April 2010 Archives

Prostitution Academic Sources

In The Economics of Sin: Rational Choice or No Choice At All?, Samuel Cameron writes in section 10 about prostitution. The part I found most interesting was the table he put together speaking about the legality of prostitution around the world (his book was written in 2001 so it may not be completely up to date). He found that in many instances, while prostitution is legal in some countries, they still struggle with illegal aspects. "They may stand to gain from tax evasion and offering higher-risk premium services (i.e. no use of condoms) which are prohibited in the legal market. Further, the prostitute who has failed a health check is now under pressure to work illegally to sustain their income"(186). So it is not fully legal in any country, just simply tolerated more. It's interesting to find out more about how prostitution is understood and dealt with around the world. Cameron also makes mention of the "World Sex Guide" which is a great internet source for a quick rundown of sex work around the world. He used this guide to help him form the table.

Cameron, Samuel. The Economics of Sin: Rational Choice or No Choice At All. NorthHampton Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc. 2002. Pg 183-200.

Another article I came across was an interesting prostitution research paper examining the experiences of 475 prostitutes in 5 different countries. The authors make it known they believe prostitution supports violence against women, so they interviewed and documented the ideas and feelings of male, female, and transgendered prostitutes from South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia. One difficulty they noted in their research was the obstruction of the interviews due to outsiders such as brothel owners, pimps or boyfriends. This illustrates the little control the prostitutes themselves have. Overall their findings show definite widespread abuse and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their findings showed that these issues are not particular or dominant to specific countries. "The traumatic experience of prostitution is a more potent variable than race, gender, or state where one was born. These findings suggest that the harm of prostitution is not a culture-bound phenomenon." This is an interesting idea to consider and makes me curious for further investigation surrounding the comparisons of sex work and the emotional labor culturally.

Farley, Melissa, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, and Ufuk Sezgin. "Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" Feminism & Psychology, 1998, Volume 8(4). Pg. 405-426. Google Scholar. 29 April 2010.

How Pornography hurts women and everyone


My group has chosen to focus on porn. I am taking the stand that porn, as well as prostitution, are ways in which women are further victimized and hurt by men. Why do we call it "prostitution" when "sex" that is the product of coercion and/or the threat to one's life is legally defined as rape? This is something that as a feminist I am truly bothered by. I am not opposed to sex positive thinking for women, but what I am opposed to is the commercialization of women for the pleasure of men.

The myth that porn is just and image and doesn't affect other women is not true-
21% of women subjected to abuse, (rape, and battery) knew the harm was a direct result of the perps use of porn, meaning when women are assaulted by their partners there is a link between their viewing of porn and the harassment and assault of the woman or man. Penthouse, Playboy and Hustler are delivered to over 200 million homes annually becoming informal sex education for young men which gives them a great start as seeing women as objects and not subjects.

The Myth that women choose porn is also often misunderstood
One of the most famous women in porn is named Linda Marchiano aka Deep Throat. During the filming of this porn classic a gun was held to Marchiano's head, she also received NO MONEY from this film even though it is the largest grossing porn film ever made. Women are photographed and videotaped without their knowledge and then these videos are played on the internet. Systematic childhood abuse provides conditioning for continuing abuse in porn/prostitution- 75% of women in porn are incest victims. Porn justifies and reinforces rape myths that women enjoy and deserve pain, humiliation and violence.

Andrea Dworkin makes this very apparent in her essay which we read in class. Dworkin says, "Porn is the institution of male dominance that sexualizes hierarchy, objectification, submission, and violence." This creates inequality.

In an essay written by Rebecca Whinsnant she writes about how porn hurts women and what we all need to do to confront it and stop it. In 1972 porn was a 7 million dollar business. By 2000 it has gone up to a 12 billion dollar business- that is a thousand fold increase- this cannot be a good thing even if it means women are making money from this. Because of porn's effect no persons understanding of sexuality or experience of sex can be unaffected. Large companies like GM and AT&T own the companies that make and produce porn; they are the ones making the money off of women, not the women.

We need to start listening to the men and women who are hurt by porn. This is not a free speech issue, not when people are being hurt, battered, humiliated and raped. Not when it reaffirms men's idea that women WANT to be treated like objects. MEN- Stop using porn- Throw it away and start dreaming your own dreams about women and men- don't think that by saying you don't watch the bad stuff that makes it better- it is all bad and harmful. Look at these women in these videos! Do you really believe that they WANT two penises in the anus at a time while another one is in her mouth! Challenge friends who use porn! Tell them you don't want to be a part of something that hurts women and men and makes it hard for all people to see sex as something healthy and consensual. Women- Don't lie to yourself and think that it is OK because it is her choice- Have the ability and the courage to see that this is not choice- all women are subject to this treatment and we do not need porn reinforcing this attitude towards sex.
Porn is getting more and more violent as more men are not satisfied with regular old male dominated sex- there has to be an extra kick. For feminist who worked against porn know that this is such a deep form of violence and contempt against women- As a whole it is a form of hate propaganda whose effects are especially powerful because it bypasses rational thought and goes straight for the jugular conditioning the viewer to respond sexually to a repressive sexual ideology.

wtf is up in az... ???!!!



wanna turn this into a link too? :)

not sure what to post this under, but please read!

Raunch Culture

Raunch culture is largely considered to be incredibly seedy, and a phenomenon that is confined specifically to overtly sexual realms as in strip clubs or pornography. However, as an avid blog reader, specifically fashion blogs, I can see numerous parallels between raunch culture to some of the most acclaimed fashion bloggers on the internet. For example, Rumi Neely is the creator of the blog Fashion Toast. rumi.jpg Her posts are primarily pictures of outfits with a spattering of text, and this style is incredibly effective. Immediately, the reader is presented with photo upon photo of this beautiful female in sky-high heels and dangerously short skirts/dresses/shirts/etc. She herself refers to her own style as mostly "trashy crap". Her daring habits have gotten her features in Nylon Magazine, CNN, Teen Vogue, Vogue Paris, and numerous other internationally recognized publications.
Another example is a fashion blog called TwistedLamb. Instead of a personal blog, TwistedLamb features different photographs of fashion. While it is not as obvious as Fashion Toast, a general theme of sexuality pervades throughout the posts. Many of the models are wearing little, if any clothing. However, there is more of an ambiguity to the sexuality. Raunch culture plays upon more heavily entrenched norms of beauty where women are more voluptuous in certain parts of their body and thin in other parts. ambiguity.jpgTwistedLamb displays photos, which play with these norms and generally display a more innate type of sexuality instead of the overt sexuality that fishnets and stilettos convey. Many times, the gender of the model is entirely ambiguous, yet the photographs portray raw emotions of sexuality. ambiguity 2.jpgIn addition, we see that in many other photos oh TwistedLamb, that take raunch culture and twist it in a way which almost negates sexuality in terms of body parts normally considered sexual like breasts, and displays them in such a manner that pushes the reader to focus more on the clothing that the models are wearing. Visible body parts only serve to enhance their beauty.
Thus, these internet bloggers are taking the blatant sexuality that the term raunch culture connotes and using it as a backdrop for the things they are really blogging about - clothes.

Raunch Culture - Local

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Ariel Levy describes the impacts of raunch culture in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, and we see its effects not just in Hollywood and in the media, but on a very local level in addition.

The University of Minnesota claims home to hundreds of clubs and organizations, advocating interests from aircraft construction to skydiving. However, there is one which exemplifies the idea of raunch culture: Kinky U. It's purpose? Its supposed benefit for the community and the University itself states that "Kinky U educates people on the culture of kink, as well as technique and safety. This group helps those new to the community as well as caters to interesting discussions to those who are well-informed in kink." The organization sponsors field trip to places around the Twin Cities area with sex-oriented themes, explores sexual "kinky" acts and members demonstrate proper safety techniques upon participating in such acts.

The club has received much negative response from the community who claim that their use of school money is a waste of resources. Bryan, a member of the club responds by saying that "We're talking about it and being explicit about what practices there are and how to be safe [...] It's removing the stigma. It's allowing people to accept themselves. It's being realistic about what is actually going on."

Your Choice Entry: Single Father Adoption


As I began to track the issue of single parent adoption, I soon found that while it is legal in every state of this country for a single parent to adopt a child, internationally or domestically, it is ultimately up to the adoption agency to decide who qualifies to even be considered to adopt from their agency. I found several questions posted on forum communities by single males who want to adopt a child but have been turned away from adoption agencies from the start. I also came to discover that many adoption agencies would consider single fathers for foster programs that can eventually turn into adoption, or the adoption of older children but not infants or even toddlers.
I decided to do a bit of digging myself. I found a website with a list of domestic adoption agencies and randomly selected some agencies and requested additional information on their contact form. I wrote to several adoption agenceis:
Hi, my name is Alyssa Smith. I am looking into single parent adoptions and I
am wondering if your agency participates in single parent adoptions,
particularly single father adoption. If so I would also like to know if there
are any regulations on this type of adoption, such as the age of the child,
domestic vs. international adoptions, or if a single must begin the adoption
process through a foster program.
Thank You
Within a few hours of sending this message to numerous adoption agencies I received several interesting replies:

"Hello Alyssa-
My name is Brenda Compton and I am the Senior Adoption Consultant for International Family Services. I was told of your interest in adoption and I would be thrilled to email you a great deal of information about our program options and to answer any questions you might have. Before I do so though, I did need to verify that you were asking about you adopting as a single mother, correct? In your request you asked if we can work with single men's adoptions, but unfortunately we do not have any programs in place at this time that are open to this. If you are interested for yourself, as a single woman, please let me know and I will send information on to you about programs you would qualify for. And if you are asking for a single male friend or relative, while IFS could not help him with an adoption, I would be happy to email you some other options he might want to check into, in case any of them would work for him."

"hello Alyssa. I'm sorry that single fathers seem to be the ONE segment of
the population who cannot adopt internationally. no country will allow it
as far as I know. Sorry."

"Love Basket does not accept singles at this time. In the past we have
worked with single women however we found that the wait time was very
long and they were incurring more fees as they updated paperwork
throughout the process. I'm sorry that we can not be of further
assistance to you but do wish you well in your search for an agency."

"Our agency 's adoption services are currently focused upon infant adoptions.
In such cases, the surrendering birthparent is coming to us seeking a two
parent home for her child.
As a single parent, your best opportunity may be in adopting a child through
the foster care system. In doing so, I would recommend you check with the TN
Dept. of Children's Services in your area."

There were also adoption agencies that sent auto-responses, so they detailed their process to begin an adoption but did not specifically answer my questions. There were also a response that explained what their company does is interview anyone looking to adopt and place them with an adoption agency which fits their specific needs, but does not participate in the adoptions themselves. I thought a process like this could be very useful under the current adoption system in which agencies can choose right off the bat who they are willing to work with. However, I do see flaws in the current system that should be looked into.
When it is legal for a single parent to adopt a child, do you think it is ethical for an adoption agency to refuse its services with no further investigation as to how fit to parent this individual may be? What if a different type of company was refusing its services to a particular group of people, like a store clerk who will not sell certain items to certain races of people? Why is it unacceptable to companies to refuse service to groups of people, but when it comes to adoption single males are often not even given the opportunity to begin the adoption process with a home evaluation? Is this practice in the best interest of the children being given up for adoption as well as the birth parents, or is it discrimination?

Sammy, Kathryn, Alyssa

Prostitution-Local Impact

When I think of popular cities for prostitution, the first that come to mind are LA, New York City, and Las Vegas, not Minneapolis and St. Paul. I was surprised to learn that Minnesota is home to a large prostitute population. Here are some quick facts about prostitution in Minnesota:
-Minnesota is known to some as "the factory" for the number of prostitutes it produces (1).
-The FBI has reported that 10% of the teen prostitutes in Las Vegas are from MN (1).
-more Minnesota teens have been arrested for prostitution than Massachusetts, Maryland and Michigan combined (1).
-There are 6,000-8,000 women in prostitution work in Minnesota (2).

While these statistics are shocking, it is also important to know that our community has started programs to help women change their situations.
One such program, PRIDE (PRostitution to Independence, Dignity, and Equality), is a "nationally recognized and highly successful program to help women get out, and stay out, of prostitution." PRIDE is a part of the larger organization, Family and Children's Service, which strives to create healthy and strong families and communities. PRIDE provides court advocacy, outreach, and support groups for survivors of prostitution (3).

Another group, Source, is a faith-based non-profit that provides mentors, life skill training, and transitional housing to at-risk and alienated youth:
"Our holistic approach of being a FRIEND (serving physical, emotional and spiritual needs) and a VOICE (communicating God's love and forgiveness) allows us to reach those who are coming out of devastating and troubling histories, skeptical of the mainstream, and would not come into a church for help or answers. Our goal is to be a Missional Community embracing the lambs and looking for the *prodigals who want to return home - existing at the crossroads of culture providing hospitality and impacting this hurting, skeptical, and diverse culture through prayer, urban outreach, the Fallout Arts Initiative (Fallout Urban Art Center & Art Co-op), transitional homes and Urban Ministry Trainings" (1).

Kwanzaa Community Church in North Minneapolis is planning to open Northside Women's space this month as refuge to women in prostitution where "women could wash up or use a phone, take light refreshments and connect with community resources. They could sign up for health classes, counseling, job search support, chemical dependency referrals, HIV/AIDS services and spiritual direction, if desired" (4).

It's reassuring to see so many groups reaching out to prostitutes in the area, seeing them as victims and not criminals.

1- http://www.sourcemn.org/
2- "Race and Prostitution in the United States" - Donna M. Hughes http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/pubtrfrep.htm
3- http://www.everyfamilymatters.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B06C4C9B8-8DA9-4AFE-BA8C-658065E23661%7D
4- "North Minneapolis church hopes to offer refuge for victims of prostitution" by Cynthia Boyd. 2-22-10. MinnPost.com. http://www.minnpost.com/communitysketchbook/2010/02/22/16099/north_minneapolis_church_hopes_to_offer_refuge_for_victims_of_prostitution

Victor K. Groze and James A. Rosenthal's Single Parents and Their Adoptive Children: A Psychosocial Analysis is a study that compared adoptions completed by single versus two parents of special needs children. Children with special needs, accoring to Groze and Rosenthal, are those "older children, physically handicapped children, children of mixed or minority ethnicity, children who are members of a sibling group, and children with emotional or behavioral problems" (67).

The authors use a table to lay out for the reader the interesting findings in regard to the demographic of adopted children for single and two-parent homes. Something interesting to note when analyzing the demographics is that single parents were more likely to have adopted older children, children with special needs, and girls (70). The authors note, additionally, that "The finding that single parents more often adopt girls contrasts with previous reports...[It] should be considered in the context that most single parents (84%) are women and that single parents tend to adopt children of the same sex as themselves" (70). The table additionally shows that single parent families are more likely than two parent families to be comprised of children of minority races. What does this say about two parent families that they are less willing than single parents to adopt children of a minority race? What message does this send to society?

In terms of the children's emotional and behavioral functions, Groze and Rosenthal rated the children by utilizing the 113 behavior problems in the Child Behavior Checklist (CBC). They compared children who were utilizing mental health services of some kind "clinical group," and children who were not receiving any mental health treatment "nonclinical" (71). In both the single and two parent families, the percentage of adopted children in the clinical range exceeded the corresponding percentage of the nonclinical sample (72). The authors also noted that "differences between the special needs and sample and the nonclinical sample were modest among 4 to 5 year old children, but more pronounced among the 6-11 and 12-16 age groups" (72). It makes sense that the behavioral problems would be more prevalent in children who were older when they were adopted, as the children likely experienced less stability in their daily lives.

The study also examined the educational functioning of the children. An interesting finding, note the authors, is that "no significant differences between single-parent and two-parent families were found regarding attendance, grades, or enjoyment of school. Most children performed well in school and, according to parents' reports, enjoyed school" (73). In particular, this finding supports the idea that single parents are just as suited as two parents to assist in the intellectual development of their children.

The last area of functioning that the study covered was ecological, where the adoptive family was examined based on their use of mental health services. The authors state, "statistically significant differences in the number of in-person meetings with the social workers between one and two parent families were noted" (72). Interestingly, single parents reported fewer visits after being placed with their child than did two parent families. If both the educational data and the ecological data suggest that single parents are just as qualified (if not more) than two parent families to raise a special needs child, why, then, do some assert that singles are unfit to adopt a child?

Groze and Rosenthal discuss the possible reasons as to why single parents experienced fewer emotional and behavioral problems than did two-parent homes. "Perhaps the intensity of relating to two adults on an intimate basis results in more difficulties after placement than does having to relate to one adult caretaker" (74). Furthermore, the study also revealed that in regard to adoption smoothness, "although differences were noted in the child's emotional and behavioral functioning and in the social and ecological functioning of one and two parent families, no differences were found in their evaluation of adoption smoothness" (75). This further suggests that single parents are just as suited as two parent families to adopt a special needs child.

In conclusion, Groze and Rosenthal assert that new adoption policies, with the goal of securing permanent homes for children, should target such nontraditional candidates as single parents for adoption. Furthermore, the authors state "Singles make up a significant portion of the population and a number of single people are raising children on their own. Single adoptive parents are not only a feasible but an untapped resource to provide homes for children with special needs" (76).

Groze, V. K. "Single parents and their adopted children: A psychosocial analysis." Families in Society 72.2 (1991):130.


A Brief History of Prostitution

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Prostitution is supposedly the oldest profession in the world. The ways in which society has viewed prostitution has changed over history. The 18th century BCE Code of Hammurabi included laws protecting the inheritance of prostitutes because they typically had no male figure, such as a father or older brother, looking out for them. In ancient Greece and Rome prostitution was legal and at times even state-sanctioned. There were three types of prostitutes. The first two, sex slaves called pornai in Greek and freeborn prostitutes who worked the streets, could be either male or female. The third class included only females. These educated prostitute-entertainers, called hetaera in Greek, were some of the wealthiest women in ancient Greece. State-sanction brothels included mainly inexpensive pornai, so that all men, despite income level, could afford to have sex.


As Christianity came about prostitution began to be seen as impure. In the 590s CE, Spain had laws punishing women who sold sexual favors by whipping them 300 times and forced them into exile. The men who exploited these women for their 'goods' were never punished. During medieval times, prostitution was so common in large cities that it was hard for kings and queens to outlaw it completely, instead it was heavily regulated. In England, single women could only be prostitutes brothels were inspected weekly. In the 1300-1400s in Italy, prostitution was seen as an integral part of life and many state-sponsored brothels were in operation. In the early 1800s in France, a government agency called the Bureau of Morals was created to inspect brothels to be sure that other criminal activities were taking place. During World War II, the Japanese government abducted between almost 300,000 women and girls from its territories and made them serve as sex slaves in brothels to serve Japanese soldiers. In India, laws have restricted legal prostitution to specific areas in large cities. Today, India's Kamathipura district in Mumbai is home Asia's largest brothels.


In 1971, Nevada passed a law allowing its counties to decide to criminalize prostitution. Of the 17 counties, 11 have legalized prostitution. In 1999, Sweden, calling prostitution a crime against women outlawed the buying of sex while still allowing the selling of sex.

Head, Tom. "History of Prostitution - Illustrated History of Prostitution." Civil Liberties at About.com - Your Guide to Civil Liberties News and Issues. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. .

Hickenbottom, Iris L., and Melanie Ulrich. "Women's History Then & Now - Prostitution." Digital Writing and Research Lab. 18 May 2002. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. .

Tracking the Issues Categories/Presentations

To make it easier to use the blog as part of the Sex War presentations, I made sub-sub categories for the three Sex Wars groups: Pornography, Raunch Culture and Prostitution. Please file your entries under the appropriate sub-sub category.

Here is another way to organize your entries for your presentations: Use your summary entry as the format for your presentation. Make links to all of your entries in the summary so that you can access them quickly. Put them in the order that you want to discuss them. Check out one example of how I used a summary page to organize my presentation. Here's a screen shot of my summary entry (note: since it is a screen shot, the links below won't work. Click on the "one example" link above to access the links):


Tracking- Single Parent Adoption

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Tracking the Issue
Single Parent Adoption
Local Impact

Single parent adoption is as much a local issue as it is a national or global issue. Adoption Minnesota is a Minneapolis-based adoption agency which touts being a welcoming agency. "There are no rules requiring you to be of a certain age, religion or race, nor do we eliminate adoptive parents based on weight, marital status, number of children already in your home or physical disability," the web site says. Though there are no rules, it is pretty clear that the site is aimed at white, middle-class folks, whether it is the birth mother or the prospective parents. This is saddening because the people willing to adopt- whether single or as a couple- may not fit this cookie-cutter image. What is more, is that the entirety of the staff appears white and middle-class. Private adoption agencies, such as this one, have the luxury of tailoring their services to a particular group of people. This perpetuates traditional conceptions of what the ideal family is, regardless of contemporary standards or changes. This creates one more hurdle for single parents, hopeful parents of color or disability- the hurdle to overcome preference. Minneapolis is a wonderfully diverse metropolitan area, and the impact that an adoption agency that caters to white, middle-class can deter potential parents from adopting. Not to say that there are not avenues- such as state agencies- to adopt as a single parent. However, the process is long, emotional and expensive. According to the Department of Human Services, adoptive parents may pay for fees for agency serves, certain birth parent expenses, legal fees and court costs related to adoption, fees to U.S. citizenship and immigration services, fees to people or agencies related to international adoption, and travel costs. Depending on the type of adoption a parent is trying to arrange, the parent(s) may be obligated to pay for medical costs for the birth mother as well. The expense of child rearing and the adoption process can be costly, which is a drawback of adopting as a single parent. However, as the "Single Parent Adoptive Homes" study (in a related post for Tracking the Issue) explains, the parent usually finds a way to work things out where finances are not a grave concern. After searching for more adoption agencies and delving further into the topic, many testimonies read that the mother or father, or both as a couple, find a way to work finances out. Even with half or less than half the income of a couple, single parents who adopt manage.


When reading about adoption and the rights of the birth mother, it was apparent that the father plays a limited role. I was curious to know what rights he has and so I explored the Minnesota Father's Adoption Registry. Based in St. Paul, the Minnesota Father's Adoption Registry is a valuable resource for paternal fathers whose child is or may be involved in adoption proceedings. The registry is free and is primarily utilized by courts so they can find the father to participate in adoption proceedings. A father can register as a putative father (recognized father) within 30 days of the child's birth. This is important to do if the father thinks he may want to contest adoption. When discussing single parent adoption, so much attention is placed primarily on the mother or father about to receive the child, secondly the birth mother giving up the child, and rarely is a substantial amount of attention paid to the birth father. In any adoption, single parent or otherwise, considerations should be made for all parties involved. It is acknowledged that in some occurrences the mother does not wish for the father to be involved, and safeguards are established within the state to prevent the father from finding information about the mother when he establishes paternity.

Understanding not only the values placed on the families in the adoption process but the legal issues as well is imperative to taking a critical look at the roles each member of the situation plays.


I know when our group looked into surrogacy, we started to talk about outsourcing surrogacy to make the process cheaper, but I didn't realize how big of a problem it was until I actually saw it referenced in an almost brand new show, Lie to Me. In episode 8 of season 1, the main character and his colleagues discover that a US official has been illegally bringing women into the country on the premise that all they have to do is be a surrogate and get paid for it. Obviously, this scene is over-dramatized and fairly irrelevant to the issue, however, at one point in the show, the biological mother of the surrogate's child specifically says that she went through an agency because it was 60,000 dollars cheaper than American surrogates. This is the big problem with outsourcing surrogacy, it is far cheaper than to keep the surrogacy within the United States, and it preys on the poor that do need the money being a surrogate mother brings to them. This obssession with having a child that's biologically yours is being outsourced, like this article says, just like so many industrial jobs are, but is it really the right thing to do? I do think surrogacy should not have laws against it in the United States and women should be allowed to sell their bodies if they want to - however, this would (and may already) be a problem in the United States and is already a problem in India because impoverished women get stuck in this position, whether they like it or not, because the payment they receive will pull them out of the lower class and put them at least into middle class, if not higher, which doesn't sound like a bad thing, but is it really worth having women sell their bodies away and put themselves in a very risky health position for nine months?

