Hi all! It's been a while! Hope everyone had a good Thankgiving celebration if you celebrate it, or at least some days off. There have been lots of cool things happening at St. Olaf's campus, so read on!
Last week, our Students for Reproductive Health and Choice held an event where Reverend Kelli Clement from Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice talked about being religious and pro-choice. It was wonderful! She spoke eloquently about the importance of a woman's choice in when she begins parenting. So often we get stuck on the issue of when life begins, whether at conception or birth, etc., and Kelli made a good point that this just distracts us from the real issue. We can agree to disagree on when life begins, but we do need to agree that women should be agents of their own bodies and be able to decide when they will be a parent. Caring about the woman's health, both emotional and physical, is necessary in making this decision.
I really loved Kelli's description of their non-coercive counseling. This is a tool that Crisis Pregnancy Centers often lie about; they will say several false facts about what abortion can cause (healhwise) to make sure the woman births the child. Non-coercive counseling is vital to making the right decision for a woman, for she needs to feel comfortable and free to make her own choice based on what is best for her.
Kelli layed out the following 4 human rights of reproductive justice:
* the right to bear children,
* the right not to bear children,
* the right to raise our children in safe & healthy environments, &
* the right to celebrate sexuality in health & wholeness.
Love these! This was a great event (thanks to SRHC and MRCRC!) and good to learn about, since I had only heard about the opposite end of the spectrum: Feminists for Life (pro-lifers who also identify as feminists---which, if you read/believe in bell hooks, that actually is an oxymoron). This is a hard issue to discuss, but it is necessary, because parenting and pregnancy should not be forced upon anyone.
Also!!!! Something awesome and angering is happening in Northfield! If you didn't read Payne's (from SRHC) letter to the editor on CPC's, you should read it. Then check out the email he received from the Northfield CPC's director that appeared on the NARAL Pro-Choice America Facebook Page!!!!! I'm pasting it below as well because it is actually incredible that she would write such immature words. I've heard from several others that Liz, the author of the email, has said truly offensive remarks to people who do not practice her own choice of lifestyle. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want someone like that counseling me if I were in the tough decision of deciding to carry my pregnancy to term or not! These sources have verified that the CPC of Northfield uses false information and medical information that has been discredited to deter patients from having abortions. They claim they respect a woman's right to choice, but they do not refer out for abortions. Watch 12th and Delaware, and you'll see what I mean!
So the word feminism gets a lot of backlash. I may have blogged about this before but I just see so much backlash from all these people who I really expected to know more about it. People, women included, reject it, despite their full support of gender equality. This happens when they don't really know what feminism is. And we, as feminists, are here to educate them. Let's begin with the simple definition brought to us by the great bell hooks.
"Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression."
Pretty simple, right? I'd say most of us agree with those ideas. However, people get scared of the word feminism or calling themselves a feminist. They think it means they'd have to burn their bra, or hate men, or not be a man, or choose women over men. We are here to assure you: it does not mean any of those things. I mean, you can burn your bra if you want to and if you think it has a significant meaning. But as a feminist, you would never make anyone else burn their bra if they didn't want to, and you wouldn't judge them if they didn't. Because that's what feminism is also about: choice.
We need to have the agency and the choice to make our own educated, conscious decisions. We need to be aware of the consequences and the meaning of those decisions. Moreover, we need to respect the decisions of other people (yes, including women, as they are people), and realize that their decisions are none of our business. Unless someone is hurting others or possibly herself with her decisions, she has the right to do as she pleases.
So Joss Whedon made this speech (Watch Joss Whedon Make the Perfect Speech about the Word Feminist - Jezebel). He gets to his point near the end about making genderist the new word so less are scared of the word feminist. Cool. However, I don't think it faces the real problem; instead, as one commenter said on our Facebook page, "it just proves the stigma attached to the word is alive and well." People have all these ideas about feminism, and although it does not embody one way of life, it is a word that is inherently flexible and can work for all different kinds of people and their expressions. One does not have to deny feminism in fear that he/she will be labeled a man-hater or sexist against men. Feminism embodies gender equality; it does not put women above men, but strives for equality.
