RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Do We Really Need Hundreds of Women’s Centers? Duh!

One of my colleagues, who runs the University of Idaho Women’s Center, posted this article by Mark Perry, a professor and writer on economics and finance issues.  His main point is that since women are attending and graduating from college at higher rates than men than we don’t need campus based Women’s Centers. 

Click here for article

What is interesting about the article is that he cuts and pastes mission statements from five women’s centers who have main goals in promoting gender equity.  He disputes this by stating that if there are more women than men at a college, there is no need to promote gender equity.  Oh, Prof Perry, you just don’t get it!  Gender equity is not about filling the seats in the classroom.  Gender equity is about how girls and women are treated in our world, which in case you haven’t looked recently, ain’t so hot.  Shall I cite some examples as Perry did? 

  •  Women make less than men.  White women in the 77 cent range, Black Women in the 67 cent range and Latina women in the 57 cent range to a white man’s dollar.  
  • Over a billion women on the planet have been victimized by sexual violence.  One billion.
  • 17 out of 100 of our U.S. Senators are women.  17. 
  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
  • Women comprise 7% of directors and 13% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.
  • The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
  • Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
  • Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • About 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
  • The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 to 2007.
  • Among youth 18 and younger, liposuctions nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2007 and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold in the same 10-year period.
  • 65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors. 

I could spend much more time on this list.  In fact, feel free to add to it in your comments.  As, here in the U.S., we are actually debating whether women should have birth control covered by their health insurance.  We are being told by men in power that an aspirin between our knees is the best way to prevent pre-marital sex.  We live in a culture that actively promotes violence against women.  There is a backlash occurring against women as I write.  This is why, Professor Miller, we need Women’s Centers.  Why don’t you go write about something that actually is of concern instead of trashing women’s attempts at gender equity in a world that is anything but equitable. 

Advertisements

Kettle One, Ladies Drink Vodka Too!

Sometimes I think I should call this blog “what really gets my goat” instead of The Feminist Critic.  I was so overwhelmed with the “war against women” or “the fight to get the women’s vote” that I couldn’t focus on which of the latest attacks on women’s reproductive rights or dismissal of women’s opinions to address today. Hence I harken back to an advertisement that I see, far too often, often on the way to Boston, that drives me nuts. 

Kettle One’s Latest Advertising

I drink vodka.  I have for years.  It is my preferred liquor of choice.  Many of my female friends also drink vodka.  More of my female friends drink vodka than my male friends, many of whom prefer whiskey. Kettle One is my favorite vodka.  I will drink Grey Goose or Belvedere or some of the catchy new vodkas that are out there.  I will taste anything once.  But Kettle One is my favorite.  I have rich taste, I can’t help it.  

However, Kettle One’s latest marketing campaign, directed by David O. Russell (Oscar nominated director of The Fighter), and featuring new music by Alberta Cross, which has been going on for far too long, includes three advertisements that include the following.  In every single one of these advertisements, the men are drinking vodka together like they are part of some Secret Society.  There is usually ONE woman shown with three men.  They are drinking vodka on the rocks.  The announcer always says “inspired by 300 years of tradition.”  And the end tag line is always “Gentlemen, this is vodka.”

OK.  Really?  The subliminal statements in these ads make me want to boycott Kettle One.  “Inspired by 300 years of tradition” could mean patriarchy or some patriarchal tradition, some old men’s club that only allows women in if they are invited.  I’m sure that’s not what they meant, but since they don’t tell us what that mean, we are left to guess.  Is it inspired by 300 years of some old dudes pressing wheat?  Is that what tradition stands for? 

I believe the male owned Nolet Distillery in Holland knows that women drink vodka.  They are trying to “reach out” to their male constituents and to reach men and let them know that vodka isn’t just a “girly” drink.  “Look, you can drink it on the rocks!”  No juice or sour mix!”  “It’s tough. It’s cool.  It’s Gentlemeny!”  But can’t we find marketing gurus in this day and age who can reach out to one group without stomping all over another?  Why should I watch that commercial and feel like I am not allowed to be in this vodka drinking Gentlemen’s club?  I feel the same way whenever I watch South Park.  All the commercials are about video games.  I watch South Park.  I think its funny and well-written, but I’m in my forties and I don’t play World of Warcraft or Halo. 

In the advertising’s industry desperate struggle to reach men who don’t watch television or drink vodka, they do so on the backs of women either rendering us invisible, making us part of the scenery or overlooking us all together.  It’s as if we were never invited to the table or to the bar. 

