This sounds like patriarchy to me. Is it possible that patriarchy helped people survive? If so, why should this be changed? If ain't broke don't fix it, right?

Direct Engagement 7

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Upon reading María de los Angeles Jiménez's speech, her mentioning of two Mexican figures, La Virgin de Guadalupe and La Llorona, made me especially curious to think about the cultural factors that shape families and, specifically, the roles of mothers in families. To me, it's incredibly interesting to think that La Llorona especially plays such a large role in the shaping of a mother. As a Spanish major, I would be very curious to read more Latin American and Spanish literature and examine the effects the mothers in the writings have on the nation's culture and views of a mother and her role. Furthermore, I find it fascinating how such roles that transcend from legend (both La Virgin de Guadalupe and La Llorona), affect how society views women and thus treats them when one may decide to step out of the traditional women's role.

Another interesting point raised by Jiménez is the ability of the English language to be feminized, and the lack of ability to do so in the Spanish language. "The reality of the Spanish language, however, is such that similar changes in Spanish were not possible because they would alter the basic structure of a language." (Jimenéz, p.29). I suppose then that the question raised is such: if a language inherently gender discriminates, how do feminists overcome such biases? As both dignity and culture are vital aspects to a person's self, I can't imagine the struggle that Latina feminists must have undergone to attempt to reconcile the two with one another.

Furthermore, my curiosity has always been and will continue to be struck in relation to the movement of the Mothers of the Disappeared. Jiménez raises a very astute observation that this movement changed the way women could achieve equality in Latin America. She notes, "In this movement, women assert their moral authority as mothers and raise their voices for the political systems they want and against oppression. Their reproductive and nurturing roles were transformed from the private to the public, the biological to the political." For me, this statement brings to light a positive manner in which reconcile the traditional mother's role in Latin America with the feminist's desire to achieve equality. How else should cultures in which the woman's role has traditionally been in the home--where religion and tradition are incredibly important to the region--attempt to reach gender equality and an empowered role in society for women while maintaining a sense of culture?

Direct Engagement- Question 7


After reading the Pardo article, I questioned the idea of "mother groups" in societies. The MELA group had a big role in this article, and I think its interesting why there isn't a "Fathers of East LA" group also. Even in societies that I hear most about, like where I'm from, I never hear of father groups. It's always the mothers taking the big roles in parent involvedness. Is this fair? Shouldn't both parents be involved equally in their child's social life? These ideas make me curious about whether or not the women and mothers in these positions are being dealt fair cards. Could it be because of the famous "mothers intuition" that everyone knows and loves? I liked the blurb about mothers turning into lionesses when their child's safety is in danger. Why don't they mention father's turning into lionesses? I don't necessarily think there is a right or wrong answer, I just think it's interesting to notice the gender differences in everything that you read and see. This article seemed to make it very obvious, which I know was the reason for the article. Its just interesting to really think about...

Question 7 Response

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Genevieve Vaughn opens up the reading from Feminist Family Values Forum by stating, "My hope is that this evening will stimulate a wide scale discussion of values which will liberate all of us from the stereotypical thinking and ideological control of the right wing." This got me thinking about why is it that the right wing has given us all the stereotypical thinking that it has? How was it able to make so many people fall under its ideological control? Genevieve also states, " We have to liberate ourselves from our ignorance and take our power to make the changes in a system which is dispowering our hearts and creating a context of scarcity which makes caring impractical and even self-sacrificial." The question that this raised for me was how do you draw the line between knowing where an individual person can make a difference and where a much larger group or certain item must be changed in order for an individual person to be able to make a difference? Maria de los Angeles Jimenez was the second person from the reading and she said, "Mexican culture looks upon the mother as a creator of life, not only biologically, but socially, who, by nurturing and building her family, builds the life of the community around her. I think that this was, and in some cases still is, the view in a lot of cultures. A question this statement raised for me was, how did it become that mothers were given all the responsibility or raising their children? It seems common sense to me that the responsibility of raising a child and building a community would be equally split between the man and the woman, considering they both produced the child.

I am not very familiar with what's going on with the Health Care Reform Bill, but I read in an article from the National Organization for Women that the reform has several stipulations that restrict women's rights. The article pointed out that although congressmen talk around this issue, this bill eliminates basically all private and public insurance coverage for abortion. The bill established insurance "exchanges" which sets up two kinds of insurance: one that includes abortion coverage and one that doesn't. It requires that those with the insurance plan write two monthly checks; one for the abortion care rider and the other for all other health care. This separation allows the insurance plan to charge more for the additional abortion coverage. Hence, this restricts many poor women who cannot afford to pay the extra fee for the abortion coverage. This can have serious implications because it may be that those who cannot afford the abortion coverage, are the people that need it the most. Moreover, the writer also mentioned that the bill allows insurance plans to charge women higher premiums because they are women.

This is definitely a feminist issue because it is quite puzzling that such a bill that restricts the rights for women has been passed. If this health reform bill actually does limit women's rights this way, I think this needs to change because this bill does not serve the needs of everyone, universally. Although men and women are different in some aspects, we are both human and are entitled to health care.

Direct Engagement 7

Maria de los Angeles Jimenez speaks about the difficulties as a feminist within Chicano and Latin American communities. Demanding rights as a woman was viewed as disloyalty to the Chicano movement. Maria says in her speech, "They (Chicano males) told me that the abandonment of the family and the tradition we were fighting for was Gringo culture, that I was being brainwashed by white ideology". I am curious about the struggles of the feminist movement within various cultures. Maria talks about when she compares the feminist movements in Mexico and the U.S. there isn't much difference in overall ideals, "Both movements work toward women's equality and dignity". So it is interesting that the issues vary between cultures, and that the end goal of feminism is the same.
The basic linguistic struggle of a Spanish-speaking feminist is one that English-speaking feminist doesn't consider. The feminization of English words is not an option for the Spanish language because it changes the basic structure of the language. This is a limitation for a Latin American and demonstrates the importance of basic language choice as a tool of breaking down societal structures. How can Spanish-speakers use language to promote equality, and do you think the feminization of English words has made a substantial impact on the feminist movement?
The Zapatista women of Chiapas stated in 1994 wants such as, to be able to marry who they wanted, have the amount of children they want, leadership positions, education, and ability to be drivers. While these demands are very different to those of women in the U.S. during this time, the fundamental idea is the same. In order to try and change the traditional idea of how a woman is defined, many Zapatista women have decided to stop reproducing, and join the men in the Zapatista Army contributing significant numbers to the soldiers.
These different approaches to feminism are what makes it a fluid movement, and I believe that attempting to understand the differences, will contribute positively to the work toward equality.

Direct Engagement: Question 7: 3/23-3/25


In It's All In the Family, Patricia Hill Collins states, "Just as reworking the rhetoric of family for their political agendas is a common strategy for conservative movements of all types, the alleged unity and solidarity attributed to family is often invoked to symbolize the aspirations of oppressed groups. [my bolding]" (Hill Collins, 63).

This statement stood out to me for two reasons. First, it highlights the use of unity, a buzzword whose meaning and implementation have been debated by feminists (see "They Should Not Breed" by Sayce and Perkins for an example) and our class.

Second, it's notable that Hill Collins discusses the use of unity to rally conservatives and social justice activists, two groups traditionally pitted against each other.

This discussion of use/abuse of unity by different groups reminded me of a topic of which I'm very curious. Does and should feminism impose gender and political alliance requirements on its members? Can a man or a conservative woman call him/herself a feminist? (I discuss men and feminism in another blog post.)

In many of our readings in class, it seems almost assumed that feminists and conservatives are at odds (I left my course packet at home, but will post some quotes later today). I'm guessing this is because worker's rights, subsidized daycare, etc., are traditionally liberal political platform components. Considering that bell hooks defines feminism as "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" (Feminism is for Everybody), could a conservative woman still include herself in the movement if she believed that an end of oppression was signified by equal pay for men and women, but didn't include unsubsidized daycare in her definition of oppression? Would an otherwise liberal woman also be excluded if she disagreed with such a program?

menandfeminism.jpgI was discussing the above question with a friend of mine in the GWSS class the other day, and we were both curious about the implications of a yea or nea decision.

Let's start with a basic definition of feminism. In Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks defines feminism as "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression."

If a man wants to "end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" is he allowed to call himself a feminist?

Ultimately, my friend and I outlined two opposing perspectives on this issue:

Perspective One: Even though they represented an empowered identity, anti-racist Caucasians were considered to be part of the Civil Rights Movement and were still called civil rights activists; civil rights activists could be advocates (minorities) or allies (non-minorities). In a similar vein, shouldn't men, as an empowered identity, still be allowed to call themselves feminists? (Note: I've heard some refer to men as feminist allies, but that seems to imply that they aren't full-fledged feminists in their own right.)

Perspective Two: Although the above statement regarding the Civil Rights Movement is true, it is highly unlikely that whites would have encouraged or would have asked to join the Black Panther Party, an African American nationalist political party. It was understood that the Black Panther Party was an advocate-only group, composed only of African Americans. Is Feminism also an advocate-only group, composed only of women?

Revised Feminist Reflection Paper Assignment


You can download the revised feminist reflection paper assignment here. Make sure to carefully read the entire assignment. For your reference, here are the basic requirements:

  • 5-7 pages, typed and double-spaced in 11 or 12 point font
  • Must draw upon at least 5 class readings
  • Must draw upon at least 2 blog entries from the course blog
  • Must include works cited page identifying all sources used in paper
  • Due May 6
I have also made the assignment into a link. It is listed under handouts in the link section of this blog (bottom right hand side).