In the text below the video, blogger Kate Dries says, "You can of course say you're not a feminist! It's not what I would do and it makes me sad but it's your life. You can say you're not a feminist because you don't like the movement and how it's been isolating to women of color, or because you think women shouldn't have to be asked if they are feminists. But don't say you're not a feminist because of things that are inherently not true about what word means or that inarticulately imply that there's something wrong with owning your belief that men and women should be equal or rejecting the many women and men that have come before you who let you live the life that you've led."
I absolutely love this. This is everything. And it's so sad that these women, many whom we are familiar with in pop culture, feel that they cannot express their struggle against patriarchal institutions in their business. Many of them explore the word feminist in their quotes and ultimately don't want to be judged by applying it to themselves. As the commenter who I mentioned above said, "These women shouldn't have to be afraid of a word, a label, they get labeled things all the time, but they know this particular label could create problems for their career." You said it, girl.
Another problem I've noticed is that people say they are a humanist instead of a feminist. Perhaps they mean humanitarianist. Even if humanitarianism is your go-to word, feminism is still necessary in context, because historically, humans meant men. Women did not have rights hundreds of years ago. So you still need to acknowledge feminism is required in the movement of humanitarianism. However, humanitarianism is a logical argument if you naturally believe women and men should be equal and you don't feel like you are required to constantly explain that to people (which you have the right to-but note this is a feminist idea, hence bringing us full circle back to the requirement of feminism to explain so many of these things...).
But back to humanism. I first learned about humanism in my AP European History class my sophomore year of high school. According to the definition that pops up in a google search, humanism is:
Humanism is not a word for a social change or political movement as feminism is. Rather, it refers to several branches of philosophical and secular thinking that have their origins in 13th century renaissance thought. So although modern-day humanists can be politically and socially active, the term humanism doesn’t have the political or human rights implications that feminism does.
This is absolutely right. You can say you are a humanist because you want to believe that that promotes that all human beings deserve to be treated like equal human beings. Maybe you think feminism is a gendered word and you don't want to raise women above men. But you are wrong in thinking that that is what feminism is about, and you are not understanding feminism if you believe humanism can embody all that feminism does. People striving for gender equality needed to name their movement, and since women have historically been oppressed, the name they deemed it has a "feminine" word derivation. But it's necessary to understand that does not mean it is a sexist movement, pushing to raise women up above men.
Therefore, if you believe in gender equality and you want to end sexism and oppression, you are a feminist. You may not identify as one if you truly understand what it embodies, and if you have a problem with it. That is legitimate. But if you don't understand it and you want to reject it because of the way it sounds, you are hurting us women, who are subject to sexism or oppression every single day. You are devaluating our experience and how far we have come, attempting to stigmatize and make unattractive a word that has helped us find a light in dark times. I am personally hurt when I hear one of my friends, who I know to believe in gender equality and to fight domestic abuse or gendered violence, say he or she is not a feminist because he or she has a misconstrued understanding of what it is but is not interested in learning what it's truly about. It's their right as free individuals to refuse that, but it hurts me by showing that they don't care about something that is one of my life passions. I'll end with something I said which was quoted in our school's newspaper:
"We need to recognize that feminism is not solely about gender equality (although that is the essence of it). There's all these different layers that come together, and we have to be conscious of that.”
Be conscious, people. That's all we ask.
Yesterday, I (Chloe, CFC intern at St. Olaf) held an event called Why Do We Need Feminism? and asked students/community members to write why they need feminism on a piece of paper. I then snapped their photo with it. The photos will go up in our main advertising hallway November 18-24. Everyone gave permission for use of their photo, and over 50 people stopped by in one hour to write their bit. The table was jam-packed! So many students thought carefully for several minutes before deciding what to write. They said there was so much they could write, but it was difficult to find the most powerful words to express their experiences with sexism or gender inequality. Their participation was awesome! Big thanks to everyone at St. Olaf who helped out. Click on this link to see all the photos!
Although there were so many good ones, I'll post some here that represent the different themes people brought up:
After the event, nobody had written specifically about choice, so here's my photo:
Although this documentary is mostly the man telling us information with examples, clips, and pictures, it is interesting and true information that we all see in life and media but that people don't necessarily realize. This topic of violence in men was first introduced to me when I read something…I don't remember what it was and if I was reading it for a class….that said "if men stopped committing violent acts, violence and murder would essentially be wiped out of our society. Some women do kill or hurt, but the percentage is so small that it is insignificant. Men are the ones who perform violent acts."
