Monday, September 17, 2007

Viva la Vulva!

“I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them.”
– Eve Ensler

This blog begins with a short essay I wrote for my Women's Studies class, which asked us find the common thread among our assigned readings for the week (dealing with feminist theorizing about body image and beauty ideals), and to tie in a cultural artifact, as well as a feminist response to the articles. The following is my work, with additional commentary.

Viva la Vulva!

Eve Ensler’s quote from her fabulous work, the “Vagina Monologues,” rings true to my own worries about the vagina after reading Chapter 3 in “Women’s Lives: A Multicultural Perspective,” as well as the selected readings from the same text, and Chapter 5 in Megan Seely’s “Fight Like a Girl,” aptly titled “Good Enough.” Through every single text, one terrifying fact stands alone – that women are made to feel unhappy about who they are, not based on personal characteristics or personality traits, but on the basis of their bodies alone. Not only does this separate the body and mind, and make women feel less whole, but demeans every woman as nothing more than an sex object, or a disconnected system composed of separate body issues in need of extensive “repair” – legs that need to be smoothed, thighs that need to be thinned, hair that needs to be waxed, breasts that need to be lifted, faces that need to be airbrushed, arms that need to be toned and tanned. While all of these ridiculous beauty standards that women are expected to meet are outraging, it was a line on page 123 of WLP that infuriated me the most –

WomenseNews writer Sandy Kobrin (2003) also reported an increase in labiaplasty, ‘the surgical reshaping of female external genital structures. Doctors who perform this surgery say that most women who get it are ‘pressured by men who want them to conform to an idea of beauty most often seen in the porn industry’.”

I cannot even begin to fathom the idea of putting oneself through surgery, a dangerous procedure even for medical conditions that are the determination between life and death, to “improve” the look of one’s labia. According to the website, 793 women underwent “vaginal rejuvenation” in the United States alone. After visiting WomenseNews’ website, I found another another article Kobrin published in 2004 in which a woman writes,

“‘I looked in like, those magazines, and saw that inner labia shouldn't stick out like mine did,’ said Crystal, who requested her last name be withheld. ‘So I had a labiaplasty and now I love the way I look; nice and neat and new. My vagina looks perfect’.”

A plastic surgeon also commented on the harrowing rise of the surgery,

“‘Women want to be tight,’ said Matlock. ‘They don't want sagging or loose labia. I can't tell you how many pages and pages of pornographic material women have brought into me saying, ‘I want to look like this.’”

The most discomforting part of this rising surgery isn’t necessarily the surgery itself, but the fact that women feel as if they aren’t “good enough.” They are entering doctor’s offices bringing in armloads of pornographic images of women whose labia are “perfect” – images that are airbrushed to all look the same. Lifeless, non-descript, impossible images that only serve to further condemn women to feel shameful of their own bodies. When only one (or a few extremely similar images) are presented through the media – in the case of labia, and the vulva as a whole, usually only through the pornography industry – women have no way of knowing that there are millions of vulva shapes, sizes, designs, and beauty- a type for every woman! In this way, “the constant promotion of an ideal body image is a very effective way of oppressing women and girls, taking up time, money, and attention that could be devoted to other aspects of life, like education or self-development, or to wider issues such as the need for affordable health care, child care, elder care, and jobs with decent pay and benefits” (WLP 129).

Not only are women detracting from these issues by focusing their time on their physical attributes rather than their personal and spiritual growth, but the language they use against their bodies is degrading and demeaning. It is not until after surgery that women consider themselves “nice,” “neat,” and “perfect.” Until then, they feel “sagging,” which is considered undesirable by not only themselves, but their partners as well.

It is through female-positive websites such as the cultural artifact which can end these negative self perceptions women are socialized to hold against themselves. On the site, Doctor Betty Dodson has collected beautiful photographs of women’s vulvas of all varieties. These images are empowering and exhilarating, as they depict vulvas that are different from the pornographic norm. These images let women know that there is nothing “wrong,” or “imperfect” with the way they are, that everyone’s bodies are different, and that it is not important to worry about the external so much as the internal.

