Hey feminists! My name is Chloe, and I'm a senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. I am interning with CFC this year, so you'll be hearing a lot from me! I concentrate in Women's and Gender Studies (my school has concentrations instead of minors), as well as Latin American and Race/Ethnic Studies, and I major in English and Spanish. Sounds like a lot but there was a lot of overlap in all of those studies, so it worked out well.
How did I become more active in gender equality, you may ask? I have been passionate about equality for as long as I can remember. I became more conscious about what women's studies, gender studies, freedom of sexuality, feminism, etc. are truly about throughout my college education at Olaf. I love learning about all of these topics, and I love asserting myself as a strong, independent woman. I especially love learning about gender in cross-cultural perspectives. I would say I grew up having feminist ideas even though I may not have realized it, just as so many people don't realize they are actually feminists!
To kick off my blog posts, I'd like to discuss the following quote about undocumented female immigrants from Surviving Globalization by Brown Professor and scholar Evenlyn Hu-Dehart:
"Immigrants are not only NOT a drain on the U.S. economy, but an absolute necessity, especially women immigrants, who comprise half or more of new immigrants to the United Sates. Immigrant labor is indispensable for the labor-intensive, service-dependent, restructured economy of the United States, as well as for the resurgent light manufacturing sector, captured at its worst by the image of the garment sweatshop."
So many people believe that immigrants, especially unauthorized ones, are stealing our jobs. These people are often mistaken, and their opinion is often a product of discrimination and racism see Hu-Dehart's article). It's amazing how many women work without authorization here, and for such low wages--I have read so many sources on women in nannying positions or housekeeping work that do not receive legal wages because they are not here legally. They are often coerced into awful work or coerced by life situations in which they have no other choice to work for a rate that provides for only an impoverished life. Some may uphold that these women put themselves in this situation. But if you had to go to a different country, leave your children behind, and work with the risk of losing everything or being subjected to horrible things, sending all your money back home, in order to survive and support your family, what would you do? Do we have a right to judge them when we don't know their personal circumstances or motives? Do we have a right to stereotype them based on what we think we know about undocumented immigrants and their reasons for living in the US without authorization? These are questions that we, as privileged US citizens, need to ask ourselves in order to be conscious of those immigrants' necessary participation in our economy and the hardships they often experience in doing so.
This essay also reminds me of the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls in its discussion of sex work. A campus group called SOLAS (St. Olaf Leaders Abolishing Slavery) screened this film, and it was eye-opening. I was aware of the horrors of sex work and how prevalent it is in our globalized world, but this brought the tragedy to a whole new level. I cannot even fathom what these women and girls and even CHILDREN have to go through. I learned a lot of things that I did not know before, and I thought I was pretty educated on the topic… Women and girls all around the world are forced into sex trafficking by oppressive systems. Each woman interviewed who had been prostituted said that NO WOMAN chooses that. Whether they are abducted, trafficked by their families to bring income into the household (while their fathers sit around drinking and smoking all day--yes, there was factual evidence of this in the documentary), expected to become "nothing more than a whore" by the people in their lives… The images and stories of these females are so tragic. The saddest part is that the makers of the documentary even say themselves how nearly impossible it is to go into this system and "save" these girls. This is the TRAFFICKING and SELLING of HUMAN BEINGS and their BODIES we are talking about here; violence is the essence of this practice, as is exploiting one's vulnerability.
Throughout our globalized world, why are women continuously considered the lesser sex and subjected to such atrocities? I plan on rereading/watching Half the Sky to further learn about this topic, and I suggest we all look more into this issue. The hardships these women go through goes further than so many other pressing issues we face; it is the question of lives, of human beings, and the suffering they endure in order to support their family or to please another human being even as they are hurting. For these women, I will educate myself as much as I can about ways to become more active in fighting trafficking and sexual enslavement. If you feel as I do and want to take action, please read more about the Half the Sky movement and watch the movie Nefarious to learn what you can do to help the cause.
After a traumatic event, such as rape or sexual assault, often victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. I wanted to research how common the disorder is in events like this. This disorder affects nine to fifteen percent of the general population, and close to fifty percent of women who have reported being raped. In the 1989 U.S. Bureau of the Census, the estimated population of U.S. adult women was 96,056,000. Of those women, thirteen percent (12,151,084) women reported experiencing complete rape and fourteen percent reported experiencing other sexual assault (13,755,219). Of those women, sixty percent reported PTSD symptoms after the rape or assault, and twenty-six percent reported long-term symptoms. These alarmingly high numbers show that therapy for PTSD is extremely important.