Welcome back from Spring Break! I hope you had a great one. Tomorrow we will be discussing Patricia Hill Collins' essay "It's All in the Family" (available on WebVista) and the selections from The Feminist Family Values forum (in our course packet). In case you missed them, here are two important blog entries/announcements that I posted last week:

Discussion on Culture shapes scientific fact about men and women

In the "Egg and Sperm" by Emily Martin, the author presented that " culture influence biological science which describes what they discover about Natural world and the picture of Egg and sperm drawn in popular as well as scientific amount of reproductive biology relied on stereotype central to our cultural definition of males and females. Some examples I have found from her article are " for women, the monthly cycle is described as being design to produce egg and prepare a suitable place for them to fertilize and grown" p(486)
On the other hands, she sites from the human physiology article that " normal human male may manufacture several hundred millions sperm per day " (P486)
She also explain about menstruation and spermatogenesis. "All of the ovarian follieles containing ova are already present at birth. Normal human ovaries contain and estimated a million follies and no new one appear after birth. In contract to the males, the new born female already has all the germ cells she will ever have. Only a few are destined to reach full maturity during her active productive life, a few remain by the time she reach menopause.
She also said " between male and females, males continuously produce fresh germ cells and female who has stockpiled germ cell by birth and it face with their degneration. As the example Martin said that laparoscope a tan ovary that has been through hundred of cycle even in the superbly healthy Americans female, you see a searred battered organ"
In "Riki Wilchins " Can sex have Opposite?" at first the author presented the different skin color means different race. But when she brought to the Sex,, she said " Sex is not just about reproduction and the interesting properties of somebody to produce offspring but it is the primary properties of all human bodies, including those can not now or never will participate in the procreation , such as infants, adolescents, transexual, the very old, women past menopause, sterile and infertile people , etc.
for exampleis the sex industry such as the discovery channel which rebroadcasting the Opposites Sexes"p(85). Another example is neonate sexual development between males and females infants.

Direct Engagement: Question 7 - Family Values


One of the things that immediately caught my attention while reading the excerpts from the Feminist Values Forum was a significant underlying Marxist discourse, especially in the speech of Gloria Steinem. Of the socialized idea of the family Steinem says, "The patriarchal, nuclear family that we are supposed to think is the normal and only one, that kind of family is really only about one-hundred-and-fifty-years-old, and is almost entirely the function of industrialization and capitalism [emphasis mine]" (47).

(ON A COMPLETE SIDE NOTE: Perhaps the reason this has caught my attention so quickly is because I have recently been reading excerpts of Caliban and the Witch: Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici, which is a historical work addressing Marx and his ideas, specifically his conception of "primitive accumulation," from a feminist perspective. It's very interesting, and I would definitely recommend it.)

Anyway, there is one main thing about which this underlying discourse has piqued my curiosity. Several of the speakers hinted at being able to move beyond capitalism in order to overcome some of the harms women and men suffer in the status quo. I know that such an idea--especially since the most well known alternative to capitalism is either socialism or communism--is generally stigmatized and connoted negatively, especially within the United States. Yet in her speech, Angela Davis says, "That does not mean that there is no possibility of envisioning a social system beyond capitalism. We cannot be content with this system" (60). Steinem hints at a similar theme when she says, "So I suggest that we just declare the last five-to-ten thousand years an experiment that failed. Let's declare this the first meeting of the post-patriarchal, post-racist, post-nationalist age" (45). María de los Angeles Jiménez indicts capitalism too when she says, "The restructuring of economies and integration of economic blocks, as we know, is the work of transnational corporations. These corporations have skewed power structures and have redefined patterns of employment and degraded the quality of life throughout the world" (35). In short, the question that I am hinting at is this: Do you think humanity should pursue an alternative to capitalism in order to overcome not the only the patriarchal harms of the status quo but also to overcome the harms to the peoples of the Third World, which, as Genevieve Vaughan points out, are also linked to patriarchy? I would argue that yes, an alternative to capitalism should, at the very least, be pursued.

Last year, I had a macroeconomics class that had a similar class blog, and I wrote an entry in justification of this very argument. I will try to summarize that entry as it was very long, and this entry itself is already getting to be long enough.

The argument I made was largely a Nietzschean one insofar as it rejected the idea of the justification of free trade in a similar way that Nietzsche rejected Hegel's teleological conceptualization of history. Translated into English that means that one of the biggest justifications for free trade is the idea that, eventually, everything will get better for everyone--free trade posits the idea that some people will have to suffer, i.e. lose jobs and income, in order for economic progress to occur, for humanity as a whole to improve their living conditions--but, in my opinion, such an idea precludes the possibility of (significant) progress and/or amelioration because of the inherent implication that such progress is inevitable. That is to say that if you accept the idea of progress as inevitable, such progress is going to be hard to come by because everyone will be sitting around waiting for it to occur. There will be no active attempts toward such progress.

Furthermore, in this blog entry, I also made the point that capitalism's ability for some to succeed is purportedly a function of people's willingness and ability to work hard and adapt to new circumstances and situations. This is not at all the case. Capitalism, especially in the Third World but also in cases of chronic inner-city poverty, necessitates a systemic poverty, thereby precluding this 'tenet' of capitalism. Yes, for some people there is always the possibility of "pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps," so to speak, but for many others such a possibility is, antithetically and ironically, an impossibility.

Finally, the idea of capitalism is also largely based upon the necessity, or the drive, to improve 'living conditions.' This, however, doesn't necessarily improve living quality, and I think this is perhaps the biggest problem with capitalism. The idea that materialistic improvements are necessarily good things is an inherent tenet of capitalism, which, in my opinion, is completely false. For instance, the environment has suffered greatly at the hands of capitalism, there are many psychological experiments indicating that wealth is not, in fact, an indicator of happiness, et cetera.

These were, in short, the main points in my blog entry, so, again, I pose the question: Do you think humanity should pursue an alternative to capitalism in order to overcome both the harms caused by capitalism and the harms caused by patriarchy, or any combination thereof? I know this is often a touchy subject, especially in the United States, but I'm not advocating that such an alternative necessarily has to be communism. I'm just advocating that an alternative has to be pursued. I'm not even advocating, for that matter, that such an alternative couldn't be capitalism itself, granted it would have to be an alternative or different capitalism, i.e. a more compassionate capitalism (NO Bush connotations intended here whatsoever).

This is a feminist issue because... Conscience Bill

The Idaho House of Representatives has basses a "Conscience Bill" that allows any health care professional to deny access to contraception, abortion, stem-cell, end-of-life treatment, or medication due to their conscience. The article which discusses this bill in the Feminist Majority Foundation makes the point that a person's conscience and what they feel comfortable with should be considered, but then who is looking out for the patient and their rights?

I believe that in a medical setting patients' rights should always come first. At the same time, a person should not have to do something they feel uncomfortable with and do not agree with. Personally, I feel that if someone is not comfortable with providing these reproductive rights to people, this are of the medical field is not the right place for them to be working, as they are not suited to the demands of the job. There are plenty of other careers probably more suited to someone who doesn't feel comfortable providing reproductive services to patients, even within the medical field that these people should consider. The patient should not have to suffer simply because a medical professional has entered a job in which they do not feel comfortable performing the duties required of them in such a position.

A bill has been proposed by the Missouri state Senate which would require medical professionals to attempt to obtain various personal information from women upon receiving an abortion. According to an article in Feminist Majority Foundation this information would include the reason the woman sought the abortion, including the specific medical, social, and economic factors influencing the decision as well as whether the woman was using any form of birth control when she got pregnant and if so what type.

If this bill is passed, the doctor must ask these questions and not discourage the women from answering the questions in any way, but the information is all voluntary so the women may refuse to answer the questions. They claim the purpose of this law would be for the government to obtain more information on the reasons women seek abortions.

I feel like the process of asking these questions may seem degrading to the woman who is getting the abortion. They are not necessary questions to ask and the government does not need to know why each woman chose abortion. Women should have the right to choose, and their decision should not be questioned. While it is not required that the woman disclose this information to proceed with the abortion, I believe that asking these questions is an invasion of one's privacy. If the government does feel that more information of this sort is needed, then maybe an anonymous questionnaire can be included as part of the paperwork done before the procedure and if the woman chooses to fill it out that is her choice and if not it is a less awkward and personal setting for the woman to decide not to disclose such personal information.

Models in the fashion industry are typically rail-thin and unhealthy. But obese women is also a preference for some women. Eating disorders are prevalent in modeling, from anorexia and bulimia to even overeating. A 600 pound model for reports in an article on the ABC news website, "I'm heavy and I wouldn't mind being heavier", as she discusses all of the edible gifts her fans send her. This article only briefly addresses the health concerns involved in obesity, and nowhere in the article does it mention how these obese models view themselves. Every quote or paraphrase taken in this article by these women concerns how men view these women and how they feel that they can be sexy this way for some men as well. Nowhere does it say that any of these women like being obese simply because they are simply confident, only that the men out there who find obese women sexy make them confident and this is why they model for these men.

Women should not feel like they have to be stick skinny to feel comfortable with themselves, but they also should not only be comfortable with themselves by modeling for men who like large women in order to receive gifts and fan mail in response. Women should aim to be healthy and accept their bodies without the approval of men, and men should be happy with a healthy confident woman, no matter what her size.

Michelle (Bombshell) McGee is a Feminist Issue Because...

Michelle McGee has allegedly had an affair with Sandra Bullock's husband, Jesse James. She recently did a photo shoot for Tattoo Revue magazine, telling the publication's founder he should put her on the cover because "I'm going to be real hot soon". Three months after the shoot she decided to go public with her alleged affair with Jesse James. According to an article on People magazines website, a friend of Michelle's said "I would not be surprised if she went after Jesse James because she thought it would bring her fame".

Women who go after married men are a feminist issue. When women are trying to achieve gender equality, we cannot treat each other in this poor manner at the same time. How can women expect men to treat every woman with respect when women themselves treat each other in this manner? Yes, Jesse James is in the wrong as well for stepping out on his wife, but this is a whole other feminist issue.

It is thought that Michelle McGee also went after Jesse James and went public with the affair in order to gain more fame and create opportunities for herself, like getting on the cover of a magazine. Women using men for their fame and money is another part of this feminist issue. In the feminist movement women want to be seen as equals to men who are capable of supporting themselves and making their own lives, and this type of behavior encourages a lifestyle in which women use men to elevate their own status and quality of life instead of doing it in an independent and honest manner.

