Archive | November, 2011

Women in Leadership: Fed. Up. With No Shave November

24 Nov

Women in Leadership: Fed. Up. With No Shave November
Chana Messinger

“Gross”

“Disgusting”

“Nasty”

“Get away from me”.

What could the Internet have found so revolting? You’d think the subject matter of the Twitter universe latest target was a new sex tape that involved both necrophilia and bestiality and was thus finally shocking enough to horrify the mainstream judgment cloud that is Twitter (until the next trending topic came up, of course). Perhaps, it was an “Actual Bad Thing” like a celebrity domestic abuser.

Ah, me, no. The grossest thing the Internet could imagine was a woman somewhere out there in the world, not applying sharp metal blades or hot melted wax to her skin. The horror!

We, the reasonable majority, might start to think about the women that we know, how in particular, they are not one unshaven day away from causing us to vomit every time they walk into a room. We might start to think that a twitter storm implying such a thing might start to make women put down, self-conscious and shamed. We might come to believe that sentiments expressed with such internet behavior are foolish and harmful, and that we need to push back. And we would be right.

The Occasion: No Shave November. Also known as “Movember”, or “Novembeard”, NSN is a yearly tradition in which people don’t shave for a month, in an effort to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer research. As you may be able to tell from the latter naming options, it has traditionally been focused on men.

 

I don’t really have a problem with that. I understand that cancer research and awareness can be best served by snazzy, hip campaigns that appeal to people’s self-interest and sense of identity. This tactic can go terribly wrong, of course, as we’ve seen in the ‘Pinkification’ of breast cancer. But in general, it’s fine for Movember to involve mainly men and market the idea mainly to men and even to emphasize the manliness of beards in order to do it.

But. But! When a phenomenon like No Shave November goes viral, it becomes so decentralized as to lack any organization that could alter the event to be more inclusive. This has obvious benefits, since it’s supposed to be, in some ways, something that people (read: men) just do because it’s fun and silly and exciting and yes, also because it’s for a good cause.

Unfortunately, this means that the public face of No Shave November, as analyzed through Twitter, becomes a cesspool of male privilege and pan-gendered body shaming.

For example:
“No shave November does not apply to females… I repeat: No shave November DOES NOT apply to females. That is all”

“Just Witnessed A Female Who C L E A R L Y Started -No Shave November-. Ughhhh. Nasty AF”

“No shave November doesn’t apply to women. That’s disgusting.

“No Shave November is meant for men, NOT women!!!”

And I could go on and on and on and on…(Author’s note: These comments came from all genders).

Has women’s body hair been killing people? Engaging in public urination? Eating people’s hamsters without justifiable cause?

No?

It’s just existing on women’s bodies in a totally sanitary and natural way in the same way it does on men’s bodies. That is apparently enough to provoke an onslaught of self-indulgent narcissistic personal preference sharing tweeting, all of it entirely oblivious to the vast social and political consequences of such an overwhelming condemnation of women who do not shave their bodies.

I, for one, am fed up! I am fed up with the silliness of caring so much about what other people look like, even when it doesn’t affect you. I am fed up with the totally unfair beauty standards to which women are held and shamed if they do not. I am fed up with the internet helping to create a society where it’s ok to make a perfectly normal preteen girl feel like she’s less of a woman if she doesn’t pull out the razors immediately on her twelfth birthday. I am most fed up with a culture that focuses more on the fact that women aren’t shaving than on the fact that they’re fighting prostate cancer.

What is to be done? The internet is a devastatingly unappealing place at times, but it would be politically lazy to therefore do nothing. We have the choice to let the internet conquer feminism, or to make feminism conquer the internet.

Sexists may be all over the internet for now, but remember: their public forums are ours as well. We can use the same tools and turn their awful messages on their heads. We can call out sexism where we see it. We can spread supportive, healthy messages to the entire Internet community.

And we already are! The feminist blogosphere exists, of course, but even just in this case, check out this woman, who is calling out sexism. And this guy was really happy we, the anti-sexists, existed. Sure I received some unpleasant replies to my requests for a saner, less misogynistic world, but again, if the sexists can use Twitter as a public forum, so can we.

We can say things like, “Stop shaming women for their personal choices, especially if they’re trying to fight prostate cancer”

We can even change some minds. We can hopefully reach many who may be made hopeful by the sheer existence of those willing to question the assumption that women must naturally have a higher standard of beauty inconvenience.

