Turkish Bath

Unfortunately it’s been a while since I (Katherine) have posted. To make up for that I’m going to try and make this post a bit different from the others. I’m currently enrolled in a course this quarter called “Feminism in Contemporary Art” here at Stanford and I want to share some of the cool things I’m learning with all of you. Hopefully you find this material as interesting as I do!

Lets start off by taking a look at the following images: Continue reading

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Happy International Women’s Day!

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Today I am proud to be a woman. Today I am proud of what women have accomplished, and what we are accomplishing every moment. Today I am proud to be fighting for women’s rights, for gender equality, for an end to gender-based violence, for every woman’s right to succeed in every aspect of her life, for every woman’s right to feel safe and in control of her own body.

Today, let’s take a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. Today, let’s feel empowered. Today, let’s feel inspired. Today, let’s remember what we’re fighting for.

Today, and every day, let’s celebrate women, all women, all around the world.

Happy International Women’s Day, everybody. I hope it’s a great one.

-C.R.

Will 2013 Be a Banner Year For Gender Equality Around the World?

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At the end of January, as Hillary Clinton prepared to leave her position as U.S. Secretary of State, she emphasized how crucial expanding women’s rights and equality would be to current and future U.S. foreign policy. The need to focus on gender equality was not only a moral obligation, she explained, but important for international security and stability:

“[I]t’s not a coincidence that virtually every country that threatens regional and global peace is a place where human rights are in peril or the rule of law is weak. More specifically, places where women and girls are treated as second-class, marginal human beings. Just ask young Malala from Pakistan. Ask the women of northern Mali who live in fear and can no longer go to school. Ask the women of the Eastern Congo who endure rape as a weapon of war … [T]he jury is in, the evidence is absolutely indisputable: If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunity, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue, which, of course, it is. It is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century. It therefore must be central to U.S. foreign policy.”

Since Secretary Clinton has left office, the global women’s movement has continued to take off. 2013 appears to be a year that holds promise of substantive changes towards empowering women around the world. However, this promise can only be realized if governments around the world respond to their citizens’ cries for change. Whether or not governments will respond more effectively to gender inequality remains to be seen, but it is clear that citizens are becoming more vocal on the issue.

On February 14, citizens around the world participated in the One Billion Rising movement to end violence against women and girls in what was most likely the largest campaign ever on this topic. As organizers of the campaign explained, “One of every three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated.” However, One Billion Rising is more than just a one-time campaign, where participants take part in one day’s worth of events and then return to their normal routines. Rather, using the attention garnered worldwide, the organization and its partners urge that everyday citizens tackle difficult conversations on taboo topics; civil society groups that are affected by violence against women collaborate to procure creative solutions; leaders pay attention and take concrete actions to address discrimination against women in their societies.

Just a few days ago, on February 20, students and faculty of the University of Cape Town (UCT) through their #WeSayEnough campaign took steps to address violence against women and girls in South Africa. The protest march was in response to several tragic incidents involving crimes against women, including the brutal rape and murder of Anene Booysen. At the #WeSayEnough rally, Vice-Chancellor Max Price noted, “Our constitutional right to be safe in our homes and communities is breached hundreds of times every day, particularly for women and girls … In this sense, government [has] failed society.” Aside from criticizing the South African government for its failure to address the issue, the most notable aspect of the UCT protest was that students highlighted the role of males in ending violence against women, and the stakes that men have in the issue. As one student eloquently performs,

“Men, we are slowly losing our women and children; slowly forfeiting the future of our phenomenal nation in aspirations of rape, dominance, and discipline; slowly witnessing the demise of our sons and daughters … blind to the responsibilities of protecting our families … So our sons will inherit the martial arts of how to strike an innocent significant other; so our sons will falsely conclude that the male figure is a ‘breadwinner’ that would justify to trigger his fingers and plates or palms and plant as many arms in the name of domestic violence … Have you heard the cries of our helpless women? Have you heard about their desperation to escape the mayhem, but can’t because father pays the bills and feeds the children? Have you heard about their misfortunes of being manacled in marriage as savage binded to the abuser by a little bundle of joy? Lastly, have you heard that she blames herself for not being able to bare him a boy? These are the realities that confront our modern day international sisters.”

Similarly, thousands of miles away from South Africa, Stanford University students in California will attempt to build a similar movement to that of UCT’s outcry against violence against women and girls. The Stanford Association for International Development (SAID) is hosting the “Gender and International Development: Recentered” conference to address women’s roles in international development. Speakers including USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg, President and CEO of Global Fund for Woman Musimbi Kanyoro, former President of Peru Alejandro Toledo, leader of the Ethiopian Unity for Democracy and Justice Party Birtukan Midekssa, and former head of UN Gender Program in Pakistan and current Director of Mehergarh Fouzia Saeed will be amongst those in attendance to address how the increased participation by women in government, education, entrepreneurship, and justice can increase international peace, security, and prosperity. While the event is not a protest, this year’s annual SAID conference theme is further proof that students are mobilizing on the important issue of gender equality.

However, even as civil society mobilizes against women’s disempowerment and exclusion from everyday societies  which occurs in too many places of today’s world  and citizens demand that 2013 be the year for the change, it is ultimately in the hands of governments and leaders to prioritize and create widespread gender equality.

