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DE April 27: Group B


While this course has been my first official foray into the GWSS department, feminism and gender politics have always been a pet project of mine. This class provided a much-needed platform from which to articulate new ideas and refine existing ones. The readings and class discussions helped me to bring my already-formed viewpoints into dialogue with new perspectives, and to approach familiar issues from different angles. For me, this course has emphasized that there is no finality to an issue, but a multiplicity of discourses that interact and sometimes oppose one another.

The class blog has been a mostly useful way to exchange ideas and promote discussion, both online and in class. Often, posts people have made on the blog sparked interesting conversations in class, and vice versa. Also, posting one's thoughts in written form can provide the illusion of a safe distance, perhaps making it more comfortable for people to express their opinions without the terror and pressure of public speaking. However, the relative anonymity provided by an online medium, where some of us choose to be identified by an alias or x500, also provides an easy out, excusing one from taking responsibility for one's thoughts and writings. While this has not been a problem in our class, and the exchanges here have been entirely civil, I think there is value in publicly declaring oneself, and allowing one's body as well as one's name to be associated with one's attitudes. This is not so much a critique of the class, but of our generation and of cyberculture as a whole. How is the internet changing how we communicate with each other? How does it change how we form and per-form our identities?

I also question the format of obligatory participation that frames our engagement with this medium and with each other. Because the blog is assigned, not optional, something feels inherently forced and, in a way, false about interacting with each other because we have been told to. Ideally, these conversations would be self-motivated, self-directed and would happen organically. However, I understand that this is problematic because we are all students and, thus, are unfathomably busy all the time; doubtlessly, without some compulsory mechanism in place to keep us on track, the blog would sit empty most of the time. I don't have any good suggestions to improve this.

ALSO. For the record, I hate Twitter. I don't understand how it is useful. The structure of a blog enables and encourages commenting and constructive conversation, which is awesome. Twitter, however, has a character limit that makes any kind of detailed critique or complex analysis impossible. It might be a useful exercise in brevity, but ultimately its limitations are too constrictive. Furthermore, it doesn't allow for comments. If someone posts a tweet that you like or want to respond to, you can do the little "@such-and-so" hashtag thing, but those tweets are uploaded independently and are not attached to the original tweet they are attempting to reply to. The result is a cess pool of random, isolated virtual sound bites that are ejaculated into the ether, encouraging everyone to participate in a self-indulgent and masturbatory barrage of discourse. Fuck that.

DE March 30: Group B


La Colectiva has a few conflicting messages. While their Bill of Rights demands improved conditions to empower workers and "level the playing field," their advertising is still steeped in the language of bourgeois capitalism. Despite labeling themselves as a progressive, labor-oriented organization, the first slogan that appears on their web site is: "you can call us your Fairy Godmothers." Invoking this fairy tale image doesn't do them any favors. A fairy godmother is a mythical creature endowed with special cleaning powers, whose sole purpose is to benevolently take care of people's chores. A fairy godmother doesn't have a family of her own to support, nor a personal life outside of her job - her entire identity is encompassed by her function. This completely negates La Colectiva's mission, which claims to be worker-driven.

Also, the idea of fairy godmother implies the presence of magic, which perpetuates the marginalization and invisibility of domestic labor. It promotes the notion that domestic work is not 'real' work, and erases the difficulty and toil endured by domestic workers every day. If a fairy godmother can solve all your household problems with a smile, a wave of her wand and a snap of her delicate fingers, she obviously can't be working very hard. So why should she be recognized or compensated for her labor?

Despite certain questionable instances of rhetoric, La Colectiva mostly has an effective grasp of internet media. The web site's layout is clean, attractive and easy to navigate. Its "About Us" section is clear and informative, but brief and to the point. It provides a quick and focused understanding of the organization's purpose and activities, and also has a number of links to related labor organizations that encourage visitors to learn more about workers' rights. The numerous videos and photographs in the gallery are compelling and provide a window into domestic workers' lives. While La Colectiva's image provides the stability and reliability of a large organization, it always emphasizes the humanity and individuality of the women who comprise it.



Prompt 2
I think gender neutral child rearing is about being conscious of gender roles that other people deliberately put your child in. Maybe it means encouraging your children to do unconventional activities like nail painting for boys and playing trucks for girls. Maybe it means not picking out pink or blue clothes, and allowing the children to choose what they feel comfortable wearing. Or maybe, it means reading parenting books critically and asking why and how a child's gender influences the kind of advice the book is giving. What I got from Martin's reading is that she believes that second wave feminist thinking has made its way into some of the parenting advice books, in their push for gender-neutral child rearing. She believes that social issues are culturally understood, and gender has multiple locations in "identity, interaction, social structure and discourse" (457). She mentions that there is this heteronormative presumption, that children are inherently straight, and that limits the discourse and advocacy of gender-neutral parenting. I totally agree with that. Even the most liberal books she wrote about mentioned how there is "no harm" in having a gay child but there is absolutely no mention of the benefit of being gay either. Homosexuality is tolerated if you can't find any other explanation for nonconformative behavior, but the emphasis on finding alternate reasons for children not performing traditional gender roles is part of the reason it's still so hard to grow up being gay. She notes that "in many ways, this feminist push for gender-neutral parenting has been successful but we need a revolution that will take away the stigma of homosexuality. One of the biggest challenges is to change the institutional tendency to deliberately prevent development of gay people. How do we do that? Martin suggests that we stop seeing nonconformity as problematic. From what I understand of this reading, I completely agree.



Question 2

I think it's extremely important to ask oneself "what kind of moral education does one learn from being in a household in which one adult is so clearly subordinate to others?" When families make the decision to hire a nanny, it's easy to come up with reasons why having a nanny might make life easier for all family members or why they can't fulfill the responsibilities that they are hiring the nanny to perform. Feminists would see this as a critical issue because it is central to parenting, labor, and equality issues. In popular discourse, maids are supposed to fill a "wife" role without being a wife. In your blog, you compared it to the way in which the Brady household had Alice, and she was central to the family but never got the same rights or recognition as other household members. What came to mind for me was the 1940s version of Mary Poppins, where the cook and the nanny clean up and make sure Jane and Michael are behaving, while the father goes to work at the bank and the mother socializes with the Suffragettes (definitely an interesting feminist dynamic). I imagine it must be confusing for children growing up with a nanny or maid, seeing an adult who is supposed to care for them but who also is subordinate to the parents. Especially when the nanny is (insert ethnicity here), it creates the problem of people of color serving white people, and even if the parents are not racist, the implication is probably not discussed openly between the employer and their children. The moral education they should be receiving would expose them to concepts of justice and fairness in a professional environment, and to make work visible again. To show the children that work is necessary and not just reserved for second-class citizens is to instill a work ethic that will ensure that they value equal treatment as well. The issues of equal treatment, divided labor, visible work, and family dynamics are all things that can have a feminist spin.