Secret ICE Castles

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thought I would share. very much related to the current outrage at the AZ bill.

if only if i knew how to link it, this would be so much more cool :)


Tracking- Single Parent Adoption

Single Parent Adoption
Scholarly Source

Joan Shireman's "Single Parent Adoptive Homes" is a longitudinal study of single parent adoptions beginning in 1970 and followed for the course of approximately 14 years. The results of the study found that single parent adoptions can be just as successful as two parent adoptions. What is most interesting about the study is not the outcome, but what the author notes throughout the 14-page article.

She begins by explaining a history of ambivalence toward single parent adoption- fears that the children will turn out dysfunctional as a result of a lack of resources and role models had previously stifled single parent adoption. "Professional adoption workers were concerned about the child's intra-psychic development in a one parent household, and concerned that a single parent would not have the resources and support to raise a child," (p. 23). This soon changed though, as the growing number of children in need of homes led agencies to utilize requests for children from single men and women. "Pressure from the community, both agency boards and single parents who wished to adopt, and pressure from numbers of children needing adoptive homes, overcame this professional reluctance," (p. 23).

When selecting children to be placed in the home, what preference is given to single applicants? "The married applicant, of an age to bear children and with the resources to raise a child, is accorded most favorable status in adoption and is most likely to receive a same-race, healthy, infant. More marginal applicants, such as single parents, are unable to obtain these infants and receive children who are more difficult to place- older children, children with physical and emotional handicaps, children of color. Thus the most difficult children are placed with those with the fewest resources to care for them," (p. 26). This places a great emphasis on what is considered ideal, and thus, what is constructs the ideal family. Could it be that the adoption agencies did not think that single parents who were adopting could ever be an ideal family and that is why they were given "hard-to-place" children? What does this say about worth- that children who are older, perhaps disabled, perhaps of color, are not as worthwhile as healthy, white babies? The complexities of adoption are furthered when children are ranked in the adoption process and given last pick to applicants who are not married. This displays a contemporary standard for the ideal family structure and family value- the "best" families have a mother and father (since GLBT adoptions were generally not granted at the time of this study), and a same-race infant.

Concerns about race and health were not the only factors affecting the adoption process for single parents. "Early concerns about single parent adoptions focused on expected difficulties in the development of appropriate gender identity," (p. 29). Gender identity is a concern in single parent adoption because the lack of a parent of the opposite sex means that the child potentially misses witnessing a second gender role. This concern is born out of a traditional perception of a family structure consisting of two parents teaches a child its gender role. We have discussed in class how binary gender roles can be problematic and restrict a child's freedom of expression. For this study, though, single parent adoption was compared to that of two parent households with the notion that two parent households are "normal." This concern over gender and direction turned out not to be substantive enough to differentiate between single and two parent households. "At age 14, gender identity was measure with a standardized scale; responses were similar to the distribution in same-race, two parent adoptive homes. Thus, the evidence we have suggests that up to early adolescence, children are having the opportunity develop appropriate gender identity," (p. 30). (Personal curiosity: What is the "appropriate gender identity?" And what is this standardized scale gender identity is measured with? Can it even be measured?)

Finally, the result of the study concluded that single parent adoptions are just as successful as two parent adopts. "There has been little writing or inquiry from the perspective of the strengths of the single parent adoptive home. Rather, under the assumption that two parent homes were best, single parent homes have been examined to discover the extent to which they look like more traditional families," (p. 30). (Another personal curiosity: What does the "traditional family" look like?) A particular strength for single parent homes is something that perhaps cannot found in two parent households. "The simplicity of relationships in a single parent home has been noted as a potential strength for some children who come from complicated and disrupted backgrounds," (p. 31).

Overall, the research found that, "single parent adoptions do look, in the long run, a lot like two parent adoptions," (p. 33).

Shireman, Joan F. (1996). "Single Parent Adoptive Homes." Children and Youth Services Review, 18(1/2), 23-26. Accessed April 29, 2010 at http://www.sciencedirect.com.floyd.lib.umn.edu/science?_ob=ArticleListURL&_method=list&_ArticleListID=1316919909&_sort=r&view=c&_acct=C000032378&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=616288&md5=eff4569daddc6354a1f08f7d93c2bbfc

Tracking the Issue: Raunch Culture Academic Source


I researched the article "Empowerment and the Pole: A Discursive Investigation of the Reinvention of Pole Dancing as a Recreational Activity. It was authored by Kally Whitehead and Tim Kurz, and it can be accessed by going to lib.umn.edu, finding the Sage Journal Subscription package, and then searching for this article in "Feminism and Psychology."

Pole dancing came into being in the 1970s. It was considered another tool for erotic dancing. The pole was used as a prop to perform tricks and spins, and its use was strongly associated with strip clubs. Recently, the pole has been repurposed. Pole dancing is an aerobically strenuous activity, and women (and men!) have begun signing up for pole dancing classes as a form of fun, sexually liberated exercise. However, this form of exercise has not lost its sexual background. Australian advertisements for pole dancing classes include phrases like "Strength and femininity", "power and beauty" or "Sex appeal comes from within". Whitehead describes the activity as similar to an aerobics class. The selection of classes ranges from "flexibility" to "fat-burning". There are a number of poles in the room, each women selects one, and then follows the movements of the instructer, who has her own pole at the front of the room. Some women wear exercise clothing, while others choose to wear high heels and clothing which is more stripper-esque.

Whitehead and Kurz believe that pole dancing as an exercise activity represents an ideological dilemma. On one hand, who are we to judge the healthy (literally) choices women make? Using sexuality for health certainly seems empowering, and since these aerobics classes are not monitored by men, it seems difficult to make the argument that pole dancing for recreation is consumption of women by men. On the other hand, the sexualization of exercise and the rise of "porn-chic", where the trendiest new enterprises are also the most risque, may represent a movement towards the hypersexualization of women. When stripping and pole dancing is the only type of sex-positive imagery we can conjure, what does that say to the thousands of women who live subtler, more demure sexualities?

Whitehead and Kurz did a rhetorical analysis of the way that customers and teachers talked about pole dancing. They found that broadly, people thought it was empowering because the focus was on fun and fitness, and less on sexuality or "attracting" men to come into a club. One woman pointed out that because she was the one paying to take the class, she had the power. Dancing was an active choice she was making. She believed that when strippers were payed to dance, it made dancing a forced choice for them, because they had to do it for their livelihood.

Another group indicated that they thought pole dancing for someone you loved would be different that dancing for a stranger. They indicated that dancing for a stranger requires no emotional connection - the stranger merely sees a body. Dancing for a significant other means that they already know the person behind the body, and see the act as an example of confidence or playfulness.

Whitehead and Kurz were concerned by some of the statements that women said. Particularly, they thought the dichotomy between dancing for a boyfriend and dancing for a stranger was troubling. What if men said, "It's ok for me to objectify her, because I love her?" Using love as a justification may allow all sorts of degrading and objectionable activities.

Single Parent Adoption--History

Since the mid-nineteenth century, when the first adoption laws were passed, singles have legally been allowed to adopt. However, single individuals looking to adopt have faced a substantial amount of adversity in order to be seen as positive parents and candidates for adoption.

During the 1900's, families began to take a different shape. Divorce and children out of wedlock became more common; however, this did little to affect the opinion on single parent adoption. Some state welfare agencies even went so far as to enact regulations that made it "difficult or impossible for agencies to place children in the care of single individuals" ("Adoption History Project" 1). Single parent adoption was so rare that until the 1960's, there was no way of knowing the amount of adoptions that were occurring. Though it happened, experts believe the number was very small. In fact, single parents were so discriminated against that in 1958, the Child Welfare League of America put out a release stating that adoptive families must be comprised of both a mother and a father ("Adoption History Project" 1).

Efforts to recruit single parents for adoption picked up in the 1960's, in part due to advocates of special needs children up for adoption ("Adoption History Project" 1). The argument for single parent adoption was that children, despite any mental, physical, or emotional handicaps, should have the right to grow up in a loving, caring home. According to adoptioninformation.com, single parents now account for around 25% of all adoptions of children with disabilities.

The Los Angeles Bureau of Adoptions was the first group nationwide to fervently recruit single parents, beginning in 1965. They were also the first organization to seek out single African-American parents, so that they could match African-American children with parents of the same race. Over the course of a few years, 39 single mothers were placed with children, and only one father. Why did adoption agencies assume that mothers would make better single parents than fathers?

Eventually, in 1968, the Child Welfare League conceded that single parent adoptions were permissible when "exceptional circumstances" were in place that would prohibit the child to be adopted to any other family. Why, if a parent is willing to provide a loving home for a child, would an agency deem the adult to be unqualified, simply because of the fact that the candidate is without a partner?

Today, single parent adoptions are more prevalent (about 1/3 of the total adoptions, according to the Adoption History Project). However, the dim hierarchy of preferences still exists within the system, and single parents are largely adoptive when the child has no other choice. The History Project states concisely and dismally, "They are as unwanted as the children they take in." Nevertheless, some point to the potential benefits of single parent adoption, such in the case of a child who may need a more focused, close relationship, or, in the case of single father adoption, where the child needs a strong male figure who is also loving.


Adoption History: Single Parent Adoptions." University of Oregon. 11 July 2007. Web. 30

Apr. 2010. .

"Single Parent Adoption - Adoption Information. General Info on Adopting a Child."

Adoption Information - Services, Centers, Home Study, Situations, Open

Adoptions, Attorneys. 22 Jan. 2008. Web. 30 Apr. 2010.


PIC-Restorative Justice-Your Choice

Your Choice

Couldn't Keep it to Myself by Wally Lamb

wally lamb.jpg

PIC-Restorative Justice History

Contrary to the current model of the justice system that relies on prison, restorative justice has been the dominant model through most of history. Ancient Arabs, Greeks, Indians, and Roman societies all used restorative models. The rise of punitive models came in the 16th century concurrently with the rise of the nation state. Crimes were seen as committed against the monarch's power structure and not against individual community members. In turn, the nature of punishment changed; the word roots of guilt have the meaning of 'payment for wrong doing.' The retributive and restorative views of justice both existed in the same time period but have constantly been in tension with one another. Throughout history, Christianity has been in favor of restorative practices consistent with their emphasis on forgiveness; however, with the rise of the Inquisition and power structures in the Catholic Church, retributive practices became the accepted norm. There are still few examples of restorative justice in the world, for example Nelson Mandela led the Ubuntu movement in South Africa, which is beginning to take off. Unfortunately, the main model is still the harsh retributive model exemplified by the Prison Industrial Complex.

PIC Agendas

In class today you will be developing agendas for responding to the Prison Industrial Complex. I thought it might be helpful to offer an example of one group's response/s to the PIC: INCITE! and their national project on stopping law enforcement violence. Their site for the project provides a detailed description of the project and why it is necessary:


They also discuss their goals, other organizations that are a part of the campaign and how to get involved. You can download brochures, tool kits, and posters that offer more information about their project at the site as well. 


Remember: If you and your group decide to post an agenda on the PIC, it must be posted by Thursday May 6 to receive full credit.

PIC summary

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group members: Chloe, Mary, Sara, Jeffrey

Prison map.png

points of contention:

capitalist hegemony
production of criminals: human monsters; social waste (deviants)
production of citizens
justifying prosecuting power
-- (as Dean Spade says, targets of the system become reasons for the system)
"Safety" and fear

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The New York Times wrote a great article today about Oklahoma's decision to make women who are considering having an abortion have an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus in an attempt to dissuade them--even in the instance of rape or incest. Another part of this new law says that women who have given birth to children with serious birth defects cannot sue the doctors for withholding this information because they did not want the woman to choose to have an abortion. Another part of these laws wasn't to make it mandatory for women seeking abortions to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about why they are choosing to have an abortion and then post their information on the internet. Also, they are looking into how the state can restrict certain insurance policies so to make it unable for women to use them when seeking an abortion.
I really could go on and on about this but I think you get my point. If it isn't already hard enough for women to make these decisions lets just step it up 10 fold and force them to put their life choices on the internet. I am so, so sad about this and I can only hope that feminist can rally behind this and make sure that this ridiculous nonsense does not come to fruition.

Being public while brown


This is an intresting article that discusses what we talked about today. If we create a profile for what we believe to be a criminal and then apply it to people who are not criminal we have a problem. Who decides what a criminal looks like? Does it only have to do with the way people dress or is it more about the color of their skin? I am having a hard time trying to figure out how this idea can be justified or even presented by elected officals as having some sort of merit.

PIC summary for Sarah, Ava, and Courtney

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The Prison Industrial Complex immediately sparked our groups attention as a feminist, and all around human issue. Coming from a psychological schooling background, I found the phenomenon of caging criminals up together in hopes of later rehabilitating them into society fascinating. In Wally Lamb's book, "Couldn't Keep it to Myself", life in prison was discussed, examined, and then published. It was a first hand account of how women ended up in prison, and what it was like during and sometimes after. Our group leaned towards restorative justice, because of a personal impact it had on one of us. Rather than separating the victim, community, and offender, restorative justice engages them all in finding a plausible solution. Since forcing criminal offenders into cages like wild animals seemed unsatifying to us, we decided to research restorative justice.

According to Howard Zehr, one of the founders of the modern restorative justice movement, "restorative justice is an acknowledgement of the Western criminal justice system's "limits and failures" and is often part of the response to the belief that "the process of justice deepens societal wounds and conflicts rather than contributing to healing or peace" (3).

As part of a way to address some of the issues and frustrations that only seem perpetuated by the Western system of punishment and incarceration, there has been successful implementation of restorative justice principles locally and internationally. As Sarah pointed out in the local importance/impact post, the principles can be applied to a minor indiscretion, like underage drinking, or other larger crimes. In this instance, instead of being 'punished' for minor consumption, she was given the productive task of creating a transfer student club that served a larger purpose and community.

Taken to a much larger scale, New Zealand in 1989 "made restorative justice the hub of its entire juvenile justice system" and has done so successfully. Also, "building upon the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, efforts are being made to apply a restorative justice framework to situations of mass violence" (4). The Prison Industrial Complex is a relatively new phenomenon, and has begun running an immense scale. However, entire nations are beginning to resist the PIC system and finding alternative methods of justice, which is promising for all.


• Crime is a violation of the law and the state vs. crime is a violation of people and relationships.
• Violations create guilt vs. violations create obligations.
• Justice requires the state to determine blame (guilt) and impose pain (punishment) vs. justice involves victims, offenders, and community members in an effort to put things right.

CENTRAL FOCUS: offenders getting what they deserve vs. victim needs and offender responsibility for repairing harm.


Criminal Justice: What laws have been broken? Who did it? What do they deserve?

Restorative Justice: Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Whose obligations and responsibilities are these? Who has a stake in this situation? What is the process that can involve the stakeholders in finding a solution?

(All found on page 21 of Zehr's book)

Those alternative approaches to justice can and are found and implemented throughout the world. They serve to inspire us to imagine justice differently. Zehr cautions us that "true justice emerges from conversation and takes into account the local needs and traditions" and that we should be wary of a "top-down approach". Rather than having a system that relies on a higher power passing on judgment and punishment; there should be a system of collaboration between offenders, victims, and community. "Restorative justice requires us to change not jut our lenses, but our questions". Lastly, "above all, restorative justice is an invitation to join in conversation so that we may support and learn from each other. It is a reminder that all of us are indeed interconnected" (63).

Awareness of existing alternatives to modern PIC standard operations offers some hope, and perhaps one of the most radical accepted responses offered within the system. The United States has yet to implement wide spread initiative expanding restorative justice principles. Whether or not the perpetual cyclic criminalization largely of societal debris and people of poverty continues to make industry profits and how we respond as a society is up to us. Feminist? I think so... humanizing criminal bodies that have been/ are/ will be incarcerated is necessary for us to see the true inhumanity and deeper societal ills perpetuated by our modern PIC.

Is restorative justice a feminist oriented practice/philosophy? Can it be 'feminist' if it is about all criminals being afforded more humanity? Even possibly violent criminals, rapists, and murders? Where is the line for a 'feminist' response and articulation of restorative justice's efforts? Can its objectives actually counter feminist values?

D.E. 11

I checked out the website Women and Prison: A site for resistance, and read an interesting article about women in prison on drug charges and the effects that has on their families. This made me curious because they also cited different statistics that showed housing a person in prison for a year is as much as a years worth of tuition at Harvard. I may not know how much it costs to go to school there, but I can bet it is a lot more that the UofM. So what makes me curious is that there isn't more opposition to the prison system. Everyone just wants to lock away criminals and addicts. Put them in a corner where they can't bother people; but that isn't a solution. Instead, as the article says, and I agree with, there needs to be mandatory rehabilitation. What I don't understand is the conditions of a drug rehabiliation center to start with. If someone is an addict, they shouldn't have the luxury of coming to rehab of their own free will. When someone gets caught in posession of illegal substances, and their clearly abusing them, society should help. It never made sense to me to send someone to prison for drugs. They clearly have deeper underlying psychological issues that need to be addressed with a liscenced psychiatrist. Most likely they should be on some psychologcial prescription medications, not thrown into a cell with other drug addicts and criminals. If I were a drug addict trying to clean up my act, the last place that would help me recover is prison. Heck, someone with an addiction will probably start back up when they get out because of all the psychological stress being locked up would ensue. If we really want to make society better, we need to stop locking up addicts with murders and other criminals. Instead these people need to be seen by a professional who can help them through their issues. Rather than providing thousands of jobs to psychology and sociology majors in prisons, they could offer those same people jobs helping to rehabilitate addicts. I've been told how hard it is to get a job with a psych degree, because my relatives got this degree and they work at a prison now. I can promise you that wasn't their dream. I bet if the community they lived in offered a psychiatric ward for addicts in a wing of the prison they would jump at the chance to hold that job. Deep psychological issues need to be addressed in these people, rather than hiding them away from the rest of the public and their families.

This is a Feminist issue because... SB1070

A couple of days ago I came across this PSA video of Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine... I thought I would post it because I enjoyed watching his impassioned view on the issue.

Also, here is the link to the website if you're interested in signing the petition, sending an email to Governor Janice Brewer, or sending an email to President Barack Obama.

What are your thoughts?

alg_brewer.jpgHave you heard about the Arizona Immigration Bill that was signed by Gov. Janice Brewer on Friday, April 23rd? According to the New York Times,

The law would require the police "when practicable" to detain people they reasonably suspected were in the country without authorization. It would also allow the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents. And it allows residents to sue cities if they believe the law is not being enforced.
Brewer contends that the purpose of this bill is to protect the people of Arizona and secure the border:

There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.

We cannot delay while the destruction happening south of our international border creeps its way north.
In her explanation, Brewer claims that this new law will not result in more racial profiling and that she is committed to training officers on how to properly determine when and if to stop individuals and request their identification (this "proper" way, according to her, must not be based on "the color of their skin"). But, many people think that this bill will allow racial profiling (or even encourage it) and are highly critical of the implications and intent of the call for "safety" and "protection." In responding to Brewer's above statement,  the Feminist Texican (who wrote this great post on why we should "stop saying 'illegal'")  writes:

In a country where "illegal" is a noun that's synonymous with "Mexican" (Mexican drug cartels, Mexican border violence, border wall along Mexico, brown people swimming across the river from Mexico, etc.), I find it hard to believe that racial profiling rates against Latin@s aren't going to rise.  I seriously doubt police are going to start asking white people for their papers at even a fraction of the rate they question brown people. 
In an article over at the Arizona Republic, a law professor echoes Feminist Texican's sentiment, claiming

"That is almost inevitably going to be enforced in a racially discriminatory way, because how are the police going to have a 'reasonable suspicion' that you're here illegally?" said Paul Bender, a professor of law at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and a principal deputy U.S. solicitor general from 1993 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton. "They're not going to ask every Anglo that they stop for speeding to show their immigration documents. If they did, we wouldn't have them and we'd all go to jail. They're going to ask the people who look Hispanic. Some of them are not going to have them, and they are going to be arrested."
[Note: Do you carry proof of citizenship around with you--a driver's license doesn't count. Addendum: Or does it? I have found conflicting reports and wonder, what proof do you have to give if you are stopped?] American Progress describes four dangerous economic, social and legal consequences of this law: 1. It legalizes racial profiling, 2. It undercuts the constitution and imbues local police with federal authority, 3. It will harm the state and local economy and 4. It is expensive and takes police away from community policing. For even more on this law, check out Stephen Colbert's humorous (yet critical) take on the issue:

The Word - No Problemo

What are the implications and consequences of this bill from a feminist perspective? What sorts of questions should feminists ask? What should feminist focus their attention on? How can we link this bill, and its consequences, to the issues we have explored all semester? I can imagine connections to all of the issues--reproductive rights/justice, work, family values, sex wars and the PIC. What connections can you make?

In her article for Gender Across Borders, Erin Rickard discusses how racial profiling makes Latin@ communities afraid of the police and less willing to contact them when domestic violence occurs. What are the consequences of this fear of the police for women? American Immigration Council wonders how much this bill will cost and if the people of Arizona can afford it. I wonder, what (types of) programs will be cut in order to pay for this bill? Due to the financial crisis, Arizona has already had to cut children's health insurance. Will women's health care (particularly reproductive health) be next? Immigration Blogprof wants us to ask, Why are there so many undocumented workers?, which makes me think of our discussion of La Doméstica and prompts me to ask: what rights do/should undocumented workers have and what rights are they denied with this law? Mark B. Evans over at Tuscan Citizen is curious about what counts as "reasonable suspicion" for pulling a driver over and checking their proof of citizenship? Will those outside of Gayle Rubin's charmed circle be targeted more? Do their "deviant" behaviors arouse suspicion? Prof Sussuro over at like a whisper outlines the effects of a law like this. Here's one they mention that seems to be speak directly to the issue of family values: "leaving children on the side of the road to fend for themselves when parents are arrested." 

A discussion of this bill from feminist perspectives fits nicely with our reading today, On Prisons, Borders, Safety, and Privilege. How is safety and protection functioning in this law, and at whose expense? What are the consequences of trying to ensure safety? Whose safety? Here are a few passages from the text that speak to these issues:

Who is made safe by strengthening a violent law-and-order system? And what does strengthening that system have to do with ending violence (3)?

What is your feminism for? If it is not for disruption and redistribution of power across society (i.e., not just for women [or people] like you), it cannot be so ignorant of, exploitative of, and even counter to the prison-abolition and immigrants' right movements--not only because marginalized women are involved in and affected by those struggles, but because they are where some of the most significant challenges to power are being made (6).

If feminist is about social change, it is about recognizing that safety in this society is a fantasy afforded only by assimilation to power, and the cost of that fake safety is the safety of those who cannot, or will not, access it. If feminism is about social change, it is about radically challenging prisons and borders of all kinds (7).

What if we crafted a collective feminist response to this issue--one that is not so much based on our own opinions but on the readings, discussions, films, issues that we have discussed this entire semester? What would we want to put in that response?

Maybe one place to start this response is with this statement by Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Color against Violence:

We seek to build a movement that not only ends violence, but that creates a society based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity. In this society, safety and security will not be premised on violence or the threat of violence; it will be based on a collective commitment to guaranteeing the survival and care of all peoples (226).

Addendum: I just found this overview of more feminist responses to this issue at feministe.

