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Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Confession time.  My current guilty pleasure is the TLC show Say Yes to the Dress. Yes, Friday night Professor Bean and I are curled up watching brides try on gown after gown, break down in tears when they find “their dress,” and spend thousands of dollars. So what do I, a rabid feminist, get out of this show?

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Apparently, women aren’t very happy. “Each year since 1972, the United States General Social Survey has asked men and women: ‘How happy are you, on a scale of 1 to 3, with 3 being very happy, and 1 being not too happy?'” And since 1972, women’s happiness has dropped steadily. And this isn’t just the finding of one study; six separate studies have come to the same result, across decades, ages, and countries. According to the Huffington Post article “Wherever researchers have been able to collect reliable data on happiness, the finding is always the same: greater educational, political, and employment opportunities have corresponded to decreases in life happiness for women, as compared to men.”

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The finale of More to Love was this week and I’m glad I stuck with the show because in the end, it turned out to be about something other than women obsessing about their weight and falling in love way too fast with a guy who actually admires curves. Don’t get me wrong–there was plenty of that as well. The final two women, as they walked up the driveway to find out who Luke would pick, both lamented (in voiceover) their weight and the tribulations it has caused. But aside from these pro forma comments, the last show was not about weight, but about other forms of discrimination–class and religion–and a small victory for feminism.

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Street gawking

If you saw this woman on the street, how would you react?

Wondering why I’m even asking this question? Yesterday, the DoubleX blog posted an article by Troy Patterson called A Dandy’s Guide to Girl-Watching and the comment page exploded. Patterson rhapsodized about the joys of checking out women. The article itself is rather annoying in its style, which tries to be arch and funny by using overly academic language (sample sentence: “Despite all the many philosophical inquiries into beauty since the Greeks and into sidewalk scenes since Baudelaire, there is an acute shortage of discourse on the subject of checking out hot chicks”).

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I wasn’t going to write about More to Love. I don’t want this blog to turn into the “ranting about reality dating shows blog” and Professor Bean has already written about it. But he’s away for a week, which means I have to come up with all the ideas (how do other bloggers do this?). And honestly, the show is crack for a ranty feminist. However, like Professor Bean, I will avoid the obvious topic of weight. Instead, I want to talk about their age.

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I’ve been listening to a lot of the media coverage of Sarah Palin’s resignation and it occurred to me that, in a very odd way, Palin has broken the glass ceiling more completely than Hilary Clinton. Palin is a crazily unrealistic candidate for president; I suspect the leaders of the Republican Party will do everything possible to keep her from running. But what I’ve realized is that no one, either for or against her, is talking about her gender.

Whether reporters or pundits are discussing why she resigned, what she’ll do next, whether or not she’ll run for president, and who would vote for her if she did, gender is not a factor. Even the few mentions of her family are phrased in gender-neutral or even masculine ways (she resigned because she can make more money as a speaker and thus better support her family, a trope for men rather than women).

Most of the media coverage agrees that Palin is a divisive figure, that she has no chance at a viable presidential run, and that she’s pretty much off her rocker. But none of this is because she’s a woman. In fact, the question of her gender isn’t even raised to be dismissed. It simply isn’t part of the discussion.

How refreshing. Reminds me of that old feminist cliché that equality is when mediocre women are promoted as often as mediocre men. Do mavericks count?

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Last week, Slate’s Culture Gabfest mentioned a column in the New York Times Magazine about UrbanDictionary.com.  Curious to explore this cultural phenomenon, I started by looking up “feminism” at the largely youth-authored site.  After sifting through 71 definitions (some near-duplicates), my initial disgust turned to confusion and eventually a realization that UrbanDictionary.com’s babel may eventually resolve into something worth further consideration. (more…)

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I have a Cosmo confession of my own to make.  Reading Cosmopolitan magazine has been a guilty pleasure in our household for quite a few years.  Lately, however, the guilt has far outweighed the pleasure, and I think I know why.

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Perhaps even more than fireworks, the barbeque is the “tradition” most associated with the Fourth of July.  And grilling, apparently, is a man’s job.  The curious calculus that transforms a stereotypically feminine endeavor, cooking, into an uber-masculine pursuit is a topic for another post, but today what I’m thinking about is what we tend to put onto our grills.  If we’re men, we are supposed to cook animal flesh.  This idea is reinforced in hundreds of articles like this one.

What strikes me about the “real men eat meat” meme is the way in which it reinforces itself not only by exaggerating traditionally masculine traits like aggression but also by encouraging the objectification of women.  Our “manly” author, Joe Reagan, describes a wrestling match precipitated by a vegan’s audacious request for a Garden Burger at the author’s barbeque party.  In response to this “insult,” Joe’s friend Ted tried to “force feed” steak to the unnamed vegan, later saying, “he wanted to screw my day with his views, I thought I’d return the favor and shove some meat down his throat.”

The aggression here is obvious, but what’s more subtle is the implicit assumption that only men belong in the category of humanity.  Reagan uses the word “man” and “mankind” throughout the article; the “real” men (i.e. meat eaters) are given names while the vegan is nameless; and feminists (whom we must assume are women) are grouped with Nazis and religious zealots.  To be anything other than a meat-eating man is to be a target of violence and derision.

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This is a feminist blog.  We base many of our posts on a few key assumptions that might be worth stating here, before we all get too involved:

1)    Gender is culturally constructed – biological sex (male/female) is largely fixed, but gender (masculine/feminine) is constructed by the societies in which we are inculturated.  Myriad examples exist of “opposite-gender” traits being normative in other contemporary cultures and in cultures throughout history.  Thus, analysis of gender should be analysis of the way in which gender is constructed.  We assume no innately masculine or feminine characteristics.

2)    Creating a more gender-neutral society is a worthy goal – in order to work toward gender equality, we must deconstruct the ways in which gender binarism operates in our society.  Often, gender-normative roles are reinforced in subtle, seemingly innocuous ways.  Popular culture is rife with examples of this “subliminal” gender-coding.  Moreover, popular culture’s dichotomous ubiquity and seeming-triviality make it a remarkably powerful propaganda system.

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