DE: Bernstein

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This reading makes me curious about how I will be as a father.

Will I allow my child to cross dress at a young age?

Will I choose to play catch if my child is a boy?

How will I interact about my daughter?

Why does Jackson refer to the deviance as "gender failure?"

I will be totally honest and answer any and all questions for my child, if it is through their own curiosity that they so discover things, I will ask them. I feel it is essential for child development.

DE for april 20


Group C should post their DE entries by Monday evening and Groups A and D should post their comments by Wednesday at noon.

This week (4/18 and 4/20), we are reading Chávez's essay, "Border (In)Securities" and parts of Families, Unvalued (note: Read 7-18, 135-144 and closely skim 46-91). For this DE, reflect on the following questions:

  1. How do the authors discuss family values in these readings?
  2. Any terms/concepts/ideas that are confusing for you?
BONUS EXTRA CREDIT: Earn 15 extra points for your total grade by attending one of the following events and posting a 200-300 entry about it by April 22. File your post under the category, "extra credit":

DE Option 1


Bernstein's reading stirred up many thoughts for me. It made me question parenting and the advice that parents take, which Martin helped me zoom in on. Bernstein's daughter, Nora, made me curious about what it would be like if all parents parented the way Bernstein does. The reading made me question the psychological effects on children from opening them up to the idea of exploring genders. Society is so heavily influenced by gender roles and vice versa. I wondered what Nora's gender curiosity did psychologically to her. I wondered how hard it would be to be a young child exploring genders when all of the other kids were fitting the gender normatives. I also wondered how Bernstein held up all that time since she claims "adult tolerance for transchildren is low." How sensitive the issue is altogether made me curious. The issue that both Bernstein and Martin raise, though, is that gender is tied to assumptions about sexuality which is problematic and may be associated with homophobia. This especially made me think deeper into gender identity and the difficulties that go along with it. Gender identity and sexuality have been assumed by many for a long time. With sexuality, it is now known that there are shades of gray. I feel that gender identity on the other hand has been generally black and white to many people. This is also problematic because it ties us down to gender roles without their being shades of gray. I like that Bernstein allowed her daughter to explore and although I find it to be a bit risky, I feel that she has successfully done gender neutral child rearing. I also had some curiosity about socialization being a part of children defining their gender. If there were to be more gender neutral child rearing, what , other than gender norms, could gender neutral children identify with? Something outside of male roles and female roles? Almost everything is linked to a gender, whether it be a job, a color, a type of house, a shoe design...masculine and feminine. What would it be like without those labels and stereotypes and gender normative rules and roles?

DE 4/13 Gender-neutral child rearing

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Karin Martin's article made me curious about a lot of things. She explored gender-neutral parenting well and at least skimmed each question that I've ever had about raising a child without imposing any gender structures onto them. I was particularly interested in her exploration of biological differences between male and female, and if they do in fact have any effect on gender identity. I don't have much knowledge in this area, but as far as I know there are differing hormone levels between male and female, particularly testosterone and estrogen. Science has found these hormones to affect the way in which a person acts, and things like temperament are believed to be innate and not learned...but how much do these actually affect a person's personality or gender identity? I don't think they could actually dictate whether a girl likes the color pink and a boy likes loud trucks. Martin pulled a quote from a child care book from 1996 about this:

"But while certain societal expectations relate to sex roles, there are also certain biologically based leanings, which have led some experts to suggest that the tendency to
nurture girls and boys differently actually stems (at least in part) from the fact that
girls and boys by nature behave differently. Differences in the brain and in hormones
seem to manifest themselves in differences in temperament and behavior that are visible from birth. In general, newborn boys are more physically active and more vigorous, while newborn girls are quieter, and more responsive to faces and voices. Typically, boys are more aggressive, girls more social; boys respond more to objects, girls
to people. (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 1996, 223)"

What about the gender roles of other animals? Do they exist? We could say that we are just like animals, and if gender roles are biologically determined for them it must be for us, too. However, there's a quote I like from Michel Foucault that makes me think otherwise: "a society's 'threshold of modernity' has been reached when the life of the species is wagered on its own political strategies. For millennia, man remained what it was for Aristotle: a living animal with the additional capacity for a political existence; modern man is an animal whose politics places his existence as a living being in question" (Foucault 143).

I don't believe biology has much to do with it, but its an interesting perspective to struggle with.

Family Values


Angela Davis explains how the embracement of anti-racist ideals is necessary in redefining family values. If you see feminism as a movement that strives for equality and the eradication of policies, mind-sets and practices that place people in a hierarchy, othering different groups of people who do not fit in the socially constructed norm, it is not difficult to see how these ideals are explicitly feminist. As explained by Gloria Steinem "family values" is singular. This implies there is a "normal" family; one that is accepted and all others that are not. The "normal" family in our society is based on white heteronormative patriarchal ideals. There is so much diversity in our nation in addition to our world that by creating this "ideal" family, and defining what people should strive to be, we are ignoring all the other groups of people. By practicing and embracing anti-racist ideals not only are we accepting every group and every individual but also we are promoting healthy, nurturing values. To be anti-racist is to be peaceful, accepting and to promote equality. These are my values I personally try to, and want to, incorporate in my family. They are my family values and I believe are the values feminism is striving to insert into the broader population's idea of family values. This "family" is not only one's biological family, but it is also one's neighborhood, city, state, nation; this family is individual kin and communal societies. It is narrow and broad which I believe is a very new and necessary dynamic.