One of the complications with PTSD is that it can be hard to diagnose because of the similarity in symptoms with other types of anxiety disorders. Although PTSD can be hard to diagnose, it is not a rare disorder among people who has suffered a traumatic event like rape, as many as one half of rape victims may suffer from chronic PTSD (Rothbaum, Astin, and Marsteller, 607). In one study by Edna Foa and Barbara Rothbaum, they found that seventy-six percent of rape victims reported PTSD symptoms at some point within a year after the assault (Foa and Rothbaum, 13). Foa and Rothbaum found that nearly one hundred percent of all rape victims in their study presented with PTSD symptoms soon after the incident, but by six months post-incident it went down to fourty-one percent. Luckily, there are multiple types of treatment for PTSD. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, medication, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are all types of treatment used for PTSD (Smith and Segal). After researching both cognitive-behavioral therapy and EMDR, I have found that cognitive-behavioral therapy elicits a greater response than EMDR therapy, however, both are effective.
After all of my research, it has come clear to me how important it is for people with PTSD to become diagnosed and get treated. It is also important for those suffering from it to know that it is not an uncommon disorder, and that they are not alone. So often after traumatic events like sexual assault or rape, the victims blames themselves and does not confront the psychological effects it has on someone. But the more people learn about the disorder and how treatable it is, the more awareness the public has about the disorder, the more people can confront rape, sexual assault, and the psychological effects of it.
Foa, Edna B., and Barbara Olasov Rothbaum. "Diagnosis and Prevalance of PTSD Following Assault." Treating the trauma of rape: cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD. New York: Guilford, 1998. 8-26. Web. 25 April 2013
Rothbaum, Barbara Olasov, Millie C. Astin, and Fred Marsteller. "Prolonged Exposure Versus Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR) For PTSD Rape Victims." Journal Of Traumatic Stress 18.6 (2005): 607-616. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 1 May 2013.
Smith, Melinda, and Jeanne Segal. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Symptoms, Treatment and Self-Help." Helpguide. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2013.<http://www.helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm>
As I shared in a previous post, I have been reading Colonize This! with fervor and enthusiasm for a couple of weeks now. In my WGSS Senior Seminar, we have discussed extensively the complications of reading this text as a white-identified person; I am not the intended audience as outlined in the essays, nor as defined in most women of color feminisms. However, I struggle with my alienation from these texts, because on emotionally real and visceral levels, they resonate with day-to-day experiences I have had as a feminist, as a student, and as a woman. It is too simple to merely highlight difference or draw a line where my experiences end as a white woman and where theirs begin as women of color; it is also too simple to take advantage of our similarities and shared knowledges as women dealing with similar gender-based oppressions. My professor, Sonita Sarker, assured us that this messy space between camaraderie and respectful distance is okay – and she urged us to consider that while the text may be provoking our acknowledgment of white privilege, it also might be provoking us to engage in a dialogue about whiteness as it is racialized (not as a neutral default or non-race).
So this is my attempt to speak from my position as a white, middle-class, woman, who has to negotiate the everyday experience of these identities while also practicing a feminist perspective. I want to hold myself accountable by acknowledging my privilege, but I don’t want to assume that my experiences of oppression are therefore invalid. I want to live in the mess of what it means to be a feminist, who cannot always combat sexist or racist encounters with a cool wit or charisma; who cannot always muster the courage or energy to confront people who have hurt me; who is not an expert, but a careful listener and deeply sensitive being; who makes mistakes, that I can only promise to try and learn from.
Every week for the past eight months, I have taken the hour-long commute on the 21 westbound bus from Saint Paul to my boyfriend’s house in South Minneapolis. Most of the time (maybe sixty-percent of the time, when it’s not negative blank degrees outside), I genuinely enjoy the unique solitude I find on the bus, surrounded by strangers and a self-consciousness that feels safe to explore in this setting. I find myself thinking more about my class and race privilege on the bus than I do in school sometimes, and more about how I can articulate my feminism in a way that can materialize in real-life benefits for people other than myself. Which sometimes makes getting off the bus, at a stop that is a ten-minute walk from my boyfriend’s home, a rough transition into the depressing realities of my position as a woman. And this is where I hesitate to say, “as a white woman,” but where I NEED to in order to understand how the racialization and sexualization of my body socially construct my identity – via both privilege and discrimination.
I have been catcalled or sexually harassed walking down the street more times than are worth counting; this is not something specific to me, but to all women (street/online harassment are not the focus of my musings here, but there is an abundance of scholarship and personal writings about this issue out there that I encourage everyone to explore). Usually, my tactic for surviving these situations with as much dignity as possible is pure denial; I look ahead, keep a straight face and a quick stride. But some of the most layered, twisted, and confusing harassment I have experienced is from Black men in South Minneapolis, who call me out on my whiteness while degrading and mocking my sex.