As a feminist, I responded to these articles with shock and dismay, yet with great praise for empowering websites such as Betty Dodson’s. Because women and young girls are inundated with a flood of over-sexualized, over-exposed, over-airbrushed images of what a “woman” is supposed to be in every facet of life, from advertisements in “Seventeen” magazine, to pornography pop-ups on every website, to the television shows we praise, it is a feminist’s responsibility to continue to share and create these female-positive websites. It is our responsibility to ensure women that who they are IS good enough. Instead of accepting “what is horribly wrong in our lives,” we need to “fight [for] what is beautiful and right” – images of women that are real, honest, and beautiful in their imperfections (The Body Politic 143).


As I mentioned in my essay, the statistics are astounding, and the language womyn use to describe themselves even worse - if they are saying after surgery that they are nice, neat, and perfect, then before the surgery they must have been bad, unclean, undesirable, and imperfect.
This idea is so ridiculous, that I am enraged womyn are made to feel this way, especially when the vulva is so beautiful, so strong, and so much a part of being a womyn. One of my favorite descriptions of female anatomy is found in "The Vagina Workshop," a favorite monologue of mine from Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues.

"My vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell, opening and closing, closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip, the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy ... my vagina is a shell, a tulip, and a destiny. I am arriving as I am beginning to leave. My vagina, my vagina, me."

This description is so beautiful, and so powerful, and should be read by every womyn. THIS is the language we should use when speaking about our bodies, the words of our feminist mothers and role models. Words that come from within ourselves, not from the media. Words that are strong, and empowering. When we refer to ourselves in the way the media wants us to view ourselves - as fat, slobby, undesirable, sagging, ragged, imperfect - we can never become more than our bodies. We are doomed to concentrate all of our energy and money on an unreachable goal of "perfection," that not even our models can reach (remember, even they need to be airbrushed before they hit the magazines). Moreover, the

"tendency to view one's body from the outside in - regarding physical attractiveness, sex appeal, measurements, and weight as more central to one's physical identity than health, strength, energy level, coordination, or fitness - has many harmful effects, including diminished mental performance, increased feelings of shame and anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, and the development of eating disorders" (WLP 134).

Womyn, we need to rise above this. We have to realize the life-threatening dangers of such physically-based thought processes. We need websites such as Dodson's and Men, we need your help as well. In a recent study, "male college students shown centerfolds from Playboy and Penthouse were more likely to find their own girlfriends less sexually attractive" (WLP 134). Men, you too need to educate yourselves on the power your words hold. When the majority of womyn is undergoing labiaplasties due to negative comments from their male counterparts, it is not only a womyn problem, but a male problem as well.

We all need to be educated, and informed about the wonders and beauty of the human body. Let's learn to love ourselves, and never forget - Viva la Vulva!

all images by the brilliant Georgia O'Keefe

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Closer to Getting Saved

Today I want to share something from the class that first inspired me to enter into the field of Women's Studies - Marriage and Family. I took this class in the Spring Semester of '06 with Dr. Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, who is truly an amazing professor. I'm not sure if she's aware of this fact, but Dr. Cox was the first person who truly inspired me to continue with Women's Studies once I transferred schools. I had signed up for her Marriage and Family class after a particularly devastating Fall semester, in which I retreated from not only everyone around me, but from myself as well. I was the witness to some deep betrayal within my family, and as I watched my life I thought I knew collapse all around me, I had no clue how to even begin recollecting myself.

It was at this point that I happened to notice the Marriage and Family class listed in my University's catalogue. Feeling like it might be a course that I could relate to and truly learn from, I enrolled on a whim, and ended up discovering the best course I was enrolled in that semester. Marriage and Family was the first course to open my eyes to the concept of gender roles; societal-prescribed stereotypes of what is "male," and what is "female;" theories on modern day relationships and the cycles of love, etc etc. Needless to say, my mind was blown! I was totally immersed in the work, and began looking for any excuse to visit Dr. Cox and talk with her more about what we were discussing in class. Through these few meetings, we discussed different feminist literature; she pointed me towards current gender studies and journal articles; and, most importantly, when I confided in her that I was seriously considering transferring universities, she provided words of support when all I heard was negativity, and talked with me about the Women's Studies program at my new university.