The Price of Pleasure is a documentary about sex work. It is a gritty real look at how the sex industry opreates, who benifits and who gets hurt. Check out the link to the trailer.

DE 12


This was the first feminist class I have ever taken in college and my overall experience was good. At first, when I first read the name of the class (Feminist Debates), I imagined heated debates between two groups about gender equality. However, the class was actually more of a constructive discussion to pique our minds about the numerous feminist issues.

The blogging assignments looked extremely overwhelming at first, but it turned out to be quite interesting once I got used to it. People bring up many different perspectives on various issues and it is interesting to read their ideas, comment on them, and present my own ideas as well.

I really enjoyed the video clips we watched during class such as "The Pill" and the one about domestic workers. I think they are very informative and at the same time entertaining. So, I think these will help future students to understand the topics discussed. On the other hand, I still don't quite understand what we're supposed to be doing for agendas. I find the purpose behind the assignment is good, but I don't think the assignment was very clear to me.

Most importantly, this class has made me realize that feminist issues are not just issues dealing with gender inequalities. Feminism encompasses all aspects of life including race, ethnicity, social status, etc. and being curious about these issues is a crucial aspect of feminism because one needs to be aware of the problem in order to find solutions to the conflict.

PIC Summary

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Before conducting our research on this topic, the Prison Industrial Complex, we were already quite curious. After spending a couple weeks researching, and reading about the Prison Industrial Complex, our curiosity increased. Since reading the first articles it became apparent that there are so many elements of the Prison Industrial Complex that require thorough reflection and discussion by society. Many topics that we have discussed earlier in the class are relevant to this issue; therefore this was a fitting issue to research about toward the end of the class. While, many of the previous issues were reinforced and perpetuated by society or the media, whereas the Prison Industrial Complex is also perpetuated by our government, through its laws and methods of enforcement. The prison system reinforced by our government seeks to protect this nonexistent, ideal American citizen. This citizen, is white, a non-drug user and financially stable.

The largest source of this issue is capitalism. The prison system as it exists today is a business. Large profits are being made by private companies that have been awarded lucrative contracts from state and federal governments. With the political system structured as it is, money buys you a voice in Washington. With these profits, prison contractors are able to influence legislation that sends more people to prisons, because without criminals there can be no profits garnered from the prison system. The people most affected by the Prison Industrial Complex, are those who have the least amount of power, for they lack a voice in politics and the ability to effect change. It affects the minorities and the poor in disproportionate numbers, especially when it comes to the criminalization of drugs. It removes minorities and the poor from our communities, it ships them to prisons. It removes them from our mind; it "neatly" sweeps them away, where they can be easily forgotten. Therefore, with them swept away, there is no urgency for discussion on a national scale. With no discussion, the propagation of the prison system is allowed to increase unchecked.

When any system is driven solely by capitalism, something is lost. What is lost is empathy and altruism. Reforming people and rehabilitating does not lead to large profits. It is a long and arduous process that does not lead to profits. Like any capitalist enterprise, profits are the goal. When there is no concern for rehabilitation, prisoners when released, are likely to reenter the system. There is no incentive to take preventive measures, educating and improving societies for all.

This process has only shown us how much further research and education on the issue are needed. There are many issues within the Prison Industrial Complex that need to be deconstructed and made available to society. The implementation of our current system was done in an anti-democratic matter; to reform it appropriately will require the participation of our entire society. However, as nearly every other issue discussed thus far, progress is being stalled not by implausibility, but by unwillingness to go against capitalist ideas.

Direct Engagement 12, Essentialist vs Constructionist


I've thoroughly enjoyed the thought provoking topics we have discussed over the course of this semester, but one of the most interesting concepts that I find engaged in this course can be basically summarized as essentialist versus constructionist. When we see things as inherent and natural (gender, capitalism, patriarchy, language, etc.) we can't question it. This course, through emphasizing being curious, has worked to demystify the naturalness of the aforementioned concepts (and more).

One of the readings that I find really emphasizes this questioning is "Egg and Sperm" by Emily Martin. It says that culture can and has influenced the way in which we understand and interpret biological science. Science, of all things, is supposed to at the essential of nature. By suggesting that it is muddled by our culture, we take nothing for granted, and can pursue a true "kernal" of knowledge.


Direct Engagement 12


In the beginning of the course, I believed that feminism was a clear cut movement. Pro-Women and anti-men. Of course, feminism is more than. Feminism encompasses a range of issues that affect both men and women. Feminism is not a movement limit to improving women's life, but is to improving everyone's life regardless of gender, race, nationality, culture, sexual orientation. One of my favorite readings that we read was "cleaning up a dirty Business". It is my favorite because it outlined to me that issue of domestic work is more than just, poor people at a dead end job. I never knew the there was more to the issue than wages. The idea that those workers were not entitled rights similar to what other works had was shocking to me. I also like the complex PIC map. One of the reasons why I like it is the fact that it looks complex. Without having to read the little fine print for each factor, I can quickly get the idea that there is more to prison industrial complex than putting just people in jail. Another reason why I liked the map is that it shows that different factors that can lead to or affect how the prison system works. The only factor that I don't see on the map was the society within the prison. Of course, if you put people who are casted out of society into one place, they are going to create their own society, assign their own norms of what is acceptable and what is not. What I learnt in the class is not something that can be easily listed in a single blog. The course itself was more like an experience, a great one actually, than a class. Taking this course allowed me to be more open minded to ideas, whether I agree to them or not.

I never blog before and I had a hard time getting use to it. I had a hard time posting my entries. Sometimes I would post them and I wouldn't be able to see and I would have to repost it again. I also got a bit confused at first on what I needed to do. I truly enjoy blogging. I was little hesitant first, but I quick got the hang of it.

Advice I would have for next year, is to have more time to discuss as a whole. The small groups were great, but sometimes we got off topic very easily. The large groups allow me to see what others had to say, their opinion and so forth. Another advice I would have for next year students are to take the time and do the position paper right way, rather than wait last minute for a more interesting topic. I would love to see more movies and documentary in class, and maybe a guest speaker to have a little more variety other than readings and the blogs.

Direct Engagement 12


Advice/Thoughts on this class:

I really loved the fact that this class was so blog-centric. I think that discussions in class were really helpful and interesting, but obviously, they are time consuming and we have a finite amount of class time. Also, some people are a little too shy to give their opinions. I think the blog is a great remedy to these problems - it democratizes the discussions in class, gives everyone a chance to say something, and lets people refine their opinions through the process of writing. I thought it was a good way to involve topics that weren't necessarily related to the class units, but were still relevant to feminism. The "This is a feminist issue because" posts were especially interesting and helpful, and definitely added some variety to the blog. I thought it was great that this is open to the public, so it serves as a sort of public record of our class discourses and can be used to review previous readings and ideas.

My understanding of feminism changed a lot through out this class. I had never had an introduction to the academic side of things, so it was interesting to hear about consciousness raising groups and different feminist advocacy methods. My definition of what it means to be a feminist was broadened by the class and I really started to understand the intersections between race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. I benefited a lot from having very different perspectives in the classroom, from ecofeminism to queer theorists.

My advice for future class takers:

1. Read the blog! Don't just log on when you have a post due, you will get a lot more out of the blog if you read other people's entries and post comments of your own. It especially helps if you get the readings done ahead of time - that allows you to have a much more educated viewpoint when reading other people's entries, and you can understand the authors that they are referencing. I would also recommend doing any optional readings, because every reading usually gives you a different perspective on the topic.

2. In discussions, I think you will get a lot more out of them if you speak up. That way, people can directly respond to your viewpoints and you can hear alternate opinions. Definitely don't nap through discussions or anything like that - the more you pay attention, the more interesting they are.

PIC- Restorative Justice (2 Academic Sources)

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There is a series of books about Restorative Justice called 'The Little Books of Justice and Peace Building'. I chose to focus on two, but they are all pretty amazing. Very short and concise, they offer case studies and practical information that anyone can integrate into their conceptions of the world.

Zehr, Howard. The Little Book of Restorative Justice. Good Books, Intercouse, PA. 2002.

This book is described by the author as the 'cliff notes' version of restorative justice. While there are mentions of programs and practices, this book generally outlines the principles or philosophy of restorative justice. According to Zehr:

"Most restorative justice advocates agree that crime has both a public dimension and a private dimension. I believe it would be more accurate to say that crime has a societal dimension, as well as a more local and personal dimension. The legal system focuses on the public dimensions; that is, on society's interests and obligations as represented by the state. However, this emphasis downplays or ignores the personal and interpersonal aspects of crime. By putting a spotlight on and elevating the private dimensions of crime, restorative justices seeks to provide a better balance in how we experience justice." (12).

Toews, Barb. Restorative Justice for People in Prison: Rebuilding the Web of Relationships. Good Books, Intercourse, PA. 2006.

This books draws on insights from incarcerated men and women who have been involved with restorative justice processes. Using this perspective, the author states the problem with gaining 'prisoner perspective':

"At times, I use labels like "prisoner," "offender," and "victim." I want to acknowledge, though, that these labels have the potential to dehumanize and lock people into one single identity. As humans, we have the potential to both hurt and to be hurt, to be both victim and offender. So these labels have pitfalls. Still, when they are used to identify only part of a person or a particular act, they do have some value. They provide a way to identify those with a "stake" in a situation of wrongdoing, for example. Moreover, to admit that one is an "offender" is a step toward accountability. So I use these labels, aware of their limitations and dangers." (10)

Tracking the Issue: Parental Leave

Feminist movements
I could not find any movements that dealt with paternal leave before the presidential commission of 1961. Most of the movements before this were dealing with the voting rights of women. Presidential commission on the status of women (PCSW): 1961
• Affordable childcare
• Equal employment for women
• Paid maternity leave
Healthy Families Act
• If a company has more than 15 employees an employee is eligible to receive a certain percentage of their earnings during eight weeks of leave. This includes mothers that leave for maternity.
• Under the bill, workers would accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, could begin using the paid sick leave after 60 days of employment, and could roll over unused sick leave into the next calendar year.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act 1978
• This act prohibited employers from discriminating employees due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. This was an amendment to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
• One of the requirements is that any employer-provided health insurance plan must treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as other medical conditions
• Pregnant employees cannot pay a larger health insurance deductible than other employees pay. for more requirements take a look at this article
Parental Leave Act 2009
• There are different requirement for parental leave in the federal or state. Minnesota does not have any medical leave (paid or unpaid) available other than the use of the employee's sick leave for themselves or their sick child. However, an employer is not mandated to offer sick leave to its employees. You can see different requirements here.

Group Members: Zahra, Abeer, Rija and Correy

Direct Engagement 12: Recap of entries


This class has been an eye opener for me in terms of feminist issues. I usually hesitated on discussing about feminist issues with family members and friends because I did not have good knowledge of feminism and feminist movement. You can only correct people when you have a good knowledge of something, now that I have taken this class I can correct people when they are wrong towards feminist issues and feminism. I learnt a lot of from this class through the readings, blogs, tracking the issues, and the agendas. Also i liked when we discussed the readings as a whole or in the groups. One of my favorite readings was the egg and the sperm by Emily Martin. This reading made me think in a different perspective, a perspective that I would not have thought of. Many of the stereotypes the author mentioned from the science side were things that I never thought of as stereotypes; they were developed in us as normal since grade school and therefore got adapted to them. Even though there are things that I did not agree with her. Everything was normal for me since I have been taking a lot of science classes and dealt with this topic but never thought of it from this perspective.

The blog has been a great experience since I have never blogged before and I learned a lot from it. One problem I had with blog was getting use to it and posting things which were never easy for me. I would post a comment and it would not show therefore making me post it more than once. Other than that I had a great experience and enjoyed the class. I would suggest for the next students to keep up with the work and know when things are due because you might find yourself behind and. First few weeks would be confusing getting to know how to blog at the beginning will make things easy as you'll be using the blog the most.

Clarification on Direct Engagement 12


Thanks to Kathryn and Danielle for your responses so far. I wanted to clarify my final question for the week 12 assignment. In the original post here, I wrote:

Also, I will be teaching this class again next spring. What advice would you give students who will be taking it then?

In asking this last question, I would like to know what advice you might give future students for the class in terms of:

  • Using the blogs
  • How to be successful in the class
  • What to expect from discussions, etc
  • Or anything else that you were glad you did or you wished you had done better

Direct Engagement- week 12


There were several readings that I found interesting. I would say that the two I enjoyed most were the Hoffmann reading for the PIC and the Mobius Strip reading during Sex Wars. I think part of the reason these two stood out to me is because I am particularly interested in those two topics.

My understanding of feminism has changed throughout the course because I am more aware of the shades of feminism- some women are staunch feminists, some are white feminists, some are radical. Some are like me, unsure of where I stand on an issue but curious and investigative enough to engage in dialogue about it. I have noticed that I ask more questions, about everything, than I did before. I think the most influential aspect of the readings was my response to them. I learned to ask questions and be more critical of statements, ideas and perceptions.

I've never really blogged before but I kind of liked doing it for this class. At first I was pretty confused about how and when I was supposed to post, but it was easy once I got the hang of it. I liked to be able to read other people's comments, comment myself and post things. What I especially liked was being able to read my classmates' points of views, especially because some of the people who I felt had the most interesting things to say don't always speak up in class.

Advice for next year: have more large groups discussions that engage the readings. Every day should be a discussion day. Splitting into small groups is helpful on occasion, but using crayons to individually map out our reactions to the readings was totally useless. I didn't take this class to read about what a handful of feminists wrote- I took it to see what my peers thought too, to engage in a conversation about it, to challenge my own perceptions and weigh them against other perspectives. The best classes were the ones where we talked about an issue as a whole class.

The two topics I was most interested in this semester was the reproductive rights section and the sex wars section. The reason that those two topics intrigued me more than the others is that they specifically had something to do with the female body and what the female should be able to do with it. They're both more personal topics than the others, which are more directed at general society. I've definitely been influenced, thought not forced into another direction because of this class. I used to strictly think about reproductive rights in the choice of birth control and abortion, but when we did our tracking the issue on surrogacy, I was able to look into many other issues regarding reproductive rights - something like surrogacy, I would have never thought about twice if we hadn't done research on the topic. My understanding of feminism has been broadened, and at the same time, it has become more confusing to me because in so many cases we've read about it's about general equality for everyone - which, doesn't make it a defined subject with boundaries. I think it will take a few more classes before I get a better view on what exactly feminism is and where it draws the line on solving people's problems.
The reading I enjoyed the most was definitely "Uses of the Erotic" by Audre Lorde, usually I'm not one to define semantics, but her writing is very basic, very essential to the entire idea of anything sex-related that's discussed in feminism. I also enjoyed the reading because it's very empowering, which I think is extremely important for every woman to have - something empowering, even if it's some article written by someone else.
I definitely have enjoyed blogging for this class, it was a lot more of an open forum than any other blogs I've had to post on for classes. I think it's a great way to express your opinion without being afraid of the consequences, because it's so dissociative from your actual self. At the same time, the dissociation made because it's typed, not said, makes it less personal, which isn't always the best thing, and consequences are sometimes necessary to keep the discussion, a discussion, instead of a blunt argument that becomes about people and not the issue.
I'm not sure I would change anything, I enjoyed the class discussions, the topics on the blog, and I think one of the nice things about this class is that we not only read and did discussions, but we involved movies and documentaries into the mix, which gives a different perspective on things than the readings do.

Local impact/importance of Restorative Justice in relation to PIC

According to the Minnesota department of corrections, restorative justice (RJ) is a way to help engage victims/community members and offenders to fix the damage the crime caused. I know first hand that the Marcy-Holmes community uses this type of system for people who are given 'minor consumption' violations. I myself participated in this program, and through it was given a chance to give back to the university campus by creating a group for transfer students. By creating the group I was able to provide a way to make friends on campus without including alcohol--therefore restoring justice.

In the broader Minnesota region, this is also being implemented. According to the MDOC, restorative justice has been used since the early 1990s and we were the first state in the U.S. to start a full time restorative justice planner, within the department of corrections. Also restorative justice is being used in several workplaces to deal with work conflicts.

According to the MDOC, as it stands now in the typical criminal justice system, people who commit crimes are not given an active role and are not held accountable for making better the situation they created. For example, if someone robs a store and they are thrown in jail they are being given a passive role, and are doing nothing to make right what they did wrong. If instead the restorative justice system was used, they would have to give back to the community, apologize to all people affected by their actions, and they would have to meet their victims face to face. In that scenario, the criminal act is more humanized (rather than throwing a person into a cell, they are actively able to undo their harm). So not only do the offenders get a chance to bring good out of a bad situation, they are also held personally responsible by their victims.

MDOC states that in order for this to work the victims and offenders must use Victim Offender Diologe (VOD). When people engage in RJ, the victim and offender meet in a safe and structured area. Trained facilitators are always present, and preparation for face-to-face meetings can take months. There is also an option to speak through a video chat or phone conversation, or simply hand written dialogue.

Examples of Restorative Justice Activites: (2007) from Minnesota Department of Corrections

· Over $406,000 in restitution was collected from offenders in DOC facilities

· Close to $250,000 was collected from inmates for Aid to Victims of Crime.

· Inmates at Stillwater raised over $4,000, with proceeds donated to the Minnesota Correctional Education Foundation, the Tubman Family Alliance, meals for the homeless and other programs

· Fairbault offenders built a playhouse that raised $5,000 in a raffle The proceeds were donated to Healthfinders to provide health care to uninsured families.

· A fund was established throught the Minnesota Restorative Services Coalition to assist victims with costs associated with participating in RJ programs. In 2007, offenders contributed over $4,000 to this fund.

This is a feminist issue because... The female MD/PhD experience

I am planning to apply to (and hoping to matriculate into!) a combined MD/PhD program, which combines medical and graduate school and gives one the fancy designation of physician-researcher. I attended a seminar given by a U of M alum and MD/PhD on Thursday about his experiences as a medical and graduate student and a clinician investigator.

This got me thinking - what is has the female MD/PhD experience been like?

To my pleasant surprise I found an entire article on the subject at Science Careers, a section of the website for Science, the premier research journal. The article indicates that current research indicates that a disappointingly high proportion of women leave the academic path, especially between the period between achieving a post-doc and faculty position.

As a doer myself, I appreciated the goal-oriented focus that some of the women interviewed took on this issue. For example, one female MD/PhD started a program that specifically funds post-docs who are primary caregivers. What an awesome and gender-neutral way to address the child-care issue!

Summary and Findings of the Prison Industrial Complex

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The Prison Industrial Complex is a very interesting and somewhat obscure issue that I was fascinated with from the very first time I did a Google search. There are no doubt those we as taxpayers spend an enormous amount of money on our prison systems. The benefits of these institutions are debatable with the wide variance of treatment facilities and segregation of prisoners. Due to the absolutely enormous population of incarcerated individuals, I wanted to focus on what makes a 'deviant' in our society. I wanted to understand how a person goes from a very young child and into our super-max prisons. The more I dug, the more I found that there are a lot of environmental factors proven to have direct correlations with criminal behavior. The idea that we help 'create the criminal' is a very true idea indeed and I believe that that is a widely dismissed idea. Our government spends so much money trying to prevent criminal behavior by funding the Prison Industrial Complex, when in actuality we are just putting more people in prison. Research proves that factors such as; low income, minority ethnicity, noninvolved parenting, and young age all increase the likely hood of criminal behavior in a person. Social may benefit a lot of people, but we are clearly uneven with our benefits. People who are unable to have their basic needs provided for are more likely to throw off social conformity and rules. If we want to expect social conformity by those committing 'criminal behavior' we need to give them a reason to buy into society. We can't allow social laws to perpetuate white capitalistic ideologies any longer. If we continue to segregate social benefits, we will continue to see our crime rates increase exponentially. Our first and foremost focus to reduce crime in America should be our children. We must ensure, as a Nation, that our children are safe and able to be educated equally. We are currently teaching some of our children criminal tendencies by denying them basic human necessities and relationships. Our Prison Industrial Complex focuses on building a lot of things and one of its most critical oversights is its lack of building community...

Prison or Rehabilitation

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I found this interesting article on a Moose Lake center for our states sex offender treatment program. I was stunned by the sheer cost of the whole institution! MN taxpayers are investing 45.7 million for just and expansion of the facility and that is so it can just keep up with the number of people needing treatment for sex crimes. I was also stunned that the 400 people in the facility cost the state over 328 dollars a day. From what I've read this seems to be a very good institution that focuses on intensive therapy for the inmates for long periods of time. I also thought it was great the counselors working within the facility view the people not as inmates, but as patients. Another shocking thing was that the facility is only estimated to be able to keep pace with the growing population of sex offenders for just two years after the expansion project is completed.

Why People Break the Rules?

In the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Benjamin Steiner an John Wooldrege examine the qualities of deviance by women in prison within the article; Individual and Environmental Effects on Assaults and Nonviolent Rule Breaking by Women in prison. The purpose of this article is to understand why women break rules while in prison through both violent and non-violent means. These researchers found that inmates who often choose to reject social controls within prison have fewer connections to people outside of the prison. Also they found that individuals who were younger were more likely to commit misconduct due to a lower level of social commitment and studies showed that these individuals were "less invested in more conformist activities such as education or work" (439). There is also a strong connection between an inmate's ethnicity and socioeconomic status and their respect for the rules in prison. Inmates with a lower socioeconomic status were found to "question the legitimacy of rules" within the prisons. This questioning of rules brings to question why inmates question the rules in prisons and choose to break them instead of follow them. Deviance within prisons is created by social systems outside of prisons and those managing our prison systems often overlook this connection. This article even states, although from a very mathematical perspective, how relationships and jobs affect the level of deviance within prisons; "employment prior to incarceration, higher levels of education, and having children might constitute informal controls over an individual." These informal controls are found to govern those in prison and reduce the likely hood of these individuals acting out.
This article reinforces the idea that the problem with prisoner's nonconformity is not due solely to factors in prisons. There is a clear connection between the socioeconomic history of an inmate and their respect of social rules. If people are subject to poverty and oppression within society, then their respect for the rules of society is little to nonexistent. We cannot look to rule enforcement within prisons to 'rehabilitate' people for society when they are given no reason to respect social rules in the first place. In order to reconnect the 'rule breakers' of society we need to give them a reason to buy into social modes of conduct. If a society does not provide adequately the ability for people to gain the most basic necessities for life, then there is little preventing them from following social rules.

The importance of Age in Creating a criminal

One of the critical things to examine in regards to the prison industrial complex is to understand what influences 'create' the criminal characteristics within an individual. The theory is that society interjects certain factors on an individual making them more likely to break social modes of conduct. John MacDonald, Amelia Haviland, and Andrew Morral examined violence within adolescent offenders. Their article states that there are "different developmental pathways to problematic behaviors in which some of the causes of overt/violent behaviors . . . can lead to serious offending " (556). Researchers have found consistent connections between environmental factors and the likelihood for young adults to commit crimes. This understanding shows the serious importance of the environment and crime. One current cultural ideology within America is the idea that criminals choose to their criminal lifestyle. This mentality isolates people from society and further enacts oppression on people who have committed crimes at one point in their lives.
In a similar study done by the Journal of research in crime and delinquency found a pattern among age the likely hood for someone to commit a crime. It was discovered that "of all groups of high-risk offenders reveals a high conviction rate with age". Two of the main influencing factors that increase the potential for an individual to commit a crime are age and socioeconomic status. This may not seem like a break through to many, but it leaves a big question to know why more money isn't being put into addressing the potential symptoms of crimes.