Direct Engagement Question 7: 3/23-3/25


Note: Because of spring break, I am requiring that the direct engagement entries be posted by Monday instead of Sunday this week. So, Group C, your entries for this week are due on Monday, March 22 by 6 PM. Comments should still be posted by noon on Tuesday (3.23).

ffvf_lrg.jpgAfter reading through all of your midterm evaluations, I have decided to mix it up a little. Several of you indicated that the question prompts were too restrictive and didn't enable you to engage with the readings in the ways that you wanted to. Therefore, I am opening up the direct engagements for this week by asking one broad question in terms of the readings: How do the readings (Hill Collins, Feminist Family Values Forum, or Pardo) make you curious? You can engage with this question in any way that you wish as long as you follow these basic rules:

  • Your direct engagement must address at least one of the readings
  • Your direct engagement should be aimed at making us curious and demonstrate a respectful and critical engagement with the ideas/readings
  • You may include your own opinions about the readings, but those opinions must be  explained and supported by examples (from the readings, your experiences)
  • You should include some sort of question that you pose to your readers
In discussing how the readings make you curious, you could think about these questions--Were there terms or concepts that didn't make sense or that you weren't familiar with? Are there certain issues that you would like to know more about? Were any aspects of the readings confusing? Are there certain claims that you strongly agree/disagree with and that you would like to read how others feel/think about them? What issues did the readings fail to address that you think are very important for discussing family values?

Good luck! I am looking forward to reading your entries and being impressed by your creativity.  

Revised Schedule for Issue #3: Family Values



23 What are Feminist Family Values?


  • Collins, Patricia Hill. "It's All in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race and Nation" (Web Vista)
  • Selections from Feminist Family Values Forum (CP)

25 Feminist Family Values and the Environment


  • Pardo, Mary. "Mexican American Women Grassroots Community Activists: 'Mothers of East Los Angeles'" (Web Vista)
  • 3 "This is a feminist issue because..." Blog Entries:

Is Feminism Humanist Movement?
Consumerism and Waste
American Industrial Food System

30 Family values and Children/Youth


  • Martin, Karin. "William Wants a Doll" (Web Vista)
  • Berstein, Susan. "Transparent" (Web Vista)

FILM CLIPS: Free to be...You and me


1 Family Values and Children/Youth


6 Family Values: Marriage and Beyond


  • The Nation. Special issue on Marriage: The State of the Union (Web Vista)
  • Olson, Theodore B. "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage" (Web Vista)
  • Normativity" (Web Vista)

Feminist Values position paper due today


Feministing This is an interesting article.

Group 10 Definition of Feminism

bell hooks talks about how feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. However, we think that her definition is a little too constraining. Feminism is broad and affects many other social, political, economic, cultural, etc. realms. It engages with many other fields of thought and it's important to think about feminism not just as equality of women, but a complete revolution of cultural norms for everyone and not just women.

New Definition of Feminism

Group 9 (Adam Liter, Sarah Mainz, Tamar Kaplan, Sarah Turgeant, Sammy Labraska)

We changed our definition of feminism because it was too broad before. We boiled it down to just issues relating to gender:

Feminism is a political/academic movement to critique, fight, and raise awareness of sexism.

The Insight Center for Community Economic Development released a report on the gender wealth gap to mark International Women's Day.
To read more, go to Democracy Now!
or Insight CCED's Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative

Some thoughts on your first blog assignments...

I really enjoyed reading your first round of blog entries/comments and am, for the most part, very impressed with how well you are using the blog to engage with the class and each other. Keep up the good work!

Here are some of my thoughts about the blog assignments so far.

Never assume that your reader knows what you are writing about:
When you are drawing upon the readings, be explicit with your discussion. Don't assume that your audience has read the readings that you are discussing. Remember that we could have "silent" readers who aren't in the class. And even if we have read the readings, we might not immediately recognize what part of a certain text (or which text) that you are discussing.

Be very clear in your discussion:
You should always fully explain your points and link them directly with the readings. Mention page numbers. Follow up on statements like, "The author raised some compelling points about invisible labor," by describing at least one of those compelling points. Don't just write, "I think women are treated unfairly." Make sure to write how women are treated unfairly, what the causes of the unfair treatment are, and which readings discuss the unfair treatment.

Use the readings to support your points:
While it is fine for you to bring in your own opinions, make sure that you always work to connect your discussion with the texts. Relying on the texts, and specific examples that come out of the texts, enables you to focus your discussion and avoid statements that are too broad. Note: Using the readings is crucial because it is one very important way that you can demonstrate that you are reading the material.

Demonstrate a serious engagement with the readings and each other:
A serious engagement means that you spend time really thinking about what you want to write and how you want to respond to my questions or the blog posts of others. Always think about how to create entries/comments that can make us curious, that encourage us to ask questions, and that work to open up discussion instead of shutting it down. 

Use more images:
The design for this blog is very basic so adding in images makes it a lot more fun to look at. Here is what I wrote about how to post images in my How to Blog, a primer:

a. First, find the image you want. Probably the easiest way to do this is by opening up a new tab or window, going on, and putting in a key word to search. That's where I have found most of my this one:


Because this is a basic primer, let's stick with google images. So, you have typed in "Brady Bunch" and found a great image of the family that you want to use. Click on the image. Then click on "see full size image". Drag the full-size image onto your desktop. Now you are ready to upload the image into your entry.

b. Switch back to the entry you have been working on. Put your cursor at the place in your text that you want the image to appear (like where you are discussing the Brady Bunch). Then click on the button (which is a few after the link button) that looks like an image and is called "insert image."


Click on the "upload new image" link and then browse on your desktop for the image of the Brady Bunch that you just found on google images. After you have selected the image, click on upload. Now that the new image is uploaded, you will be given a bunch of file options. It is up to you how you want the image to look, but here is what I usually do. I click on "display image in entry," "use thumbnail (with a width of 150 pixels)" and "Link image to full-size version in a popup window." In terms of alignment, pick whichever works best for you.

Finally, click on finish.

Want more advice on how to write on the blog? Check out these two entries, here and here, that I wrote about blog writing for students.

Study Says Men Have Longer Sexual Longevity....

Here is another supposed study that has been sensationalized into entertainment news. I think the real purpose of the study was showing the connection between sex and health, but of course the media brought out the gender difference in a stereotypical way. Click here for article.

Group 6 - Reproductive Rights Agenda


Our group chose to focus on reproductive rights and specifically to inform people of the options that are available to them for information and protection:

Just because you are choosing to be sexually active does not mean that you need to be in danger of getting pregnant or contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

By knowing your options, you can protect yourself as well as your partner. Take advantage of the resources available to you for information and protection.

Being informed of your rights and choices is the key to a healthy sex life. Knowledge is powerful - educate yourself and those around you.




What is...Masculinity?


As part of our class today we will be revisiting "this is a feminist issue because..." entries and discussing the question, what is masculinity? Here are some commercials that I thought we could watch to get us thinking about the issue. All of these commercials were posted earlier in the semester on various "this is a feminist issue because..." entries.

So I was watching TV this morning and I saw these two commercials, one right after the other. It got me thinking about our analysis of women and housework commercials last week. How is masculinity represented/reinforced in these commercials? What are these commercials suggesting about what it means to be a "real" man and what it might mean to fail to be that man? Why is this a feminist issue? How can we connect it to our analysis of the larger structures/ideologies that foster injustice and oppression in its many forms?

And, I thought I would add this commercial on too--I didn't see it this morning, but was reminded of it when I started thinking about how masculinity gets reinforced in commercials. What are the implied reasons that men aren't wearing pants? Why do they need to wear (the) pants? How might not wearing pants signify failed masculinity? Who is to blame for this failed masculinity?


I also wanted to add in another Old Spice commercial that M posted as a follow-up to this entry.

One thing that strikes me about all of these commercials is how they seem to be a warning--you better act/smell/look like a man or else. How are we kept in line by threats of not being considered a real man or a real woman? Who makes those threats? What are the consequences that result from one's failure to be a real man?

Okay, I can't stop...there are just too many commercials waiting to be analyzed. Here is the last one...for now:

So, what do these commercials tell us about masculinity and what it means to be a real man? What stereotypes do these commercials reinforce? How do these commercials make you curious?

I choose to read the following article and
* Martin, Emily. "The Egg and the Sperm" (on WebVista)
* Wilchins, Riki. "Can Sex have Opposites?" (on WebVista)
* Skwarecki, Beth. "Mad Science: Deconstructing Bunk Reporting in 5 Easy Steps" (online--click on article)
* Bornstein, Kate. "Abandon Your Tedious Search! The Rulebook has been Found" (on WebVista)
* Skim through our blog category, "This is a feminist issue because..."

And the ways in which culture (societal norms, stereotypes about gender roles) shapes how scientific facts about men and women/male and female/masculine and feminine are reported and understood within popular culture, news reports about scientific studies and scientific textbooks. In different ways, each author is curious about how the way we interpret "facts" about bodies is mediated through language that is not free of cultural expectations and norms. In other words, the language that is used to describe certain scientific/biological facts is often loaded with culturally specific metaphors (Martin), is wholly concerned with differences instead of similarities (Wilchins), and is frequently promoted as "natural" and beyond question/ing (Bornstein).
I am confusing after reading the articles and try to find the concept of science, culture, and gender are related and how the culture influence the way the men and women see the science.

What is...intersex?


In one of your entries for this week, you asked about people who are born with both male and female genitalia. While the term hermaphrodite is defiantly claimed by some, like in Hermaphrodites with Attitude, the most frequent way in which this condition is described is as being intersexed. So, what is intersex?

Check out the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) for some great resources, including this definition:

"Intersex" is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types--for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.

and several videos, like this one or this one about intersex.  You can also check out Alice Dreger's book Intersex in the Age of Ethics or Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex.