It was during Dr. Cox's class that I wrote an in-depth paper applying what we had been studying in class to a film of our choosing that provided material relevant enough - and insightful enough - to thoroughly analyze and deconstruct. I knew that I wanted to write about the film Closer, which is an absolute favorite of mine, and after a suggestion from my boyfriend to write about Saved!, I began my work, which I am now presenting to you all.

As I'm sure you've all deciphered by now, I am by no means ever scarce on words. My essay is fairly long, but if you have time and would like to give it a read, I have uploaded it for you right here!

I'm sharing this with you now, because I believe that it is extremely important to look back every so often, and take a moment to appreciate the events, courses, people, moments, and writings that have brought you to the point in your life in which you are now living. Whether positive or negative, it is these experiences which intertwine to form our personal identities, and we need to be aware of these identities and take pride in them once we begin to enter into a society which, at meso and macro levels, often tries to tear us down and conform "you" into someone who is not you at all.

If you decide to give the essay a chance, let me know what you think. Your feedback is so important to me, and it lets me know into what direction I should head with my blog. Thank you all so much for your time, and if you know anyone who you feel would be interested in reading what I have to say, don't be afraid to pass my blog along!

When you're shipwrecked on your mattress,
I'll come in and show you how to hijack the past
and wind up in the right now

-Le Tigre, On the Verge

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Patriarchy of Uncle Pennybags

Sometimes I'm so overflowing with ideas, I don't even know where to begin! I have found so many interesting articles that make my mind explode with commentary, but it would take me forever to write them all down. (and, ya know, I'm writing a blog, not a dissertation, cough cough).

Therefore, I think for now I'll continue in the fashion of following along - for the most part - what I'm learning and discussing in my Women's Studies class - that is, attempting to answer one of the biggest questions I myself personally entered my class with - what exactly IS patriarchy?

I know that a good friend of mine posted a comment on my blog saying how glad she was that this wasn't just going to be a "male bashing" blog, and I'm so glad she brought that point up. Like I discussed in my last post, the idea that womyn/feminists "hate men" is one of the many false stereotypes that the media/society uses to turn womyn away from feminism.

So then, what is it exactly makes feminists so angry?

That, my friends, would be the patriarchal system in which you, I, and everyone single one of us born into this world currently resides in. Allan G. Johnson has written an incredible article entitled Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an US (1997). I urge you to all to find and devour this article as soon as you can, because it is the most eloquent, analytical description of patriarchy that I have read to date. I wish I could copy and paste it all in here, but since I can't, I'd like to highlight and comment on a few of his key points.

Johnson writes:

"At its core, patriarchy is based in part on a set of symbols and ideas that make up a culture embodied by everything from the content of everyday conversation to literature and film. Patriarchal culture includes idea about the nature of things... it's about how social life is supposed to be ... it's about standards of feminine beauty and masculine toughness, images of female vulnerability and masculine protectiveness ... it's about the valuing of masculinity and maleness, and the devaluing of femininity and femaleness. Above all, patriarchal culture is about the core value of control and domination in almost every area of human existence" (Johnson 34).

How dead-on is this description, especially when Johnson remarks on how the ideas and values of patriarchy embody every aspect of our modern day culture? First, there is the entire advertising industry, where the objectification of womyn by the male-dominated profession is, simply put, absolutely sickening. One of the best sources to depict this horror in detail is the fascinating website Media Watch. To be honest, before stumbling across this website, I probably never would have picked up on all of the underlying misogyny in the ad world (which is, without a doubt, another side effect of the patriarchal system - not even realizing how deep we are sunk into it). However, after browsing through the galleries on this site, I now look at every ad through a feminist lens, and am continually shocked by what I see. Another great resource is the "Offensive Ad' section on the pro-womyn site, Love Your Body.

An example of one of the ads - it's hard to believe this is actually an ad for a deodorant. First of all, what exactly does disrespecting a womyn have to do with keeping from sweating? Secondly, this is exactly the type of stereotype that Johnson is describing - one in which the male is the leader, the one who is in charge and can decide how and what to do to the womyn in his life, who, by nature, should be expected to "be compliant," and not be "aggressive" and speak up against this kind of behavior.