How to Raise a Criminal

One of the most important factors that influence a person's life is parentage. Our family and especially our parents dictate a great deal as to our success in life. After discovering that age and socioeconomic status had key roles in 'creating' the criminal in our society. I wanted to examine how social factors play into the childhood of a social 'rule breaker'. In Parenting and Adult Criminality: An Examination of Direct and Indirect Effects by Race the author Ryan Schroeder and his associates reveal the link between parents and the potentiality of criminal behavior in their children. It was found that "poor parenting practices such as hostility and rejection, inattentive monitoring, inconsistent discipline, and weak parent/child bonds have been consistent predictors of juvenile delinquency". The importance of good parenting within a child's life is crucial to their healthy involvement in society later in life. The state needs to focus more efforts at supporting parents and encourage healthy child rearing. Schroeder found that " uninvolved parenting is associated with significantly higher levels of both adult anger and depression". The importance of a healthy parent- child connection is crucial to a person's future in society. The current ideology of prison is that a person commits a crime and is placed in a cell that supposedly rehabilitates them back into society, but this mentality focuses only on the symptoms of criminality. A better perspective for our justice system would be to focus more at assisting parents and children in underprivileged situations. These efforts would clearly affect the conditions of our prisons today.

History of PIC

Erica Meiners studies the history and oppression of our prisons in Never Innocent: Feminist Trouble with Sex Offender Registries and Protection in a Prison Nation. Currently 2,319,258 adults are held in U.S. prisons or jails. This shocking number means that for every 99.1 people in the United States there is one prisoner. If a person includes those who are on parole or probation or in immigrant detention centers/ prisons outside U.S. boundaries the number goes up to eight million. One particular important factor within the title of the Prison Industrial Complex is the total profit that the industry seeks to have. With this large industry it is crucial to understand how we 'produce' these people we consider criminals. Our nation has given little to no attention to this huge complex even though "a growing body of scholarship critically engages with our nation's over-reliance on incarceration". One particular push within legislation in the 1980's sought to protect women and children from male partners. This legislation and government 'crack-down' "do not make our communities or children and women any safer. Criminalizing men who assault their intimate partners has led to a rise in the incarceration and deportation of poor men of color, not a decline in the number of women who are assaulted".

Our social systems in the United States focuses a great deal of attention on the "criminal" and not nearly as much on what creates the criminal we so very much fear. One example of this stark focus on criminalization to the extreme is when a six year old girl was take to the police station and charged with a felony.

in Florida in 2007, six-year-old
Desre'e Watson had a tantrum in her kindergarten class. After twenty
minutes of "uncontrollable behavior" in the kindergarten class, the school
called the police. The police report reads, "black female. Six years old. Thin
build. Dark complexion," and she was handcuffed, taken to the police
station, photographed, and charged with battery on a school official,
which is a felony, and two misdemeanors: disruption of a school function
and resisting a law enforcement officer (Herbert 2007).

In my study of the PIC I will seek to understand what 'creates' a criminal in our society and how we might better focus tax payer money from prisons to communities and beneficial systems.

African American youth are detained at 4.5 times the rate of White
youth. Latino youth are detained at 2.3 times the rate of White youth.
African American youth are 16% of youth in the general population but
58% of youth admitted to state adult prison. African American youth are
more likely than White youth to be formally charged in juvenile court
and to be sentenced to out-of-home placement, even when referred for
the same offense, and according to the latest available data, three out of
four of the 4,100 new admissions of youth to adult prisons were youth of
color. (Krisberg 2007, i)

Dean Spade on social justice and impossible people

Thursday's documentary put me in a Dean Spade mood, so here's a lecture that addresses many of the topics we've covered this semester in class:

Dean Spade from BCRW Videos on Vimeo.

"Raunch Culture": An Academic Source

Rachel Hills is currently amidst the process of research for her Ph.D. at the University of New South Wales, Australia. On March 19, 2010, she gave a short speech at Dublin City University, Ireland, unveiling the premise of her research; the transcript of which can be found at the end of this blog post.

Her research is centered on Ariel Levy's conceptualization of "raunch culture." Specifically, Hills addresses the idea of whether or not "raunch culture" is real: "My own interest in and concern about raunch culture comes from a slightly different place -- I do not think it is real. Or rather, I don't think it adequately represents the way young people 'do sex', or their intellectual or emotional motivations for doing what they do."

Essentially, Hills accuses "raunch culture" of doing the selfsame thing that Levy intended to critique with her construction of the "Female Chauvinist Pig"--namely, the framework of "raunch culture" has become the single framework for understanding sex and sexuality in our contemporary society, thereby disallowing for alternative conceptualizations just as "raunch culture" supposedly disallows for alternative sexualities.

In other words, Levy claims that "raunch culture" has created a "constrained environment" in which certain people feel out of place because they might not live up to the sexual standards that "raunch culture" presupposes. However, Hills claims that by the very construction of "raunch culture," one precludes the possibility of alternative ways of thinking about sexuality, thereby creating a constrained environment in and of itself.

Thus, for Hills, "raunch culture" is real inasmuch as people subscribe to the framework of such a culture. What is disquieting for Hills, however, is the idea that many, many people do not fit the "raunch culture" paradigm. Indeed, throughout her research, she has interviewed forty Australian people of Generation Y, the generation that is purportedly the most relevant to the ideas of "raunch culture." Of these forty people, hardly any fit the (sexual) stereotypes that one would expect if "raunch culture" were as prolific as Levy claims. Hills plans to continue interviews with people of Generation Y in both the United States and the United Kingdom, but she has not yet had this opportunity.

Indeed, she concludes by saying:

It is my hope that through speaking with more young adults, first in Australia and later in the United States and United Kingdom, my research will begin to develop an alternative, less prescriptive discursive framework through which young people can make sense of their sexual experiences. I hope to create an accessible framework that accurately and empathically reflects the complexity of young people's sexuality, whilst providing a critical toolkit for the demographic to make sense of their existing beliefs and assumptions.

Our justice system is supposed to be fair and impartial, looking at all bodies as equal under the eyes of law. This, clearly, is not the case.

The statistics show the truth:
U.S. incarceration rates by race, June 30, 2006:

* Whites: 409 per 100,000
* Latinos: 1,038 per 100,000
* Blacks: 2,468 per 100,000

Gender is an important "filter" on the who goes to prison or jail, June 30, 2006:

* Females: 134 per 100,000
* Males: 1,384 per 100,000

Look at just the males by race, and the incarceration rates become even more frightening, June 30, 2006:

* White males: 736 per 100,000
* Latino males: 1,862 per 100,000
* Black males: 4,789 per 100,000

If you look at males aged 25-29 and by race, you can see what is going on even clearer, June 30, 2006:

* For White males ages 25-29: 1,685 per 100,000.
* For Latino males ages 25-29: 3,912 per 100,000.
* For Black males ages 25-29: 11,695 per 100,000. (That's 11.7% of Black men in their late 20s.)

Or you can make some international comparisons:
South Africa under Apartheid was internationally condemned as a racist society.

* South Africa under apartheid (1993), Black males: 851 per 100,000
* U.S. under George Bush (2006), Black males: 4,789 per 100,000

[all statistics taken from Prison Sucks.com]

How has it come to this? Why does our judicial system so blatantly target black and Latino bodies?

Angela Davis suggests that we have learned to forget about it. We don't know how to talk about it. We don't teach about the prison system. She says that, our society, rather than recognizing certain people as needing help, especially in terms of non-violent drug charges, we simply get rid of them. We don't have to think about them, or the problems they have. By doing this, we don't have to talk about the systems that perpetuate the need to hide these people. And because of the way the criminal is constructed and represented, we are made to be afraid to acknowledge community members who are in prison. Davis also says that we ignore other forms of crime, such as corporate crime, or crimes against the environment which generations to come.


Contact needs to be raised between the "inside" and the "outside". We have the ability to move around where as those inside don't. Davis says that the prison holds "obvious vestiges" of slavery. Prison systems reproduce the problems for which people are sent there in the first place. Prisoners are human beings, and should be treated as such.

Week 12: 4/25-4/27

In this final blog direct engagement, I would like you to reflect on the class and what you learned this semester. You could write about:

  • one of your favorite readings
  • how your understanding of feminism has been influenced by our discussions/readings/papers
  • your thoughts about our blog and the blogging experience
  • whatever else you want to write about in relation to the class.

Also, I will be teaching this class again next spring. What advice would you give students who will be taking it then?

"Couldn't Keep it to Myself"

wally lamb.jpg

A stunning collection of essays from women in prison challenges our understandings and compassion.

You Tube Clip about the book :)

Questions raised (but not necessarily answered):

Does power operate on or through criminalized subjects?

What are the spatial/temporal implications or material realities of the prison?

How has fear managed to increasingly permeate the ideological structure of our society?

By what/whose terms or understandings of acceptability is the propagation of fear predicated?

How are we to understand crime, violence, obedience, or docility as implemented and produced by the Prison Industrial Complex?

RECAP: On Tuesday we focused on our attention on the question of the PIC. In your small groups, you looked over the PIC map and explored some questions in connection to Davis' passage from Are Prisons Obsolete?:

On the whole, people tend to take prisons for granted. It is difficult to imagine life without them. At the same time, there is reluctance to face the realities hidden within them, a fear of thinking about what happens inside them. Thus, the prison is present in our lives and, at the same time, it is absent from our lives (Davis, 15).

I want to begin my asking two questions:

  • What is the PIC? What is the industrial complex part of the name?
  • Why is it important for feminists to denaturalize prisons and think about the underlying ideologies, the influences, the institutions that benefit and the damaging effects of the PIC?
3341_covanthology_display.jpgOVERVIEW OF TODAY: Tuesday's class involved a broad overview of the concept of the PIC. For today's class, our readings, from color of violence: the incite! anthology, focus on how specific practices in the PIC cause/contribute to gender violence. Andrea J. Ritchie discusses how law enforcement practices are increasingly resulting in brutality against "women of color, poor and low-income women, and lesbians [I would add transgender people too] (140) instead of protection. Her discussion includes sections on policing gender binaries; racial profiling; rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment; responses to domestic violence and sexual assault; war on drugs; war on terror; and quality of life/gang policing. Patricia Allard examines economic violence and the devastating effects of welfare, education and housing policies on individuals, especially women of color, who have been convicted of felony drug offenses (158): 1. lifetime welfare ban; 2. suspension of federal postsecondary financial aid; and 3. "one strike and you're out" public housing policy. Stormy Ogden speaks out about her own experiences as a Pomo (recognized member of the Tule River Yokuts, Kashaya Pomo, and Lake Country Pomo Nations) women and ex-prisoner. She describes how the PIC, as an instrument of profit and social control, negatively impacts her community and American Indians in general: it is dehumanizing, abusive and robs American Indian tribes of important "human and cultural resources" for the survival of their cultures (169). Finally, the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence Collective state the need for a critical analysis and strategies that address all forms of gender violence. They discuss how the anti-violence movement, while critically important, has relied too much on the criminal justice system without considering how that system contributes to gender violence. They also discuss how the anti-prison movement "has not always centered gender and sexuality in their analysis and organizing" (224). They argue for an approach to anti-violence work that considers violence in all of its forms and that develops and implements strategies that are not based on more violence but on "a collective commitment to guaranteeing the survival and care of all peoples" (226).

Before moving on to a discussion of these essays and why and how they are important feminist issues, I want to add one more perspective, that of transwomen in prison. (Heather has brought this issue up already here. Thanks Heather!) The following clip is the first part of a powerful documentary, Cruel and Unusual. Here is a description of the film at their website:

Most states separate prisoners by genitalia alone, so pre-op, transgender women are placed in men's correctional facilities, where they find themselves vulnerable and preyed upon. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL is a frank, often unsettling documentary, that portrays the challenges faced by these women. 

QUESTIONS: Why is the PIC, particularly in terms of its practices and the effects of those practices, an important feminist issue? Why is it important to hear/learn about the practices of the PIC and to listen to the stories of women (cis and trans) about their experiences with those practices?

FYI: Want to know more about gender violence and prisons/PIC? Check out this online journal issue from The Feminist Scholar Online, Women Prisons and Change.

Happy Earth Day!


Well, as you could have expected, I'm posting something to commemorate Earth Day!

While for much of the U.S., this holiday means very little--or little more than green consumerism and narrow debates on cap and trade--around the world, significant movements are building. The World Peoples Summit in Bolivia, for example, is going on right now, in direct response to the UN failures in Copenhagen four months ago.

Consider checking out these links and disseminating them as you celebrate the earth today!


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Perhaps you were not aware (or perhaps some of you participated), but yesterday was April 20th, or 4/20, an underground holiday devoted to the enjoyment and promotion of marijuana. Every year people around the United States celebrate by smoking their favorite plant, in their homes and in some cases, right out in the open. Yesterday, around 100 students calmly took out their pipes, joints, liters and sat in the Mall (located in the East Bank) began to smoke. You may ask why students would feel comfortable with such an apparent brazen disregard for the law, but the answer lies in Minnesota's partial decriminalization of marijuana. Currently, carrying 1.5 ounces of marijuana or less carries a fine of $200 and no jail time. Minnesota has often been at the forefront of progressive lawmaking in the United States and it once again is in the topic of drug reform. Minnesota is one of eleven states that have initiated the decriminalization of marijuana. As students of the University of Minnesota, this has a direct effect on all of us, not just marijuana users. With police officers freed from hunting down marijuana users it saves both time and enables them to focus protecting the students at the University (which is clearly needed given the increase in on and off campus crimes).

(1) http://norml.org/index.cfm?wtm_view=&Group_ID=4545
(2) MN Daily

PIC: Business


Prisons in the United States are increasingly becoming more of a business. Currently in the United States there are over 260 privately owned and operated prisons, which equates to over five private prisons per state, though they are more heavily concentrated in the southwest. Clearly, this is no small business. In addition to being large, it is also a lucrative endeavor. Recently, Shara Tibken, of the Wall Street Journal, reported that the Correction Corps won a contract to build four new prisons in Florida. In all the four three-year contracts will net Correction Corps over $250 million. Tibken goes on to note that during the current recession cash strapped states are turning to private contractors to alleviate their prison dilemma. There are several important question that arise when considering prison privatization, two of the most asked and crucial are as follow: What are the cost comparisons between private and public prisons? Is one cheaper than the other? Should cost even be considered? Is there more incentive to imprison than to rehabilitate inmates? Several scholars have begun to question and research private prisons. For the first question, no strong conclusion has been drawn, despite several studies being conducted on the issue of cost. Dina Perrone of Rutgers University and Travis C. Pratt of Washington State University, in a 2003 paper discuss previous studies conducted on public and private costs. They include a table of data that seems to suggest that private prisons are more cost efficient, on average saving more than $3.40 a prisoner. However, Pratt and Perrone go on to assert that the data amongst these studies either failed to include all variables, such as programs provided or quality of confinement, or that collection of data was done inconsistently among between the varying studies, noting that only two studies employ reliable statistical data. Therefore, the cost argument remains inconclusive. A large risk of privatization is the concern merely for profits. As a society, I think we must agree upon the fact that some issue cannot be viewed only in dollars and cents. If rehabilitating criminals is more expensive than imprisoning them, should we not still prefer rehabilitation? The largest fear for most is that there is more incentive financially to imprison than rehabilitate. To fill prisons, requires that we have criminals to fill them. As discussed in our other tracking issues topics, since the inception of the War on Drugs, incarceration rates have skyrocketed. As private prisons earn more income, they earn the ability to apply political pressure on legislation and creation of private prisons.

As an aside, personally, as someone who believes in many tenets of capitalism, I believe certain industries that are better suited to be run solely by the government, and the prison system is one of them.

(1) Tibken, Shara Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2010 "http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100413-713054.html
(2) Pratt, Travis C. and Perrone, Dina "Comparing the Quality of Confinement and Cost-Effectiveness of Public Versus Private Prisons: What We Know, Why We Do Not Know More, and Where to Go from Here

This is a feminist issue because...

I know that the television series Glee has been mentioned on the blog before, but this weeks episode had a lot to do with feminist issues. Thought I would share...

What if marijuana was decriminalized?



In our capitalistic society, everything comes down to the dollar. Looking at marijuana without a moral lens of "good vs bad", we can examine the possibilities and consequences of legalization.

In the event of decriminalization, the following would likely happen:
- A savings of $5.3 billion at the state/local level and an additional $2.4 billion federally, annually
- An additional $6.2 billion annually if marijuana was taxed comparably to tobacco and alcohol
- Destroy major source of revenue for cartels and gangs
- An enhancement in the effectiveness of our court and police systems (where current annual marijuana arrests are over 700,000 annually)
- A separation between marijuana and far more dangerous illegal drugs, cutting the "gateway" to drug dealers we currently have
- An increase in effectiveness and credibility in drug education
- An end to our over-flowing prisons, which ultimately do more damage and harm than the drug itself
- A revival of research for medical/scientific use

In these tight economic times, one could be sold on legalizing marijuana simply by the first two points alone. All points considered, however, there is a very compelling arguement to legalize and control the substance.

As feminists, we must actively support the freedoms and liberties of ALL people, including those who CHOOSE to participate in recreational marijuana consumption. It is not the place of government to choose for us what we can and cannot do to our bodies. By demystifying the drug through education, we can end the hypocrisy that surrounds this issue to the benefit of all.

More information on the topic can be found at here.

How does drug policy play into the PIC?

The infamous "War on Drugs" was first declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, two years after calling for the creation of a national drug policy, identifying drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1". Regulation of the drug cannabis began in the early 1900s at state levels, and finally became a federally unified venture in 1973 as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Below is a graph comparing the number of American cannabis related arrests between 1965 and 2008. This image can be compared to the one directly below it, showing the total number of incarcerated Americans.
incarcerated americans.png

It is interesting to compare the two images above and see how many prison cells are being filled by people who's only crime committed was handling marijuana. In 1997, about 60% of both state and federal prison cells where occupied by drug law offenders, including cannabis. This number was much higher than in previous years, and is likely even higher in 2010.

What makes these statistics even more interesting is when you consider the number of African-Americans in the prison system relative to the actual population. Black bodies are disproportionally represented in our prisons, making up 46% in 1997 (where this is only higher today).

Why is cannabis illegal in the first place?
Who benefits from this policy?
What would our prison system, or our society in general, look like if cannabis was federally decriminalized?

These are all questions that the aforementioned statistics brings up, and in further tracking issues we will look at these questions and how feminism relates to them.

Sex Wars and "Raunch Culture": A Historical Background

Within the Sex Wars paradigm of feminism, the subtopic that our group is tracking is what Ariel Levy terms "raunch culture," and this is what her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, is based upon. In order to contextualize this idea of raunch culture presented by Levy, a brief history of the Sex Wars is in order.femchauv.jpeg

The Sex Wars originated in the late 70s and early 80s largely as a dispute over feminism and its relation to pornography, sexuality, and erotica. As we have learned in class, the Sex Wars era of feminism was constituted by two diametrically opposed feminist viewpoints--namely, radical feminism and sex-radical feminism.

According to Ann Ferguson, a feminist who has documented the Sex Wars, radical feminism is encapsulated by four viewpoints:

  1. Heterosexual sexual relations generally are characterized by an ideology of sexual objectification (men as subjects/masters; women as objects/slaves) that supports male sexual violence against women.
  2. Feminists should repudiate any sexual practice that supports or normalizes male sexual violence.
  3. As feminists we should reclaim control over female sexuality by developing a concern with our own sexual priorities, which differ from men's--that is, more concern with intimacy and less with performance.
  4. The ideal sexual relationship is between full consenting, equal partners who are emotionally involved and do not participate in polarized roles. (Tong 66)

Whereas sex-radical feminism is constituted by four differing (and opposing viewpoints):

  1. Heterosexual as well as other sexual practices are by repression. The norms of patriarchal bourgeois sexuality repress the sexual desires and pleasures of everyone by stigmatizing sexual minorities, thereby keeping the majority "pure" and under control.
  2. Feminists should repudiate any theoretical analyses, legal restrictions, or moral judgments that stigmatize sexual minorities and thus restrict the freedom of all.
  3. As feminists we should reclaim control over female sexuality by demanding the right to practice whatever gives us pleasure and satisfaction.
  4. The ideal sexual relationship is between fully consenting, equal partners who negotiate to maximize one another's sexual pleasure and satisfaction by any means they choose. (Tong 66)

The viewpoints of the radical feminists, as we learned in class, are generally associated with second-wave feminism, whereas sex-radical feminism connotes third-wave feminism. However, as we learned from the excerpt from Astrid Henry's Not My Mother's Sister: Generational Conflict and Third-wave Feminism, these associations are not necessarily accurate; however, these generalizations are still part of the feminist discourse and the Sex Wars paradigm.

Nonetheless, perhaps one of the best examples of these dissenting factions within feminism culminated in the Barnard College sexuality conference of 1982:

A coalition of radical-libertarian feminists [or sex-radical feminists], including lesbian practitioners of sadomasochism and butch-femme relationships, bisexuals workers in the sex industry (prostitutes, porn models, exotic dancers), and heterosexual women eager to defend the pleasures of sex between consenting men and women, accused radical-cultural feminists [or radical feminists] of prudery. To this charge, radical-cultural feminists responded they were not prudes. On the contrary, they were truly free women who could tell the difference between "erotica," where the term denotes sexually explicit depictions and descriptions of women being integrated, constituted, or focused during loving or at least life-affirming sexual encounters, and "thanatica," where the term denotes sexually explicit depictions and descriptions of women being disintegrated, dismembered, or disoriented during hate-filled or even death-driven sexual encounters. (Tong 70)

Thus, it was in the context of this contentious issue within the feminist movement that we see the rise of "raunch culture," as described by Levy. While Levy never specifically defines raunch culture, in the introduction to her book, she documents a sequence of occurrences descriptive of the rise of raunch culture:

I would turn on the television and find strippers in pasties explaining best how to lap dance a man to orgasm. [. . .] Britney Spears was becoming increasingly popular and increasingly unclothed, and her undulating body ultimately became so familiar to me I felt like we used to go out. (Levy 1)

However, perhaps the most definitive manifestation of raunch culture--or any culture for that matter--was its general acceptance by the general public. Indeed:

This didn't end when I switched off the radio or the television or closed the magazines. I'd walk down the street and see teens and young women--and the occasional wild fifty-year-old--wearing jeans cut so low they exposed what came to be known as butt cleavage paired with miniature tops that showed off breast implants and pierced navels alike. Sometimes, in case the overall message of the outfit was too subtle, the shirts would be emblazoned with the Playboy bunny or say PORN STAR across the chest. (Levy 2)

The book documents the emergence of this culture as well as the ways in which it has thrived. Ultimately, however, this book is a critique of the culture that has emerged. Levy denounces the roles that certain women have come to hold in society insofar as they serve to subjugate certain other women. Indeed, she doesn't claim that the ways in which sexuality manifests itself in the world of sex, porn, and erotica is inherently bad, but rather the idea that while:

there are some women who feel their most sexual with their vaginas waxed, their labia trimmed, their breasts enlarged, and their garments flossy and scant. [. . .] there are many other women (and, yes, men) who feel constrained in this environment, who would be happier and feel hotter--more empowered, more sexually liberated, and all the rest of it--if they explored other avenues of expression and entertainment. (Levy 198)

Thus, Levy is seemingly advocating a culture in which pornography, sexuality, and erotica are more open to personal interpretation, personal preferences, personal desires, et cetera. She critiques what she sees to be a normalizing--and thereby disempowering--institution and discourse. Indeed, she concludes by writing:

Women's liberation and empowerment are terms feminists started using to talk about casting off the limitations imposed upon women and demanding equality. We have perverted these words. The freedoms to be sexually provocative or promiscuous is not enough freedom; it is not the only "women's issue" worth paying attention to. And we are not even free in the sexual arena. We have simply adopted a new norm, a new role to play: lusty, busty exhibitionist. There are other choices. If we are really going to be sexually liberated, we need to make room for a range of options as wide as the variety of human desire. We need to allow ourselves the freedom to figure out what we internally want from sex instead of mimicking whatever popular culture holds up to us as sexy. That would be sexual liberation. (Levy 200)


Henry, Astrid. Not My Mother's Sister: Generational Conflict and Third-wave Feminism.

Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004. Print.

"Lesbian History: The Sex Wars." Web. 20 Apr. 2010.


Levy, Ariel. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. New

York: Free, 2005. Print.

Tong, Rosemarie. Feminist Thought: a More Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder,

Colo.: Westview, 2009. Print.

Group Members: Adam Liter, Julia Wang, and Tamar Kaplan

Take Back the Night


MPIRG presents the Twin Cities 13th annual Take Back the Night rally and march to protest violence in our communities!

The event will include FREE food, entertainment from musicians and spoken word artists, personal testimony from survivors, a march in the Cedar-Riverside area, and a candlelight vigil.

Rob Weekend, Aimee Renaud, Miles Walser, and Heidi Barton Stink will be performing, and there will be speakers from WSAC, Amnesty International, the Sexual Violence Center, and more!

Make sure to check back on this event page for more specific information and the event schedule!

For more information on Take Back the Night, visit takebackthenight.org OR email us at TwinCitiesTBTN@gmail.com.

Take Back the Night
Friday, April 23rd 6pm-10pm.
Hanson Hall Plaza, West Bank, Riverside Ave. & 19th, Minneapolis


go here for more information or check out the facebook event.

Mental Health Awareness Day .. And FlashMob!

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Mental health is a feminist, activist, humanist issue!

Hey, everyone. Here is the flyer for MHAD as promised. Come anytime for a free t-shirt and PLEASE come at 12:15 and stand with us for the Flash mob.

By the way, we were wondering about the history of Flash mobs. Here's the link I found on Wikipedia.

Have you all seen the most recent Lady Gaga video, "Telephone"? In general, Lady Gaga has created quite a stir among feminists--Is Lady Gaga a feminist or isn't she?--and this video is no exception. Since a big chunk of the video takes place in prison, it seems fitting to use it to think about the feminist (im)possibilities of Lady Gaga in relation to prison and the PIC. In Are Prisons Obsolete, Angela Davis discusses how prisons loom large in our everyday lives, even as we work hard to keep them invisible, through our constant and repeated exposure to media images of the prison--in films, television shows...and videos. She writes:

But even those who do not consciously decide to watch a documentary or dramatic program on the topic of prisons inevitably consume prison images, whether they choose to or not, by the simple fact of watching movies or TV....The prison is one of the most important features of our image environment. This has caused us to take the existence of prisons for granted. The prison has become a key ingredient of our common sense. It is there, all around us. We do not question whether is should exist (18-19).
How is the prison represented in this video? What is Lady Gaga doing with (and to) the prison here? Is she reinforcing the idea of the prison as natural and as something that we should take for granted? Or is she de-naturalizing it (or is she doing both)? What ideologies does she reinforce in this video? Which ones does she subvert?

Now that you have watched the video, check out these feminist responses:



  1. Make sure to turn in your first draft of the paper (the one that we graded) along with this final revised reflection paper. 
  2. Also, if you would like your paper to be returned over the summer, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope along with your two papers (first and revised versions).

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.
  • Works cited page identifying all sources used in paper (use MLA Style)
  • Due May 6

In this 5-7 page paper, you should do a substantial revision of your first paper on feminism and whether or not it is necessary. Taking into consideration our comments on your first draft and our discussion of feminism (its histories, key issues, debates) in class and on the blog, this paper should reflect a more informed vision of feminism and its importance (or lack of importance).

As you are working on this revision, keep the following questions in mind: How have your definitions of feminism changed since you wrote your first paper? In what ways have our discussions/readings/films affected your understanding of feminism? (Why) is feminist/women's studies education important?

Your imagined audience should still be a friend or family member. Steer clear of over-generalized statements and make sure to ground your comments in specific examples from the readings, discussion, the blog, film or television clips, and/or your own experiences.

Make sure to check out Michelle's helpful writing tips here.

One More: Feminist Porn


Here is an interview with a queer-feminist director of porn.

There is a part where she says feminist porn in more about who is behind the scenes producing rather than the exact execution of the visual fantasies. Having women on all levels of production and marketing is important. Also, she mentions that people who have never liked porn before are becoming interested.

I only post this and my other porn link as a response that ALL porn and sex work is exploitative. These are two really good examples of more recent strives to offer something different in the face of a mostly male controlled industry. Think of if feminists of all stripes were to support this alternate women friendly business, and the business we could take away from mainstream stuff.

What do we face as a society if we suppress and censor all porn and prohibit sex work? Does suppression make abuse and criminalization for those with that make this choice more likely? Should we suppress some, not all, porn? Can there be good porn?

This is a Feminist Issue... Feminist Porn

crashpadseries.com (beware, it IS a porn site. read below why I posted)

I had a friend who was hired in one of the videos for this website. I honestly have not seen the full videos, but from what I hear (and you can watch clips so beware clicking once on the site!) it is a positive queer representation of porn. Keep in mind the hostile world towards queer people of color... and subsequent hard time finding and keeping employment relative to their counterparts. Maybe it should not be celebrated that resorting to making money this way as ideal. But when you're about to be on the street and don't have other options, this company seemed the way to go at the time. No, he not a porn star. It was a one time thing.

Just in case people were wondering if such a thing existed in contrast to Dworkin's critique or what is commonly referenced. I am a firm believer that sex is not always and completely about submission and objectification. I do not think that changes by videotaping it. Having alternatives is important, for it allows people to engage without the same guilt they might otherwise experience by witnessing the dominant forms most are accustomed to.

"There is power in creating images, and...for a woman of color and a queer to take that power... i don't find it exploitative; I think it's necessary".

-Shine Louise (Director)

This is a Feminist Issue.....10 yr old pregnant

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This article is very interesting. It involves rape and abortion which are two huge issues that feminists struggle with. Thoughts?


This is a Feminist Issue....Cougar Moms

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I thought this article was very interesting. I thought it dealt with feminism because of how these cougar moms are portraying themselves. What do their actions make the image of women look like? Is it degrading or is it just a different "style"? I know if I were in that 16 year olds shoes I would not be approving my moms actions. It would be embarassing and after awhile it would get old and annoying to hear everyone talking about your mom (in all sorts of contexts). Thoughts?

Cougar Moms

Group 7 Agenda

Jeffrey Cook, Zahra, Tara, Sarah, Melissa, Ye
Group 7 agenda
Feminist Debates
March 7, 2010
Reproductive Rights

The Value of Justice

To the Ladies and Gentlemen of the United States Government; as a nation we have endowed you with the unique authority and responsibility of preserving and enabling justice for this great country. We acknowledge the severity of your decisions as well as the weight that naturally comes with great responsibility and so we are here to assist you. Since the scope of issues that you face day to day are so very broad, we of Sarah Puotinen's Feminist Debates Class have created a set of values regarding reproductive rights that we implore you to consider and utilize when confronting this topic.
The reproductive rights topic is no small matter. It has been the battle ground for countless groups and organizations for hundreds of years. The objective of this movement can be somewhat vague and broad, but an organization called SisterSong illustrates the objectives beautifully.

SisterSong maintains that reproductive justice- the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls- will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives. For institutional and societal levels to end all forms of oppression, including forces that deprive us of self-determination and control over our bodies, and limit our reproductive choices to achieve undivided justice.

Following SisterSong's wonderful definition of the goals for reproductive rights we have compiled a list of specific values that require attention. Due to the broad aspects that inherently come with the topic of reproductive rights there are several issues that are left unresolved and looked over. The following list is a focused study of problems that can no longer be left unattended and uncared for.

"Our bodies are our own, our future ours to mold. No one should be allowed to interfere with them. Whatever our reproductive choices, nobody can ever deny us our right to them" -Allison Crews

1.The government has stayed clear from the heat of the reproductive research and as a result many people have suffered. It is a short and logical step for the government to consider supporting reproductive research. It is a proactive measure to provide safe and reliable contraceptives from government funded institutions. Providing equal opportunity is creating true equality.

2. We demand the consistent promotion of sexual education within our public schools. This curriculum should not be abstinence based, but a holistic one that considers all contraceptives equally including abstinence. The government should also provide access to these contraceptives.

3. The decision to reproduce is a personal choice on the part on the woman, and the government should not support policies that influence or pressure this choice through financial or any other means, including welfare.

4. We ask that the government continue to fund, and increase support for policies and funding to research that will promote innovations in women's health in order to strive for the highest quality of life for the women in our country.

Thank you.

This is a Feminist Issue... White Privilege Conference

This post is a little delayed due to emotional exhaustion after attending the 11th Annual White Privilege Conference April 7-10. For those of you who are not aware, white privilege is the unearned advantages that benefit white people (whether or not they seek them) by virtue of their skin color in a racist society. As white supremacist as that sounds, it is anything but that. We did not celebrate the white privilege we have; rather, we learned about the experiences of people of color in our racist society and how to combat this racism. This battle is a feminist issue, because with intersectionality, racism and sexism are intricately linked.


We heard multiple keynote speakers, attended workshops on a range of topics and networked with other activists. The theme this year was Health Inequities. Many of the speakers talked about the health disparities for people of color and how to nurture our souls. My favorite keynote was Dr. Joy Degruy who spoke about the Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. I could rant on and on about her speech, but instead I will direct you to her website. It's very difficult to summarize what I learned and experienced at the WPC because, for one I'm still processing my thoughts and emotions, and two, I learned sooo much! I would love to talk to anyone who has specific questions and share my notes from the weekend. Post comments or talk to me in class!
If you go to the WPC website at the link I posted above, and you like what you see, next year, the 12th Annual White Privilege Conference is being held, RIGHT HERE in Minneapolis!!
"Use privilege to create change, don't simply pass as a racist." -Dr. Degruy.


I chose to look at the website, Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance. I read an article by Kari Lyderson about prostitution and how many women are incarcerated for prostitution and many men are not prosecuted for buying sex. This article was really amazing. I think that the PIC and sex work have a lot in common in terms of how they demean women. Here are some facts about prostitution-

Girls usually enter around 14 years of age. They are also usually victims of child molestation.
In Chicago alone over 11,500 women have prostituted themselves for drugs.
At the Cook County jail 41% of the women there who were prostitutes had been sexually abused as a child.
About 50% of men who picked up prostitutes have previously been charged with some form of assault against women.
Prostitutes are raped on average of 10 times more than any other form of sex work.
Even in sex work women of color earn more than their white counterparts.
Police officers often abuse women of color who are prostituted.
Prostitutes are beaten and abused daily by their pimps.
If prostitution were legalized a black market would still develop and hurt women the same.
"The evidence of what happened in countries where prostitution was legalized is terrible," said Raphael. "In Australia they legalized prostitution and it went from 40 to 94 brothels. They are supposed to be licensed, but now there are unlicensed brothels for tourists. Asian girls are being trafficked into these brothels, girls from Thailand who are 10 or 15 years old are being brought to Sydney."
Even if prostitution were legalized women would still have to face the same emotional abuse as well as physical abuse and rape they do now. All of these things like rape ad abuse are illegal yet our court systems choose and will continue to choose not to prosecute the men who commit these crimes because of this countries obsession with believing and perpetuating rape myths.
Prostitution does not exist because it is a woman's choice; it exists because men, as a class, demand a sub-human group of people who are available for the unconditional sexual service. These men who buy and sell women, who treat women as slaves, are not incarcerated. This is a problem.

I found this article on msn.com and was instantly curious. While this doesn't tie directly into our class discussion about marriage as an institution, I think it still applies as a feminist issue because it deals with gender relations and roles, among other things.

First, I noticed that all of the couples pictured are heterosexual, and although there are couples of different races, there was only one interracial couple (and they looked like they were having serious issues). This speaks volumes of what the article is telling the reader is normal, healthy and attractive.

Apart from the subliminal messages, the direct message- the rules- were ridiculous. I'm all for giving some suggestions to a partner: yeah, help me clean up, that'd be great, and its nice to hold my hand and give me hugs and not be an ice-creature in general, but rule numbers 8 (surprise her) and 9 (apologize) took me by surprise, made me wrinkle my nose and say, really? These suggestions- write down reminders to do something nice on a weekly basis and apologize even if you weren't wrong- are just plain ridiculous and insinuate assumptions about males. These rules typecast men as beings unaware of women's needs and desires, that men need reminders to act decent (or civil, if you read rule number 2- respect your in-laws), and that they'll lie to shut their partner up (saying sorry when you're not sorry is just plain insincere). What does this do for men? And how does this affect their partners? What does it even mean, then, to be a good husband?

This is a feminist issue because... Hospital visitation

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I came across this article on cnn.com about Obama asking the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule preventing hospitals from denying visitation to gay and lesbian couples. This is a feminist issue because it deals with equal rights between individuals, addressing sexual orientation and gender identification as barriers to services and privileges normally accessible to heterosexual individuals. I think that this is a step toward equal rights. However, as the article mentions, the lack of hospital visitation has been used as an argument in favor of gay marriage. I am curious what others think of Obama's order- will this make it easier to legally recognize gay marriage, or will this hinder the movement?

Direct Engagement: Question 11 - Prison Industrial Complex

While I found browsing Critical Resistance, Women And Prison: A Site For Resistance, and Corrections enlightening, I agree with grapefruit's sentiment, that something was left to be desired. For me, this deficiency was keenly felt in terms of citations. The groups make many strong accusations, which may certainly be true, but I had difficulty finding sources for them.

I am not trying to be nit-picky, for lack a better phrase, and overshadow the hard work of the members of these initiatives and their persuasive arguments for prison reform. Instead, I worry that anti-reform readers will discredit this hard work, and the goals of these groups won't be realized. Take, for example, an excerpt from the CR Statement on Policing:

When people die at the hands of the police, more often than not, the state concludes that the use of force was reasonable [according to whom?]. Police review boards are completely useless.

First, this statement would be much more persuasive if statistics on use of force rulings were presented. Second, while it may or may not be true, I'm not sure that calling review boards "completely useless" adds credence to CR's argument.

For another example, Women and Prison: A Site For Resistance had an excellent draft of a Bill of Health Rights for Incarcerated Girls, but some of the rights are in need of quantification if they are to be implemented:

5. Proper Hygiene. We believe girls should have more time to bathe, quality bathing products, as well as clean clothes and towels more often.

While I certainly agree that incarcerated girls deserve the right to proper hygiene, neither the current nor desired situations are described - how much time is "more time to bathe"?

Direct Engagement Question 11


I explored the link under "women and prison: a site for resistance." This site had a lot of interesting items to check out. One thing that caught my attention was the calls from home project. This project involves people calling in and recording uplifting messages for inmates to receive during the holiday season. This made me curious because I had never thought of doing nice gestures for people in prison. It made me think about the fact that while I had never really thought about it before, just because someone is in prison does not mean that they do not deserve anything nice to be done to them. Some people do not even deserve to be in prison, and it is really nice that people have realized this and come up with ways to help motivate those behind bars. I read the interview with Yolanda Mills and that also made me very curious. It made me wonder about how people who have had such a long bad history can decide to turn their lives around. I had also never thought about the fact that prison can be a place that some people want to be because it has better living conditions than they have otherwise. The interview as a whole made me curious as to how people can treat others so poorly.

Direct Engagement 11

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I decided to look through the Critical Resistance Website. I found this to be a very interesting site. In high school, the idea of abolishing imprisonment was brought to our attention a lot. It was something that our teachers liked to discuss. When thinking about imprisonment and if it is productive or counter- productive, I don't really know. This is where my curiosity comes in. I am for a better world, but sometimes harsh punishment is what is needed for the really "bad guys." The Critical Resistance vision is to abolish imprisonment completely. I wonder if this is even possible. They mention instead of prison for criminals, they create places for criminals to get back on track in life. Maybe this would work, but for some, it seems as if they were born criminals. When let go, they are right back in jail a few months later. If coming upon a repeated criminal, I think the tough punishment is needed. We can only deal with and help one person for so long, until we can't help them anymore. The Critical Resistance website has very good ideas, and i agree with making changes. But I wonder if it is truly realistic to completely abolish imprisonment?

Direct Engagement #11


While looking over the Women and Prisons site, I came across a couple of articles that made me curious. The first was about illegal strip-searches. As an Illinoisan, I know that Chicago cops have a reputation for being crooked, but the fact that there were over 3,000 women filing a case about this seems ridiculous. Adding to the injustice, the strip-searches were used as a form of humiliation and degradation, and most men were not strip-searched as much as women were. The excuse was that women have more orifices to conceal a weapon. The sheriff was male; had there been more female officers, would the illegal strip-searches still taken place?

The second article was about transgender individuals in prisons, specifically male to female (MTF) individuals. The amount of MTF's to be incarcerated within their lifetime is about two-thirds, dwarfing the African-American male incarceration statistic of one-fourth. This is because they have a hard time finding a job and are often pushed towards underground economy activities such as prostitution and drug-dealing. Also, MTF's are placed in male prisons with the general population, becoming targets of rape and molestation. With someone going in for larceny or some other non-violent offense, he/she may leave HIV-positive.

Direct Engagement 11 - PIC

I looked through the "about us" section on Critical Resistance.

Critical Resistance is a movement which seeks to abolish the prison system. The use of the word "abolition" is supposed to be analogous to its use during the fight to abolish slavery: just like slavery, the prison system doesn't need to be reformed, it needs to be abolished. I think this is a very appropriate analogy because many have likened the US prison system to US slavery. This and other statements and beliefs the site listed made me interested and relatively on board with their cause, but as I read on I found a few problems.

Namely, they cannot seem to articulate what the alternatives to a prison system would be. I understand that a low percentage of people are incarcerated for extremely morally reprehensible crimes (like rape, murder, child abuse), and that the majority of the prison population consists of those who were, so to speak, victims of their environment. The latter category are those who, arguably, should not be in prison and whose crimes could have been prevented had they lived in an environment with access to things like food, shelter, employment and education. However, I cannot wrap my head around a society with no prisons for the former category; here is where I think that perhaps reform is a better option.

Critical Resistance did not have any ideas, that I could find, for what to do with people who commit the aforementioned morally reprehensible crimes. I do, however, think the US prison system is a pretty good example of how not to operate. A person need not be stripped of their humanity or rights as citizens (I will never understand why felons shouldn't be able to vote) when they are incarcerated. I am curious about alternative prison systems and about what exactly a prison-less society would look like.

Noam Chomsky Talks about Porn

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We have been having a discussion about porn being a choice and since women are paid to do it it is alright. I think that Noam Chomsky, a respected media critic, sums it up in a really good way...more to come on this subject in out presentation on sex wars....


If you attend this event and then post a question or comment about it on our blog, you can get 5 points added to your total blog grade!

Direct Engagement 11

As I explore Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance, so many things make me curious. I focused on the section entitled "Motherhood and Mothers in Prison," and was absolutely appalled at what I read. In Kimberly Burke's Do I Have to Stand for This? , I could not believe how poorly the author's son was treated by the prison guard. Why do the guards have such hatred for the inmates? I have to believe that, unsatisfied with their own lives, the guards feel the need to take out all of their anger and frustration in the one way they can--against the inmates. However, it made me curious as to why the guard needed to "continually spew[ing] hatred with her eyes" towards Burke's son. Just because the son is a child of an inmate, the guard has no right to harass him in such a way.

I was also fascinated with and horrified by Rachel Roth's piece entitled "Pregnant, in Prison and Denied Care." I cannot believe how trivially the pregnant inmates are treated. I have to wonder why the guards, nurses, and other employees at the prisons or jails feel as though the medical needs of the inmates should go unattended to, especially when there is the life of another at stake. Furthermore, I am curious as to why there are so few rights afforded to incarcerated women. I understand that when one breaks the law, he or she forfeits some rights, however the right to have one's basic health needs met should never be taken away, especially when most of the women who are incarcerated, according to Roth, are "serving time--or stuck in jail because they are too poor to make bail--for nonviolent crimes." Roth also notes that "institutions of confinement are not required to report the pregnancy outcomes of the women in their custody." This, I cannot believe. I am appalled and curious as to how these institutions are simply not required to report the births or miscarriages of the women in their custody. How can society work to better these institutions for the women who are incarcerated in them if the data surrounding the facilities are not made public, let alone recorded? A very interesting and dismaying topic indeed.

Direct Engagement 11

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As I begin to read about the Prison Industrial Complex I am interested in the intersections of race, sexuality, class, and gender. The inequalities within the system are very evident based on the statistics of the groups of people held in prisons across America. Angela Davis talks about how the numbers of people in prisons have risen exponentially in recent years. It seems as though imprisonment is how the government has chosen to attempt to solve societal problems. But rather than providing services or outreach to those who need help, these individuals are being locked up and forgotten about. The racial inequalities in prison is alarming, as over 1/3 of young black men in this country are in prison. One could argue that this is present-day form of slavery. It's obvious that the system is set up for these groups to fail and struggle, and that is injustice. In many cases, money can keep individuals out of incarceration, which highlights the class oppression occurring. Lower income groups fill the prison cells. I am curious how the inequalities play out within the prison. Are women and men treated equally? Are certain groups being handled more aggressively by the guards? The drastic increase of inmates is an issue to be questioned and evaluated. What has changed?

I appreciated Angela Davis' critiques on the Prison Industrial Complex's recent boom--I hadn't known what that PIC term really meant, and she highlighted many interesting issues from the sheer numbers of people incarcerated to the many inmate abuses that occur in the prison system. What I found most interesting in her piece was her initial discussion of imprisonment ideology; she points out the pervasiveness of imprisonment as a solution to social problems, and the lack of evidence that imprisonment in fact ameliorates crime and improves life "on the outside" or "in the free world". I am reminded again of the quote Sara presented to class the other day; if we jump to the question of "why gender inequality in prisons?" or "why abuses in the prison system?", we might miss the question of "why prison?" in the first place.
It would be pertinent to evaluate the reasons that imprisonment seems to be the best, default option for crimes or social deviancy. That alone is a hugely important issue that is so often taken for granted, but Davis doesn't quite explore this topic in enough depth to pose viable alternatives. How might we envision a society without prisons? How might "crimes" be defined differently; how might perpetrators of crimes continue to be a part of society without relegating them to prisons?
Although Davis discusses abuses of prisoners who may be in prison over something she suggests to be almost superficial or sympathetic ("non-violent drug use" as she mentions in the sound clip, or violence against an abusive partner, as she mentions in her article), she doesn't really address more serious, complex crimes, that in some ways might justify imprisonment in the minds of the public (such crimes may include the murder children, rape, etc.) Without a doubt, we have some serious problems in addressing mental illness and criminality in this country, but it does not make the conundrum of how to address serious crimes any easier to address. Is there a point at which a crime could be considered serious enough to justify imprisonment? Could imprisonment be rehabilitative, if the PIC were reevaluated and reformed?

Direct Engagement- week 11

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I looked around the Critical Resistance website, read the FAQs and was curious, why is this a feminist issue?

I understand that the female prison population has risen exponentially in past decades, but looking at the entire construct of the PIC through the lens of the Critical Resistance website, the issue is not women offending, it is offending in general. The prison system is problematic because lawmakers get votes by vocalizing they will be "tough on crime" and lock up more and more individuals for minor offenses. The prison population increases and prisons become overcrowded, resources get used up and recidivism rates rise, creating a cyclical effect.

My understanding of Critical Resistance's objective is to acknowledge that the current PIC is not effective and should be abolished. While their intention is noble, I have noticed obvious concern over violent offenders- murderers, rapists and pedophiles are recognized as dangerous, but what should be done with them is controversial. Instead of abolishing the prison system, it needs to be reformed. By maintaining a system of higher accountability, as Critical Resistance desires, but keeping prisons as an option for violent offenders could allow a place to attempt to reform these individuals.