This is a feminist issue because... Is it OK to be fat?

The debate. (This is quite long, about an hour all together, a little longer with the background info in the four video links at the bottom of the page.) I don't want to post my opinion on this issue, because I'm much more interested in hearing what other people think. First of all, I love that this is specifically directed towards four females, and not males - although I give them full credit for trying to say 'men and women' to make sure they include everyone since everyone is a victim of the weight issue. Second of all, I like that they don't really have a conclusion, they have four people from four different corners of the different sides of health (someone who has lost excessive weight, someone who gained to be healthy, someone who has just strained to be thin their entire lives, and someone who has accepted their body as it is with how they want to live their life), which allows for a great difference of perceptions to be brought to the table.


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I saw this last year in my Intro Sociology course and thought I'd share it since it's relevant and quite interesting. This is a short documentary that interviewed two intersex individuals and allowed them to share their personal experience with genital surgery.


Honey Tongue | MySpace Video

normalizing. criminalizing. sleepwalking.

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I've filed this post under both 'prison industrial complex' and under the question for this week, although it does not directly correspond to either. But I became very curious in reading through the selected articles for this week, as well as reading through essays pertaining to the PIC, and wanted to use the blog as a space to express my curiosity. I'm curious about language and its (mis)use; gender sleepwalking and gender-fucking; prescribed gender versus performed gender; blindness and invisibility; socially constructed norms; coercion versus choice; human v. non-human; and, finally, I'm curious about what happens when I bring all of these things I've been processing into conversation with one another -- what are the consequences or benefits of doing this?

Since I organize my thoughts in a really scattered way when processing multiple readings -- especially in conjunction with readings, etc., that are seemingly unrelated -- I'm going to risk confusing my readers and just throw my thoughts up here in the form of my favorite organizational facilitator:

kraus post.jpgbornstein post.jpgstein post.jpgwilchins post.jpgsperm:egg post.jpg

Can the same social constructs that circumscribe and produce gender norms be contrasted or compared to how criminal bodies are produced?


How do the foreclosures and erasures of proper, legitimate gender demarcate and circumscribe the human? To what purpose are criminal bodies produced in order to be legitimately (lawfully) excluded from the category of human? What does gender transgression do for/to feminist discourses? How is the human framed and delimited through these discourses and where do non-humans (both abject bodies and non-human animals, etc.) fit in? What would the transvaluation of the non-human mean for feminist discourse? (I'm thinking of most of these questions in relation to my engagement with Davis and Foucault regarding criminalized bodies, racialized and gendered crime and criminalization, and the punishment industry - so if anyone has ideas about framing these questions more productively, that would be a great help.)

Blog Folder Due Date Change

According to the official assignment, you are scheduled to hand in your blog folders again this Thursday. As was discussed in class, I am extending that deadline until we have completed the second cycle of blog entries/comments (that is, once everyone has completed 2 entries and 2 additional comments). Therefore, you are now required to turn in your blog folders on March 30.

Remember to print out your blog entries and put them in a folder along with a filled out blog worksheet. Only entries included in the blog folder will graded and awarded points.

Direct Engagement 6


Emily Martin, in her work "Eggs and Sperm", asserts that the language used to describe the fertilization process between an egg and sperm is inherently sexist. Martin argues that the sperm is given an unfairly elevated position in the reproductive process and that the language used to describe the process perpetuates social and gender norms. Martin draws examples from several prominent biology textbooks, where in her opinion; there is a clear bias toward the male aspect of reproduction.

One topic Martin often refers to is the representation of menstruation in science; she asserts that is misrepresented as a "wasteful" process, whereas the loss of millions of sperm is neglected. The egg as Martin asserts, is portrayed as "merely sit on the shelf, slowly degenerating and aging like overstocked inventory". Martin goes on to note that; "For every baby a man produces, he wastes more than one trillion (〖10〗^12) sperm" (489).

In one section of her paper, Martin lists several common terms that are used to describe sperm and eggs. She argues that these terms are also commonly used to perpetuate preconceived gender norms. Martin points out contrast between the words used to describe egg and sperm locomotion. In biology textbooks, Martin notices that the egg is said to "drift" or "is swept" along the fallopian tubes, whereas the sperm is portrayed as a driver and in control of their part, with words such as "deliver", "streamlined" and "velocity".



This a great and interesting way to explain Feminism.Enjoy!

Group 3 Work Agenda

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As a group, we decided to develop an agenda for the issue of Maternal/Parental Leave. One argument over providing women with access to employment leave in the instance of pregnancy is that it creates a system where women are, from the get go, more expensive to hire as employees. In acknowledging this reality, we believe it is important to develop a system in which both men and women start off on an equal playing field in terms of their prospective demands to an organization. It is here that we believe the system of unpaid time off, however accessible it is for both men and women to take advantage of, is in inadequate in addressing the issue. Realistically very few households are in a position to give up the salaries of both spouses to take care of their newborn or adopted child. Since it is unrealistic to expect a family to do so and still be able to support themselves, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of households opt for the woman, having undergone the significant physical and psychological demands of pregnancy, to be the one to take time off.

Having proven that equal accessibility of unpaid time off does little to address the equal employment of time off that is necessary to equalize the costs women and men pose to an organization, we feel that greater incentive must be given to both sexes for taking time. To do so, unpaid time off must become paid time off. In an attempt to acknowledge the important role of childcare as a vital component to parenthood on both sides and address the economic realities facing families, we propose that the government mandate that paid time off be offered to both men and women for the eight weeks after the birth of the child, followed by an additional eight weeks of unpaid leave. To take into account the demands pregnancy demands on the woman, she may be excused from a total of seven days of unpaid leave leading up to the birth of the child.

In addition to the modifications we would make to the standing FMLA litigation, we also feel it is important to address the cultural stigma that exists around male parenting. It seems to be the case that men who do decide to take time off are given a pretty hard time about it, accused of 'reducing' themselves to female roles, or reneging on their traditional role as the economic provider. We find such mentalities to be fundamentally harmful not only to the struggle for equality within the workplace, but detrimental to a healthy society where women and men invest due time and energy into raising their children. One method of changing the stigma around paternal leave would be to alter how fathers are represented within the media. Rather than as strictly rugged role models who wrestle in the backyard on the weekends with their children (though there is nothing in itself wrong with this as long as it is not the only representation of fathers as it seems to be today), more men must be depicted as caregivers, ones who change diapers and who are sensitive to the emotional needs of their children. We all know men like this, so why can't they be represented and affirmed as they should be on the most influential social platform there is--the media.

Hilary, Courtney, Michelle J, Adam, Anna O, Alyssa

Direct Engagement

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In "The Egg and the Sperm: How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles" Emily Martin questions how science textbooks describe the reproduction process, specifically the actions of the sperm and the egg. Martin claims that a majority of the contemporary literature describing these processes "impl[ies] not only that female biological processes are less worthy than their male counterparts but also that women are less worthy than men" (485-6). This claim is based on the fact that such literature personifies the actions of the egg and the sperm: "Endowing egg and sperm with intentional action, a key aspect of personhood [emphasis mine] in our culture [. . . ]" (500).

Martin describes that the egg has been portrayed as passive and inactive, a typical stereotype of women, whereas the sperm has been portrayed as active and aggressive, a typical stereotype of men (486-98). Martin writes, "the texts have an almost dogged insistence on portraying female processes in a negative light. The texts celebrate sperm production because it is continuous pretty much throughout a man's entire life, while they portray egg production as inferior because it is finished at birth" (488); "The real mystery is why the male's vast production of sperm is not seen as wasteful" (488); and "although this new version of the saga of the egg and the sperm broke through cultural expectations, the researchers who made the discovery continue to write papers and abstracts as if the sperm were the active party who attacks, binds, penetrates, and enters the egg. The only difference was that sperm were now seen as performing these actions weakly" (493).

Another cultural stereotype that Martin describes is femme fatal: "women as a dangerous and aggressive threat" (498). Of this new development Martin says, "new data did not lead scientists to eliminate gender stereotypes in their descriptions of egg and sperm. Instead, scientists simply began to describe egg and sperm in different, but no less damaging, terms" (498-9). Based on these statements, Martin makes two arguments. First, the ways that metaphor and language are used to describe the biological process of fertilization are sexist and perpetuate inaccurate cultural stereotypes, which only further entrenches sexism into societal "norms". Indeed, "the picture of egg and sperm drawn in popular as well as scientific accounts of reproductive biology relies on stereotypes central to our cultural definitions of male and female" (485). Second, using any such imagery at all might endanger the feminist movement for reproductive rights. Indeed, "The stereotypical imagery might also encourage people to imagine that what results from the interaction of egg and sperm--a fertilized egg--is the result of deliberate 'human' action at the cellular level [. . . and] will likely lead to greater acceptance of technological developments and new forms of scrutiny and manipulation for the benefits of these inner 'persons': court-ordered restrictions on a pregnant woman's activities in order to protect her fetus, fetal surgery, amniocentesis, and a rescinding of abortion rights, to name but a few examples" (500).

On a completely separate note, this article reminded me about parthenogenesis which is reproduction but with two egg cells instead of an egg and a sperm. So it's like sexual reproduction insomuch that the genetic variation is still there, but there's no need for the male chromosomes. Kind of interesting!

Direct Engagement 6


In Riki Wilchins' "Can Sex Have Opposites?", she discusses how society, science, and culture, in particular, focus predominantly on gender and sex differences, not similarities. She poses many examples of this phenomenon and gives details and explanations for why this might be so, but she also questions the validity of these studies and assesses the negative and misleading effect it has on culture.

One example of a "fact" that actually has cultural meanings attached to it, is the topic that was discussed in a Discovery Channel program entitled "The Science of the Sexes"; this program was "devoted to the neonate biology that produces opposite sexes (85)". Wilchins elaborates on the topic, stating that "the narrator recounts in suitably hushed tones an experiment showing how girls and boys react differently when a glass barrier separates them from a parent. Boys try to get through; girls cry for help (86)."