This one is definitely great. Can we be anymore obvious, Gucci? I mean, really. A womyn portrayed at a man's feet, in a position where she's about to kiss his feet, or, uh, something else. I love how easy this one is.

Here's yet another great ad - promoting your whiskey by insulting your girlfriend? Why is it that advertisers feel the need to insult womyn in order to sell their products? This is yet another example of the patriarchal patterns of male dominance in our culture. In all 3 ads, the male is in charge, while the womyn is either being belittled or highly disrespected while not in the picture, or portrayed in a lower status than the man. There are countless more examples located on both websites (most depicting completely clothed men and half-to-fully naked womyn), and I strongly urge you to check the sites out, and begin to view any ads you come across in the future through this feminist lens.

What is my point behind all of this? Am I being "too sensitive" about this material that is merely intended to sell a product? Should I just "relax" and not feel angered and outraged by the blatant oppression displayed in these ads? My answer is a resounding NO. This is exactly what Johnson is talking about when he describes the "paths of least resistance" that serve to keep patriarchy in check (Johnson 31). In simple terms, people, for the most part, live their lives according to the way they have been socialized. They do what it is comfortable in any given situation, and attempt to create the least bit of upset in an otherwise harmonious situation.

Johnson describes this by using the example of someone telling a sexist joke. Say that you are in a room with someone telling one of these jokes - you know, the typical a-womyn's-place-is-in-the-kitchen, marriage = death, men are pigs, my wife is uptight/prude/etc jokes that spread like wildfire. So the joke is told, and, obviously, the reaction is to laugh. Everyone else in the room is, it's just a "joke," what's the harm? The reality is, however, that these patterns of disrespect in a system begin to breed disrespect on an individual level, and the object of the sexist joke is automatically viewed as "less" than the jokester.

The same goes for coaches telling their male players that they "throw like a girl," or for males calling someone who is not as physically strong as them a "pussy" (and, likewise, for females to call someone a "dick," as my boyfriend pointed out - we all need to be respectful). I remember a group of male friends telling me about a mutual female friend who was insulted when the guys were yelling out terms like "Oh, you cunt!" or "Shitty tits," when they were losing in a game they were playing. These males couldn't believe that she was being so "uptight," and "sensitive," and tormented her so much that she was eventually quieted.

It's the path of least resistance to tell/laugh at these jokes, or throw around these insults, but if we continue with these patterns, nothing will ever change. The idea that if you are "less," you are "like a womyn," will continue to pervade both male and female thought, and equality will never see its day. It takes a person of true strength to stand up against these oppressive, patriarchal practices and say "Hey - this isn't right." It may take courage, and it may take time, but once one person begins to change the path, others will eventually follow, and the "path of least resistance" will change to one that leads the way out of patriarchy (Johnson 31).

It is at this point where we come to Johnson's great analogy - that patriarchy is like a great game of Monopoly.

I love this analogy more than I can even explain. Johnson's description is vivid and complex, so I'll attempt to simplify it.

Imagine that you and your friends are sitting down at the table to play a game of Monopoly. You have all played before, so you know the rules and the ins-and-outs of buying property, paying taxes, collecting from others, etc. etc. Therefore, when someone lands on your property and you ask them to pay up, you never question your personal motives and characteristics - you are not taking money from them because YOU are greedy, you are taking their money because that is what the rules tell you to do. Likewise, the patriarchal system is not about individuals, but about the rules of society, that most of us never even think to question -- how many people have ever stopped to ask WHY they can place their property on Park Ave., or whether or not they should really collect $200 when passing GO? As Johnson puts it, "We can describe [Monopoly] as a system without ever talking about the personal characteristics or motivations of the individual people who actually play it at any given moment" (Johnson 32).

Likewise, our country is centered so much around individualistic principles that we often find it difficult to view our society from a larger, collectivist viewpoint. As Johnson writes,

"From this kind of individualistic perspective, we might ask why a particular man raped, harassed, or beat a woman. We wouldn't ask, however, what kind of society would promote persistent patterns of such behavior in everyday life, from wife-beating jokes to the routine inclusion of sexual coercion and violence in mainstream movies ... what kind of society would give violent and degrading visions of women's bodies and human sexuality such a prominent and pervasive place in its culture to begin with" (Johnson 29).