I am curious to know more about corrections as applied to solely female offenders. How is parole, incarceration and the court system different between genders? Why are there differences, if there are any?

Reading the FAQs of the Critical Resistance website piqued my curiosity. Essentially, this website represents an organization called Critical Resistance, which "seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure. As such, our work is part of global struggles against inequality and powerlessness. The success of the movement requires that it reflect communities most affected by the PIC. Because we seek to abolish the PIC, we cannot support any work that extends its life or scope."

The FAQs of this website were mostly refutations of typical arguments against such a prison-less society that Critical Resistance advocates. The arguments seemed largely to center around the idea that the PIC is simply reactionary. For this reason, it seems to me that there is an interesting parallel between this and preventative medicine. However, in this instance, Critical Resistance advocates abolition of the PIC completely, whereas preventative medicine proponents simply advocate a larger focus on treating for potential diseases and illnesses before they occur and not getting rid of the specialists who treat these diseases and illnesses when they do occur.

This, then, brings us to the crux of the argument. What do you do when an "outbreak" does occur? How are you supposed to deal with a murderer if there is no prison system? A rapist? A pedophile? Indeed, this is even a frequently asked question that Critical Resistance answers. Nevertheless, Critical Resistance does not seem to offer an alternative other than reevaluating the value of the existing system. This is a recurring theme throughout the remainder of the FAQs.

While I agree with the arguments that Critical Resistance makes, I am not sure how exactly they plan to accomplish their goal. If they cannot offer a substantive alternative to prisons, how are they going to convince the rest of the United States? Thus, reading these FAQs made me curious, what would happen to someone who murdered someone else in a society without prisons? What would be the standard procedure? Should there be a standard procedure?

What is ... the Prison Industrial Complex?

You can also access this map on our Web Vista site and here.


Also, check out this sound clip of Angela Davis discussing the Prison Industrial Complex:

Week 11: 4/20-4/22

corrections.pngOPTION 1: Pick one the websites/blogs listed below that address the Prison Industrial Complex and then do the following in your direct engagement:

the sites: critical resistance, women and prison: a site for resistance, or corrections

  • Spend some time (around 20 minutes or so) exploring the site.
  • In a 200 word post, describe a few things on the site (or on specific parts of it) that made you curious and why.



OPTION 2: How do the readings 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? 

PIC Research Summary

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The direction of my research about the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC from now on) took many different paths. I began by reviewing an old standard in academic theory: Michelle Foucault's Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. With no clear idea of where I wanted to go with this, I went on to read about women and the transgendered and crime, the War on Drugs, and exploited prison labor. It was when I began to read some of Angela Y.
Davis's work on the PIC that I discovered the Critical Resistance
Collective (CRC), the only organization in the US that works to eradicate the PIC and its various arms: incriminating legislation, police, surveillance, etc. While reading their collective work, Abolition Now! Ten Years of Strategy and Struggle Against the Prison Industrial Complex, I was struck by how many of their arguments threw a wrench into Foucault's thesis. Clearly, this old academic standard that I've read in so many of my classes needs quite a bit more criticism than I have ever heard it given. Hence, conversation and criticism between Foucault's Birth of the Prison and the CRC's Abolition Now! has become the focus and culmination of my research. In the following paragraphs, I plan to discuss in what ways the arguments of the CRC complicate those of Foucault. I will end with questions raised by the CRC through their struggles and the material reality of their movement.

Before I begin, it is important that I summarize the ideas that my arguments are based off of and the terminology I will use to articulate my points.

My entire engagement with the PIC rests on the idea that what is a crime and who are criminals is not always self-evident, that people (especially poor, young, non-white, immigrant, and queer people) are intentionally criminalized and pathologized by the state and its various fascist arms. This is done in order to create populations of caged people which can be profited off of through the supply of cheap labor and the production of damaged humans, which in turn will maintain and expand the flow of prison workers. The PIC and its brutality are justified through giving people the illusion that disappearing human beings into prisons solves social problems, such as gang violence and domestic violence (well, at least they're off the street!), and with the belief that prisons reform rather than damage people. Indeed, most never question the legitimacy of the PIC, because for a person to be in prison, "they must have done something wrong." Therefore, all arguments I put forth will be made with the conviction that the PIC is a tool of slavery, racism, patriarchy, and colonialism and must not be simply "reformed," but done away with entirely.

Some important terms:
panoptacism: a method of surveillance which motivates surveyed subjects to self-police. For example, the camera on the street corner - any person walking past cannot be sure whether the camera is real or not, or whether or not there is someone watching them through it. Thus, the subject regulates their own behavior.

materiality: having to do with the tangible, the "real;" material realities are people's lived experiences; material complexity can express many things about bodies and objects (for example, the massive immigration of micro organisms); the material and feasible reality of dismantling the PIC

biopower: the interest of the state and capitol to evaluate, measure, catalogue, survey, manipulate, and influence mass or specific populations of people

necropower: the power to decide life or death

the docile body: the target and object of power; easily recognizable; easy to categorize; the "working unit" that helps run the "well oiled machine;" subjected, practiced, and disciplined bodies (people)


Critical Resistance Collective, Abolition Now! Ten Years of Strategy and
Struggle Against the Prison Industrial Complex. New York, NY. The CR10
Publications Collective. 2008.

Foucault, Michelle. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage.
New York, NY. 1979.

Michelle Foucault's thesis in The Birth of the Prison is that in the 18th century, disciplinary power used by the state to accomplish its ends and regulate its subjects went through a transformation. Through an admittedly sloppy historical illustration, he argues that disciplinary power went from being a brutal public display of the state's power in which transgressors were horrendously punished in front of on-looking spectators to a muted and professionalized business in which the object was reform, not punishment, and the public face of the state became the glossiness of the courtroom and the detention center. Thus, the state's disciplinary power moved from focusing on the bodies of criminals to the souls of criminals; from branding criminals with white hot irons to having them participate in "productive" yard and industrial labor, educational and religious programs. In the new order, Foucault argues, the kind of brute force exerted on bodies that had been used before was not necessary due to the increased sophistication of methods of surveillance and containment facilities and the confessional, of which panopticism is one; things like necropower became less under the jurisdiction of the executioner and more under the auspices of the judge. This new order dedicated to saving the souls of the damned and the delinquent was motivated by the development of biopower, in which the state came to take a supposed interest in the welfare, safety, and, most importantly, the productivity of its citizens. The further development of biopower paralleled the development of the docile body and its accompanying tenants: the uniform which marks the worker, the specialization of knowledge and labor, the rhetoric of partitioning (a place for everyone, everyone in their place) and the organizing of small things (the will of individuals) to perform for the greater things (the will of god and the state).

There are many things that are missing from Foucault's analysis of disciplinary power, not least of which is his failure to address the rise of violent military imperialism at the same time the birth of the prison as a reforming institution in Europe was happening and the new formation of the criminal directly tied to race and status in colonization. Foucault may make apt observations as to the development of biopower, panoptacism, and the docile body. However, the linear understanding of historical "progression" by which he presents these observations, his claim that the state no longer has a stake in overt brutality and that violence is no longer spectative are complicated by arguments presented by members of the CRC. In her essay COPS and the Visual Economy of Punishment, Ofelia Cuevas reviews the revitalization and explosive expansion of racial punishment as entertainment. Speaking of shows like COPS and police brutality and murders, she writes:

"Every evening on television, in news and dramatic programming, policed and punished Black and Brown bodies are part of the popular landscape of state-sanctioned domination and violence. So common and accepted, so significantly mundane is the brutality of the police against raced communities that the reality in which they are displayed before us becomes a social hallucination. The 'racist disposition of the visible, which will prepare and achieve its own inverted perceptions under the rubric of what is seen,' according to Judith Butler can turn a clear vision of police brutality into a myth of 'police vulnerability.' Thus the violence enacted upon Rodney King, who was clearly beaten by police, becomes not a case of state brutality but a reality so twisted that it is seen as a case of police victimization . . . We no longer stand as witnesses to brutality, we gather in front of televisions (and computer screens) as public entertained by racial punishment," (pg. 42).

Thus, Foucault's assertion that power is no longer overt, but primarily covert, is dashed by the construction of the policed as violator, the state as violated, and the public as spectator in television crime dramas and the news. Indeed, this harkens to the construction of entertained and policed bodies and the state in the "lynch mobs of yore." It would seem that Foucault's analysis of state power is decidedly unmarked by race, class, or gender, and, furthermore, that it is based upon a dismissively selective review of historic European documents. The linear progression of history that Foucault presents, in which persecution of "criminals" moves from being solidly about brutality and elimination to cleverly "making use" of undesirables can be complicated merely by a review of European vagrancy laws. In his essay, Safer Cities Unplugged, Peter White writes,

"Vagrancy laws - which happen to be the original name for today's quality-of-life policing strategy - have roots that extend as far back as 14th century England. The original purpose was to create a substitute form of serfdom [slavery] by legislatively tying workers to the master's land. By the middle of the 17th century, and up until the 19th century, the number of 'masterless' men and families that crowded the streets led to a change of emphasis in vagrancy laws. The new thrust was to create methods of control and ways to banish those that were undesirable, financial burdens, nuisances, and potential criminals," (pg. 72).

As we have seen, observations and arguments put forth by Cuevas and White complicate Foucault's thesis that modern expression of state power is covert and focused only on the soul, and furthermore, that the PIC's investment in organized slavery is a new development. Rather, state brutality has ascended to the level of mass media entertainment, and the creation and exploitation of criminals in prison complexes is part of an on-going system spanning at least hundreds of years.

For the CRC, and for many others, the abolition of the PIC and the possibility for a new way of life is not a pipedream characterized by impractical idealism. Rather, it is an urgently pressing matter; a matter that involves revolutionary action as the only way to make an end of an endless cycle of capitalistic and imperial violence that has always victimized the underbelly of the empire. Indeed, the structures of capitalism and colonization that produce marginalized and impoverished groups, and thus, produce criminals, give critical emphasis to the realization that "working with what we already have," doesn't work. The material existence, resistance, and reality of the movements of people in the CRC and their affiliates should serve as an example of the practicality of revolutionary politics. Rather than approaching massive obstacles to human well-being with diminished expectations for social transformation, the CR10 Publications Collective writes,

". . . as many organizers have demonstrated, we are not only struggling to tear down the cages of the PIC, but also to abolish the actions of policing, surveillance, and imprisonment that give the PIC its power. We are also reminded that abolition is the creation of possibilities for our dreams and demands for health and happiness - for what we want, not what we think we can get," (pg. xii, emphasis added).

For the PIC, once one has come to a place in which it is reasonable to demand health and happiness that is integral to dismantling and rebuilding the established order, and when abolition is not only the goal, but the strategy as well, all that remains is possibility. I would like to close simply with a list of questions for consideration raised by members of the CRC in an interview. Hopefully, these questions will guide us in a direction where we think openly and proactively about possibility, and refuse to have our dreams dashed by the myth of what is "realistic."

• How do we question all violence (including state violence) in our daily lives?
• How might we form institutions that protect people from violence without relying on police, surveillance, and prisons?
• How might we form institutions that are not based on ideas of nation-state governance?
• At what points do structural and revolutionary organizing and everyday life meet?
• How can we establish space to express dissent without punishment?
• How can we establish accountability for all the violence we commit upon each other?
• How can we work on a "human level" without recreating romanticized ideas of "community?"
• How might we expand the ideas of abolition rather than the organization itself?
• How do we form coalitions?
• How can we think outside of colonial criminalization?

Normativity is not the problem...

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After reading the article on normativity, it got me thinking about what normal is and how it relates to society. As the "Key Terms: Normativity" article states, scholars and activists have developed the concept of "normativity" as a means of understanding the ties between social or political power and moral norms. This got me thinking and there will always be "normal" in a society. There will always be traditions, expectations, typical behavior that can be expected...this is what defines our culture and separates it from others. This is essentially a part of what defines us as a people whether you like it or not. Take a look at the Hmong culture, who have no origination or "homeland" and you can see the psychological effects on them as a people that has lasted for generations. Effects that we take for granite every day. So to me, having norms is not the problem. It is going to happen whether you detest them, are in favor of them, or think they are unfair or unjust.

What the problem is in my opinion is how people react and treat the people that they don't understand. It is on a more personal level. Anybody with half a brain can chose not to like someone, or view them negativity simply because they don't agree with the decisions they make in life. But who are we to judge them? Who are we to compare them to ourselves? What gives a person a right to hate a person because they are a homosexual, or a person of color, or do not wish to have children, or in any scenario different then what is common today. To me, the change is not in the structure, or in the average life of an American that is similar to most everybody else. It is with the "average" people learning to accept others who they don't identify with or even agree with in their life-style decisions. Perhaps the problem isn't the government, or a patriarchal society, or the normal people. Perhaps the problem is you and I.

Happy Gender Freedom Day!

The Transgender Commission has declared Wednesday, April 14, 2010 to be University of Minnesota Gender Freedom Day. We hope it is a day where we can openly consider & celebrate the ways in which we all benefit from expanding the possibilities of how we can express our femininity, our masculinity, and our ways of being and being gendered that transcend those concepts.

Download a simple Gender Freedom Idea Kit here. One important question to ask yourself and your class/dept/organization on Gender Freedom Day might be:

"What would it be like if you felt completely free to express yourself, your body and your gender without any consequences, restraints or limits? How would the world change along with this freedom?"

Gender Freedom Day Flier.jpg

Feminist Family Values...

Our group: Molly, Corey, Danielle, Ava... and I fogot the other person's name. Sorry.

And I lost the sheet, but the general idea is as follows:

Inspiring curiousity especially in children and young people. Questioning hierarchy and unequal distribution of power in any relationship is important and can help to understand how systematic oppression operates in part.

Allowing people to explore outside narrow boundaries of gender construction without condemnation or ridicule. This is important especially for young people who are developing an identity; the goal being to allow individuals to express whatever come more naturally and less pressure to conform to normative external pressures.

Family Value

Equality: In the household, is important that each and every member of the family be part of decision making and performing tasks

Marriage: Marriage is institution whereby two people share each other's life, live in harmony, not bounded by society's norm and so forth, regardless of gender, class, status quote, or race.

Child bearing: one has the right to choose whether or not to bear a child whether they are in wedlock or not regardless of gender, class, and race.

Yein, Zahra, Abeer

Mobius Strip

After reading the Mobius Strip, I was interested in thinking about if eroticism is empowering or demeaning to them. Barton spent a large amount of time and effort into interviewing and understanding people who work in the erotic dancing industry. She details the oppressive methods of management, the insults women receive from the customers and the entitlement that the patrons feel to harass and grope as they see fit. She arrives at the conclusion that early on in the work; women enjoy the work, and enjoy making the amount of money that can be made. There is a feeling of empowerment early on. However, as the work goes on, they feel demeaned and disillusioned with their work. This reminds of me any profession, early on there is excitement over making money and enjoying the work. Eventually, mostly everyone feels disillusioned with their work. I think the larger issue here, is not that erotic dancing is demeaning, it is the shady system and where it operates in our society. If the government and society stopped pushing erotic dancing to the fringe, men would not feel it is acceptable to abuse emotionally and physically the workers. I think this is an issue of capitalism, not out of sexism or an issue of the work itself. This area of society does not need to be destroyed or pushed further out of our view, but brought in and elucidated. Unionizing and ending the reign of shady managers and owners who abuse their workers should be the goal, not ending the work that can be empowering for so many and a good source of income for many.

Feminist Family Values

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My group, Mitchell, David, Melissa, and Tara decided on these 3 things as important feminist family values.

1. Community- Support for families which can include things like outreach, support and help with food, shelter, day care and other things that can help women and families become successful. Also de-constructing some of the unnecessary privacy around children and raising children.

2. The choice for women to have and not have children and still be seen as care-givers. De-constructing hetoro-normative roles.

3. Allowing Adults to enter into a binding contract which allows them to understand the seriousness of marriage but also offers these benefits to all people, gay or straight. Then we can have a discussion about how marriage is problematic as a governmental institution.

I came across this article on CNN.com about women Hugh Hefner has rejected from Playboy magazine. I think it ties in with what we are reading about for class- sex work and its ramifications.

What is problematic about this article, and the larger construct of sex work, is that the author purports that a woman's worth is measured by whether or not one publication chooses to publish nude photos of her. "It has gotta hurt to hear that no one wants to check out your goody basket," the author, Olivia Allin, writes. What?! Yeah, it would be hurtful to hear that, but a statement like that implies that women are a commodity- a goody basket, no less. Women's bodies have become commodities in the sex industry- people pay for pictures, to see women take off their clothes, to perform sexual favors. Where is the equivalent industry for men, where women pay for pictures of men, etc.? And how do we change this perception of women as a consumer item?

What is more, who cares that these women were rejected by Playboy? Is this the ultimate measure of who is a sexy female? And since when is sex appeal, status or worth reduced to one type of women reflected in a single publication?

I think it is problematic and unfortunate that an article like this is popular (it was on the "most viewed" feed), but more problematic and unfortunate that women would be upset that one individual decided they do not measure up to some unrealistic standard.

Direct Engagement


One aspect that I found incredibly provoking was in the Barton Mobius Strip article. On pages 589-590, April, a premed student, talked about one of her experiences while dancing.

"I was single and everything, and I was kind of depressed, and he comes in and we go up to the VIP room. We're up there 20 minutes and he has to leave because he's having a New Year's Eve party and he gives me $500. So that was pretty cool. Because that doesn't happen as much as people think. I mean that was 20 minutes of work--$500. And I didn't do anything. I was dancing for him. I was a neurology major at the time and we were talking about the structure of the brain while Iwas dancing for him and it was really weird. It was actually the least sexual dance I'd ever done. We were sitting there talking about serotonin levels and dopamine levels and neurons and all this stuff, the limbic system, the temporal lobe, the parietal lobe, all this stuff. I'm sitting here dancing for him and he just gives me $500 and leaves."

This idea of receiving payment for one's entire being is intriguing for me. While obviously the $500 was for her physical appearance and whatnot, it was also compensation for her mind. He appreciated, or at least seemed to appreciate, her as a whole entity. Does this reflect on what the occupation could one day become? Or does this more so reflect on the man himself and his personality?

Also, another interesting aspect of all of this arises: what is the reason for which the occupation of dancing arises? Barton says in her conclusion that "interviews suggested that women do begin stripping for the financial benefits." She also mentions "The fact that stripping is such a lucrative occupation, relative to other low-skill jobs, traps many women in the industry, a consequence of our capitalist patriarchy." Thus, comparing bell hooks' stance to end the capitalist patriarchy to the reasons for which stripping exists raises interesting parallels. If Barton is indeed correct in her statement that a majority of women go into the industry for the monetary gains, then would bell hooks' solution of deconstructing capitalism bring about an end to a majority of dancing?

This is a feminist issue...selling/marketing "freedom"

Throughout the semester, we have been critically engaging with the concept of freedom and how it functions as a goal for feminists and their political projects. The freedom to choose; the freedom to work (or not work); the freedom to be...you and me; and now, in our "sex wars" section, the freedom to determine our own sexual lives/experiences/labor. Should freedom be a goal--and what does it mean (and at what/whose expense) is freedom promoted? All of these (and many more) questions were swimming around in my head as I watched this recent Special K commercial. Check it out here:

"Ladies, raise your spoons"...is this the legacy of feminism? The freedom to eat granola that won't make us fat?

Issue 4: The Sex Wars: Erotic vs. Pornographic?

There are all sorts of ways to discuss pornography as a contentious issue.

• Is pornography harmful to women? How?
• Should it be free speech? Is it a question of censorship?
• How should we regulate pornography? Who gets to decide what counts as pornography and how it should be regulated?
• Does pornography encourage/foster/promote violence? Is it violence--if so, what kind?
• What is pornography? What distinguishes the pornographic from the erotic?

For class on Tuesday (4/13), we are looking at pornography in relation to the erotic and the sex wars within feminism in the late 70s and early 80s. How is the debate framed? What is at stake in focusing exclusively on the pornographic and ignoring the erotic?

Some more questions: Is it possible to have a radical theory of sexuality that isn't reduced to the binary--erotic or pornographic? What are the implications for thinking about sex exclusively in terms of the exploitation/oppression of women? Are there other models for sexuality that envision sex/sexual expression/erotic as empowering or affirming as opposed to purely exploitative and violent?

What is at stake in reducing the debate to porn as something one is either for or against? As something that is either good or bad? As exploitative or empowering? How does sex/sexuality get left out of the discussion? How does this erotic as an expansive term get ignored? Where does pleasure fit into all of this?

Liberty versus Equality: again, coming into conflict...remember Dorothy Roberts and her discussion of liberty and equality in Killing the Black Body? This division produces a binary that mires us in an unwinnable debate.

Liberty: Freedom to choose/control over own life
Equality: Guarantee of certain rights/dismantling of oppressive systems and structures.

Even more questions for discussion: Who gets to decide what is good and bad sex? What is consensual and what is not? Who frames the debate? How does the framing of the debate exclude certain perspectives/important questions? Are women purely victims? Can they be agents--do they exist only as sexual objects? Can they be sexual subjects? How are we encouraged to deny the "yes" within ourselves (a la Lorde, "The uses of the erotic")? How is women's sexuality represented within pop culture? Where does morality fit into all of this? What sorts of values are we encouraging or discouraging in how we frame the debate as one between the erotic vs. pornographic?

Check out the following brief introduction to Audre Lorde ("The Uses of the Erotic") and her work as it is concerned with linking together communities who are fighting in the same war, but in different ways and from different locations. What is at stake in the "sex wars"? Are there ways to rethink how to understand sex/sexuality that enable feminists to envision themselves as connected and at the "edge of each other's battles" instead of as on opposite sides of struggle, pitted against each other?

Direct Engagement 10


The only experience I have with this topic is a memoir I read previously this year on my long car ride back to Minneapolis from my home town after winter break called Candy Girl by Diablo Cody. She discusses her experiences of moving from a Chicago suburb to Minneapolis and becoming a stripper. The findings of the reading Dancing on the Mobius Strip reflected my perception of stripping as I read this book surprisingly well. At first, strippers seem to feel like they hold all of the power and on nights they make a lot of money they feel like goddesses. However as time goes on, these women generally experience a decline in self-confidence as found in the reading. As I read Candy Girl this feeling of power and then a decline from it was very apparent. To be honest, when first reading the book I was wondering to myself why aren't more women strippers. The life sounded great. Cody had day job she went to and stripped a few nights a week. It began like a hobby to her; a fun little secret to get her through the monotony of life. Then as she began to take her stripping more seriously and devote more and more of her time to it, that power trip started to go away, as did my awe of the life. She went to more clubs to experience all the diversity the industry had to offer. Each new club seemed more and more disgusting to me by the end. Upon finishing the book I felt like I had some sort of perspective into the industry however narrow it may have been, and I was surprised at how much more there is to it than I had ever known, and a bit grossed out by all of it.

This weeks readings as well as the book I had read (which I would recommend to anyone interested in this topic) have all led me to the same conclusion about the sex industry. Looking into this industry from the feminist perspective I try to ask myself whether this industry can be empowering for women or whether it is demeaning. While all of this literature has shown that the industry can be a double-edged sword, I have still personally come to the conclusion that it is not a positive thing. Even when the women feel empowered, this feeling is attained from making men subordinates who view the women as goddesses making the women feel superior. It seems as though the women go straight from feeling superior to feeling inferior. There is no level ground in this industry. Somebody is always dominating over another in order to feel power. Feminism is about equality form everybody and this industry does not seem like a place that allows any room for equality. The only way to feel empowered is by thinking somebody else is beneath you. While it is good for women to feel powerful and good about themselves in a sexual way, I do not believe stripping is the healthiest outlet for these feelings simply because the way they are attained is no better than the men who are demeaning towards women.