Wilchins goes on to explain that the experiment failed to address any similarities and only focused on the differences between the sexes. She argues that there was most likely many boys and girls who reacted similarly. Also, there were probably boys who cried and girls who tried to get through. This example highlights the larger argument the Wilchins makes- science feeds into the differences of sexes, and this has a profound effect on culture, norms, and gender inequality. Research that is conducted in a manner that highlights differences and does not care about similarities encourages society to to view men and women as "opposite"; Wilchins believes this is misinforming people, leading to sexist cultural norms.

Direct Engagement Week 6

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"Egg and Sperm" by Emily Martin draws upon examples in medical texts which illustrate the egg as the cultural perception of women and the sperm as the cultural perception of men. Martin contests that when medical texts describe the reproductive cycles of men and women our culture influences the language used, drawing upon gender specific roles and stereotypes. In a medical text Medical Physiology by Vernon Mountcastle the male and female processes are contrasted "'Whereas the female sheds only a single gamete each month, the seminiferous tubules produce hunderds of millions of sperm each day'" (Martin, 486).

Using the term produce to describe the males role and the term shed to describe the females role reflectst the cultural view of men as productive beings who can limitlessly offer something valuable while women simply wait for men to impregnate them and age over time as they lose their only asset/value. Martin brings up the point that eggs can just as easily be described as being produced and allocated each month as necessary. Further, texts could touch upon the degeneration of germ cells which occurs throughout life for males.

This example shows how the language used to describe male and female reproductive cycles is skewed by cultural views of men and women. Throughout history men are viewed as the breadmakers. According to cultural norms men are supposed to go to work every day to make the money to support their family. They produce the revenue to maintain the families needs. Women on the other hand stay home and their value lies in their attractiveness according to cultural standards. As they age, they slowly shed their value and become useless.

Although this entry doesn't really fit easily into any of the blog's categories, I think this may be relevant to our pending discussion about "masculinity" on Tuesday.

This afternoon I experienced my second viewing of Tom Ford's A Single Man, where I was introduced to this commercial:

(My immediate, and obvious, question was: what, then, do bitchy divas turn into when they're hungry?)
A large majority of the theater audience (which was relatively small) found the advertisement joyously humorous (communicated through laughter) -- while I thought it was slightly more misogynist than humorous, I was amused by its irony considering its given audience and the anticipated film.

Only minutes later, this appeared on the same screen, to the same audience:

I was struck by how this coincidental collocation conveniently coincides with our readings for this week - pertaining to circumscription versus transgression.

Kate Bornstein writes:
breaking the rules.jpg

The rules Bornstein outlines are what guide the policing of Jeff's behavior in the Snickers commercial: demonstrating non-masculine behaviors transforms him into something radically opposed to, or other than, 'man'. (Maybe I'm reading too much into the commercial's message, but I find it very curious that the women chosen to represent bitchiness are gay male icons - whether or not Snickers is suggesting that their product may save the hyper-masculine male from becoming a fag, I don't know, but it may be interesting to note that this ad did, however coincidentally, precede a rather homoerotic film.)

George seems to be aware of these rules - has memorized them to perfection, and is their unflinching actor. He understands what it means to be a legitimate male, and knows, also, that he may not be one. Becoming legitimate is a daily process -- one with strict regulations that, if broken, are accompanied by fear and, thus, social consequences. (George later becomes a transgressor of these rules, revealed in a scene in which he tells the Julianne Moore character, "if you're not happy being a woman, then stop acting like one" -- I think Bornstein would agree.)

As each of the articles we read for this week explains, identities are prescribed: in order to "become natural", we must learn the rules of our biologically ordained identities and carefully abide by them in order to be properly regarded as real - but as Bornstein and Ford illuminate, realness requires transgression.

Direct Engagement Week 6: "Stone Age Feminism"

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In the 2007 Boston Globe, a story titled: "Stone Age Feminism? Females joining hunt may explain Neanderthals' end" was printed. It was authored by archaeologists Steven Kuhn and Mary Stiner, and pointed the finger at a sort of feminism that led to the downfall of this species. In "Mad Science", Beth Skwarecki discusses the errors involved in the research process as well as the interpretation of this particular study's findings. First, the theory that females Neanderthals hunted came only from a lack of domestic evidence signaling a division of labor. Second, if female Neanderthals did hunt, maybe this is why their species lasted for 100,000 years, and their downfall could be attributed something completely unrelated. "Why jump to the conclusion that feminism ruins everything? Ah, yes: because it's a story that will sell papers". The information is being distorted by the media seems obvious, but less apparent are biases and preconceptions of scientists and their methods.

Skwarecki describes how the media's portrayal of "the wacky story, the breakthrough story, and the scare story" often distorts scientific fact. These serve to "support existing stereotypes of women, reassuring readers that social stereotypes do, in fact, reflect reality". That there is a bias in the consumption of this information also calls into question the scientist's own presumptions, and the role of scientific evidence in reproducing and reaffirming our already held beliefs about gender difference. Skwarecki gives us five ways to deconstruct bunk reporting, and shows the major ways in which to examine data. Looking at the "Stone Age Feminism" article, the idea that research can sometimes be based on bad science to begin with is illustrated. The repercussions of what happens as findings are distorted can "reassure people that media images reflect reality, that society reflects biology and that nothing can or should be changed". Truly believing females participating in male activities could bring down civilization and citing scientific data continues to obscure what feminism even means and allows stereotypes to flourish.

Direct Engagement Question #6


In "The Egg and The Sperm" by Emily Martin, she tries to shed light on the language of science and how it is swayed by and sways the stereotypical roles of males and females in our culture. She talks extensively about how scientific text has "an almost dogged insistence on casting female processes in a negative light" (488). Some examples that she sites are from popular textbooks saying that "Oogenesis is wasteful" (488) and others are portraying female reproduction in a light that is inferior to male processes... "whereas a female sheds only a single gamete ... the seminiferous tubules produce hundreds of millions of sperm each day" (486).

These texts often portray women's reproduction systems and biology as damaged and often inferior to a man's. With age, "even in a superbly healthy American female, you see a scarred, battered organ" (487). Through her writings, she explains how these are hardly ever descriptions given to men and male reproductive biology. The language that is used to describe scientific fact have hidden in them undertones of gender stereotyping.

Are these undertones direct attacks on women or is there an actual biological explanations for these comments? Is it the wordage of these texts that is so concerning, could they use different words to express the same idea? Are these particular choices of words truly swayed by gender stereotypes?

Martin focuses on how scientific language is often linked with specific social and cultural ideas. Scientific fact is portrayed and taught often hidden as "cultural beliefs and practices as if they were part of nature" (485). How do these "biological facts" give life to the idea "not only that female biological processes are less worthy than their male counterparts but also that women are less worthy than men" (485-486). She not only evaluates how "culture shapes how biological scientists describe what they discover" but how these descriptions reemphasize and reiterate gender stereotypes within our culture.

Hi class! I want to apologize for missing your presentations on work agendas and the discussions that ensued last Thursday. I was attending an IAS panel on ecological restoration and the Mississippi River Gorge at the same time.
Of the many topics that were discussed, some included how to manage a watershed that is both highly urban and green, future visions of the Twin Cities stretch of the river (from island restoration to dam removal to a white water park installation), the enormous amount of collaboration necessary (between residents, industry, government, transportation, security, and nonprofits, to name a few) for river projects to ensue, and the need for river revitalization to address both human and nonhuman needs.

District9.jpgTwo days later, I presented a paper on posthumanism at the "Framing the Human" graduate conference that took place here on campus. It critiqued some of the oppressive tropes of the hit 2009 film, District 9 (many of which parallel problems in Avatar), then it discussed the potentially liberatory aspects of its narrative, all the while exploring what it might mean to reframe our politics away from humanist, rights-based discourse.

It occurred to me that these topics--ecology, environmental stewardship, getting beyond humanist frameworks, etc.--might seem endemic to feminist movement for some of you--especially those of you who have written about your interest in ecofeminism. For others, there may exist a disconnect between these issues and your definition of feminism--especially those of you who have argued that feminism is a humanist, rights-based pursuit, and one whose definitions and practices desperately need to be narrowed, not expanded. There is ample support for both of these perspectives in feminist theory, activism, and literature. What is your take?


Direct Engagement #6


In Kate Bornstein's article, "Abandon Your Tedious Search: The Rulebook has been Found!," she displays Harold Garfinkel's list of rules about gender. On page 89 of Riki Wilchin's article, she states that "facts are there, meaning is added." Garfinkel focuses on the fact that some people are naturally born with a vagina and some are born with a penis. Because this a natural difference, Garfinkel implies that it cannot be changed and should not be question. The meaning is added with rule #4 which states that "Any exception to two genders are not to be taken seriously." If a person does not identify with any gender, identifies with a gender that does "match" their biological sex, or chooses to change their sex, they are merely a joke. This added meaning leads to society discriminating and laughing at those who do not fit into one category of gender.

Bernstein points out that even though there are "rules" to gender, rules were meant to be broken. Just because some people have applied meaning to gender, we can apply our own meaning to gender. Bornstein mentions that gender can have ambiguity, meaning if we so choose, we do not have to belong to any gender, and fluidity, meaning our personally defined version of gender is able to change throughout time.

I noticed in this article, nothing was said about hermaphrodites. Yes, a good portion of the population is born with one set of genitalia, but what about those who are born with both? What gender should they naturally be? If males have penises, and females have vaginas, what gender is left for hermaphrodites? Just throwing that out there.

Dir Eng Question 6


In the "Egg and the Sperm" by Emily Martin, there are some great examples of how language that is used to describe certain scientific/biological facts that are loaded with culturally specific metaphors regarding gender relations. An example I would like to show is a report from a experiment done by Gerald Schatten and Helen Schatten in which they describe how "the sperm and egg first touch when, from the tip of the sperm's triangular head, a long, thin filament shoots out and harpoons the egg. (494)". Then they go on to say "remarkably, the harpoon is not so much fired but assembled at great speed... (494)".