Therefore, we CANNOT look at patriarchy as "bad" individuals, or "bad" men who are trying to keep the "good" women down. Patriarchy is not personal in the sense that there is no one man or group of men trying to keep males in power, but is instead a societal system that is held in place by paths of least resistance; beliefs of male domination cemented in every aspect of our culture, from ads to movies to sexist jokes; to gender-based insults, etc etc.

According to Johnson,

"Because patriarchy is, by definition, a system of inequality organized around gender categories, we can no more avoid being involved in it than we can avoid being female or male. All men and all women are therefore involved in this oppressive system, and none of us can control whether we participate, only how" (Johnson 37).

So what does this mean? That we are doomed to live in repetitious patterns of patriarchal domination? That there is no hope to change the system? Absolutely not! Although we cannot blame patriarchy on individuals, individuals have the power to change it. So stop and think before you tell that next sexist joke, or use female or male anatomy in a condescending way. Step off of the path of least resistance, and create your own. Most importantly, do not be afraid to be marked "too sensitive," or let anyone else silence your voice. Change is brought about through challenge, and I truly believe that we are ready to end the cycle.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Infamous "F" Word

I think that I'll begin this published journey into feminism the way I began myself - by learning what that big, scary, stereotyped-from-here-til-tomorrow "F" word really means -the word that makes people shudder in their shoes, call to mind images of unshaven womyn running around without their bras, bashing men, and wearing flannel - the word, of course, being feminism. I found it interesting when I began my feminist readings in class that both texts we used began by breaking down the stereotypes of a typical "feminist," and detailing the true origins of the word; most importantly, the books explain why "feminism" is powerful word that needs to be reclaimed as such during this modern age of third-wave feminism in which we live.

These texts, which I will reference from here on out, are:

Women's Lives: Multicultural Perspectives
Fourth Edition
by Gwyn Kirk and Margo Okazawa-Rey

which, for a text book, is a surprisingly refreshing and involving read, while still remaining intelligent and analytical;

and Megan Seely's Fight Like a Girl:
How to be a Fearless Feminist

which is another great read for beginning feminists. It provides a basic step-by-step guide that details not only the basic history of the feminist movement, but offers practical suggestions on how to become active in the movement at any level.

It was through these two introductory texts that I learned the importance of the "F" word, and the ways in which the patriarchal society and, to a great extent, the media, has attempted to overthrow this word and turn it against the womyn and men to whom it means so much.

Women's Perspectives talks of the influence of the media and our own socialization into a society where being a "feminist" is considered a term for womyn who are "victims," or "feminazis [who are] anti-sex, no fun, whining critics who are out to destroy men and the male establishment." (6). This stereotype, of course, must have come from somewhere, and one of the main perpetuators of this ridiculous notion is the media. WP states,

"In the past ten to fifteen years, virtually every major U.S. publication has published a 'feminism has gone too far' or a 'feminism is dead' piece... others equated feminism with a 'victim' mentality... An Esquire magazine article... claimed that there are a lot of 'homely girls,' in women's studies. According to Erica Jong (1998), Time magazine published 'no less than 119 articles' criticizing feminism during the last twenty-five years." (6)

It is no small wonder to me then that womyn are often cautious to declare themselves feminists in this day and age. When the media, which, let's be honest, dictates the way many, many people live their lives without question, states something as blatant as "feminism is dead," or "feminism is for homely, plain girls who can't get men," why would young womyn want to associate themselves with feminism? Especially in this day and age, when sex appeal and beauty is sold in every magazine article, every ad (from actual "beauty" products to Razr cell phones and beer), and on every website, why would a young womyn want to boldly state "YES. I AM a Feminist,"? Why would she want to be linked to a cause that criticizes her on a personal level (which is a low blow in itself - when feminists are focusing on changing an entire SYSTEM of beliefs, and they can only be attacked on an INDIVIDUAL level, who is the least mature?). Moreover, why would she want to risk these vast generalizations for a cause that is "dead?"