Erotic vs. Pornographic


In Audre Lorde's Uses of the Erotic, she explains why erotic and pornographic are opposites. Erotic is derived from the Greek words eros, which is the personification of love in all of its aspects and creative power and harmony. Lorde describes the erotic as, "an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves" (570). Pornography, on the other hand, as described by Lorde, "is a direct denial of the power of erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling" (570). Lorde writes that erotic gives us the opportunity to have the power by sharing deep feelings with others, while pornography, as Andrea Dworkin explains in Against the Male Flood, through sexual subordination, and more specifically the hierarchy of it, allows males to have power over women (30). The erotic is to feel and embrace one's emotions, while the pornographic suppresses these feelings. To conclude, Audre Lorde says, "To refuse to be conscious of what we are feeling at any time, however comfortable that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, and to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the absurd" (574).

Direct Engagement 10

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Having delved into this topic knowing near to nothing, Audre Lorde's perspective on the erotic in her article "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" sparked my curiosity in many ways. Firstly, she made the distinction between "erotic" and "pornographic"... basically, they are opposites; "pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic for it represents the suppression of true feeling (570)". The erotic is "a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings (570)". Is it just me, or is the term "erotic" sometimes used in a context that deems it negative, particularly in the media? Lorde elaborates on how the erotic underlies the "capacity for joy (572)" and how it empowers us through showing us all how satisfaction is possible.

By being raised to fear this within ourselves, Lorde believes it has hindered our motivation and empowerment in all spheres of our life. This was very interesting to me; by having society frown upon the embracement of the erotic, oppression is created. This leaves many women feel as though their growth is limited.

By recognizing our deepest feelings, "our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered within (573)". What do you think? Do you believe embracing the power of the erotic would have a significant effect on women, therefore revolutionizing the feminist movement and creating more empowered women? Or do you think there are other factors or ways to reach this "empowerment"?

Direct Engagement: On the Mobius Strip


I appreciated this reading for a number of reasons. First of all, it recognized a polarization within feminism, and attempted to do a study that would balance rather than perpetuate this divide between radical feminists and sex radical feminists. And, second, Barton seemed to sincerely want to gather information from her informants without preconceptions of what it would tell her. She did not seem to have the intention of supporting a side with her evidence, but she did seem to be listening to her informants, then seeing what their information would tell her.
That said, even though she would like her study to be balanced and show both sides that they are right in their own way, and give them a reason to listen to each other, I don't think her research supported that. We can recognize how the position of each side is applicable for a time in the life of the sex industry worker, but it seemed as though her research overwhelmingly came out on the side of radical feminism. The empowerment phase of sex industry work had less than a 3 year life span, before the negatives greatly outweighed the positives, and the work even became emotionally harmful to the woman. All the women agreed that they were not getting paid enough, they all lost their ability more and more to be less affected by their work, and the negative experiences built up. The relatively short span of individual empowerment at the beginning of a sex industry career (which is ultimately lost), seems to be shaky ground to fight on for sex radical feminists promoting women's empowerment,( and ultimately the well-being of women).
Also, though the reading mentioned radical feminist's other concern that these industries enable men to continue in sexist attitudes that ultimately harm women as a group, it did not really address this issue. Individual empowerment is at odds with a patriarchal system which values women based on their youth, beauty, and grants power only on the basis of their sexuality. The individual woman may have power for a time, but she is ultimately doing something which exacerbates this problem, and continues to give men sexual power over women. These industries communicate to men that a woman's body is a commodity for purchase, an object.

Is sleep a feminist issue?


Check this out! This is an article about Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post and Cindi Leive of Glamour have teamed up to take on what Leive calls "Sleep Challenge 2010". It is pretty interesting.

Uses of the Erotic

What makes me curious in the latest reading was Audre Lorde's essay on "The Use of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power." I have always been interested in understanding what stimulates people to find their passions in life. Up until this point I had credited it to a lot of things, innate gifts and talents, the people in our lives, our personal backgrounds and experiences, education, spirituality, and connections to causes, being a few of these. Lorde, however, believes that ultimately it is our experience and understanding of the erotic, which she defined as being "a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings" that allows us to experience "an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire,"(Lorde570) that defines our inspiration in everything else that we do. This idea that experiencing and understanding the satisfaction and completion that comes with the full expression of our sexuality has everything to do with our lives outside the bedroom is important in looking more deeply at how the suppression of homosexuality effects individuals and society. If the non-expression of or sexuality can be directly connected to our ability to function in the world, which includes everything from the work we do to how we treat people, then it would only be logical for us to embrace all sexual preferences as a means to a happy, healthy, and fruitful society. It is, however, unfortunate that it takes talking about our productive lives to argue that things like homophobia are unquestionably wrong. Just another capitalist dilemma I suppose...

Question 10: 4/13-4/15

OPTION 1: How do the readings (Dworkin, Lorde, Rubin) 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?

OPTION TWO: Several of the readings for Tuesday (Dworkin, Lorde, Rubin) aim to distinguish between the erotic and the pornographic. Using specific passages/ideas from the readings, answer some of the following questions:

  • Are there differences between the pornographic and the erotic?
  • If so, what are they?
  • What is at stake for feminists in attempting to link a politics of sex with the erotic or the pornographic?

What are...the sex wars? A Local Perspective

feminism-and-pornography.jpgFor next week we are discussing the feminist sex wars. What are...the sex wars? Check out this chapter from Sex Wars for a chronological history. Or, read this great overview of the Sex Wars, a history. For a great range of essays, covering many different perspectives on pornography, you can also check out Drucilla Cornell's edited collection, Feminism and Pornography.

One of the essays we are reading is by Andrea Dworkin ("Against the Male Flood") who, along with Catherine MacKinnon, was a key figure in the feminist anti-porn movement. Did you know that she and MacKinnon taught at the U in the 1980s? Did you also know that Dworkin and MacKinnon tried to get an anti-porn ordinance passed in Minneapolis?

Check out this link for more information. You can download the case file and an appendix that breaks down how the different council members voted. Here is a brief description:

Radical Feminism in Political Action: The Minneapolis Pornography Ordinance"
Emily Warren, MPP Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs:

In the city of Minneapolis, in the early 1980s, a series of events occurred that would throw this progressive city into the national spotlight. The mayor of Minneapolis, Don Fraser, had to decide whether or not to veto a proposed ordinance that contained a novel approach to the problem of pornography. Frustrated by the increasing number of adult entertainment businesses in Minneapolis, local feminists and community activists decided to fight back. Members of the community felt that the increased visibility of pornography in Minneapolis was a threat to women and caused neighborhood devaluation and decay. They enlisted the help of radical feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, who were living in Minneapolis while teaching at the University of Minnesota. MacKinnon and Dworkin wrote a controversial ordinance for the city that defined pornography as sex discrimination in violation of a woman's civil rights. The ordinance included a broad new definition of pornography that some thought impinged upon the constitutional right to free expression. This case study looks at the contents of the ordinance, and the events in Minneapolis that led to the ordinance's creation. It also examines the relationship between First Amendment rights and the rights of women to be safe from sexual violence.

Feminist Family Values

Group Members: Adam Liter, Tamar Kaplan, Sara McCraken, Daniela Duran

We came up with a couple of feminist family values. The majority of our feminist values are interrelated and correlative. Anyway, here is a list and brief explanation of some of the values are group came up with.

  • Acceptance and openness: Various concepts of what constitutes a family exist, and in order to eliminate discrimination and prejudice based upon these differences--without eliminating that form of family from society--it is necessary to promote a more understanding and accepting demeanor when it comes to family. Moreover, this implies an understanding that family is definable in a variety of ways.
  • Equality: In order to foster an environment of acceptance, it is necessary to place importance and significane upon the idea of equality within (and without) familial relationships. This implies a sharing of tasks, equally afforded opportunities, et cetera.
  • A respect for child development: In order for children to grow up in a society that does not inherently and unconsciously accord a great significance to gender roles, it is necessary to respect a child's wishes and to allow the child to develop, at least to an extent, in the direction that the child prefers to go, barring anything, of course, that would be drastically harmful to the child.

This is a feminist issue because... Glee!


I found this article as I was googling my favorite show:


For those of you who don't know, the show "Glee" is this years newest TV phenominon - it tracks a very small high school Glee club (a competitive show choir group) through their trials and tribulations, ranging from teen pregnancy to their regional competition. The show is amazingly unique, and I imagine that producing it was quite a risk. Aside from the fact that it is a musical, it deals with numerous contentious and progressive issues:

1. Coming out, and being gay in high school
2. Being a disabled high schooler
3. Teen pregnancy

How many shows can you think of there a main character is in a wheel chair? Or where a character has Downs Syndrome? Aside from being amazingly fresh, Glee is feminist in a few ways:

-All of the female characters are strong. The main character, Rachel, is self-assure to the point of conceit, but never loses her vision or goals. She is definitely regarded as a leader in the group. When she stumbles into a "Chastity Club" meeting, she listens for a few minutes before loudly dispelling the rumor that men want sex more than women.
-Quinn is another girl who has gotten pregnant - however, she is never portrayed as slutty, stupid, or helpless, stereotypes which often plague teenagers who are pregnant. She is shown as strong and capable, as well as clever.
-The characters have enough strength to stop relationships that are bad for them. How often do we see this in TV - or in real life, for that matter? How many TV shows revolve around a couple and their magnetic but destructive attraction to one another? Aside from countless reality TV shows, I can think of Gossip Girl, True Blood, Greek, Dexter, House... its nearly impossible to find strong characters who are willing to prioritize their emotional health and get out of destructive relationships. However, Quinn, Rachel, and Will Schuester all do.

What does this say about the future of television, and of feminism? Does the fact that this TV show has become a riotous success mean that the public is becoming more accepting of "radical" ideas? Are producers starting to see TV as a means to instigate social change? How many people are actually affected by the messages sent by this show?

Male Inequality


This is obviously problematic. But also hilarious.

What exactly does this clip point to? are there assumptions by males in our society that they are losing power and becoming increasingly emasculated? how does this clip act to critique this assumption? is humor a successful way to point out the ridiculous without getting too caught up in abstract theory?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Male Inequality
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Gay Marriage and Beyond Handout

Here is the extended version of the handout that I distributed in class today. You can also check out the handout after the break and in the links section of this blog (under handouts)...

First, here is the schedule from the revised syllabus I distributed last week.


13 Some Historical Background

• Dworkin, Andrea. "Against the Male Flood: Censorship, Pornography, and Equality" (CP)
• Rubin, Gayle. Excerpt "Thinking Sex" (Web Vista)
• Lorde, Audre. "The Uses of the Erotic" (CP)
• Henry, Astrid. Excerpt from Not my Mother's Sister (Web Vista)

15 Sex Wars: Erotic or Pornographic? Exploitative or Empowering?

• Chapkis, Wendy. Excerpt from Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor (CP)
• Barton, Bernadette. "Dancing on the Mobius Strip: Challenging the Sex War Paradigm" (Web Vista)

FILM: Watch clips from Live Nude Girls Unite!

Sex Wars position paper due today

There is a lot of reading for next week (and a lot of different ideas). While I encourage you to read as much of it as you can, I also understand that it is a crazy time of the semester. Therefore, I have decided to break it down a little more into required and optional readings:

For Tuesday, April 13th:
Required: Dworkin, Lorde, Rubin
Optional: Henry

For Thursday, April 15th:
Required: Chapkis--ch 3, Barton (on Web Vista)
Optional: Chapkis--ch 7

I first came across the story of Constance McMillen in the form this news story. The article is about how Constance, a senior in high school, wished to bring her girlfriend to prom and how her school subsequently canceled prom. Since then, Constance's life has consisted of ups and downs. She was invited to be a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in order to talk about her experiences. While on the program, she received a scholarship for $30,000. Furthermore, a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, and a federal judge ruled that Constance's rights where indeed violated. However, no trial of yet has been held. Nevertheless, the school prom remained canceled, and students and parents decided to have a private prom. The understanding was that Constance would be invited to this private prom, which she was. However, on Friday she showed up at the "prom" that was planned by students and parents in the community. Turns out it was a fake prom. In this article, Constance is quoted as saying, "Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event. They had the time of their lives [and] That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom]." The rest of the kids who attend this high school were at another venue, enjoying their own prom.

Certainly this instance of discrimination and prejudice is a feminist issue, and I think it is an instance representative of the plight of those who face discrimination in society due to their sexuality and sexual orientation. The question I would like to pose is how does one address these issues? In this instance, a ruling was made saying that rights had been violated, and a trial is pending, but the bigger issue is the way in which such prejudice and bigotry is imbedded within society. The fact that "mature" parents would participate in such a disgusting, deplorable act of discrimination speaks volumes of the barriers that are yet to be overcome. The question is how. Education is perhaps the easy answer to give, yet how exactly does one go about educating an entire culture to lose its obsession and loathing for people who happen to be slightly different?

Beneath the University Conference

4beneaththeuposter copy.jpg
I wanted to let you all know about a conference I will be speaking at today! It's called Beneath the University Conference which is an event that has been organized to discuss the current education system at the University of Minnesota. The Event starts at 2:30 at the West bank Social Center for those of you interested in attending. Also, you can stream the entire conference LIVE at the following link: http://beneaththeu.org/Beneath_the_University/live_stream.html

I will be one of 6 undergraduate students who will be speaking about our own experience at the University and what we wish to see change. My part will be discussing the business school and how I see it as an important place to look at in reflecting upon education: what it looks like currently how that will translate into the future shaping of society.
The student panel will be from 3:45 - 4:45, the faculty panel from 5-6, and then a dialogue between students and faculty from 6 - 6:30.
hope to see some of you there!

Mestiza Methodology with Kandace Creel Falcón

The talk given by Ms. Falcón presented an interesting perspective on historiography. As she alluded to, historiography, at least in Western culture, tends to construct itself as very linear and progressive. Your history textbook tells you one event lead to another, and this caused another event to occur, ad infinitum. This, I think, was the underlying issue that Falcón was trying to address with her "mestiza methodology." Not only was her framework inherently making the argument that Chicanos--and Chicanas specifically--have a place in history, but she was also trying to construct a place--and a meaningful place at that--for them. Inasmuch as Western historiography is dictated by big events, causes and effects, et cetera, minorities (Native Americans, women, et cetera) have a tendency to be left out of the history books.

This being said, I think the thing I would have liked to hear more about during this talk was the use-value of the form of history she constructed with her framework. In all likelihood, this is something she probably addresses in the rest of her dissertation. Nonetheless, I think taking time to address this during her talk on Tuesday, even to an extent, would have been beneficial in fleshing out her conceptualization of the mestiza methodology. This being said, I look forward to seeing her continue the work of her dissertation even after it has been finished, as she mentioned.

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Femisnit family Values-

Bristol Palin

So....it is ok for Bristol but not for anyone else? Really. Lets take a look at how this commercial makes it about class and not reality. Most young women who get pregnant are not wealthy and do not have much support. Because of social pressures and lack of money many of these young women cannot get or afford abortion,... leaving them to have few or no options and being a mother is not bad. Being a poor mother is not bad. Being a hypocrite, however, is.

my reasoning behind the privileged comment is for feminist this is a huge issue...meaning that for women the ability to mother and parent is constantly under scrutiny by our society, whether it is through welfare reform, abortion restrictions, family planning, media, capitalism etc women are given so many mixed messages about when to have, or not have children, how to or not how to raise their kids, and for Bristol to reinforce this by saying that the ability to parent is based on your ability to have money it invalidates many women, particularly women of color and women living in poverty ,who are parents, good parents, just not rich parents.

The reality is the inability to get fair access to birth control, family planning, community support, access to medical care, free and low-cost abortions, food, and housing make it almost impossible for women living in poverty to ever get out of the situation! Being born into a rich family is great. You get a good education and you have parents who generally care about what happens to you but for the women who are not in this position having a baby should not mean being told they cannot succeed. This is something that if we truly had this community sense about us, as a country, we would not be in this situation.

Transfer Student Pot Luck on Friday 4/9

Hello Class- I am the President of the Transfer Student Group and I just wanted to invite everyone to join us at the Stone Arch Bridge Park for our Spring Pot Luck!

Info is provided below...email TSG@umn.edu for more details--or me (mainz006@umn.edu)

Type: Party -
Date: Friday, April 9, 2010
Time: 4:30pm - 9:00pm
Location: Stone Arch Bridge Park (There is a map on our facebook page)
Description: Join University of Minnesota Trasfer Group Potluck ~~~
Enjoy the nice weather ~~~
Meet new friends ~~~~
Bring food or beverages to share ~~
& Have Fun ><

Gay Marriage


Gay marriage is an important feminism issue that we are still fighting for whether it should be legal or illegal. However, I think it should be legal and we should respect them and we also need to care about this same-sex marriage as feminists. Even though same-sex marriage doesn't harm us, people are against to it. Being gays or lesbians is not wrong! They are just same humans like us. So we should respect them and protect their rights. because it's not their fault to being gays or lesbians. I have some gays and lesbians friends and I can't understand why some people hate them so much. They don't give you any negative effects to harm you. Being abnormal comparing to majority of people around us must be difficult because the majority of people give them weird looks and they think they are very different. But they are still human as we are, so we should fully respect them. We don't have to accept them fully, but maybe just trying to understand and to respect them would be great.

as.JPGIn U.S. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., marriages for same-sex couples are legal and currently performed.

I came upon this article and thought I would share. It's very funny and sad at the same time.





I look at same-sex marriage as tying in as a feminist issue. Overall I have come to understand feminism as fighting for equality in all areas, that being the case, everyone should be able to have equal marriage rights too. Same-sex marriage is a very controversial topic in itself. Whether or not it is a feminist issue will also have different opinions and viewpoints. People who are for same-sex marriage believe that each individual's life journey is unique and that love comes in many different forms. Love should not have to depend on gender or sexual orientation. Every person should be able to have equal rights. If same-sex marriage is the type of marriage an individual so chooses to have, that should be his or her own decision to make. If being involved in a homosexual marriage is what someone desires, then why wouldn't you allow it? I believe everyone has the right to be happy. I don't think same-sex marriage harms anyone, but allows people to engage in what they want, even if it may be out of the "norm."



What is normal? The article on normality was extremely interesting for me because it slices open our social archetypes and examines their functionality and relevance. The article defined normativity as " as regulative matrix that operates through distinctions of gender, race, class, ethnicity and nation". The regulative quality of society has long had to balance itself from restrictive qualities to freeing qualities. The history of feminism is testaments to the suppressive qualities society can posses. Like wise the progression of feminism and social rights presents an alternative perspective that shows the adaptability of social normatives. If we look at what is considered "normal" within America it changes constantly. I think the most important aspect of "normalcy" is that it is never the same and it is not consistent. This quality is deceptive because it enables individuals to remain static in their perspectives and misunderstandings. The regulative powers of culturally defined normalcy are extensive and we see them perpetuated and implemented on television every day. The youth of our nation are taught what is normal through media, education, politics, and our own actions. I believe that there will most-likely be a state of defining what is normal within a culture. What is crucial is how we as a society define normalcy. There is a desperate need for consciousness towards the negative ramifications of creating a restrictive normalcy. It is easily evident to see the restrictive and painful effects of an inconsiderate normalcy in America's history. We as a culture need to ensure a broad perspective that makes us curious as to the positive and negative effects our thoughts and definitions may have upon one another. The most important quality of defining what is normal is to ensure that the definition does not harm other individuals or restrict them from a standard of life. I don't know if I am being idealistic, but it is difficult to even back my own writing because I want to exclude certain groups from my own definition of what is normal. I do not want sex offenders to be considered normal, but that sets in motion the idea of contraction within my definition and may lead to mis-definitions. Normalcy is confusion.


The presentation on Mestiza methodology was very interesting engaging. Kandace provided an amazing perspective on the restrictive qualities of social and cultural identity. She worked to explain the chicana perspective as a woman of color through examining the histories of other chicana women. The research opened my eyes to the cultural confusion and dis-appreciation that chicanas and other minorities are subject to. There is a repressive force within America that seeks to negate the cultural influence of alternative perspectives. This is subjective force disregards the individuality and the voice of the chicana perspective. It was amazing to hear Kandace speak about the difference between the linear culture that is so pervasive and accepted throughout America compared to the cyclical and weaved perspective that she gives voice to. It made me curious to know what that is like to have a non-linear perspective. I have been raised in a westernized culture for nearly all my life and have had this type of perspective carved into my social script. I have read authors like Leslie Marmon Silko who presents a cyclical perspective from the Pueblo perspective. This made me wonder what it would be like if we presented education systems with a call to include alternative cultural perspectives in standardized curriculum. I suppose that by using the word "standardize" I have already subjected the idea to a linear perspective. Anyway, the talk was fantastic and it made me curious.

Mestiza Methodology

After hearing a portion of Kandace Creel Falcón's dissertation yesterday, one thing she said has really been stuck on my mind. She told us how after she interviewed her aunts and other women in the Midwest Chicana community, some of them asked her, "did I do okay?" She said they were feeling insecure about their stories because no one has ever valued them before. Since colonization of the Americas, Hispanics have been socialized to feel less worthy than other citizens, and this feeling of not being good enough has been passed down to multiple generations. I am struck that colonization still plays a big part in lives of Latinos/as and how they feel about themselves. I have white guilt because I know it was our white ancestors who made them feel this way. She also spoke about communal pain and how by sharing their stories, the pain of these women is shared with those who hear their stories, ultimately decreasing their pain. Although Kandace didn't share any specific stories, I still feel that I can learning about their history leads to understanding and hopefully, the communal pain can be shared with more people.

Mestiza Methodology event

Kandace Creel Falcon spoke today about her dissertation on Mestiza Methodology. I thought her approach to understanding race, class, gender and sexual identities through oral history was intriguing. Several aspects of the selections from her dissertation made me curious. Falcon spoke about grieving the loss of land and culture as part of Chicana history, moving forward through the pain and trauma and how it contributes to behavior. I am curious to know how other women who have suffered cultural or geographical loss deal with tragedies, moving forward amid contradictory or ambiguous identities shaped by histories. From these identities shaped by history, Falcon spoke of the "wise Latina" as a contradiction.

I am also curious to know how Falcon would describe her identity outside the context of race, class, gender and sexual identity. Would she say she is a "wise Latina?" Ten years from now, what will her oral history sound like?

Hearing about Falcon's collection of oral histories makes me curious to consider who I would consult to form my own oral history. It also makes me think about my own identity within similar contexts of race, class, gender and sexual orientation.

Mestiza Methodology Dissertation

After attending the dissertation held by Kandace Creel Falcon, I began thinking about my own identity. When she talked about how her mother and her aunts weren't sure how to categorize themselves and just decided to go with what they are categorized in surveys and legal documents, I could understand them in some ways. Having grown up around three different cultures (Guatemalan, Korean, and American), I sometimes felt confused about my identity. However, legally I was always categorized as Asian because that is how I appear to be and that is what I am in terms of blood (heredity). However, there are so many other important factors involved when defining one's identity and I think this is what Kandace meant when she said "flexible identity."

In general, I thought it was interesting that she had managed to incorporate personal sources in her writing in an objective way. As she mentioned during her presentation, I think it would be very challenging to stay objective while talking about your own family member's opinion.