After I read that, I understood how true it was, and this movie is a reiteration of that statement exactly, but with more evidence. The man talks about how damaging the requirement of this behavior is in order to "be a man" is to the psyche of these men. He compares it with the women's movement, and talks about the backlash that received by men who could not simply accept the progressive change. That comedian makes me sick listening to him…those are EXACTLY the institutional thoughts we need to get rid of. The fact that he makes a living off of a huge audience off of men laughing at digs toward women, calling them whores and bitches, makes it seem okay to treat them that way. I hate that behavior and attitude, even when women call each other women 'bitches' or 'sluts' as terms of endearment….men may learn that behavior and treat you as such if you call each other that! Or the radio show, when the women are disrobing and Howard Stern and the men are sexually insulting them and their bodies. DISGUSTING.
I also thought it was interesting how he examined the newspaper article titles. They are written like "Girl is raped" instead of "Man rapes," with the emphasis on the female victim instead of the male perps. I think just changing that one institutional aspect of the media could be so great for all of society to help realize how apparent this is.
OMG. This website. I can't even comprehend. "Return Of Kings is a blog for heterosexual, masculine men. Women and homosexuals are prohibited from commenting here. They will be immediately banned."
"Women are sluts if they sleep around, but men are not. This fact is due to the biological differences in gender.
A woman’s value is mainly determined by her fertility and beauty. A man’s value is mainly determined by his resources, intellect, and character.
Elimination of traditional gender roles and the promotion of unlimited mating choice in women unleashes their promiscuity and other negative behaviors that block family formation.
Socialism, feminism, and cultural Marxism cause societies to decline because they destroy the family unit, decrease the fertility rate, and require large entitlements that impoverish the state.
WHAT!!!! I can't even comment and express my views because, oh, due to my gender, MY COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED! How rude. And sexist. And disgusting.
One of their articles is "24 Signs She's a Slut." Do you have lots of body hair? Are you not ticklish? Do you have a "slut face"? Congratulations, you must be a slut! http://www.returnofkings.com/16837/24-signs-shes-a-slut Thanks, guys, for telling us more about our sexual activity than we ever could have guessed ourselves.
Thoughts? Comments? Try commenting, and see if it's removed. I dare you.
People are blowing up over Miley, for several different reasons. Inappropriateness, cultural appropriation, racism---all of these have been heard in relation to her recent performances and videos. Now, do I like to see her tongue out all the time? No, not really. And I do feel bad for her young fans who knew her as Hannah Montana and feel like they've lost a role model and may not understand her actions in the way she intends. However, that picture on the web of her nude underwear halfway up her butt? Yeah, that's not okay. That's called slut-shaming, and we do it all the time: "She was half naked, so she should expect that we, as fellow human beings, will critique her body and judge her..." NO! It is true that she was not wearing very much clothes at the VMAs and made some pretty sexual gestures, but that does not give anyone permission to claim her body as an object to be humiliated or possessed. On the other hand, posing topless on the cover of Rolling Stones does not aid the fight against objectification of women's bodies... Why must our society perpetuate this? Oh Miley.
I don't think she's truly conscious about the effect she is having on ALL of her fans, despite her obvious desire for change in the world toward a more accepting and loving community. Without realizing the implications of "using black people as assecories to look cool and hip" (see article below), she just thinks of them as friends and doesn't realize that while race shouldn't matter, it almost always does. Good thing she is recognizing her privilege in life, but she needs to also recognize that directly because of that privilege, she needs to take more care with what she claims as her identity, and in the end, her product.. And that is why we create dialogue and discuss these issues..create consciousness!
To give her at least some props, at least she's trying, in her own way, to promote equal love. She's getting caught up a bit along the way, but let's hope that eventually she gets there. Read more here: http://jezebel.com/miley-cyruss-antics-are-being-encouraged-by-black-peop-1377352058 and watch another of her videos here: http://vevo.ly/HoHisv
Peace out! -C
The Minnesota Women's Consortium is the largest statewide network of women's groups in the nation, currently serving 170 member organizations. The Consortium's purpose is to achieve equality and justice for all women and girls by connecting organizations and individuals that share that goal.