Yet this is exactly the problem we need to address. If we, womyn AND men, can realize that these falsities and unsubstantiated claims are just that - false and unsubstantiated, then we can reclaim the "F" word for what it is - a word of power, a word of empowerment and change that has revolutionized the womyn are viewed in society.

Megan Seely's book, FLaG, also spends the introduction to her text debunking the age old rumors of feminism. Seely writes,

"Many believe today that feminism is no longer necessary, that equality has been achieved, and that any hardship women encounter must be the result of their own actions ... the myths that surround feminism play into this feeling of failure and discourage women from aligning themselves with feminism. This makes it much more difficult to recognize that discrimination against women is real and that often gender serves as the source of the barrier, rather than personal 'failures.' Making feminism the enemy redirects our attention away from that which serves to hold us back." (7)

It is Seely's observant eye that pin-points the reason the media and the patriarchal society wants to keep womyn away from the feminist movement, and convince them that "feminism" is outdated and for angry, bitter womyn - it keeps womyn away from the many battles we still need to fight! Feminism is NOT DEAD, and there is not a false claim in this world that can prove otherwise. The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) which was first proposed in 1923 , and attempts to secure rights on the basis of sex still has not been passed. Only 15% of the US Congress is comprised of womyn; in 2004, womyn still earned only 77% of what men - who are equally educated and experienced - made in the workplace; only 14.7% percent of all Fortune 500 companies board seats are held by womyn - the list could go on and on without exhaust (FLaG, 9).

When womyn, however, are being told their whole lives that "boys and girls are equal" and grow up singing "anything you can do, I do better," while reading everywhere that "feminism is dead," it is just as Seely observed - womyn blame their own inequalities on personal flaws, instead of asking questions about the society in which we live. Therefore, we are doomed to be stuck in an endless cycle of oppression, because our inabilities to advance are "our own fault," and not the result of a society attempting to preserve its patterns of male domination and control (a topic which needs to be addressed in a later blog)

Womyn have come so far in the fight for feminism, and it does make me angry that the work of our mothers and their mothers and so on and so forth is desecrated by the scared majority that (for now!) holds the power. When womyn make the claim “I’m not a feminist, but … I think we should all have equal pay, equal treatment at work, the right for control over own bodies, etc etc.,” they are denying the very word that gave them the ability to stand up and demand to be treated right!

One of the most impactful readings I came across was in Manifesta, which I mentioned in my last blog. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards dedicate their entire prologue to the theme “A Day Without Feminism,” in which they list the ways the world would still be run if it weren’t for the feminist movement, and for the strong, powerful womyn and men who were proud to be considered feminists, and who made this world better for us. A few of the many, many examples of the ways in which the world was run before feminism are provided:

--- In elementary school, girls can’t play in Little League
--- Seventeen magazine doesn’t run feminist-influenced current columns like “Sex + Body,” and “Trauma Rama.” Instead the magazine encourages girls not to have sex; pleasure isn’t a part of its vocabulary
--- Girls have physical education class and play half-court basketball , but not soccer, track, or cross-country; nor do they have any varsity sports teams
--- Most girls don’t take calculus or physics; they plan the dances and decorate the gym
--- Even when girls get better grades than their male counterparts, they are half as likely to
qualify for a National Merit Scholarship because many of the test questions favor boys
--- If a girl “gets herself pregnant,” she could lose her membership in her local chapter of The National Honor Society
--- If a pregnancy happens, an enterprising gal can get a legal abortion only if she lives in New York or is rich enough to fly there, or to Cuba, London, or Scandinavia
--- It is unlikely that women or their male counterparts know much about the clitoris unless someone happens to fumble upon it. Instead, the myth that vaginal orgasms from penile penetration are the only “mature” (according to Freud) climaxes prevails
--- The Miss America Pageant is the biggest source of scholarship money for women
--- There are no Take Back the Night marches to protest women’s lack of safety after dark, but that’s okay because college girls aren’t allowed out much after dark anyway
--- Only 44% of women are employed outside the home
--- Women workers can be fired or demoted for getting pregnant, especially if they are teachers, since the kids they teach aren’t supposed to think that women have sex
--- A married women can’t obtain credit without her husband’s signature
--- If [a woman] gets a loan with her husband – and she has a job – she may have to sign a “baby letter” swearing that she won’t have one and have to leave her job
--- Without a male escort, [a woman] may be refused service in a restaurant or bar
--- A woman alone is hard-pressed to find a landlord who will rent her an apartment. After all, she’ll probably be leaving to get married soon, and, if she isn’t, the landlord doesn’t want to deal with a potential brothel
--- Women aren’t taught how to look at their cervixes, and their bodies are nothing to worry their pretty little heads about; however, they are supposed to worry about keeping their little heads pretty.