A woman who doesn’t shave her legs does not harbor the seeds of destruction of a civilized and hygienic society, and one who does it in the name of raising money for prostate cancer research is praiseworthy, not disgusting, and she should be lauded, not shamed. This is worth saying over and over again, in conversation and on the internet. It may be saddening or disturbing that it has to be said at all, but that is no excuse for inaction on our parts. If feminism has done anything, it has given us a voice. Let’s use it to make a more equal society, 140 characters at a time.

 

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Women in Leadership: An Evening with Catharine MacKinnon

24 Nov

Women in Leadership: An Evening with Catharine MacKinnon

Emmaline Campbell
GALS President

On November 14, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality hosted Catharine MacKinnon for an on campus lecture. Ms. MacKinnon is renowned for her work internationally on sex trafficking and pornography. Her speech, entitled “Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality,” addressed the debate about whether prostitution can be good for women. Her answer to this question is an emphatic “no.”

Ms. MacKinnon argues that prostitution is a denial of human rights, a cycle of sexual abuse, and the ultimate oppression of women.

Prostitutes are overwhelmingly poor, and typically are members of disadvantaged classes. Prostitutes usually begin at a young age, sometimes as young as 10. Prostitutes tend to have been sexually abused during their childhood.

Ms. MacKinnon argues that none of these factors lend towards the argument that anyone can become a prostitute, and that prostitutes are knowingly giving consent. Gender, social class, and sexual abuse history define prostitution. It is a fact of circumstance, not a conscious employment choice.

There is a class structure within the sex trade, and it does not benefit the prostitutes: it benefits the pimps, who often keep women working through threats and violence. A recent study found that 89% of prostitutes want to leave the industry, but are unable to.

Prostitution carries serious health risks.  In Calcutta, prostitutes typically serve 20-30 men per day. The women risk a higher chance for prostitutes to contract a sexually transmitted disease.

Prostitutes are much more likely to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (ptsd) than the general population. The disorder is a response to an amount of trauma that exceeds what a person is capable of tolerating.

For these reasons, Ms. MacKinnon argues we must seek to end prostitution. She does not, however, believe that criminalization of prostitution is the best answer. Instead, Ms. MacKinnon advocates for the Swedish Model, which she and Andrea Dworkin helped to develop. The Swedish Model is as follows:

–       Decriminalizing prostitution for the prostitutes.
–       Criminalizing buyers of prostitution
–       Criminalizing third party profiteers of prostitution.

All in all, Ms. MacKinnon presents a very compelling argument for prostitution as a violation of human rights and dignity. I’ll be interested to see how other countries’ views on prostitution continue to evolve.Emmaline Campbell is the President of GALS.

Women in Leadership: To the Modern Day Peripatetic

14 Nov

Women in Leadership: To the Modern Day Peripatetic

Ash Mayo
GALS Member

Choose your major early. Graduate early. Go to law school or medical school. No, don’t take time off—you’ll never get back in.  Don’t bother with a job if it’s any less than (insert your family’s favorite number here).

This is the truncated transcription of my Sunday phone call with my family. I call my parents every Sunday, and they catch me up on family gossip. They tell me to get a haircut, eat better, and then, generally, let me go on my way. However, this week “specialize” was rhythm and melody of the conversation.

What do I mean by “specialize”? This word arose in academia from the desperate situation of the economy. There is an emphasis on the academic disciplines most likely to earn high salaries after a college education. The sciences, the art of business, mathematics and computer science – any major or area outside the social sciences and humanities – are the darlings of the “specialize” crowd.

Specialize – this has become the mantra of many in America. My friends in college and beyond hear it. MSNBC writes of it. There is growing skepticism towards the traditional liberal arts education. More than that, it has come at the expense of the facts. The GALS Speaker, Ms. Julia Stasch, for our seventh week sought to challenge this call to “specialize”. Stasch, Vice-President of the MacArthur Foundation, spoke to a group of thirty UChicago students. She is, by every measure, a success. Her life, however, is the sort that would scare my parents out of sleep.