DE: Feminist Family Values

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One of the feminist family values that made my family values differ from the traditional family values is the idea that parenting should be taken up by both parents. Despite the fact that my parents comes from Africa where we believe in the traditional family values that assumes a separation of work and responsibilities, my parents were still able to adopt a feminist family value when raising us. The reason why this is a feminist family value is because it eliminates the role of gender and separation of work between genders.
In Africa, the idea of traditional family value is assumed as the definition of a family structure. We believe that a woman is the homemaker while a man is imagined in the public world of work. Young women were also made to believe that being a good wife means abiding by the traditional family values which was socially constructed by the government to promote social hierarchies. I remember that my mum sometimes told me that while they were having babies and my father had to help out, his friends taught my parent's relationship was not a real African relationship. They saw my father as a shame to the African figure and my mum has a lazy African woman. This explains Patrick's idea that "class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion constitute categories of belonging that invoke family rhetoric". This brings me to the point that the context of culture is a very important context which needs to be taken into great consideration when discussing feminist family values.

DE 3 Feminist Values


In the Feminist Family Value Forum, Maria de los Angeles Jimenez discusses the concept of motherhood, focusing especially on motherhood in Mexican culture. Naturally motherhood is a very important concept in the feminism, but also in the idea of family values. What role is the mother expected to play in the family? Is she the one mainly responsible for the children? The mother in a family is the one who bears the children and nurtures the them, but to what extent? She describes the concept of motherhood as being expressed dually in the Mexican culture by two prominent figures, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the Llorona. The first is the pure mother, while the second is not pure, having committed crimes against her children in seeking vengeance against her husband. She says that whichever way a mother may be seen, she is still defined my the concept of being a mother. She says that in the family, the mother is the central figure, which I would say is very similar to many other cultures as well. Maria goes on to say that for Latinos in particular, culture plays a very important role and brings many important contradictions of motherhood up. In the context of her culture, which is bound in a patriarchal system, women challenge this system by fighting for their rights, dignity, and independence. The idea of motherhood is very important, Maria continues to say that, "The burden of sustaining the family, of lessening tensions, of attempting to sustain adequate living conditions for all members of the family, becomes the burden of women" (37). She is presenting motherhood and the role of the women in a different and non-traditional way because she is representing people who are usually not seen at the forefront. She represents marginalized mothers and women who she says are usually "faceless" and "unknown". Maria shows that the family structure is a complex and dynamic one in which mothers play the central role, but it is also places certain restrictions of them.

D.E. #3 Family Values


From where I come, Sudan, our Family Value's most important aspect is the family. Everything revolves around not only your mother, father, and siblings but rather with your cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other relatives. Sometimes I feel that values kept with my relatives is more important in our family than those kept with my siblings. I think this is mainly due to the embedding of our religion, Islam, into our culture where our Prophet Muhammad said "None of you have faith until you love for you neighbor what you love for yourself." This embedding of the religion creates a lot of my family values. But to the question of what makes my family values explicitly feminist. I think that this is answered in the role women play in holding our family values. In my culture, the children of a couple is always a million times closer to the mothers family then is to the fathers. Although it is a patriarchal society, that aspect of life is held mainly by the mother. The family values of the mother and her family is passed on to the children, and because usually marriage is to relatives, the values are passed on to the next generation, and so on. I think if anything my family values is closest to Maria de los Angeles Jimenez from the Feminist Family Values Forum. She talks about how her culture is a patriarchal culture, but the family values is held by the mother. She also says that the woman and her activities are what develops the family, which is likewise in my culture. This is probably because the woman is the most one that influences the family due to the amount of time she spends with the family.

DE March 30

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I found that the La Collectiva was very similar to the program that the lady in the movie was a part of. I think that it is a good idea to be in one of these because it seems like it is very similar to a union. Since, they are a large group they can come together and fight for something such as these bills of rights. Although, after reading the Bill of Rights I thought that it was a little weird that an adequate night of sleep is 5 hours and that there is nothing about an exact amount that they should be paid. For instance, minimum wage, I think that this something that could be misconstrued. They are using the approach that everyone is entitled to basic workers rights like paid sick days, vacation days and other issues. They are using the approach that these domestic workers are not machines; they are human beings and need to be treated like it. They are using social media by using this blog as a source to get their word out and that they have rights. So, when people order their service they can see that they are a group and that they can't take advantage of them. Also, I think that by putting this Bill of Rights in a public place it will help sales. This is because people will feel better if they order workers that are being treated fairly.

DE for march 30

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In the direct engagement for this week, members from Group B should do the following: 

Read through the website for La Colectiva (make sure to click on many of the different links and pages--on the left hand side: read their bill of rights, listen to the profiles in strength and dignity on the gallery page)

Now write some responses to these questions: What is La Colectiva? What strategies/tactics are they using to respond to the problems with domestic labor? How are they using social media/blogs to achieve their goals?

Group B should post their entries by Monday evening. Groups C and D should post comments by Wednesday at noon.  

DE Entry Group C Maid in America


This might be a weird concern, but what are these women eating?

Domestic work is hard labour: scrubbing, brushing, mopping, wiping, vacuuming, et cetera. They probably do a lot of walking as well. Judith had a bicycle. I would have expected the women in the video to be pretty fit.

Are they allowed to prepare meals in their employer's home on breaks? When Telma prepares food for Mickey, can she also eat the food she made? Does she have to have separate meals?

Do these women not have access to grocery stores with a cheap produce section? Do they not have enough money to buy fresh fruit and vegetables frequently?

How much private time do they have? Do they have adequate lunch breaks? Do they feel pressured to cut into their break time to get the work done?

In one scene, one of the domestic workers was drinking something greenish from a mug and tearing off chunks of bread for her breakfast. I would like to know what she was drinking. What is their grocery list like?

These women apparently had health care benefits because of their ownership of a business. As the video stated, most of the domestic workers do not have this luxury. When domestic workers have health problems, what do they do?

How many quality prenatal checkups did Eva have? How much did she have to pay for? How much did the state help her? Did she have access to healthy food while she was pregnant?

Maybe someone will see my post and think I'm being unfair and judging women because of their weight. Frankly, I wonder how much control they have over their health, and how low wages and benefits affect their ability to be healthy.

Most full time workers get health benefits of some sort because it is a less expensive way for an employer to compensate its employees. I wonder if the domestic workers' lack of health care benefits has anything to do with how their labour is valued/undervalued by society and by those who employ them.