(Manifesta, 3-8)

Like I said, this is a SHORT list compared to the one detailed in Manifesta.

So what does this all mean? All one has to do is look at the list, and see what feminism has done for us – and these few items only scratch the surface. It is therefore very confusing to me as to why someone would want to deny themselves as a feminist - maybe they don’t feel like they have contributed to the movement yet, or maybe they never realized that, growing up in the modern day where kids were taught that we all deserved equal rights, there was a long, hard, but successful fight for those same rights (which probably has something to do with the fact that history is typically written by white males who taught us that it was “Columbus who ‘discovered’ America, and that in 1920, women were ‘given’ the right to vote,” Manifesta 6).

So what is the solution to all of this? Let’s get feminism back on track. Let’s come to the realization that if you believe you deserve to be treated equally and fairly no matter what gender you are, than you ARE a feminist. Let’s reclaim this word and deny the stereotypes that the media wants us to buy into. Let's look at how far we've come. Feminism is NOT dead, and now that this fact is made clear, we can do something to advance it even further.

"People, we are standing at ground zero of the feminist revolution. Yeah, it was an inside job, stoic and sly, one we're supposed to forget and downplay and deny. But I think the time is nothing, if not nigh, to let the truth out - coolest "F" word ever deserves a fucking shout!

I mean, why can't all decent men and women call themselves feminists? Out of respect for those who fought for this - I mean, look around - we have this."

- Ani DiFranco, Grand Canyon

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


To be completely honest, I was terrified to start this blog. I grew up surrounded by amazingly talented, creative writers who were never afraid to speak their minds or post their thoughts, and before beginning this blog, I felt like I could never compare [and, on a (possibly related) side note, the bloggers I've admired have always been male]. After I began my first women's studies class, however, I began finding more feminist 'zines, blogs, and websites than I could even begin to bookmark! Brave, daring, hilarious womyn like:

The Guerilla Girls, whose goal is to "expose sexism, racism, and corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture"

The creative activist One Angry Girl who is honest and angry and intelligent, and not only speaks her mind, but provides excellent research and detailed facts to support all of her claims.

Groups such as Feminist Fury , which is a collective group for womyn to blog about their experience of struggling on a daily basis to have their voices and opinions heard in the patriarchal society in which we live.

It was these womyn and men (yes, men can be feminists too, but we'll save the blog on gender construction for another day!) who inspired me to put myself out there and create this blog. I'm still undecided as to how exactly I want this to work, but it's my ultimate goal to document the ways in which I become involved in activism, share any interesting articles or quotes I may find, and (hopefully!) hear back from any readers.

Most importantly, I don't want to be scared of speaking my mind anymore. I don't want to be embarrassed or ashamed of my opinions, and I'm no longer going to be scared of what others may say. I can no longer stop myself from creating or writing or sharing just because I'm scared that my voice is less than those around me -- because it is most definitely not.

I may have had my doubts about this blog and asked myself if it was worth my time to even start, because, really "what good is a few words?" After reading Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards' "Manifesta," however, I realized how much of an impact words can, and DO, have in this world. The two womyn write,

"Revolutions always start small. Our August 5 dinner party was everyday organizing in action. Yours could be, too. Every time women get together around a table and speak honestly, they are embarking on an education that they aren't getting elsewhere in a patriarchal society. And that's the best reason for a dinner party [or a blog!] a feminist could hope for."