In her second year of Antioch College, Ms. Stasch dropped out “to find [herself]”. She taught with VISTA on a Native American reservation. She also taught history on the South Side of Chicago at Harlan Community Academy. In 1977, she helped found Stein & Company, a real estate development firm. She then became President and CEO of Shorebank Chicago Companies for a year. All the while, she was slowly gaining a college degree. The culmination of which would be her graduating summa cum laude from Loyola University. In 1997, Ms. Stasch served in the Clinton administration as the Deputy Administrator of the General Services Administration. Ms. Stasch stayed in Washington for only a few years before returning to Chicago to work for Mayor Daley first as the Commission of the Housing Department, and later as his Chief of Staff. Finally, the MacArthur Foundation hired Ms. Stasch for her current job of vice president.

Ms. Stasch’s life is the life of a peripatetic, and she attributed much of her success to this. She didn’t “cloak [herself] in an identity”. She stayed open to every opportunity.

Her speech was peppered with amusing anecdotes and relatable advice. When discussing her job history, Stasch admitted she had never run a real estate company or a bank despite her employer tasking her with these executive position.   The thought “oh my god, how am I going to do that?” did cross her mind.

After some reflection, however, she simply said, “I can do that.” Thankfully for our narrative, she succeeded with flying colors and with unwavering resolve. If she “specialized” in anything, it was resourcefulness, not a high-paying major.

Thank you again, Ms. Stasch, for coming to calm the fears of those (and their parents) who don’t yet know the direction their lives will take.
Below is Ms. Stasch’s list of leadership do’s and Don’ts for those of you who are interested:

1)   Do be confident. “Every woman has a core which lacks self-confidence, but you cannot let it define you.”

2)   Do be optimistic. “You cannot draw others without it.”

3)   Do be “comfortable with ambiguity”. Be able to shape your role and make the most of it.

4)  Do be funny. “It’s unexpected from a woman.” So crack a joke every once in a while.

5)   Do be tough skinned. As Mayor Daley told Ms. Stasch, “Not everybody is your friend.”

6)  Do take a seat at the table. If you don’t think it, no one else will.

7)   Don’t be afraid to interrupt. Respect others, but do not tolerate getting cut out of the conversation.

8)   Don’t let others take your credit. “Remind people of what you’ve done.”

9)   Do know when to pull back. “Ask for help when you need it.”

10)  Don’t “see your success at the expense of men,” because the world needs all of us.

Ash Mayo is a member of GALS. Her interests include gender equality and discussions on the role of sexuality in modern feminist discourse.

Women in Leadership: A Letter to Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin

14 Nov

Women in Leadership
Molly Cunningham
Editor in Chief

 

 

In a previous iteration of this blog, more creative pieces of work on gender issues became a series called “Letters from a Girl”. These epistles from my imagination are respectful, but the tone does occasionally verge on the sarcastic or the amused. These pieces are intended to question and to challenge the imagined recipients. I enjoy the letter format, and I hope the audience enjoys them as much as I enjoy writing them!

This is companion letter to the letter to Hillary Clinton. Since I covered the more liberal perspective, I must now address Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and all conservative women. Without further ado:

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin Are Feminists…
Whether They Like It or Not!

 

A Letter from a Girl

To the Conservative Women of America,

There is a strange phobia infecting the conservative women of the United States. If we narrow our media consumption to the more conservative programming of Fox News, the Washington Post, and other publications to the right, the problem becomes somewhat evident. However, there is a debate between more liberal and more conservative publication about this fear

This phobia? The phobia of feminism. Or more, accurately, there is a fear amongst conservative women of being labeled “feminist”.

Feminism, succinctly, is a collection of movements devoted to the equal rights of women in society, in politics, and in the economy. Historically, the movements are associated with other movements for equality, including civil rights movements and gay rights movements. Feminist theory supports the movements through academic explanation of inequality. Between the movements and the theory, feminists are credited with ensuring reproductive rights of women worldwide, creating universal female suffrage in the Western Hemisphere, and advocating for equal pay for women.

A movement dedicated to female equality seems an odd target for women. So, why are you, conservative women who exemplify many of the values of female equality, afraid of being called feminists?

Some of this fear is understandable in context. The conflation of feminism with liberalism could make any conservative woman nervous about adopting the label. Social conservatives like Paul Gottfried argue that more liberal forms of feminism “… has been a social disaster that continues to take its toll on the family”.  The emphasis of social conservative ideology in the modern Republican Party has institutionalized the fear of liberal ideologies demanding equality. Feminism has become a victim of partisan politics within the United States.     