DE Question 1


In reading Toronto, she claims that feminists should feel responsible for the "nanny problem" if they themselves have a nanny. I thought her three main points were very strong. Her main points were
1) An institutional setting of a household is a different setting than the market (the market being day cares, child care with multiple children, etc.)
2) Relationships within household are more immediate and intimate than in a market and 3) Quality of relationships are measured by quality of work, so part of the work of domestic service is to nurture and maintain care of relationships.

Going off of the first point, household settings are more so the householder's territory. Things need to be done their way and because domestic caretakers are the owner's employees, they are the ones to say where the line should be drawn. If there is a nanny expected to raise the employer's children a certain way, they better assimilate otherwise their job could be on the line. Toronto also brings up a good point that because domestic service takes place in a private home, it's often not regarded as employment. This may be the reason why child care work pays pretty poorly and is looked at as low prestige, as Toronto states. The second point marks on the fine line between professionalism and getting too involved. Some employers were shocked to think their child care workers were only doing their job for the money. This attitude creates high expectations for child care workers to play the correct motherly role on top of household care which is their primary duty. Not only are they expected to do what the mother or father should do when they are off at work, but they are expected to be the parents as well. This also ties along with Toronto's third point saying that the domestic service worker should nurture and maintain care of relationships with the employer and the family members. Feminists could be held responsible for this "nanny problem" in part because they are advertising that women should be heavily into their careers, doing what they want to do. Some are out there making the bacon, but a possible issue is that they are not raising their kids if they choose to have kids. They are saying goodbye to the motherly role as they dive head first into their careers. Not to say that they shouldn't, but child care is something that they must look at deeply if they are going to choose a strenuous career and choose to have children in my opinion.

Tronto speaks of a "charge" as usually the child being cared for by the domestic worker, or another member of the family. Syfer's essay talks about her longing for a wife. She plays with society's expectations and definition of a wife. There is satire in her essay. The description of a "wife" given by Syfer almost makes a wife seem disposable. Who would want to be a wife if the definition was the one given by Syfer? I think that is sort of the point she was trying to make.

Ehrenreich knows what it's like to do household care first hand. Her and Tronto both make points about the rise of the two-career household and notice the shift in who is doing the housework today. Ehrenreich, different from Tronto, points out that the women of the house are still doing 2/3 of what needs to be done, it's the cleaning that is really getting to be too much. American's are helping feed this problem because they are giving jobs to others to clean their house, clean up what they don't have time to. The biggest problem with this that I think Ehrenreich and Tronto both talk about is the fact that this work has no prestige, it is seen as slum work by some or many in America. The other issue that they all bring up is our definition of a "wife" and our gender roles that are still so cemented in our societal norms.

DE # 2


Reproductive rights are at the forefront of current issues today. I am really glad to be taking this class currently and having access to such articles because they really open my eyes to the injustices occurring. Feminists have a lot at stake currently, but not just them, every woman has a lot at stake. The Crunk Feminist Collective article gives excerpts of bills that are trying to be passed currently in our government. Reading through them I was just stunned at what they are proposing. These people who are supposedly against abortion are referred to as being pro-life, as in the favor of life. It seems very contradictory that they would refuse a dying woman an abortion, because then they would ultimately lose two lives. I just can't seem to understand their thought process through all of this. Women's freedom and everything that goes along that is at stake. Taking away our choices and voices and trying to oppress women. I do not think it is fair that most of these decisions are being made by men who will never have an abortion, or even get pregnant. It is just very unjust and contradictory. Nobody should be able to make those types of decisions for women, women should be able to decide. The billboard that was recently put up in Soho also really angered me, how blatantly racists and oppressive it is! Throwing those types of statements around in such public places and putting those things in the media gives many people the wrong idea. These sort of things can have profound effects on people who don't know much about feminism and reproductive rights and choices. It just really bothers me that such things can be thrown around in the media so easily.

Both articles suggest that they way feminists and women should respond is by being active and showing these people in our government and in the media that the voices and choices of women cannot be taken away or limited. The ACRJ articles says that, "reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and 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." I really like this quote and very much agree with it. A government is supposed to be there for its people and not try to oppress them.

DE #2


Currently feminists are confronted with the issue of choice and variety of options being reduced and limited significantly. This is being done through debates, legislation and bills on the table regarding reproductive rights, justice and health. Eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood, bills limiting the option of abortions to women and limiting or eliminating health care coverage for the procedure are all topics being discussed. By taking away options to one's reproductive health it can come down to following the law and doing what is right for one's health. Feminists argue that with the passing of these new regulations, laws and cuts in funding not only will it affect the individual woman but also children's, families' and communities' well-being. As argued in the readings, there are many situations in which this "murder" is actually saving and the act of responsibility. By leaving only one possibility and then stating it is a choice an individual has to make you are leaving no options. In addition, with these restrictions individual bodies and reproduction is being controlled by unconnected powers, disregarding individual and communities physical and emotional health and well-being. As ACRJ states "reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and 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." (page 1)

Direct Engagement - Feb 28

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Currently, the feminist movement is in danger of losing reproductive rights that have already been won, such as abortion and health services. Many bills are popping up nation-wide which, if passed, will seriously inhibit women's power over their own bodies. While these legislative acts affect all women in the United States, they especially target the poor and women of color. (For example, the Smith Bill would prohibit government from providing financial support for abortions, which would primarily impact low-income women.) If these laws go through, we face returning to the dreaded days of wire hangers and crochet hooks. While upper-class women might find creative avenues to access reasonably safe abortions, perhaps through a trusted family physician or international travel, poor women will absolutely experience the full brunt of this onslaught against female bodies. Arguably, the biggest threat to the feminist movement is not merely the loss of reproductive rights, but the mistreatment and institutional reproductive discrimination against women of color, immigrants, queer and transgender women, and the poor. ACRJ quite astutely demands that the feminist movement place priority on reproductive justice, as opposed to reproductive rights or health, because the latter are extremely limited in terms of providing a framework for long-term change and do not factor in the question of access or relative agency. Most marginalized women are struggling with multiple systems of oppression based on race, class, sexuality, ability, age and immigration status. Reproductive justice addresses these questions of intersectionality and fundamentally links feminism with social justice and human rights in general. ACRJ suggests that one of the most important strategies is to educate women and girls about their bodies and communities in order to foster political agency.