I finally got to watch PBS' new documentary charting the women's rights movement in America (thanks PBS for posting the entire 3 hour film online for us to enjoy here). As much as I (someone majoring in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) or anyone else may know about the eruption of second wave feminism in the 1960s and 70s, it is still powerful to reflect on these histories. The film does a great job of featuring countless interviews with men and women, including people involved in organizations that countered feminist movements (pro-life activists, anti-ERA activists, etc). It is impossible to feature every aspect of a social movement, especially one as far-reaching and revolutionary as the women's liberation movement - which affected men, women, children, the economy, popular culture, law, education policies, labor rights, etc. However, I was a bit disappointed with the gentle highlight of women of color and their response to the second wave, which I think could have been better handled; especially considering that these fierce conversations between women of color feminisms and tradtionally white, middle-class feminism are what brought on the third wave. As many others have recognized, I also wish that the film had ventured into the late 1990s up until now, with young feminist movements and their utilization of the Internet (hello!). Perhaps they will continue making segments of "Makers," and continue this story, but for now, here are some articles and reviews that I find critical to the film:
On December 1st, Jovan Belcher shot and killed his long-time girlfriend and mother to his child, Kasandra Perkins, before shooting himself.
While it is not clear the exact catalyst for this murder, apparently the couple's relationships was strained and they had been arguing frequently. It would be unsurprising to discover Perkins had attempted to initiate a break-up before Belcher had shot her. Eight times. Clearly there was a lot of anger involved in this situation, and according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, women who leave their batterers are at a 75% greater risk of severe injury or death. Belcher's mother, who was living with them, reported hearing him say "You can't talk to me like that" shortly before shooting Perkins. The couple had also been getting counseling.
NBC's Bob Costas' response to the tragedy was a call to action for gun control. This is a huge problem. The response of the media blames weapons and excuses domestic violence as the root of the problem. Remember the old adage 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people'? True story.
Anything can be a deadly weapon, including a person's bare hands. Gun control will not eliminate domestic violence or murders, these horrible things will still happen via different means. The root of the problem needs to be addressed, and the root is domestic violence.
Approximately 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during there lifetime. Domestic Violence results in nearly 2 million injuries and 1300 deaths in the US every year. 31% of all women murdered are killed by a current or previous intimate partner.
It is extremely unfortunate that Costas didn't take advantage of such a prime opportunity to address the dangers and unacceptability of domestic violence. He had millions of viewers tuned in, a large percentage of which who would likely not otherwise be reached by anti-violence campaigns.
The NFL itself may be an important target area for addressing domestic violence. While many NFL coaches claim to uphold certain standards for their players, ultimately those players are hired who will be the best athletes, not the best role models. 21 of 32 NFL teams, at one point this year, had employed at least one player with a domestic violence or sexual assault charge on his record.
To many feminists, myself included (until recently), switching over to gender-neutral bathrooms seems like a no-brainer. Mary Ann Case, a law professor at the University of Chicago, called restrooms a “fault line,” saying, “very few spaces in our society remain divided by sex. There’s marriage and there’s toilets, and very little else". However, is it possible that gender-neutral bathrooms might present as many issues as sex-specific?
First, allow me to highlight the issues with sex-specific bathrooms.
1. Male & female bathrooms force people who don't fit into societal gender norms to choose one of two bathrooms, both of which may be inaccurate at describing their identity. Forcing people to choose a bathroom when they may identify as androgynous or gender-fluid often causes them discomfort or frustration.
2. People who appear to be a different gender than their anatomy can receive various levels of harassment, intimidation, and violence in sex-specific bathrooms-often no matter which they choose, and in some places can even be arrested for 'disorderly conduct' if the bathroom they choose doesn't match their driver's license.
3. Sex-specific bathrooms also cause issues for families with children (such as mothers bringing sons, or fathers bringing daughters, to a restroom), and people with disabilities who need the assistance of an attendant of a different gender.
So, it would seem that switching over to gender-neutral bathrooms would solve a lot of problems, but what problems might this cause? Here are some issues with gender-neutral bathrooms:
Why does such a small percentage of these crimes receive justice? Why does such a small percentage get reported? Why do so many sexual assaults occur in the first place? Why is the military so dangerous for women, not because of outside hostiles, but because of their fellow servicemen?
This past Tuesday, October 23rd the Minnesota Women's Consortium and the ACTC Women's Studies Programs co-hosted Take Back the Night-Twin Cities. Take Back the Night is an internationally held march and rally to protest and take direct action against rape and other forms of sexual violence. This year Take Back the Night Twin Cities was held on Hamline University's campus.
An estimated 150 people attended the event, including students from Hamline, St Catherine University, St Thomas University, Augsburg College, and Century College, faculty and staff from these schools, and many community members.
The event consisted of two open mic portions where students performed music, spoken word, and shared their personal stories about sexual violence. There were organizations tabling with resources for students as well as activites including t-shirt and sign making. The Hamline University Gospel Choir also performed during the event.
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.