Mestiza Methodology with Kandace Creel Falcon

Kandace Creel Falcon spoke about her use of Mestiza Methodology through her capturing of oral history and storytelling. In her position in society, she has been seen as the "other". With a white father, a brown mother, and identifying as a Queer Chicana Feminist in the Midwest, she can identify with a variety of groups seen as the minority or "othered".
With her loyalties lying in so many different spaces, she talked about "having to have flexible identities". I found this to be an interesting idea, and one we have discussed in class referring to the Chicana feminist struggle and the claim by many Chicanos that they were betraying la familia or embracing an Anglo ideal. However, the discussion of how the 'flexible identity' is a recognized and conscious notion left me curious. By being able to choose how to identify in different spaces, Kandace noted, "there is power in difference". I'm sure it's true that in many circumstances Kandace has not been able to choose her identity, and rather was identified. Her choice of finding power and flexibility in difference really struck me.
Her discussion of 'communal pain' was also a key idea I appreciated. She discussed how she found "storytelling to be a movement out of the pain". I really liked this idea, and I think it speaks beyond Mestiza Methodology. By hearing and listening to an individual's story, one engages and holds on to their pain with them. This in turn becomes communal pain, which is seemingly more bearable, and potential means of healing. Through oral history and storytelling, Kandance hopes to help move her communities out of the pain they have endured over time and make progress for future generations.

I'm going to be using this news story on two levels- one, the obvious reasons this is a feminist issue. The second is the content of the show and recent plot.

Nicollette Sheridan, former star of "Desperate Housewives" is suing the creator of the popular show, according to this article. Sheridan, who played Edie Britt, claims that Marc Cherry hit her. This is a feminist issue for the obvious issues- gender violence, mistreatment of women by men, etc.

What is a feminist issue as well is the content of the show, which some may argue sets the feminist movement back by portraying women in archaic stereotypes of housewives who stay at home as caretakers and cater to their breadwinning husbands all while elegantly dressed and flawless-looking. This show (I admit, a guilty pleasure) includes a current plot line in which two of the leading ladies engage in a homosexual relationship. I would like to use this aspect of the plot to enter a discussion about the benefits or harm plots like this create.

The "Normativity" reading we read for class illuminates the issue of how and what we perceive as normal. Heterosexual relationships are consistently what drives the plot of the majority of prime time television. In recent years, several popular television shows introduced homosexual relationships. Whether this is done to boost ratings or to promote tolerance is arguable. I think it is great that shows portray a variety of diverse couples, but I think that it can be harmful to introduce a homosexual plot line only to point at it and say, "look how different!" If we strive for equality, why would someone include a particular relationship only to point out how different or sensational it is? If the show is truly trying to promote acceptance and equality, wouldn't it be beneficial to portray homosexual couples as totally normal, run-in-the-mill instead of the "token gay couple" or the "hot lesbians" ? Does anyone agree, disagree?

Isn't marriage always already heterosexist?



While I am wary of overtly stating that gay marriage is not a feminist issue (by this I mean not aligned with feminist intentions or political aspirations), the following arguments may appear to favor that conclusion. However, the rampant homophobic sentiments opposing gay marriage, in addition to circulating fears concerning the holy innocents (those "unagentic black slates" (Martin, 457) commonly referred to as children) - under the threat of pestilent queers - are surely issues warranting feminist attention. First, to any position postulating that gay marriage is a subversive or revolutionary act combating exclusionary heterosexist and homophobic mandates prohibiting "same-sex" partners from participating in a thoroughly sexist and capitalistic social institution, I have a simple reply: absolutely not. To any position intent on romanticizing institutionalized kinship, claiming that the marital contract is the state's recognition of love: please note that "love" is never recognized by the state - legally binding contracts are. The gay marriage campaign is merely a misguided reinscription of heteronormativity. Once the "good gays" are successfully normalized, the rest of us queers will be left to our now increasing stigmatization upon the emergence of new hierarchies rendering various queer sexual practices and relationships utterly untenable. However much I adamantly resent the viciously homophobic discourses surrounding this debate (which both sides have generated), I also resent the denial -- and refusal -- of sexual alliances not seeking expurgation, nor adhering to formulated delimitations that constitute normative, or naturalized, legitimacy. By proscribing the legibility of sexuality, possibilities become impossible.

schiele.jpgDo abject sexualities have claim to ontology?

In "Is Kinship Always Already Heterosexual?" Judith Butler writes

... we see the debate break down almost immediately into the question of whether marriage ought to be extended legitimately to homosexuals. This means that the sexual field is circumscribed in such a way that sexuality is already thought of in terms of marriage and marriage is already thought of as the purchase on legitimacy. (106)

What do we understand as legitimate kinship? autonomy? personhood? Does gay marriage seek to displace homophobic paradigms or merely relocate them? The logic circumscribing the anxiety over legitimacy that Butler outlines serves not to abolish an oppressive construct, but to re-articulate that construct - which only serves to reinscribe its terms. Sexuality is not simply always already conceived of as a potential social contract, though, but also dyadic, static, and nuclear-ly/reproductively oriented. Furthermore, this emphasis on marriage, whether it be homo- or hetero-, upholds binary characterizations - one is legitimate only if occupying a political either/or: gay/straight; male/female; black/white; liberal/conservative; et cetera. This aligns very well with Martin's discussion of gender neutrality in "William Wants a Doll," and also the general discussion concerning family values. How are "traditional" or conservatively rigid family values that produce and delimit gender roles subverted or dismantled by gay marriage? If anything, the voice as projected by mainstream media sources loudly declares that gay kinship is the same as marital kinship. Those "straight" gay folks advocating for their supposed "natural human right" to state-sanctioned legitimacy adhere to oppressive frameworks that expel queer bodies and queer sexual proclivities from intelligible legitimacy. The argument proposed is not different though equal (or equally valuable), but equal because the same - valuable because the same. Yet, the very existence of difference serves to delineate the standard for sameness. Conceiving of individuals and societies in relation to a model of legitimate humanity does not, as gay marriage advocates want to imply, create a possibility for equality through sameness, but rather expel that which is read as "different" from the borders of acceptability: what is understood as legitimate depends upon a confounding demarcation in order to be recognized as such, which necessarily separates legible sexuality or sexual alliance from the illegible - creating tensions and anxieties over the sustainability of juridically conceived sexuality. "In effect, this is the mode by which Others become shit."*


*J.B. in Gender Trouble, 182

Equality in Marriages


In my opinion gay marriage should be important for feminists because gays and lesbians are not receiving the respect they deserve, they are being oppressed and isn't that what feminists are trying to do: end the oppression and hierarchy that exists in our society? I believe that religion even though it is separate from the government it still has an influence on the government since law makers pass laws that go with their believes then they have a biased opinion. Gays and Lesbians should have a choice of whether or not they want to get married. It shows commitment to the relationship just as and other heterosexual couples would want. It would be a challenge though because we have everything pre-established so it would be different and kind of exciting since everything we see can change and it would be interesting to see how everything turns out. I neither agree nor disagree. It is their choice or at least they should have that choice.

Gay Marriage = Feminist Issue


I believe that gay marriage is or should be at least a semi-important issue for feminists. Feminism is not only a woman's issue, but an issue of overall equality as I chose to define early in the year. I may have once thought of feminism as a solely 'women's right's' movement, but I learned and my definition of feminism evolved and generalized to the idea of general equality for all. If feminism is both a man and woman's issue and is based on the general idea of equality... Then, gay marriage definitely should be an issue of importance, because the whole idea of gay marriage is that they deserve the equality as any other couple. With the equality comes rights, respect, etc. As stated in article Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families & Relationships, "We seek access to a flexible set of economic benefits and options regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender/gender identity, class, or citizenship status." This emphasizes the fact that people are being denied rights based on many factors that need not me considered in the giving of rights. This is why gay marriage/marriage rights in general definitely should be considered a feminist issue just due to the injustice to equality as a whole which is the main goal for many feminists around the world.



My question to everyone is "why are the normative standards set at what they are today in society?" In the article, "Key Terms: Normativity", the developed concept of "normativity" is the means of understanding the ties between social or political power and moral norms. This article goes on to state that the current normative standards consist of moral norms dealing with heterosexual couples and their ability to fit the regulations to receive the access to a wide range of social and governmental benefits. This leaves any other type of couple that doesn't fit the "normative model" unable to get access to the same benefits that heterosexual couples do receive access to. Who gets to decide where the line gets drawn? During a small group discussion one day in class my group begun to talk about why people care if others receive certain benefits or not if it's not going to affect them either way. I personally brought up how my parents are very strong Christians and feel that marriage should only be for heterosexuals. Because of their belief, they then feel that homosexuals and such others should not receive the same benefits as heterosexuals. I know there are many other reasons and I want to restate the question I asked earlier, why do people care if others receive certain benefits or not if it's not going to affect them either way? This is something I am very unknowledgeable about and would like to hear other people's opinions.



My question to everyone is "why are the normative standards set at what they are today in society?" In the article, "Key Terms: Normativity", the developed concept of "normativity" is the means of understanding the ties between social or political power and moral norms. This article goes on to state that the current normative standards consist of moral norms dealing with heterosexual couples and their ability to fit the regulations to receive the access to a wide range of social and governmental benefits. This leaves any other type of couple that doesn't fit the "normative model" unable to get access to the same benefits that heterosexual couples do receive access to. Who gets to decide where the line gets drawn? During a small group discussion one day in class my group begun to talk about why people care if others receive certain benefits or not if it's not going to affect them either way. I personally brought up how my parents are very strong Christians and feel that marriage should only be for heterosexuals. Because of their belief, they then feel that homosexuals and such others should not receive the same benefits as heterosexuals. I know there are many other reasons and I want to restate the question I asked earlier, why do people care if others receive certain benefits or not if it's not going to affect them either way? This is something I am very unknowledgeable about and would like to hear other people's opinions.

Class! Check out this timely video, in light of our recent class discussion!


According to Adora Svitak, an incredibly insightful and articulate 12 year old, "no matter your position or place in life, it is imperative to create opportunities for children, so we can grow up to blow you away."

If you agree with her that "the world's problems shouldn't be the human family's heirloom," what kinds of values must we cultivate today, as adults, as children, *with* each other? What might you take as instructive particularly from "feminist" family values? And how does what Adora argues incorporate--or depart from--"feminist" values?

I'd like to preface this with the following: if you're commenting, you don't have to address all of the issues presented.

Looking for the most off-the-wall feminist issue I could think of, I googled, "feminism urinals", and I came across the apparently controversial, multifaceted issues involved with urinating standing up and urinals/male restrooms in general:

1. As portrayed by contexts.org, female body parts are used as urinals, sinks, and toilets. What is the appeal of peeing in a nun urinal or a urinal shaped like a pair of obviously-female lips? What does this say about how our society thinks of women? Do men see this as just humorous or just a urinal, or does this influence males to propagate patriarchy?

2. According to several blogs and forums, feminists in Sweden, Germany, and Australia are fighting to ban urinals. Their goal: to make men have to sit down to pee. How banning urinals would accomplish this...I don't know. The thinking behind eliminating urinals is that women can't so men shouldn't and a man standing up to pee is "a nasty macho gesture," reduces women, and "is deemed to be triumphing in his masculinity." What do you think? Should urinals be banned? Is a urinal "just a urinal?" Is urinating standing up degrading to women or just a natural way to perform a bodily function?

3. Some feminists think that there should be female urinals in female restrooms. This would make both men's and women's restrooms equal. Another suggestion is unisex urinals. With unisex urinals in both men's and women's restrooms, it would make choosing between the two less daunting for intersexual and transgender individuals. Alex Schweder suggests that restrooms are designed from a Freudian model that states that women are basically men without a penis. Similarly, women's restrooms are men's restroom's lacking urinals. With the penis being a symbol of power or superior masculinity, installing urinals in female restrooms will be one more step towards leveling the playing field between men and women.

4. Along the lines of #3, the GoGirl is a convenient toilet for women, allowing them to pee standing up. The GoGirl website even claims, "You won't be like a man. You'll just pee like one."

While the video does explain the usefulness of the product, does the statement, "You won't be like a man. You'll just pee like one," seem to be taking this issue too far? Moreover, isn't "[being] like a man" part of the equality feminism strives for? The way it's phrased, it sounds like "[being] like a man" is a negative thing. Is penis envy the bigger issue?

Why is or isn't peeing standing up a feminist issue?

Feminist Issue....Emotion and its barrier


Through the course of this class, I have been dwelling on how emotion plays a central role in feminism; specifically related to the stereotypical view of feminists as man-haters, which in my opinion is related to the lack of emotional regulation in certain feminist, namely in the sense of debate. It helps to understand what emotions are. Emotions involve complex combinations of physiological sensations, cognitive appraisals of situations, cultural labels, and free or inhibited affective displays (Simon 1138) (1).

Now, I understand that the aggressive behaviors of certain feminists directed towards men specifically do not represent feminists in general, but they clearly affect how feminism is viewed in society and in this sense, in my opinion, that it is clearly not beneficial to the feminist movement. Instead, it promotes a sense of resentment towards the important goal of feminism of ending sexism, by societies perception of the affiliation of these behaviors of anger and spite displayed by the lack of emotional regulation in some feminist. My further disclaimer includes that perhaps these individuals have a good reason to be spiteful towards men through abusive and oppressive experiences with them, which does not represent the general male population. However, in my opinion these aggressive behaviors should not have a place in feminism as with any other movement due to their adverse effects inhibiting the movement's goal.

Such angry and hateful perception of what makes up a feminist is even recognized by hooks, "I tend to hear all about the evil of feminism and the bad feminists: how "they" hate men...." (hooks vii), and "Mostly they think feminism is a bunch of angry women who want to be like men (hooks viii)".

Behavior stems from emotions, which can turn into anger and resentment, which is a good thing when it is used in self-preservation that is beneficial in examples such as physical distress or abusive relationships. But when they foster behavior that negatively impacts the goals of a movement in simple communication, I think they are more beneficial when kept to a personal level rather then displayed publicly when they tie in to an association of a more general cause.

I believe that when these angry behaviors are expressed in debates, or in any communication trying to persuade a change of views in another individual, it is self-defeating in that it raises defensive emotions in the recipient that cause barriers in communication. When related specifically to feminism, the result is a "turn-off" of the individual to the cause due to the association of these aggressive behaviors with the movement.

Another effect emotion has if not regulated is its ability to decrease logic or reasoning. This is what is known as "getting caught up in the moment", or "I don't know what I was thinking". Well, at least for me anyways when I can identify with those sayings means that I wasn't thinking, I was reacting to emotions. New York Radical Women issued a set of principles that read in part as follows: "We take the women's side in everything, we ask not if something is reformist, radical, or revolutionary, or moral, but we ask: is it good for women or bad for women" (Jaggar 10).

Quotes by Genevieve Vaughan that include "By uniting with each other across all the boundaries patriarchy creates, we can finally step back form the brink of human and planetary disaster", and "Our governments keeps us ignorant of the damage done by Air Force Jets" (Feminist Forum,7).

These in my opinion are examples of how emotion has the ability to distort reality due to its inhibiting effect on logical reasoning. I think basing judgements solely on whether anything is simply either good for women or bad for women is, impulsive to be honest but related to emotional irregulation. And human and planetary disaster seems quite an extreme. Even Air Force Jets. Granted perhaps there is a shred of reasoning that the government may have a reason to be reluctant on emissions produced by Air Force Jets in a global warming sense, despite thousands of scientists who understand the chemistry and it's effect on the ozone layer. So the government oppresses each and every one of them? But why single out Air Force Jets? What about automobiles? What about commercial jets? Do you think that Vaughn flew anywhere this year on a commercial jet? Maybe she flew to the very convention in which she made that statement. Perhaps there is prejudice towards the military in correlation to men. Perhaps it is emotional.

So my .02 cents is this I suppose, when you try and persuade someone to a cause and your heart starts to race, you get impatient, irritated, animosity starts to build towards that person, and you take it personally like sometimes I can, slow down and compose yourself. Regulate your emotions. Use logic as your reasoning and it will go further. The best way to persuade someone is to understand them, the best way to understand someone is to accept their differences, even you don't agree with them. When you accept someone, that defensive mechanism is neutralized which will open them up to your logic and reasoning, the best way to persuasion.

(1) American Journal of Sociology Volume 109 Number 5, (March 2004).


I just received an email about this great event. Our schedule is a little more flexible next week (with no readings scheduled for Thursday) and this talk looks great and is fitting for our class as we work to explore a wide range of definitions of feminism. Therefore, I have decided to cancel class for Tuesday so that as many of us as possible can attend. So, don't go to class on Tuesday...go to this great event instead! Note: I am not requiring that you attend, just encouraging you to.

If you attend and post about it on our blog--how it made you curious/questions it raised for--then you can get 5 extra credit points on your total blog grade. I hope to see you there!

Instead of doing peer review on Thursday (see revised syllabus here), we will discuss the readings on marriage and beyond on Thursday. We will resume the regular schedule (with Sex Wars) the following Tuesday (4/13). I have also made the revised syllabus (as of 4.6) a link under the handout section of this blog.

One more thing: Position papers for family values are due on Tuesday. Here are several options for handing in the paper:
  1. Bring it to my mailbox in the GWSS office (FORD 425)
  2. Give it to me at the talk in Scott Hall
  3. Email it as a word document to me
  4. Bring it to class on Thursday

Question 9: 4/6-4/8

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

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, feminism and marriage.

OPTION TWO: For this option, I have one set of questions: Is gay marriage an important issue for feminists? Why or why not? What feminist (or queer) family values can be generated from our critical conversations about gay marriage and/or gay families and radical kinship configurations?


This is a feminist issue because... Prom dress


Going along with Chloe's comments today, when I watched this video, I started thinking about feminist family values and the importance of realizing how valuable children's input, ideas, and thoughts were.

What I was most shocked about was the lack of expression students could employ at the Prom... I thought her dress looked gorgeous. But in addition to that, paddling?! This girl had 2 choices... 3 days suspension or paddling. 17 other girls, being seniors in High School, chose the paddling over the suspension. Only the girl featured in the video chose the suspension. It makes me ponder the rules that the authority at the school has imposed upon these students. Does anyone happen to know if this is even legal? I'm guessing it is, I'm just not familiar with corporal punishment.

I also wonder about the dress code for men. And how much easier it must have been to abide by those dress codes.

What are some of your thoughts?

Maternity Leave Around the Globle

When my group and I decided to talk about maternity leave, I got very curious about maternity leave around the globe. I looked up the duration of maternity leave around some Europe countries and Austria. All these countries do provide maternity leave, but the difference was when it comes to duration and whether or not they were paid. Here is a table that summarizes the duration of maternity leave and salary. Maternity Leave Policies.pdf
The interesting thing about maternity leave is that Austria and the United states are the only countries that do not require a paid maternity leave. On the contrary, California has become the first state to enact a paid family leave act in 2002. Employees are allowed to take 6 week leave for 55% salary to take care of a newborn or a sick family member and so far. The great thing about thing about this act is that every employee is covered not those with only companies with 50 employees or more.

Does Islam Guarantee Human rights?

Feminism and Islam? Is that even a synonym or something farfetched? The connection between feminism and Islam is typically a negative one. The talk that governs this subject is usually about how to introduce feminism to Islam. Due to the negative impact from the media, Islam has been seen as the religion that oppresses women. That is a fact that is not true. There was event called "Does Islam guarantee Human rights?" which was very interesting. The lecturer said "Islam has feminist tendencies". So what does that mean? It means that in Islam there are rights that ensure that men and women are equal and that there is a balance between the two. The idea behind those rules is to put a barrier that stops a society to completely shift favors u missing something here men over women. Throughout the talk there were numerous examples to support his point. For example, the idea of marriage is to honor a woman who a man wishes to have sexual relations with. Therefore, there is a contract placed between the two, where the wife-to- be can specify certain things she expects whether it be the number of times she wants to see her in-laws to wanting a maid. Another example he gave was the right for a women to own and trade properties and take part in any business, whereby Couple hundred years ago, women were the property. It was very interesting to know that Islam guaranteed these rights to women fourteen hundred years ago. So now the under laying question is, if there were such rules and rights in Islam, how can there be some oppressed women in some Islamic countries? The mistreatment towards women steams from some cultural beliefs and traditions, not Islam. Typically, Culture has a huge impact on the norms of some of these societies over Islam. The purpose of that lecture was to encourage people to revisit the religion of Islam and rediscover the rights that are clearly stated and proven in Islam.

Readng for Next Tuesday (April 6)

Next Tuesday we will be discussing Marriage and Beyond. I have just added one more short reading, "Beyond Marriage." You can read it on this website or you can read it as a pdf--it is in the Web Vista folder for next week. Note: You only have to read/print the first 7 pages of this pdf.

This is a feminist issue because...

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We were looking at how different ways of parenting may lead to certain stereotyping. With this, I began to relate it to children's books I used to look at. The Mr. Men and Little Miss series introduce a lot of stereotyping. They have examples such as "Mr. Strong/Brave/Messy" and label the girls as "Little Miss Bossy/Helper/Chatterbox/Tidy/Neat/Fickle." I don't have a problem with these children books, and actually enjoyed them as a kid. It just never occurred to me how often we are introduced to common stereotypes without even realizing it at such a young age.

Youth, Values and Good (and bad) Intentions

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Today we are continuing our discussion about youth and feminist family values. On Tuesday we discussed "gender-neutral" parenting and watched clips from Free to be...You and me. One key question we pondered: How can/should feminists raise their children in ways that reflect feminist values? We discussed how the feminist values in the clips (Boy Meets Girl, Ladies First, William Wants a Doll, It's Alright to Cry) frequently reinforced certain harmful values (about gender stereotypes, sexual violence and victim blaming, heteronormativity) even as they attempted to present more "positive" messages about the freedom to move beyond limited roles (boys can be sensitive too, boys can have dolls, ladies don't have to rely on chivalry). Have we effectively answered these questions: What are feminist family values? And, what is gender-neutral parenting?

For today you read, "Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today"--a report from the Girl Scout Research Institute. I thought we could focus our attention on youth and their values. While Tuesday was from the perspective of parents and what types of values they might instill in their kids, I want today's focus to be on children as moral agents--that is, children as people who engage in their own moral/social deliberation and, by drawing upon a wide range of sources and examples, construct their own values.

I look forward to what questions you have about this topic and the reading. Here is one thing that makes me particularly curious about this study: bullying/cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is (very) briefly discussed in several places in this study.

  • How do people (ages 12-18) deal with bullying? 
  • Are there larger (as in structural) reasons that contribute to why some people bully and to who gets bullied?
  • What resources do they draw upon in coping with it (as the object of bullying) or speaking out against it (as a witness)?
  • What about the bully--what sort of moral compasses do they rely on in their own actions? Is it that they lack moral values (or sources of support) or are they relying on a different sort of value system?
The issue of bullying has been in the news a lot in the past year. Last year several very young boys committed suicide after being repeatedly harassed, reportedly for being gay. I wrote about it in my blog here. And just this week, 9 students (both girls and boys) were indicted on criminal charges for bullying and contributing to the suicide of Phoebe Prince. Here's one account of the story:

Why is this a feminist family values issue? How should feminists respond? Who does bullying affect, and how? How can/should we analyze this issue from these different perspectives:

  1. Individual/s: Phoebe and those who bullied her, their families
  2. School: other students, teachers, administrators
  3. Community: parents, other members of the community
  4. Local: town, neighboring schools
  5. National
  6. Structural/Systems of Power/Ideological Issues: larger values, norms, systemic issues
Another question: The bullying of Phoebe Prince is frequently being represented as a problem of "mean girls" (like in this article on the Huffington Post, or this interview from Tuesday night on Anderson Cooper 360). Is this a problem of mean girls? What are girls so often represented as the problem? Is this an accurate representation? According to the Girl Scout Study, girls are more likely than boys to step in and speak out against cyberbullying--46% girls to 35% boys (pages 42). What do we make of this statistic in relation to an emphasis on mean girls as the face of (cyber) bullying?