Paul Gottfried

But what does this mean for conservative women? Approximately forty-two percent (42%) of Americans consider themselves “conservative” according to Gallup Polling. However, polling also indicates there are more men than women in the conservative movement and in the modern Republican Party. Despite the prominence of Republican women within Congress and within state and municipal politics, men continue to dominate the political, economic, and social scenes frequented by conservatives. Women in the social conservative movement quietly preach the deference to men in defense of “tradition”, “values”, and “the family”. 

Could conservative women be under siege from their male counterparts to oppose feminism?

Unfortunately for that argument, conservative women appear to be expressing distaste for feminism independent of men like Paul Gottfried. No two figures have exemplified this trend more than former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and current Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. To quote Ms. Bachmann and Ms. Palin on feminism is to see the apparent phobia towards the identification “feminist” despite being the beneficiaries of feminism. 

In Going Rogue, Ms. Palin claims to disdain from “…the radical mantras of that early feminist era, but reasoned arguments for equal opportunity definitely resonated with me.”

Sarah Palin in Going Rogue

In speeches, Michele Bachmann has drawn from Scripture to command women to be “submissive” to their husbands.

Michele Bachmann and Her Husband Marcus Bachmann

Both women claim a disdain for feminism. Both women, however, are beneficiaries of female suffrage, a crucial goal of early feminist theory and early feminist movements. Ms. Palin and Ms. Bachmann receive the same benefits of their male counterparts in politics, largely because of gender equality movements and legislation.

The source of this fear and this disdain for feminism appears to come both from the conflation of feminism with liberal causes and from the rise of social conservatives and Christian conservatives within the modern Republican Party. Feminism in its original form as a message for female equality and gender equality has lost conservatives in its socio-political message.

Thankfully for conservative women Ms. Palin, and Ms. Bachmann, feminism is listening.

It would be reasonable to conclude that conservative women are feminists, concerned with equal opportunity and female empowerment. Instead of complaining and distancing themselves from feminism, conservative women should embrace their status as beneficiaries of feminism. Perhaps, in the future, conservative women could serve as critics for the contemporary movement?

So, my conservative sisters, there is room within the movement for female equality in society, in politics, and in the economy. Meghan Daum succinctly welcomes conservative women into the feminist fold. Any conservative women who”…has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she’s entitled to be accepted as one.”

Meghan Daum

As for Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, the leaders of this female conservative awakening?  Ms. Bachmann and Ms. Palin, you’re feminists whether you like it or not!

Signed,
A Girl  

 

 

Look We’re Famous!

8 Nov

http://chicagomaroon.com/2011/11/08/macarthur-foundation-vp-talks-women-in-leadership/

From the UC Maroon:

Julia Stasch,  Vice President of the MacArthur Foundation:
“The straight, purposeful, goal-oriented career path? No. It was serendipitous and wonderful that I was not focused on a single identity to cloak myself in,” Stasch said, stressing the importance of remaining open to career opportunities.

Blaire Byg, GALS Board Member:
“She provides an interesting perspective specifically for U of C students because they tend to be goal-oriented and competitive,” 

Our event last night with Ms. Stasch from the MacArthur Foundation was very successful. Posts to follow!

Molly Cunningham
Editor-in-Chief

Women in Leadership: Hillary Clinton and Human Rights

7 Nov

From the Editor-in-Chief:
Hillary Clinton and Human Rights 

Hillary Clinton has recently been in the news for her stances on human rights in Uzbekistan, Bahrain, and Iran. There has been considerable criticism directed towards the Obama administration concerning human rights and gender-oriented rights. Hillary Clinton, the most visible female figure of the Obama administration, has borne the brunt of criticism regarding international human rights and international women’s rights. I shall not comment specifically about the performance of Secretary Clinton during this past week, but I thought I would republish a blog post from our predecessor blog on Secretary Clinton and her perspective on human rights. I would recommend watching the video referred to in the post first for context.

Without further ado:

Letters from a Girl:

Dear Secretary of State Clinton,

Having just watched video clips of your parallel speeches from the UN Conferences on Women, I have to admit. I was very impressed by the quality of your message on the issue of women and their rights and progress. There is an attractive ring to your words, driven home by the equating of qualities of women to all of humanity. Linking human rights to the rights of women and later the upward ascendancy on the human race with the development of women in society makes for a rousing call to battle for your audience in 1995 and in 2010. For the preservation and progress of humanity, we must look to our women.