DE Question for feb 28


For your DE this week GROUP A should do the following:

Carefully read: 

Drawing upon these 2 readings, how are some feminists framing their conversations about reproductive rights, reproductive health and reproductive justice? Use the readings to describe:

  1. What's at stake with this issue for feminists currently
  2. What are some responses and strategies feminists are offering
GROUPS B and C should comment by Monday at noon. 

DE for Feb 21

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In my personal opinion, choice as a concept is so essential for feminism because it's about autonomy, which was historically only given to men, so personal choice over things like lifestyle and body become a central issue and thus a topic of much debate in feminism, as all of these articles have proven.

One thing that I could not get past in all of the readings, however, was the topic of choice as just a women's issue. Because, quite frankly, women are not the only ones affected by birth control and abortion, seeing how everyone with a uterus is not a woman, and not all women have uteri. The blatant trans* erasure in these articles was sad, especially since some of them were so recent. I think that the feminist movement really needs to think about the way they write about things like choice as just a women's issue and how it enforces the gender binary as well as genital essentialism. There's plenty of language that is much more open-ended that is available for use, if people take the time to do the research and learn. Terms like "uterus-bearer" and "FAAB" (Female Assigned at Birth) are at least a start for eliminating trans* erasure, but it's something that really needs a lot more attention and discussion, and definitely more involvement from trans* activists in the feminist debate on choice. In my opinion, feminism is about the equality of all genders, so it's important to prevent erasure.

DE- The Lie of Choosing


The English language is full of complex and ambiguous words and definitions. In, On Language, the authors address this concerning the word choice. "Choice, is, in essence, an empty word, people with vastly divergent political viewpoints can be united under its banner (145)." However, the word choice is instead approached as a concrete, either/or definition. Andrea Smith illustrates this in her interviews with Native women and their views on pro-life and pro-choice platforms. Both of these stood by one camp or the other, but their reasoning for choosing either one did not match up with the meanings behind each position. Yet, the way that reproductive rights are presented leave only two options that, in different yet similar ways, surround the empty word choice.

When Allison Crews gives her account of growing up in a pro-life environment and the challenges she faced when she became pregnant as a teenager, she remembered seeing a girl leaving a clinic being hurried and shamed through a crowd of protesters. Allison was surrounded by people telling her she was unfit to be a mother. Some choice when abortion is actually a legal procedure. Loretta J. Ross asks the question, "Why are there obstacles for women who seek abortions while our society neglects mothers and children already here (1)." Once again, there is no choice here. What Smith calls "'free' choice," is being fought for a group of women who are already allowed to make choices in their lives.

Recalling Mona Lisa Smile, in On Language, the point to our consumerist culture that tells women that we can get everything we want in life, "as long as we make the right choices [emphasis mine] (147)." What are the right choices? Can the options presented to women legitimately be called choices? The black and white polarization of pro-life/choice is what allows the criminalization that Smith talks about. It creates a situation where only one choice can be the right choice and we see that everywhere with protests and lobbying. Therefore, this approach not only allows criminalization, but brings the focus to the crime itself.

"If we strive to disarticulate crime and punishment then our focus must... also be directed at all the social relations that support the permanence of prison (Smith, 123)." The fundamental issue for feminists concerning this topic is not choice or prison but 'those' people and institutions that are continuing to support the prison industrial complex and its relation to the reproductive rights of women. What is necessary to analyze, however, is, who are 'those' people? "Defining white supremacy as extremist in its racism," says Ross, "often has the results of absolving the mainstream population of its racism (2)." She also goes on to criticize the opposition of pro-life/choice by pointing out that they both function under assumptions that do not make moves towards life, or choice, for women of color (120).

Are we, too, mindlessly and uncritically standing next to a banner that is actually void of any of the meaning we've been taught it has? The ability to choose relies on what a woman already owns. A choice can only be made from what is available. We must ask ourselves, if the so called choices set out for women should really qualify as choices?

Instead, I propose a grammatical move from the use of the word choice to the word right. A right is something that belongs to a person. It is something they own. A choice is something that, even ideally, can only be framed in terms of either/or. That framework simply does not allow for a complex system of thought needed. A right can be denied to a person. For a women to not have choices, or limited choices, is to frame it as a privilege; one that can be limited. Working for the complete ownership of a women's right, puts the subject of reproductive rights in different light. It is something that has unrightfully been taken away. Also, fighting for rights is much for broad and covers much more ground for women than fighting for reproductive choices.

The social structures that need to be challenged or as much a part of us as anyone else unless we continue to challenge our own thinking while challenging others. We are inevitably part of the social structure we live in. Small, mindful changes are necessary. At the end of Allison Crews story, after listing many of the choices she made, she lists even more rights. What caught my eye, however, was one of her statements. "We have the right to choose when, where, with whom, and how we bear children (148)." Now switch it around so that it reads; we have the choice of when, where, with whom, and how we bear children. Which statement speaks with power and ownership?

DE Question for feb 21

hp_naral_logo.gifWhat is choice? Is the right to choose the most fundamental right for feminists? Are there other rights that are just as important? Should there be limits to our ability to "choose"? Who gets to decide those limits?

Focus your direct engagement on how some or all (Ross, Sayce/Perkins, Crews, "On Language," Smith) enage with these questions.

This direct engagement is for Group B. Groups B and C will be commenting. 

Note: For some reason, the reading schedule is currently not available. Here are the readings for next week:

feb 21 Reproductive Rights: What is choice? Who gets to choose?    
            What choices? 


  • Ross, Loretta J. "The Color of Choice" 
  • Crews, Allison. "And So I Chose" 
  • Sayce, Liz and Rachel Perkins. "They should not breed: Feminism, disability and reproductive rights" 
  • "Language: On choice" 
  • Smith, Andrea. "Beyond Pro-Choice Versus Pro-Life: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice" 
feb 23 On Choice, continued... 


