Recently in Who is...? Category

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:

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.

Who is...Dr. Vandana Shiva

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

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

Dr. Vandana Shiva

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

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

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

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

Also, here is a youtube clip of her speaking:

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

What is...Masculinity?


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What is...intersex?


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

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

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

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

Who are...undocumented workers?

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For the next three class sessions, we are discussing housework, nannies, and invisible labor. Central to our discussion are the many women and men who perform the invisible labor that have enabled some feminists to "solve" the housework crisis. A lot of these women and men are undocumented workers. So, who are...undocumented workers?

One way to get at this question is to explore the term "undocumented worker." Why should we use this term instead of the many others that are articulated within the popular media? In her entry, "Stop saying 'illegal'," the Feminist Texican provides a compelling discussion of why "undocumented worker" should be used instead of "alien," "illegal alien," "illegal immigrant," "illegal," "immigrant," and "undocumented immigrant." Her post includes this video by Rinku Sen:

Another way to get at the question of "who are...undocumented workers," is to read about/listen to/watch the stories of undocumented domestic workers (like nannies or maids or gardeners). On Tuesday, we will watch the film, Maid in America about 3 undocumented domestic workers, living and working in the L.A. area. Check out the resource page on the film's website for more information. Here is the film description:

Housekeeper. Nanny. Maid. Surrogate mother. Such are the many roles of las domésticas--undocumented workers who came to America in search of a better life and found themselves scrubbing toilets and setting tables, working long hours for little pay in private homes.

Most have no health insurance, no driver license, no pension and no recourse when it comes to employment injustices. They cook meals they could never afford, clean houses they could only dream of owning and care for strangers' children when their own children are thousands of miles away. Deportation is a constant fear. And still they come to the United States by the thousands in hopes of a better life for themselves and their families.

MAID IN AMERICA is an intimate, eye-opening look at the lives of las domésticas, as seen through the eyes of Eva, Telma and Judith: three Latina immigrants, each with a very different story, who work as nannies and housekeepers in Los Angeles, California. Filmmakers Anayansi Prado and Kevin Leadingham followed their subjects for several years, and their cameras caught some of the most intimate moments of these women's lives, both on and off the job.

And, a third way to get at this question, is to think about how it gets represented in the popular media. Here is just one example from Jezebel that discusses nanny trends, documented/undocumented domestic workers, and labor abuses in the domestic workplace: "Don't You Just Love Your [Insert Ethnicity] Nanny?" This article also provides some great links for more information on the issue of nannies and other undocumented domestic workers.


Who is...Betty Friedan?

Next week we are reading an excerpt from Betty Friedan's feminist classic, The Feminine Mystique. But, who is Betty Friedan? For more information on her, check out this interview from PBS, or skim The Feminine Mystique via, or read this great obituary (she died in 2006) by Katha Pollitt, or watch this early youtube clip from 1964:

Who is...Loretta Ross?

One of the readings for next week is Loretta Ross's "The Color of Choice." It comes from the great anthology, The Color of Violence: The Incite Anthology. In the essay she discusses reproductive justice and Sister Song. Check out her biography/bibliography on the Sister Song website. Also, check out this youtube video on reproductive justice:

Who is...bell hooks?

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We are reading bell hooks' Feminism is for Everybody this week. But, who is bell hooks? And no, that isn't a typo--she doesn't capitalize her name. For more on why, read this excerpt from Talking Back. Periodically throughout the semester, I will post these "who is...?" entries about some of the authors that we are reading. I will file them under the category, "who is...?"  bell hooks is an amazingly prolific writer/scholar/activist/cultural critic/teacher. For more information on her, including a bibliography, check out this link from the UofM's Voices from the Gaps. Also, watch this youtube clip, to hear her speak about her own role as a cultural critic:

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