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Category Archives: feminism

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? 

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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. 

Oscar Smoshcar

I posted quite a bit on my Facebook this past week about the sexist, racist tradition in Hollywood called the Academy Awards.  Again there were no women nominated for best director. Here’s one article I posted:
/http://www.salon.com/2012/02/25/the_oscars_woman_problem/

And in general, I got a fairly good response to the reality of how the Academy is made up of mostly white men who make all these decisions.  (Sound familiar?  Congress?).  What really got me thinking, however, was one facebook “friend” who felt like it was women’s fault for going to the types of movies that aren’t good.  The suggestion was that as consumers, women needed to make better choices about what they watch and that would somehow affect who wins for best director.  Huh?

I’m not sure I buy this one.  It feels a bit like victim-blaming and I’m just getting tired of women being blamed for a patriarchal institution that runs Hollywood.  I agree that we need more women producing movies and you can be certain if I made enough money to finance movie making, I’d be first in line sending my best friend, Kristen Vermilyea, a fat check to produce some feminist movies.  Certainly Tina Fey is putting her money where her mouth is and supporting women filmmakers, but there is only one Tina Fey.  There is only one Oprah Winfrey.  There are way more white men with money deciding what movies are going to be produced and what they will be about.  Our stories don’t get told because they are not the “everyman” experience, whatever that is. 

So while I’m a fan of the fun extravagant night where we honor the best of the best in any industry, I’m just getting too cynical and old to enjoy this event that not only hasn’t changed since I was a little girl dreaming of myself up on that stage accepting my award, but has seemed to take four steps back in any representation of racial and gender diversity.  I boycotted it this year and I think that’s my new plan of action for the future, until Hollywood catches on that women are over 50% of this world and deserve that same representation in film. 

And isn’t all this too similar to seeing an all male panel decide what laws should be passed on birth control?  The backlash against women’s rights is all too prevalent and present lately and that sets a sad tone for the future for little girls I love very much. 

Side note:  If this is an issue you care about, come to our showings of Miss Representation on March 1 and 28th at 5:30pm at UMass Dartmouth’s Woodland Commons, or downtown New Bedford on March 8th at 6pm.  “You can’t be what you can’t see!”

If You’re Not a Feminist, Then You’re a Bigot by Gloria Allred

I happened upon the funny video “Sh*t White Feminists Say” and after it finished, saw the Gloria Allred video come up in the feed on the side and clicked on it. She is basically saying that feminism is  about human rights and social justice and if you’re not for those issues, then you are against human rights and social justice, making you a bigot.

I really like her comment dismissing “we’ve come a long way” in that we need to be looking at a vision to where we should be rather than what we have accomplished. But what is amazing to me about this video are the comments below it. My first question is, if you were anti-feminist, why would you even spend time watching a video about feminism? Why is there such vile hatred for someone working for social justice? The descriptors below her include comments like “cunt” and “I don’t think she swallows.”

What does someone’s sexual acts in bed have to do with their politics? Who are these people cruising You Tube and making random comments on these videos? Furthermore, the comments about humanism are also frustrating. If one is to look up the definition of humanism, it is “an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.” It is more about being an atheist than being someone for equal rights.

I guess I shouldn’t be so astonished, in this day when a backlash against women seems to be clearer than the one Susan Faludi wrote about in 1992. A new documentary that is sweeping Women’s Studies Programs and Women’s Centers, Miss Representation demonstrates how little women are represented in the news, in the mainstream media, in children’s books and in movies. And when they are represented, they are depicted as female bombshells with no brains, characterized only by their supposed beauty. This film is also promoting DOING something about the lack of women. Their tagline “You can’t be what you can’t see” makes sense.

For this year’s Superbowl their blog promoted a #NotBuyingIt campaign where people could tweet their dislike of commercials that were sexist. The biggest offender so far is GoDaddy. I’m glad something is finally being done about this in a pro-active way, but those few followers of my blog know I’ve been harping on this representation piece for years.

Maybe I’m just starting to become old and jaded a week before my 43rd birthday. Maybe I’m becoming tired of feeling like it’s always three steps forward and two steps back. Maybe working at university means I’m always educating the same group of students year after year who come to me with the same cultural biases and brainwashing. Maybe change isn’t happening fast enough for my lifetime and I don’t want to die wondering if we’ll ever get an ERA.

But I promise to try to keep writing, even though once a week is clearly a challenge for this blogger. And for today, I’m with Gloria Allred.

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.

The Feminist Critic

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