Margaret Sanger-The Pill; Direct Engagement: Group C


Wow! Just got done viewing the documentary The Pill and I found it quite interesting and enlightening. I love the journey the feminist movement takes from women's suffrage to the more recent feminist revolution in the 1960s. I did have one thought that puzzled me during the documentary that was not addressed. When birth control was first approved by the FDA were doctors more than willing to prescribe it? That is the way the film portrayed it. I wonder if there was any backlash from the doctors, considering at this point in time they were all male? Were there any catholic doctors that were morally opposed to birth control? A more recent example of this dilemma concerns the Plan B contraceptive pill that is now available. In S. Dakota, where I am from, I am aware that doctors are aloud deny the pill if they are personally and morally opposed to it's function.

Also, I thought it was interesting people were concerned about female promiscuity when the pill was released but no one gave a thought to male promiscuity when the condom was introduced- such a double standard!!

Moving on to the questions for this week...

I think it was very problematic for birth control to be linked to eugenics. First and foremost, I think it is never a good idea to attach your revolution to an extremist practice. By nature, I think a lot of people are opposed to change and even more so an extreme change. The idea of eugenics is controversial today so I can only imagine it was even more controversial and extreme then.

I think the documentary does a great job of displaying how the pill became a crucial tool for social change. The pill gave women control reproductively and sexually. The pill instigated an entire revolution.

Margaret Sanger can teach us a lot about feminism and change. Just by reading Sanger's excerpt one can assume she was pretty radical for the 1920's. She said, "Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that within her which struggle for expression. Her eyes must be less upon what is and more clearly upon what should be." I think Sanger is saying that no matter how far you have to reach a goal or an ideal that it should not deter you from starting the fight. I think Sanger was ambitious and motivated to bring these issues to the table in such an early time and that it is a lesson feminists should remember. No matter how out of reach or how hard or extreme the issue must set their eyes upon what SHOULD BE.

DE Feb. 14 Women's Decision to Create


While reading Margaret Sanger's passages, I had to remind myself that it was written in the 1920's. Sanger was extremely bold in her expression of beliefs of female oppression. I was a little confused when she was trying to link the birth control issue to slavery but I can see that her point she was trying to make is that females are somewhat slaves to their bodies until they choose to take control. Women's sexual freedom and expression is on the line because of birth control. All of Sanger's arguments still apply to us today because of the fact that men simply cannot give birth. Sanger's quote "it is her love life that dies first in the fear of undesired pregnancy" provoked thoughts that remind me that women don't have full sexual freedom. A man can go and sleep with whomever he pleases and never has to worry about becoming pregnant. Another issue tying to that is the issue of women being "sluts" if they "sleep around" when men have the acceptance to do so. A second issue at hand today is abortion which still keeps a woman from having control of her body and the decision to have children or not. I also think that Sanger marks on a feminist issue of motherhood by saying "within her is the wrapped up future of the race - it is hers to make or mar." It is a woman's choice as to whether or not a person may come into this world. Birth and motherhood is so easily taken for granted by many and women must challenge that. Sanger says "woman must not accept; she must challenge" and what I get is to challenge society and challenge everything they have because women have the power to create or not create. Without a woman's creation there would be no life, which is a huge burden to handle but us women should be able to make that decision.

DE Question for feb 14 (feb 16)


NOTEBecause we are watching the film for Monday, we will not be discussing the readings that much until Wednesday. Therefore I am extending the deadline for your direct engagements. Instead of posting entries by Saturday and comments by Monday, group C should post their entries by Monday evening and groups A and D should post their comments by Wednesday at noon. 

In "The Dark Side of Birth Control," Dorothy Roberts writes:

Sanger's shifting alliances reveal how critical political objectives are to determining the nature of reproductive technologies--whether they will be used for women's emancipation or oppression. As the movement veered from its radical, feminist origins toward a eugenic agenda, birth control became a tool to regulate the poor, immigrants, and Black Americans (58-59).

Answer at least one of the following questions: make sure to draw upon the readings

  • What were the dangerous consequences of linking the promotion of birth control with eugenics?
  • How (and in what specific ways) did birth control became a tool of social control?
  • Finally,what can/should we learn from the case of Margaret Sanger as we think critically about feminist movements and their attempts to develop and implement agendas for reproductive rights/justice? Do not use your response to answer the question: Was Margaret Sanger a racist? Instead focus on thinking about what questions her experiences/her choices and actions raise for you.


DE Response WEEK 2


In "On Becoming Educated" Joy Castro pours the frustration of an undergrad seeking understanding and appreciation of her feminist experience through academia onto paper. As a young student she seeks a discourse on "simple" feminist issues, such as unequal pay, sexual assault and domestic violence; things she's experienced first hand.

The young Castro is in much contrast to her class' instructor who views her ideas as simple and not worthy of her time as an academic, and of higher academia. This is most evident in her attempt to talk about a recent tiny provision of the Violence Against Women Act with her professor, whom had written a long scholarly paper on the provision. When approached by Castro about writing an article that would be available to the masses the instructor merely scoffed at the idea of writing for such common magazines such as "Ms.," "Good Housekeeping," or "Cosmopolitan," because their work was going to "trickle down"

This critique of elite and "educated" could be associated to nearly any other field, academia or otherwise, that being said, this arrogance within feminism serves nothing more than to silence voices. The elitism within the movement shut people out from involvement and advocacy. When looking to Allison Jagger, she says that we must seek as may experiences as we can to view the intersections of the movement.

Castro goes on to become an instructor at an all-male school teaching feminism. She goes on and joins the academy, which she previously despised, and allowed it to work for her, instead of the other way around. She taught practical feminist experiences to students rather than complex feminist theories that are quickly and easily forgotten.

DE: Feminist Killjoy (and other willful subjects)


This article gave me an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. There are so many different people in this world with all different experiences and backgrounds and morals and opinions, I understand her explanation as political activism as "a struggle against happiness" in the world is it possible for every single person to be happy? I'd love to see a day where everyone is treated fairly, but Sara Ahmed and again with Allison Jagger show us just how difficult this will be. Even within the community of Feminism, a community fighting for equality, there are divisions and "tensions". I would not even know where to begin to dissect these complex tensions of class, gender, race, sexuality, and religion in the entire world outside of Feminism. I suppose this is why Ahmed connects the Feminist with the killjoy. The more aware I am of the complexity of intersectionality the unhappier I become; I feel frustrated, confused, overwhelmed. The amount of things I begin to worry about and try to struggle to understand keep building up. Jagger says "There is no magic formula for reaching fair and workable resolutions of these pressing and complicated problems. The best we can do is resolve to be as open and sensitive as we can to the diversity of interests and range of values involved". Would there ever be an end to the amount of things we need to study and understand? Once we've tackled one injustice, with time another one will pop up, and another. It is an uncomfortably overwhelming thought, but definitely a motivation to raise more questions and to learn and understand more.