Nevertheless, I do wonder about the implications of your words from 1995. Why must we make a distinction between humanity and women, Mrs. Clinton?

The violations you mention within the 1995, the intimidation, the suppression, the mutilation, and the death of women are striking examples of the lack of human rights worldwide. Without a doubt, the persecution of women constitutes a severe challenge for those who preach the doctrine of moral absolutism and the creed of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Here is my problem with your semantics –focusing solely on the rights of women does not advance the agenda of human rights its intended target, human beings in general.

To expand on this opinion, consider the actual semantics of your equation of the rights of human beings to the rights of women. Focusing solely the right of access to proper medical on the brutal treatment of women at the hands of “doctors” performing female genital mutilation tends to exclude the male gender from such considerations. By making this distinction that women’s rights are human rights, a logical argument can be made that it is ultimately discriminatory to those of another gender, which is surely not your point.

In terms of the human rights theory advanced in the 1940s (by UN Ambassador and intellectual Eleanor Roosevelt, no less), human rights needs to focus on those claims made by all human beings. The specific rights of women within the strictly academic sense is a “specific” right, according to theorist Maurice Cranston, but human rights focus on those rights specific to all human beings. These rights are those rights innate within all human beings. We cannot confuse the rights specific to a gender with those sacrosanct rights given to us by our existence as human rights. The progress made on these rights advance women’s rights, but progress with women’s rights does not necessarily advance human rights.
From 1995 to 2010, obvious progress has been made from the transition to a new millennium. Women occupy more top positions in government, business, education, and even religion (that bastion of anti-feminist sentiment, madam!). You yourself are, arguably, the most powerful woman in America as the Secretary of State for the Obama administration. This progress in society is laudable, and you mention this in your speech from 2010. However, we cannot confuse this progress with complacency, which you do warn against. However, women are not always the targets of abuses of human rights. Our rhetoric as women should be inclusive for human beings.

My point, Mrs. Clinton, is simply that the rights of women, the progress of women should be part of a larger movement of humanity towards equality. Through the progression of history, we have become more powerful, more educated, and more motivated as a gender. Focusing ourselves solely inward upon our own gender can temporary alleviate the problems of gender within a community while not addressing the problems of human rights. Women have an important role to play in alleviating the suffering of all humans, not just their oppressed sisters. 

Again, these are merely my opinions based on my admittedly limited experiences with human rights literature and legal code as well as the struggle of women for the rights of all women. I am a woman, but I am innately a human being.  

Sincerely,
A Girl

I hope this post will give some perspective and continuity to Galatea on our discussion on women in leadership. I shall confess to being a fan of Secretary Clinton, but I shall promise a balanced perspective. The women of the GOP, the Republican women, will get their day with a post: 

Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin are Feminist Icons…
Whether They Like It or Not!

Stay tuned,

Molly Cunningham
Editor-in-Chief, Galatea
GALS Board Member  

Community Service Update!

7 Nov

Community Service Update

“Feminism + Theater!”

Emmaline Campbell
GALS President  

This week, GALS got out of Hyde Park and up to 20% Theatre Company in Lakeview. 20% Theatre Company is dedicated to strengthening the presence and raising public awareness of women artists in theatre. It is estimated that only 20% of theatre professionals are women. By providing educational opportunities for women directors, producers, designers, and playwrights, 20% Theatre Company Chicago strives to increase the number of women in theatre.

This weekend, GALS joined 20% Theatre Company at a tech day and helped them get their space ready for their upcoming show, House of Yes. We painted the set and put up posters for the show.


GALS President Emmaline Campbell shows off her painting skills. 

It was great to meet some other activists around Chicago who are taking on feminism in a totally different way than we are: though theater. It was also nice to see a room full of women during sawing, painting, drilling, and putting up lights. It was a great community experience, and a lot of fun!


GALS Board Member Blair Byg, having a “great community experience, and a lot of fun!”

—-

Emmaline Campbell is the President of GALS and is a second-year in the College. She is our fearless commander-in-chief, and she is always up for challenges with a smile.



Editor’s Note: Community Service Updates will cover Community Service Days hosted by GALS and will discuss the benefits of community service to the discussion on gender issues.