This "harpooning" filament is what "sticks" the sperm to the egg at the beginning of egg fertilization, when the sperm enters the egg through the outer membrane. Martin questions why the term "harpooning" was used and states that a harpoon is a tool that is used to pierce, injure or kill prey. What is the significance? How is there a relation between a harpoon and a molecular filament that builds itself one molecule by one molecule through proteins in a sperm until it is able to attach itself to the egg?

This is a great example of the large argument of Martin. Science often categorizes natural biological processes in relation to gender stereotypes in social behavior. The harpoon is a great example. It is a tool that is used by men in a masculine way, to hunt. And despite there not being a clear association of functions between a harpoon and the proteins used by a sperm to attach itself to an egg, the harpoon is used as an analogy purely because of its masculine relation to the sperm in a social stereotypical way. She understands that "identifying such metaphors and becoming aware of their implications, will rob them of their power to naturalize our social convention about gender. (501)"

Direct Engagement

In Beth Skwarecki's "Mad Science: Deconstructing Bunk Reporting in 5 Easy Steps," she gives us numerous examples of how the media perpetuates gender stereotypes by radically sensationalizing the facts of a scientific study for ratings. In one example under her first point (Do the Conclusions Fit a Little too Well with Cultural Stereotypes?) she refers to a study that was really trying to include housework as a form of exercise, and prove the benefit of long term low-grade physical activity, only to have the facts twisted into the headline, "housework cuts breast-cancer risk." This statement carries the extra meaning: women should stay at home and take care of the house, patriarchy is good for their health and science has proven it.
What is so troublesome, is that when the media so drastically warps the intention and findings of the actual study, but the public does not have the critical thinking skills regarding scientific study to know the difference, and so the public takes it as fact. This means that many people are having their stereotypes confirmed and even given supposed scientific ammunition to continue in their prejudice.
Another problem with media reporting is that the media lacks the ability to recognize sound scientific studies. Sometimes it is the study or the scientist who is showing a bias, but the media will still report the findings as fact despite the study being questionable to the larger scientific community. Sometimes companies don't even use real scientific studies altogether. Skwarecki gives us several tips that help us analyze and evaluate what we see in the media in a rational and reasonable way.

Agenda - Reproductive Rights


Group 5: Agenda for Reproductive Rights:

Our group created a curriculum to be implemented as an nine week program (one quarter long) as part of a high school health course. We envision that this class will be team-taught by one male teacher and one female teacher, in order to act as a check on teachers who feel uncomfortable discussing aspects of human sexuality and reproduction, or teachers who feel ideologically compelled not to share information. Our expectation is that federal legislation would be passed to mandate the specifications of this class, and federal funding would be allocated to create teacher training sessions and workshops. We would like this class to become a national requirement for high school graduation. We envision that students in this class will not be separated on the basis of sex. While a high school curriculum cannot solve all the current problems associated with reproductive justice, many inequalities could be solved or aided by fostering open discussion and a better knowledge of ones body and ones choices. Our goal is to provide comprehensive sexual education in an accepting, open, and safe environment for students of all backgrounds and experiences. While dialogue, frankness, and question-asking will be strongly encouraged, we believe an anonymous question box should be provided for students with queries they do not feel comfortable asking in front of the rest of the class. These questions can be read aloud and answered by one of the teachers in a class that is relevant to the topic.

Week 1: Focus on the biology of sex and reproduction. Topics such as puberty, menstruation, sexual intercourse, fertilization, etc. We believe a basic understanding of the human body is necessary to make choices concerning ones reproductive health can be made in an informed matter, and to understand and feel happy in ones body.

Week 2: Focus on the biology of pregnancy. Development of the fetus, changes in the mother, the birthing process, pre and post natal care, options for delivery (hospital, home birth, cesarean section, midwife), pros and cons of breast feeding. Schools should distribute Robotic Learning Babies to students as part of a two week long project on the experience of parenthood. Understanding the science and the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy is a necessary part of being able to make an educated and informed decision about ones body and future.

Week 3: Sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Discussion and explanation of different diseases, their symptoms, how they are spread, and treatment options. Common myths concerning STD spread will be debunked (ie, AIDS can be prevented by having sex in a shower). The importance of getting tested for STDs and STIs will be emphasized. How and where to get tested will be discussed. The patient/parent/partner confidentiality policies of the relevant state government will be discussed. Techniques for having a productive, comfortable discussion of STDs with ones partner should be covered.

Week 4: Birth control options. All options will be presented with a pro and con list consistent with recent medical information and clinical studies. Options covered should include: abstinence, male and female condom use, various types of oral contraceptives, diaphragm, depo-provera, nuvaring, spermicidal fluids, intra-uterine devices, sterilization, and timing sexual intercourse. A focus on each party's responsibility and choice should be emphasized. Teachers should be especially sensitive to provide accurate, objective information without preaching or attempting to sway a students choice. Information on how to access various types of birth control should be made available.

Week 5: Unexpected pregnancy. Pregnancy testing, Plan B, abortion, adoption, and the decision to have a child. Information should be made available on how to access these services. Teachers should be especially sensitive to students' religious views and beliefs.
Week 6: Information about fertility treatments, in vitro fertilization, adoption, different types of surrogacy, and other methods of having a child. Controversies surrounding these topics should be approached with the idea that both sides have merit.

Week 7: Discussion of sexual pressure and abuse. What constitutes a healthy and productive dialogue with your partner. How to say "no", basic self defense, and how to access resources for people in abusive relationships or rape victims. Discussion of emotionally abusive partnerships (passive aggression, threats, ultimatums, etc). Basic myths will be debunked ("if you loved me, you'd have sex with me", blue balls, "it's not rape if the people are in a relationship"). The importance of fiscal self-sufficiency should be discussed. Teachers should be careful not to gender-stereotype the roles of victim and abuser, and to ensure that the class is not taught in a hetero-normative fashion.

Week 8: Discussion on sexuality. The spectrum of sexual orientation, the process of coming out, how to access LGBTQ resources. What "gender" is - theories on social construction and biological determinism. Discussion of the scientific and psychological information available about homosexuality/intersexuality. Discussion of gender-reassignment surgery and hormones. The idea of acceptance instead of tolerance should be emphasized. Debunking common myths ("homosexuality is a choice", etc).

Week 9: A philosophical approach to sex and sexuality. How sex has been viewed throughout history - approaches from religious texts, feminist scholars, hedonist philosophers, historic and current 'expectations' of the male and the female, etc. This unit is meant to provide students with a literary and philosophical introduction to sexuality scholarship.

This is a Feminist issue...

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Washington DC is making female condoms available for free along with male condoms. Click here. I hadn't really realized before that male condoms are often free, but female condoms are not. It makes more sense for a woman to be in control of her own body...

Question 6: 3/9-3/11


For Tuesday we are reading essays about gender roles and science and thinking about them in relation to some of your "this is a feminist issue because..." entries.


All of the readings discuss the ways in which culture (societal norms, stereotypes about gender roles) shapes how scientific facts about men and women/male and female/masculine and feminine are reported and understood within popular culture, news reports about scientific studies and scientific textbooks. In different ways, each author is curious about how the way we interpret "facts" about bodies is mediated through language that is not free of cultural expectations and norms. In other words, the language that is used to describe certain scientific/biological facts is often loaded with culturally specific metaphors (Martin), is wholly concerned with differences instead of similarities (Wilchins), and is frequently promoted as "natural" and beyond question/ing (Bornstein). 


Members of Group D: Find one concrete example from the readings that illustrates this idea and do the following

  • Clearly describe the example. Include the author, title of the article and the page number/s of your example. Be as specific as possible.
  • Articulate what the author's larger argument is and how your specific example helps to illustrate that argument.

The purpose of this engagement is not to express your own opinion about the example, but to clearly articulate what the author is trying to say and how they say it. Therefore, your entry should not include how you agree/disagree with the claim or the author. Instead, it should offer a clear, succinct and specific articulation of the author's claim and the example that they use to explain/defend/support that claim.

Comments by groups A and B could include:

  • Questions of clarification connected to example given in the entry. Why does the author use this term...? Or what does the author mean by...?
  • Critical thoughts on why the example does/doesn't support the author's claim or why you agree or disagree with the claim.
  • Questions that the example or larger argument raise for you.

Event with Joan Tronto

Hey everyone,

Here's your chance to meet and talk with one of the authors we just read! Join me for a Feminist Studies colloquium event with Joan Tronto on feminist ethics this upcoming Monday, March 8 in Ford 400 from 3:30-5:00. We will be discussing Dr. Tronto's paper, "What Counts as Democracy? Globalizing Care Ethics from the Bottom Up." We will also reflect on the larger question, "what is feminist ethics?"

You can access Dr. Tronto's paper here.

Spread the word. It should be a great event!

Work links

Breaking the glass ceiling for women scientists
program audio

The glass ceiling Task Force Report

Important Litigation on Parental Leave in the US

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978)
Key Points: prohibits the discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and childbirth in the consideration of hiring, firing and pay levels of employees.
*labels pregnancy as a disability - stigmatizing pregnancy itself as an "unexpected event that disrupts life"
*does not require aid from institutions on the matter of maternal leave
*poor regulation - employers still discriminate

FMLA - Family and medical Leave Act
Also see this link for more information.
Key Points: Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
* for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
* for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
* to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
* to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
*limited eligibility for recipients
*many people cannot afford unpaid leave
*employees of small organizations are not covered

Writing Tips & Options

Hi Class!

I just thought I'd provide some general feedback about your writing projects since I've now had the chance to review each of your papers--sometimes twice. For the most part, I've been impressed with your thoughtful engagement with the assignment, readings, and class discussions, each of which have surfaced in the essays. It's also exciting to see the new considerations and illustrations that appear in your writing, which shows me you're extending your knowledge and interest of the subject matter into other realms. Learning through your research and insight is one of the best parts of my job!