The Creating of Unpleasant Women


In "Feminist Killjoys (and other willful subjects)," Sara Ahmed creates a metaphor of the societal and feminist tables. An image of a table is perfectly situated within feminist debates as it brings to mind a plethora of topics underlying feminist principles. Illustrations like ideals of a "nuclear family" are seen as outdated but still play a large role in the rhetoric of everyday life; the power struggles between a wife, husband, and their children today and in the past come to mind immediately.

How does society construct a man and woman's roles in their own home? How do simple things like the placement of one's "chair" affect the outward impressions made of them? How does the act of sitting in one's metaphorical chair help them, or deter them, from their "commitment to ending women's subordination?" And in turn, does the action of taking a seat at the table take away from everyday experiences where one might be forced, or come upon by their own accord; the "complex and multidimensional" problems that help feminists in evaluating their own values?
In constructing the feminist table Ahmed uses happiness and unhappiness, along with the figure of the feminist killjoy. The individual and collective killjoy becomes a sort of antagonist in societal workings creating controversy in pointing out the convalescence of sexism, racism, and injustice that is overlooked and therefore subtly accepted into society.

"To be willing to go against social order, which is protected as moral order, a happiness order is to be willing to cause unhappiness, even if unhappiness is not your cause (Ahmed 3)."

She uses a story of bell hooks' about racism bringing unhappiness with a different skin color; how then do we factor in things like psychology, sociology, and culture into discussions of racism? Will these things also bring unhappiness or happiness to some? Tension is also caused when one white person steps into a room full of individuals of a different color? Is that tension internal or external? As bell hooks' also wrote about internal patriarchy, can those thoughts also apply to race?

Is the issue of feminism to be a rejector of happiness? Can happiness exsist alongside upset at injustice?

DE #2 (Group D) "On Becoming Educated"


Joy Castro's piece, "On Becoming Educated," strongly resounded with Alison Jaggar's assertions about needing to, "confront complex, multidimensional problems that require us to balance a variety of values and to evaluate the claims and interests of a variety of groups." That is to say, Feminism cannot merely be content to exist in a realm of comfortable universality; it's not realistic or proportional to the world we live in. There are not only different groups of women ranging from ethnicity, sexuality, class, gender expression, political views, etc, but men too, should be included in this conversation. If part of the goal of Feminism is to fight patriarchy then certainly men's role in society and their own broad range of experiences should be expressed and navigated as well.

Castro notes in her article how she "got to teach women's literature, including Latina literature, and feminist theory to classrooms of thirty-five men at a time. Farmboys and lawyers' sons took my classes... I value those voices, those questions, that red-state hostility, because they taught me how to make feminism's insights relevant to people outside a closed, snug room of agreement." Castro's insight about her own first experiences teaching demonstrates how feminism can and needs to be expressed and taught outside classrooms of highly educated and interested students that are a vast majority female. A person need not be an entitled scholar to learn and benefit from what feminism is able to teach and likewise feminism shouldn't be locked away in academia for a select few--inaccessibility breeds stagnation because there is no longer a myriad of ideas, thoughts, opinions, and experiences being discussed.

And finally, As Jaggar also points out, "if we are sincerely concerned with ending the subordination of all women, feminists cannot afford unquestioned assumptions, orthodoxies, or dogmatic commitments to positions alleged to be 'politically correct.' What is common of often "accepted truths" is that these assertions are meant to include everybody but in fact leave out a good number of people. Something is not a fact or justified simply because a majority of people agree with that rhetoric; it's that kind of thinking that has marginalized women for so many years. Castro in her experiences with grad school faced a similar situation in one of her classes. They read, Gloria Anzaldúa's, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and apparently "it was too disjointed, too polemical. Students quickly chime in with their discomfort over the book's 'angry' content..." Castro goes on to say how, "my professor and classmates hadn't stumbled over W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, or Maxine Hong Kingston, but Gloria Anzaldúa is somehow too different, too much....I find myself arguing in defense of the book's worth, trying to articulate the difference between being angry by temperament and expressing justified anger in response to violation." This situation exemplifies how certain materials written by authors of a different ethnicity and perspective can instill a particular amount of unsettlement in the audience.

The book's merits were dismissed because the material covered a wide range of subjects, was strongly worded, and it made people feel uncomfortable. These characteristics should not disbar a piece of work. It's good to feel that discomfort, especially over someone's being angry, because it challenges readers then to reconcile not only their own experiences with the author but to really evaluate the issues being brought up. It's okay for an author to be angry; the very real problems that face women aren't something that should be just viewed in a distanced objective manner--it discounts the very real situations and struggles that these different groups of women face.

What I'm still wondering though is how does academia then get itself a reality check? I mean, how are we able to begin the discourse around issues and subjects that make people uncomfortable and challenge strong held beliefs or ideologies of a given field like feminism?

DE Question for b. feb 7


All of the authors for this week write about the difficult labor of negotiating between differences within/between feminists and feminist understandings and articulations of important issues and agendas.

In "On Becoming Educated," Joy Castro discusses the difficulties of negotiating her feminist practices inside and outside of the academy as she struggles with questions about whose voice count and who/what feminist education is for.

In "In Difficulty: Intersectionality as Feminist Work" Jennifer C. Nash challenges readers to think beyond a mere call for more and more "intersectional analysis" as a way to negotiate differences between feminists. She cautions readers that such a move can obscure actual lived experiences and can lead to a celebration of difference/complexity for its own sake.

In "Feminist Killjoys," Sara Ahmed describes the value of being willful/killing joy and refusing to be happily ignorant for "making sense of the complexity of feminism as an activist space." She argues that the shared experiences/feelings of being the killjoy at the table (even as our tables exist in very different spaces/situations) offers up the possibility for shared joy and solidarity.

