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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Solidarity is for White Women: A Re-cap

This past week, via Twitter, originally started by blogger Mikki Kendall, the hashtag “solidarityisforwhitewomen” trended as a statement that white feminism leaves out women of color.  (History behind solidarity is for white women hashtag).  (NPR Story) The hashtag went global.  I picked up on this trending and then got to watch it and learn.  I recommend you search #solidarityisforwhitewomen, but I have included some great examples. 

This story is nothing new.  This dialogue was part of my education in Women’s Studies, that women of color did not have a voice at the so-called feminist table.  Women of color were left out of this very white “problem that has no name” movement.  Women of color were left out of the suffragist movement.  Look around the tables where you sit.  What do you see?  I see that we are still not doing a good job at being inclusive.  My workplace is a microcosm of the world.  There are very few women of color on our faculty, or men of color, for that matter. 

Many of the tweets include great examples from media and pop culture that reinforce white privilege, power and white supremacy.   As someone who considers herself a social justice critic of media, I know, as a white women, I notice sexism instantly, but I have to continue to push myself to see the racism. This hashtag, this trend, is asking white women to do just that.  Push yourself, learn, and LISTEN.  Actively listen. It was listening to my friend Cynthia that got me interested in the drama Scandal.  When I learned the history of how few black women had held the lead in a network drama, I was shocked and appalled. (My take on that subject). 

I often criticize an artistic director friend of mine for not producing enough plays by women and people of color.  His response is that he produces a lot of shows by gay men and that he “can’t cover every cause.”  This is the kind of non-intersectional thinking that we get stuck in and one that gets perpetuated in our society. Last year I decided I couldn’t subscribe to theatres who don’t make an EFFORT, even just the slightest effort, to diversify their seasons.  What does this mean?  It means I’m not supporting the arts with my dollars.  I’m picking and choosing what shows I see instead of subscribing.  It means I’m not watching much television today because I’ve become too wary of watching something that misrepresents people. So what else can we do as white feminists who want to eliminate racism and end white supremacy? 

When I was teaching Women’s Studies, one question I always asked my students was “what if the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and the civil rights movement of the 60s had joined up?”  What if groups representing oppressed people weren’t divided up and given pieces of a pie to share? 

Mikki Kendall has a great article in XOJane this week talking about next steps. 

What this hashtag trend has done for me is to challenge me to be even MORE intersectional in my work with student and in my own thinking.  We’re starting out the semester by doing a privilege worksheet to lay this stuff all out on the table at once.  We’re running a social justice media literacy conference and I’m asking all the presenters to keep an intersectional analysis of race, gender, class and sexuality as the foundation for all their talks/workshops.

And I’m looking in the mirror, constantly reminding myself to pay attention and to call out that misrepresentation wherever I see it:  the workplace, the media, and in the theatre.

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Two Axes to Grind

Two things on my mind this week.  Well, three actually.  First, feeling guilty that I didn’t write a blog last week.  It’s strange how I have to be motivated, pissed off, or concerned about a topic to cover it here.  Kind of like now that I’m in my 40s, I can’t go in the pool unless I am really hot.

So my guilt is now off my chest and I will continue to work on being a human who doesn’t feel guilty.

Yesterday I read an email by a colleague about a campaign on campus encouraging students that it’s ok not to drink.  Part of the campaign will involve staff and students wearing t-shirts that express this notion.  My colleague asked us to sign-up with our t-shirt size. I called her and asked her what type of t-shirts they were.  She replied “non gendered t-shirts.”

First I have to say that this colleague, and dear friend of mine, is most definitely a radical feminist.  I would never question this.  However, I have been someone, over my almost 22 years in higher education, who has become a true hater of the “non gendered t-shirt.”  Let’s deconstruct this.  These t-shirts, first of all, are NOT non-gendered.  They were designed for men, plain and simple.  If you are a woman with no boobs and no hips, yeah, sure, you can probably look okay in a small or a medium, but if you have a woman’s shapely body, in anyway, you’re in trouble.  First, the t-shirts are always too long.  If you try to fit one according to length, they probably won’t fit your chest, or you’ll look like a pancake.  If you try to fit one according to your chest size, it’s probably going to look like you’re wearing a mini-dress or a mu-mu. 

I’m not sure why a men’s t-shirt is somehow considered the “neutral” t-shirt, particularly in student affairs where we buy t-shirts all the time.  All my colleagues think I’m over-the-top, but this is another way, as a society, we expect women to conform to what we think is neutral or normal, like all those gendered words:  freshman, chairman, mankind, etc.

There are so many other examples of this.  Cars.  Cars are made with men’s bodies in mind.  There is no place to put your pocketbook.  It comes slamming off the passenger seat if you have to stop suddenly.  Seat belts that aren’t adjustable cross by your neck if you are a petite woman.  I’d love to hear more examples of this from my followers.  Even my desk at work is designed for a man.  For me to sit properly at my computer I have to keep my feet on a foot rest because they can’t reach the floor.  And I’m not THAT short!