Supporting Women

I’ve been wanting to write about women not supporting women but was trying to find a way to do so without cutting too close to home, so to speak.   Being one not to hold something in for an extensive amount of time, especially if it is really bugging me, here goes nothing! 

This semester I have seen entitled and elitist behavior, by women, who call themselves feminists.  It’s shocking.  I talked with a close colleague about this and we discussed how this is so prevalent and troubling that it might be worthy of an article.  I am hesitant to recommend any of my students go into academia as a career.  Here I am, enjoying over 19 years of working with students and teaching in a public university, yet I would not recommend it.  Dog eat dog.  That pretty much sums it up.  And I recently talked with one of my alums who is in a Master’s program being chewed up and spit out by women who call themselves feminists in her women’s center. 

For me, this boils down to how we practice our feminism.  We can say we are feminists and have a definition of what that might be or look like, but how we behave toward other women is an excellent test.  Ashley Judd recently wrote a great piece about body image and the media and asked us to try to be better at not judging each other.  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/09/ashley-judd-slaps-media-in-the-face-for-speculation-over-her-puffy-appearance.html  So there’s one step.  But treating each other with respect no matter what our job titles are is the next step. 

In the institution of higher education we exist in a caste system.  The support staff exist on the bottom, then the professional staff, than the faculty, than the administration.  But it’s really the faculty, I have found, that appreciate and perpetuate this system. 

Some recent examples of entitlement in action (names removed of course to protect the not-so-innocent): 

  • A message left on my voice mail referring to one of the sweetest and nicest colleagues I have as a bitch 
  • Demanding water before a talk
  • Being annoyed that we were showing a borrowed film to a group of middle school girls during spring break

I will stop there, because even one incident is too much.  What I have found is that the second you try to call someone out or confront their behavior they use the “ignorance is bliss” strategy and just don’t respond to you.  I have questioned the behavior of my colleagues and just not gotten a response.  It is so easy in this technological world of blogs, tweets, emails, and texts to simply ignore the text you do not want to deal with.  Hell, it’ll go away! 

I thought I wanted to teach full time.  I loved teaching and this was why I spent almost $70,000 to get my doctorate.  I did this while working full time and teaching as an adjunct.  And then I spent the next six years applying for every job I believed I was qualified for in New England.  But a dear friend recently said to me after another rejection “You are not one of them. You’re nice.”  What does this mean for the institution of academia, the very place where we try to teach our students to not only be critical thinkers, but also to become engaged citizens of their world.  How can we demonstrate that practicing our feminism isn’t just talk but action? 

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

We’ve been showing this documentary, Miss Representation, as part of our Women’s History Month program, our theme being Women Enacting Change.  While this movie certainly has it’s problems. like the fact that the majority of the celebrities who speak in it are gorgeous stereotypical women, it’s underlying theme of how we are represented in television, the movies and in the news is significant. View the trailer here http://www.missrepresentation.org/

We hosted a showing of the movie in New Bedford as part of a collaboration with other women’s agencies to a packed house.  Then we showed it to a group of middle school girls for a day long empowerment event with the YWCA and the AAUW.  Lastly we showed the entire movie on campus for anyone on campus or in the community.  The group of about 50 people was made up mostly of community women.  Some of these were mothers who brought their daughters to see the movie.  These young women were riled up by the movie. 

I asked them who in the audience identified as feminists and as some of them raised their hands, one girl said “I do now!”  This is my takeaway.  If one 90 minute film is going to help a middle school or high school girl identify with feminism then I need to show it everywhere.  I showed the movie to an 8th grade class the other day and while we were watching the clip, my college student who was there to help me lead the discussion whispered that she “feels that way too” in reference to women hating their bodies.  I let out a big internal sigh.  This woman already identifies with feminism and gets what the media is doing to us, but still can’t separate the message from the way it feels on the inside.  We need to start younger.

This is my new plan of action:  take this movie to young women. 

Here are just a few disturbing facts from the film.  

  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
  • Women comprise 7% of directors and 13% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.
  • The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
  • Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
  • Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • About 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
  • The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 to 2007.
  • Among youth 18 and younger, liposuctions nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2007 and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold in the same 10-year period.
  • 65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors.

I hope you will support me in my plan to take this movie to young girls in Southcoast Massachusetts and beyond.  With your energy being sent my way, I know we can change the way media controls our lives, one girl (and maybe even one boy?) at a time. 

my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

Ashley.Bendiksen.

The official blog: My personal manifesto on living your best life, every day.

Eric Brewton

A great WordPress.com site

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.