There are a few topics I'd like to address to ensure your success in the future. First and foremost, while you are encouraged to share your opinions, you must always justify your beliefs with some kind of rationale. Opinion papers don't mean you can get away with saying anything. Sometimes it helps to pretend that the reader knows nothing about the subject, and may even disagree with you. The best way to prove your point, in that case, is to use many illustrations, bring in opposing arguments, draw upon the readings, and discuss why your perspective is more sufficient. This is what academic writing is all about. You have a short amount of space to work with, so this should make your essays even more concise and organized. Make your point, then move on to another illustration or pro/con.

Second, the most successful papers are those that select a dilemma within the topic range--something that can invite a shallow, expansive discussion of the topic in general, and something that allows you delve deep into a specific analysis of one aspect of that topic. This shows me that you understand the complexities involved in what are so often cast as simple, two-sided feminist issues.

Third, please, please, please proofread. These essays are very short, so checking for spelling, grammatical, and structural errors needn't take long. It's always helpful to have a friend or parent read over them as well. Taking advantage of the writing center is highly encouraged. Ultimately, it's your ideas that are most important, and that are weighed most heavily when I grade essays. But your ideas need to be communicated efficiently!

Finally, Sara has decided that if you are dissatisfied with your performance on a writing assignment, you will be welcome to rewrite one of them. If you choose to do this, it must be resubmitted within a week of when you received the graded essay. Be sure to submit the original essay with the new essay so that I can compare the two. If you've already submitted essays you'd like to rewrite, you can do so within one week of this post (which means I'll accept them until March 11). The other alternative you can consider is writing a third position paper, and we'll take your top two scores of those three. This should not be abused as an opportunity to submit low-quality work; please respect the extra time it will take for me to grade these additional papers by handing in your best effort.

Thanks to all of you for your hard work thus far in the semester. I look forward to reading all of the new ways you engage with upcoming topics! If any of this is unclear, you can always email me, and if you'd like some help with your writing, please feel free to swing by my office hours to discuss it before an assignment is due.


For next week (3/9-3/11)

On Tuesday (3/9), we will be discussing some of the "this is a feminist issue because..." examples. Two themes that I would like to discuss are: a. gender differences and science and b. what is masculinity?

In preparation for class discussion, please read the following articles:
  • Martin, Emily. "The Egg and the Sperm" (on WebVista)
  • Wilchins, Riki. "Can Sex have Opposites?" (on WebVista)
  • Skwarecki, Beth. "Mad Science: Deconstructing Bunk Reporting in 5 Easy Steps" (online--click on article)
  • Bornstein, Kate. "Abandon Your Tedious Search! The Rulebook has been Found" (on WebVista)
  • Skim through our blog category, "This is a feminist issue because..."
On Thursday (3/11), we will focus our attention on your feminist reflection papers. You will have the opportunity to reflect on your definition of feminism in small groups (to be assigned next week). We will also spend some time discussing the larger question of feminism and its scope: Should feminism be a broad-based movement (or coalition of movements)? What are the limits of making feminism too broad? Who should decide what feminism is? What are some ways to educate others on feminism and its various agendas? Do all feminists need to agree--what are the advantages and disadvantages of requiring agreement?

In preparation for class next Thursday, please do the following:
  • Type up your working definition of feminism and three ways you plan to describe/discuss/develop that definition in your paper. Bring it to class and be prepared to discuss it in your groups. Also bring one extra copy for me (Sara). 
  • Skim through our blog and think about the different ways that feminism is expressed/articulated on it. What themes/connections do you see in our wide range of "this is a feminist issue because..." entries?

AGENDAS: Some more information

First, here is what I wrote about the agenda assignment in your blog assignment handout:

1 Agenda: 50 points
Several times during the semester, we will devote class time to developing agendas for
addressing contentious and important issues within feminism. In these sessions, you will break up into small groups and collectively develop an agenda. You are required to post one of those agendas on our blog site. You are encouraged to be creative in your post. For example, you could post a bullet list of action items or an image of flyer that you want to circulate. Or you could post a manifesto that you and your group have written. Or you could post a vlog (video blog) in which you speak out against the issue or a Public Service Announcement in which you try to raise awareness about the issue.

In other words, over the course of the semester, you and your group will get together and brainstorm a single agenda for each of the 5 issues. One collective agenda for one of the issues must be posted on our blog. (note: this doesn't mean that you should post one agenda for each of the issues). Pick one person from your group to post your agenda. You should identify groups members by your group number instead of your individual names. As I indicate above, be creative with your presentation of the agenda. Your agenda is due one week after our class session devoted to that issue.

Issue                                 Agenda Class Session            Agenda must be posted by

Repro Rights                     3/2                                             3/9

Work                                 3/4                                             3/11

Feminist Values                5/4                                           5/11

Sex Wars                          5/4                                            5/11

PIC                                    4/29                                           5/6

Please post any questions you about this agenda assignment as comments to this entry.

Many of you have probably seen the documentary, Food Inc. I thought this film did a great job of giving the viewer a glance at the multitude of oppression and exploitation within the American Industrial Food System. There are many issues within the realm of this topic that qualify as feminist issues, because the system strips rights away from everything involved but the hierarchy corporations making profits.
Grocery Store.jpg
Industrial farming, abuses livestock, exploits farmers and workers, alienates consumers, and perpetuates a patriarchy within the food system.
Livestock has transitioned into commodities. They have lost their right to life. Chickens and cattle are fattened so quickly they can't support their own weight.
Farmers are forced to abide by the system and buy into the corporations, otherwise they will be unable to compete with surrounding farms, and won't be able to support themselves. They are forced to buy expensive equipment and chemicals to comply to regulations, and are forever indebted to the companies because no farmer has the kind of money to afford such systems. They lose the right to make decisions on their farm, and now, have realized they are hardly owners, the corporations own their debt.
Workers in the factories and fields are often times undocumented workers, used so that employers can keep wages and benefits low. Also, so employers can disregard basic human rights, holding the fear of 'turning them in' over their heads.
Consumers have lost the right to transparent food. We no longer know where our food comes from. Processed, unhealthy food is the most affordable, alienating lower income demographics.
As consumers, we are voters. What we demand at the supermarket through our checkbook, is unavoidable. It is important as feminists to understand the oppression supported when we consume. I am privileged enough to be able to make a choice at the supermarket about what I support, and I also understand that it is exactly that, a privilege. Many people don't have the flexibility to choose a head of broccoli over 2 McDonalds hamburgers. The Industrial Food System is a feminist issue because it is an unequal, non-transparent, system disallowing choice and rights.

I'm curious about...

I originally posted the following questions as comments on the group presentation summaries. I thought that it might be helpful to post these as a new entry for everyone. Did the presentations make you curious about anything? Feel free to post comments to this entry with your thoughts and questions about the presentations.

Here are some questions that the birth control presentation raised for me:

  • What would a historical account of birth control from the perspective of non-Western medicine or women (and men) who functioned outside of the "medical establishment" look like? 
  • What various knowledges have been generated by those engaged in these non-Western/non-medical establishment practices? And how has an emphasis on western medicine as more advanced obscured/ignored those practices?
  • Is it possible to understand these different practices (that is western and non-western or medical establishment/non-medical establishment) simultaneously without valuing one over the other or are they fundamentally opposed to each other?
  • In terms of the impact that education has on whether or not women use birth control, what other factors influence how/when/why women do or do not use birth control?
  • How do the types of questions we ask and the types of answers we formulate change when we shift our key question from "why aren't women using birth control?" to "what factors impact their ability to make informed choices?"
Here are some questions that the surrogacy presentation raised for me:

  • How are feminists around the world discussing the issue of surrogacy?
  • What are Indian surrogate mothers saying/writing about their experiences with this reproductive technology? Have any Indian women organized in response to their situations? How have they organized?
  • What other geographical locations are "hot spots" for outsourcing surrogacy?

You could also post any comments you have about the agenda assignment--Was this a helpful assignment for processing all of the reproductive rights readings? Did you find it hard to come up with a collective agenda? In the process of discussing the issue did you come to any conclusions about whether feminist agendas should be narrow/broad, far-reaching/very specific in scope and focus?

Direct Engagement-Question 5

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Sorry this is late! I had forgotten until reminded in class today!

The political-
Political issues are all around us. Feminism is a political issue. Any type of freedom or fight for equality will fall under the category of political. Politics is a process where groups make decisions. Taking a look at feminism under this light, feminists create groups in order to try and sway society's current viewpoints. Feminists fight for an anti-sexism world; this is stated in bell hooks' book Feminism is for Everybody. Majority of our world engages within politics. It entitles a person to make opinions for different issues and stand up for what they believe in. People take sides and come to numerous conclusions about each and every issue. On the issue of feminism, this is the case as well. Confusion comes into play when people are unaware of what feminism even is. There are many people who have the wrong impression of what feminism is, or else in some instances, they are just lacking any information on the subject as a whole.
In Feminism is for Everybody, the very first chapter is dedicated to looking at feminism as a political issue. The end of the chapter presents the idea that there needs to be a more clear definition of the term feminism. In that sense, I agree that there needs to be a better explanation for what feminism is in order for people to be able to figure out the politics of it and engage in working towards a movement. I think titling something as political is very easy because of the term being so broad. Political issues tie in with many different categories, one of them being feminism.