And we buy these men’s t-shirts in the name of cost-savings.  We frugal student affairs practitioners say “I can’t afford to order two TYPES of t-shirts.  It would be too expensive.”  I’m just asking that we think about how what we often call non-gender is really gendered. And as for me, I’ll wear a men’s t-shirt if only I can re-purpose it to look cute. (Repurpose a men’s t-shirt) 

My second Ax to grind is really about AXE Body spray, gel, soap, cologne, or whatever they encourage boys and men to wear.  Their commercials are so sexist they make me want to puke.  The latest one explains that women, I mean, GIRLS, are getting hotter and hotter, which is a world crisis.   There are so many things wrong with this commercial.  First of all, to equate women’s attractiveness with a world crisis when there are people being slaughtered in the Middle East is ethnocentric.  Second, they refer to women as girls, which shows they are marketing to a young male market.   And I’m shocked more men are not complaining that not only are these advertisements sexist but that they make men look like idiots and bumbling fools.  Seriously.   Make sure you’re not having breakfast or lunch as you watch this.  

Philanderers, Sexual Harassers, and Johns! Oh Boy!

Rob Filner.  John Edwards.  Bill Clinton.  Eliot Spitzer.  Mark Sanford.  David Vitter. Larry Craig.  Anthony Weiner.  
What do these names have in common?  They are all white men, first of all.  They have law or business degrees, except for the fine Mayor of San Diego who has a Ph.D.  in the History of Science and was a History Professor at San Diego State before running for office.  They are all philanderers, sexual harassers, or Johns.  Oh!  And, they are politicians.
With Anthony “Carlos Danger” so present in this month’s media and Filner taking his two week intensive “re-hab” for assaulting his female colleagues, I spent some time researching the men who came before them in the long tradition of philandering politicians.  
Filner’s two week hiatus from his job as Mayor is “to address his ‘intimidating conduct’ and failure to respect women” (http://www.10news.com/news/mayor-bob-filner-begins-behavioral-therapy-at-undisclosed-location-080513).  Let’s deconstruct his so-called “intimidating conduct.” 
Of the ten women who have come forward, their allegations involved him asking them to work without panties, grabbing their asses, kissing them, touching their faces and asking if they will sleep with him.  See the detailed disgusting list at this link, but be sure to have an empty stomach: Accusations.
What he has done is not simply “intimidating conduct” but sexual harassment and in some cases, sexual assault. Whoever his Olivia Pope is who decided that to come out and say he was going to get two weeks of intensive therapy for decades of “cringe-worthy” behavior is brilliant.  He should not only step down from his job, but he should be sued for his behavior and possibly charged with assault.
In my humble radical feminist opinion, women should be screaming for him to step down.  The fact that these men –and yes, these politicians with issues are men– (we don’t hear about female politicians behaving this way) continue to “serve” as public servants makes me sick. 
Out of the list at the top, many of these men, after their falls from grace, continue to pursue public service jobs.  Eliot Spitzer is running for Comptroller of New York, which seems like a big step down from Governor.  Mark Sanford just became a U.S. Representative of South Carolina in a special election, after serving as Governor of that state.  David Vitter is a U.S. Senator from Louisiana.  His involvement with the DC Madam scandal merely affected his run for Governor of Louisiana.  Larry Craig no longer serves in office but opened a consulting firm that deals with energy issues, a.k.a., he’s a lobbyist.  Bill Clinton has become a major philanthropist and supporter of his wife, Hilary Rodham Clinton.  And it appears that John Edwards is gearing up to get back in the so-called political saddle. 
None of these men have had their lives ruined by their so-called inappropriate behavior nor their, in some cases, illegal behavior.  I’d like to be Superman, turn back time and put women in their places and see what kind of after effect shows up with women harassing, cheating and buying prostitutes.  I would bet their lives would be touched forever by those indiscretions.  The double standard starts in high school and continues long into our lives.  
But how do we as a culture accept this behavior?  I’m shocked that these ten women are just NOW coming forward to call out the lewd and illegal behavior of Filner.  I can’t even look at his picture without gagging and seeing the spittle on the cheeks of women who are Deans, College Administrators, Rear Admirals, and businesswomen.  We need to speak up when we see, hear or experience this type of behavior and call it unacceptable and illegal. 
But I know how institutions work.  And often, when someone cries out, the institution does everything in its power to cover, hide or sweep the truth under the rug.  When I was 21, I worked at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club as a waitress.  The Assistant Manager sexually harassed me one night as I was walking through the closed dining room.  He motioned to his leg and pointed out how long his penis was.  I complained to the Manager, a woman.  She said he was “just kidding.”  I was too young and naïve to know I should have gone over her head.  Plus this was two years before Anita Hill spoke her truth.  We live in a culture where sometimes it’s not worth the headache and the struggle to speak the truth, particularly if you won’t be believed nor get any redemption for the crimes against you. 
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