In your 200-250 word response, pick one the above articles (Castro, Nash or Ahmed) and reflect on it in relation to the following passage from the Alison Jaggar excerpt:


The purpose of these direct entries is to get us started in thinking about the readings. In your response, you can raise questions about the readings (things you didn't understand, things you want to talk about more in class, etc). Do not use your response as a space for expressing what you did/didn't like about the essay. Instead use it as a space for taking your chosen article seriously and for struggling with how to understand it. Make sure that refer to a passage/s from your chosen text. 

The editors of this special issue on Polyphonic Feminisms, put together a feminist soundtrack for the issue in order to "demonstrate the many vocal registers of feminism, the polyphony of sounds feminism can make." So, if we created a feminist soundtrack for our class, what song would you like to add? 

Here's mine (I'll resist the strong temptation to explain why I picked it...): "My Eyes" from Dr. Horrible's Sing along Blog


The ideology of feminism has been a critical controversial issue which needs to be well explained and learned. The understanding of feminism has been crippled by the basic understanding that feminism is an act of lesbianism or a way for women to take control of the society. In fact this issue of feminism has been left aside due to the fact everyone believes they already have enough understanding of the ideology, thereby, leaving the patriarchal mass media to remain the primary place where young feminist learn about feminism.
According to Bells Hook, "our failure to create a mass based educational movement to teach and make everyone understand feminism has allowed mainstream patriarchal mass media to teach folks about feminism most which are negative" (24). It is true that the patriarchal mass media has made us to believe feminism is evil or is a community of angry women and haters of children and life. They have called feminist movement a primary force of moral decay women and a cause of the large percentage of divorce rate estimated today in the US.
However, to stop this negative image of a feminist movement, blog, facebook, twitter was created to educate young feminists of the true ideology of feminism and was also used as a means to connect with other feminist across the world. This was used as a gateway for people not familiar with the movement, its principle, and the understanding of collective struggle of the feminist issue. It has provided us with the ability to see both women and men as capable of individual self-reliance and free will.
Although this has been a great tool of activism, there have been some limitations due to lack of internet access in some places.

DE 1


Mainstream media is many times viewed as having negative influences and outcomes, and in many cases this rings true. Unfortunately in today's mainly media based society we cannot run or escape this obsession of our times. In my opinion, whether something creates a positive or negative influence or outcome all depends on the reader/viewer/listener, it lies in OUR hands to dissect the information that we receive and to understand that not all information should be taken as 100 percent true. This is why is it crucial for the feminist movement to separate itself from what hooks calls "the mainstream patriarchal mass media" and to make it clear to the readers/viewers/listeners that they need to be weary of everything that runs in mainstream media. After all, mainstream media is not necessarily concerned with truths, lies or biases, but rather ratings and publicly.

This is why the best way to fight this battle is naturally through retaliation with correct feminist education using the same weapon, mass media! Mass media is a genius way to spread information quickly across the entire world, we just have to choose what we spread wisely. Today's fascinations with the internet, blogs, facebook, and twitter can definitely become vital weapons in the fight for the feminist education movement if used correctly. What better and easier way to connect with people all over the world than the internet? It honestly doesn't get much easier than that. I think many successful movements capture the power of today's youth. I would argue that today's youth spends a lot, if not too much time, browsing the internet. What better way than to catch a young person's eye than on the internet. Internet media is more powerful than ever, people read the news online, they even watch tv online, instead of on their television sets. Everything is about accessibility today. The easier the information is to access the faster it will spread. This is why I believe that the best way to spread educational and critical awareness is through the internet using blogs and various social sites.

Hooks addresses a very important point about spreading negative information. It is true, because I see it in myself, that the mainstream media has painted a negative picture of feminism and its theories. I myself, used to think that to be a feminist one had to be very aggressive about women's issues and to look at it as a fight of man vs. woman. This is not the case at all. Feminists are not man-haters and it is not a battle AGAINST anyone, but a battle FOR something. A battle for justice, equality, rights, and a voice.
Here's also a link to a funny little cartoon...

Direct Engagement 1

| 1 Comment

We are now living in the age of the internet. Where facebook, twitter and other social networking sites consume the majority of people's time. On their breaks from work they check their Farmville or in the middle of a meeting they tweet. With so much attention to these forms of media some may argue movements, such as the feminist movement, should take advantage to spread the word. Although this is a potential method to spread knowledge and truth, individuals must remember the impact one click can have in addition to the possibility of trivializing a very important argument.

By using these social media outlets to express thoughts and theories people are able to reach a large amount of people coming from diverse backgrounds and situations in life. I believe it is important to remember however, that since so many individuals post obsessively this could take away the significance and power of an argument sent out into cyberspace. I feel the best way to educate people would be by restructuring the way in which the media (movies, news, advertisements, etc.) portray feminist issues. "Mainstream patriarchal mass media," (as bell hooks puts it) emphasizes heteronormativity, which allows for othering of a large number of people who do not fit in these roles developed by institutions that are reiterated through these forms of media. These forms of media, which bombard people every minute of every day, are the means that influence societies socialization and impact how citizens partake and understand gender roles, sexuality and the world.

Questioning Mass Media and Social Media


I agree with hooks about mass media being the primary source of feminist information. And I agree that this is not the ideal route by which to transport ideas. But I also don't think that social media is the best way to raise awareness either.

I loved to read about the Moldova protest or about the Iranian people finding inspiration to seek freedom. I found it astounding that someone would post their abortion to empower women to believe that they have to power to choose. And I found the Incite! blog to be completely enlightening. My question is, who is looking at these cites? Who is reading these blogs? Can I trust what I read on the internet?

The unfortunate truth, in my opinion, is that the people who read these blogs, visit these cites, and follow the Tweets are the people who are already feminists or are at least have an interest. And I was taught at a young age to always question what I read on the internet. I'm not saying that any of these cites are lying, nothing of that sort. But what about other people? My issue with mass media is similar, I don't think that mass media is a trustworthy source of information either.

The problem with mass media is that it is trying to be geared towards a particular audience and information is always going to be slightly biased. Although, I suppose, that's almost completely impossible to avoid.

In the end I think the best way to spread information is through personal connection. There's power behind the spoken word, it's something that I don't think can ever be replaced.