Direct Engagement

The feminists that we have read have been influential politically because the issues they bring up seek resolve within our current society. The term "political" is a rather broad term and in my use I will define it as "an issue that requires political attention and action." When posed with the question "is the political personal", I instantly thought of the problems with legislation regarding domestic workers brought up in Cleaning up a Dirty Business. Within this article all sorts of problems are brought up regarding how Government regulations impose poverty and subjugation through severe regulation or the lack of regulation. There is a dire need for better understanding and communication of the laws that affect domestic workers. "Virtually no attempt has been made by the government or media to educate domestic workers and employers about these laws". These political problems become very personal to the lives of the individuals that they affect. If the minimum wage was not enforced for citizens across the country it would become a personal issue to many more individuals. The problem that is often found within the government is that our elected officials focus on issues that affect the majority of the populous. This method of prioritizing issues disregards a portion of the population that needs the most help and protection from the government. When the spotlight is away from these issues it becomes easy to ignore them and perpetuate "us and them" perspectives. While this can go on for a while the ignorance and disregarding attitudes can affect the foresight of a country and this is how things like racialism and subjugation are allowed to be perpetuated. It is a common misconception that the political is not personal. The constitution set up a government which is FOR THE PEOPLE. If we ignore the personal aspect of our government and the political realm, then we have missed the intended mark that our forefathers set before us.

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If you are interested in learning more about women's empowerment as a means of tackling some of the world's greatest problems, click on this link. It is an insightful and inspiring account of how big problems can be tackled through women's empowerment and social entrepreneurship.
Creating a Social Enterprise for
Stanford Discussions
82 minutes, 37.7mb, recorded 2009-09-24
Topics: International Development The Internet and the World Wide Web Social Entrepreneurship
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Priya Haji - Founder of World of Good

World of Good is a social enterprise that harnesses capitalist market competition to help eliminate poverty in communities around the world by empowering women economically. In this university podcast, founder Priya Haji shares with a Stanford University social entrepreneurship class how she has built an organization that helps women sell their artisan goods in the West, and now, though a partnership with eBay, online. She discusses her strategies for using educated consumer choice and stimulating "inspired competition," whereby companies start competing to do good in the social enterprise arena.

Utah Bill Would Criminalize Illegal Abortions

Just thought I would post the article featured yesterday in the New York Times on Utah's latest dealings with abortion rights.

Direct Engagement , Choice

There are many ways to define the word "choice". Everyone has more than one choice, actually there are many choices.
My definition of "choice" is the opportunity that everyone should have in his or her life. It depend on the circumstance. This is the feminist debate class and someone ask me why did I choose this class instead of the other classes?? I would say "this is my choice".
Not only women but also men have limits in their choices. In this class, we are studying feminism and everyone argues that women have the right to make their reproductive right.
It is true in some circumstance but not always. If a woman choose to get married, should she deliver a child to her husband?? I think marriage means nothing if the couple does not have any child. It is the same as someone who chose to join to the army national guard. After his choice, he has to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. He could not say that he had the right to choose not to go to the war. He could not blame to either Bush or Obama because it is his duty.
I tried to understand the article "Killing the Black Body" by Dorothy Roberts
I think that she tried to get readers' attention on black women feminism and their reproductive right. Since there are so many issue are going on in her article such as liberal and conservative, civil right, government policy ,welfare, feminism and reproductive right. I think that she tried to mention the saturation that black women faced not only racism issue but also the gander issue such as reproductive right.
Her article keeps calling me back to the days that Martin Luther King fought for the civil right. Did he also work on the feminist issue beside civil right. If he did where did he stand for birth control and reproductive right for women ???


Women entered the workforce in significant numbers during the end of the 19th century due to the rise of big business companies, industrialization and urbanization. During the next half-century or so, women would find themselves in gender specific roles in the workforce by occupying positions such as helpers, "sales girls", secretaries, laborers and clerks.

In 1964, Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in which it was made unlawful to discriminate against any individual in the workplace based upon their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This was an attempt to end the informal oppression of withholding decision-making positions from women in the workplace, also known as "the glass ceiling". Three issues that influence the role of the glass ceiling in the workplace are the Preference Theory, and the Psychological Perspective, and a study done By MN Governor Arnie Carlson in 1994.

The Perspective Theory is based on the premise that there are three work-lifestyle preferences for women: work-centered, adaptive, and home-centered. Adaptive women make up the majority by 60% and want to balance both a family and career life. This is compared to the majority of men who are work centered, which is defined as those who are most dedicated to their work. Women in this category, will often forego having children in order to concentrate on their career and social life, but only make up 20% of the categories. This Theory says that since most women are adaptive, they are less likely to ask for promotions, or work in higher-level jobs that require traveling and irregular working hours.

In the Psychological Perspective, The basic hypothesis was that "beliefs about interpersonal and situational variables in the organization were related to the perception that men and women were treated differently overall." This is essentially the cause of the glass ceiling. Interpersonal issues are the factors that pertain to the relationships among the people within an organization, which relates to boys sticking together essentially. The two main situational issues are the "existence of objective hiring standards and the number of women who have been in the pipeline". This study showed how interpersonal issues and situational issues play a major role in the glass ceiling. The information from this study needs to be used in a way that will discourage inequality.

Governor's Arne H. Carlson Glass Ceiling Task Force in September of 1994 produced findings that women and people of color are not being equally represented in leadership positions. The article states: "The reasons: women lack the "right" type of job experience, employers do not give flexibility so mothers have to choose between their children and their jobs, stereotypes affect the self-esteem and ambition of children of color and work and therefore many women and people of color do not come out of schools with the credentials and confidence needed to succeed" (Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33 (2009), 285-294). Stereotyping is a big influence on how people perceive themselves. This is also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy in psychology. How you treat someone will essentially determine who they become.

More and more women are getting college degrees and are pursuing careers. This combined with effective tools to discourage inequality in the workplace will continue to allow companies to hire the best person for the job, regardless of their gender. The end to inequality will start with peoples perception of equality. The sooner we get this mentality into the workplace, the sooner America will be a better Nation as a whole through having the best person for the job.

Daniela Duran, Heather Mancini, Justin Petrick, and Abby Wulfing

Summary - Feminist Perspectives on Commercial Surrogacy

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When we decided which topic within reproductive rights/choice to choose, we realized that the only widely recognized as a feminist issue is abortion. We decided to investigate commercial surrogacy because we realized that we ourselves had little knowledge of the wide range of feminist opinions surrounding reproductive choice and surrogacy. We learned that the feminist issues surrounding surrogacy were even more complicated than we anticipated; incorporating the financial, legal, emotional, physical, and psychological intricacies of the actual process brings surrogacy from muddied waters into an unnavigable tropical storm.

Of the sources we consulted, we found three main perspectives on commercial surrogacy.

The pro-surrogacy feminist perspective argues reproductive choice includes the right to sell one's reproductive services; if sperm can be sold, so can a woman's reproductive services.

We found two different anti-surrogacy (or at least cautionary) feminist perspectives:

Anti-Perspective One argues that allowing pregnancy to become a service alienates women from their own bodies. The argument equating sperm donation and surrogacy fails; pregnancy involves a much longer time commitment and is far too emotionally and physically intense to equate it to what is, in essence, paid masturbation.

Anti-Perspective Two argues that Perspective One is too simplistic - it is true that pregnancy is long and emotionally intense, but so is writing a novel, and no one questions an author's right to be paid for her books. Instead Anti-Perspective Two argues that the real concerns surrounding commercial surrogacy are its potential to exploit certain groups of women, and that it could reinforce the idea that women are baby factories.

The 1986 Baby M custody case
between a surrogate mother and a sperm-donor father brought such issues to the forefront of the public eye, and forced feminists and others to make some tough decisions regarding reproductive rights and choice.

A survey of local and international surrogacy perspectives and issues lead to some surprising results.

Locally, Minnesota law is completely silent regarding surrogacy. On the other hand, we do have several reproductive centers in the Twin Cities-area for both physical surrogacy services, and financial, psychological, and other concerns.

Internationally, oversees surrogacy has stirred feminist controversy - are Indian surrogate mothers being regionally and financially exploited, or are they empowered women, filling a commercial niche?

And surrogacy isn't as simple as we've presented it here. Issues of exploitation related to impoverished regions or countries, class discrimination, etcetera can be analyzed outside of the context of reproductive rights and choice.

Group Members: Sarah Turgeant, Danielle Hall, and Will Menzel

I believe this article misses the point of a critical and useful tool for the fight for feminism: Liberation. To the contrary of Mr. Harrison, I believe not only is this a feminist issue due to it's liberation of women in Afghanistan, but an opportunity that should be taken advantage of to the highest of it's ability.

Mr. Harrison pointed out some points that may be true, or could be false. Depends on his source of information I suppose, which he does not include in the article. But lets say for arguments sake he is right. What if things haven't change for Afghan women in the recent years? Well, I think it is unrealistic to think that such impacts will be felt in a matter of a few years, and cannot be quantatative at this point. First the oppressive power has to be eliminated. Then an authority restored that fosters freedom and choice. Then organizations set up to re-educate the roles of women, plus institutinos created such as medical facilities and care, then the results of womens longevity of life will be felt, and a lower death rate concerning birth. These examples will take years to happen, and will not happen while there is still a war going on between our military and the oppressive taliban. Any assets that we create will be stolen, destroyed or even used as human shields by the taliban. This is why in my opinion we must stay till the job is done. Otherwise many people will continue to be oppressed, including women.

Why is it our fight? Well I am predicting an out-lash concerning about how our foreign policy as a nation is narcotic, and how there is no place for war ever, anywhere. I agree to a point. The world is not perfect, humans our not perfect, I am not perfect, you are not perfect. But rather then dwelling on our imperfections or bad decisions, why not focus on the possibilities of ending sexism in other nations through these good or bad decisions? I don't know if I am ready to insist that the liberation of Afghan is our fight. The point that I will make, is that since we are at it whether the reasons are justified or not, why wouldn't we fight for the liberation of Afghan women? We do have the resources through our military to make an impact. Why woudn't feminism use administrative resources, financial investments and knowledge, and work through our military, or take advantage of our military being there and better the lives of these Afghan women? I am sure there are some organizations doing this. Does this make it our fight? Is it a cause worth fighting for? is this resource of fighting sexism unacceptable because it may take advantage of our military occupation of a nation? Can feminism look past an issue such as war, or the thought of even being associated with our military for the simple reason of furthering the cause of feminism? Does this make it our fight?