-Jessica Pham ’13

This blog was originally published on PolicyMic. Check out the original piece here

10 Tips to End Rape

10 Tips to End Rape

Stumbled across this on Facebook today. I liked it because it takes advice given to women to prevent rape and turns it around to target those who should be held accountable: the rapists. Popular advice given to prevent rape is ridiculous. When flipped and geared toward the perpetrators people interpret the advice as even more preposterous. Why? Because we live in a victim blaming culture. What provides even more evidence for rape culture are people’s responses (mostly males) who miss the point completely and claim women are a bunch of paranoid, patronizing, pathetic, emotional, uneducated (the list goes on) crazies who go around screaming that all men are rapists. Excuse me, but if that is your response you’re exactly where our problem lies. Educate yourselves a little more on these sensitive issues and read the Wikipedia page on “satire.” Maybe then you can come back and provide a valuable comment.

(this post is made with the understanding that not all rape victims are females and that not all rapists are male, simply the majority are)

Guilt Trip

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Yes, this is Vanessa Hudgens eating pizza.

“I can’t eat this bag of chips because I ate a bagel this morning.”

“There were croutons on my salad at dinner so I can’t eat this piece of chocolate.”

Chances are these statements are all too familiar. Maybe you hear your friends talking like this after lunch, during dinner, on the way to brunch. You may even find yourself saying things like this.

I have friends here at Stanford of all sorts of body types, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. The same tapes play from my friend’s mouths no matter where they come from. It blows my mind how self-conscious and guilty girls feel when they eat.

Before coming to Stanford most of the people around me had a very different relationship with food. My girlfriends and I could go down to the nearest Mexican food place and chow down on a carne asada burrito once or twice a week and not feel half the amount of guilt it seems like people here feel for eating a small bowl of froyo. Food wasn’t synonymous with guilt. It wasn’t a chore, or a careful balancing act of salads and broccoli and cauliflower and low fat ranch dressing and tofu. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good salad, but when salad becomes the only thing you can eat without feeling like shit about yourself there’s a problem. There is a big huge scary disgustingly serious problem in the way society frames diet and especially the diets of young women.  It’s a poisonous self-perpetuating cycle of guilt that is both ridiculous and unfair. No one can win. Ever.

Society tells us that food is guilt. All I’m trying to say is that it’s not. So dine accordingly.

Much love ❤

Meanwhile, at Fox News…

Suzanne Venker is at it again.

For those of you who don’t remember, Venker was the author of a Fox News article back in November entitled ‘The War on Men,” in which her basic thesis was this: while there is nothing wrong with women achieving success in the workplace, they should be careful not to outperform their husbands. Marriage, she emphasizes, should not be a competition. Women should accept the benefits of the “cushier” lifestyle they are naturally inclined to enjoy, while allowing their husbands to provide for them, masculinity unthreatened.

Venker has now published a book, called “How to Choose a Husband and Make Peace with Marriage.” The very title makes me shudder a little bit, but I promise you, it’s even worse than it sounds. As Venker herself explains in another Fox News article, “Its premise is that if women want to be successful in love, they should reject the cultural script they’ve been sold and adopt a whole new view of men and marriage.”

By “a whole new view of marriage,” of course, what Venker really means is the exact same view of marriage that has been forced upon women since the whole institution was created in the first place—that to be “successful in love” is of paramount importance, that it requires women to sacrifice success in other areas of life (Successful careers, perhaps? And God forbid a woman should find some appeal in the idea of maintaining a satisfying, successful sex life outside of marriage), and to make these sacrifices cheerfully, grateful for the opportunity to settle down with a nice, hard-working man who will take care of everything while we keep the house looking nice.

The irony here, then, is that women’s rejection of “the cultural script they’ve been sold” and adoption of “a whole new view of men and marriage” has, to some extent at least, already occurred—and that is exactly what has Venker on the offensive in the first place. She doesn’t want women to move forward towards any kind of “new view.” Instead, she wants us to move backwards—as far back at as fast a pace as we can possibly go.

This is only the beginning. “Young women,” says Venker, “have an added burden: they’ve been raised in a society that eschews marriage. They’ve been taught instead to honor sex, singlehood and female empowerment.”

Sex, singlehood and female empowerment? The triple threat! Young women might as well sell our souls to the devil now.

But okay, even if we buy into her view of the importance, the virtuosity, of abstinence and monogamy, is she really going to try and take down female empowerment?? This is a woman with a highly successful career that literally wouldn’t have been possible just a few decades ago, before this terrible, ugly trend of “female empowerment” began to have some effect on the nation.

Venker goes on to spell out the dangers of modern marriages—or lack there of. First, “women postpone marriage indefinitely and move in and out of intense romantic relationships, or even live with their boyfriends for year at a time” (gasp!). On the rare occasion that marriage does occur, it becomes “a competitive sport.” Now she’s back to this same argument. “Today, husbands and wives are locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front and how they’re going to get everything done. That’s not marriage. That’s war.”

I’m just glad she’s got some solid empirical evidence to back up these wild claims. Oh wait, that’s right. She doesn’t. How many marriages have you seen in which the couple is “locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front”? And no, occasional bickering about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher doesn’t count. Meanwhile, I can name you all sorts of marriages (my own parents’ included) in which the fact that both members are full-time workers does not lead to competition but rather to a profound sense of mutual respect.

So what exactly is Venker’s point with all this? It’s something along the lines of this: “Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.”

Yes, that must be it. The lack of female CEOs is entirely due to their lack of desire to take on such positions when the far more appealing Cult of Domesticity calls out their names. It has nothing to do with, say, the rampant sexism that kept women out of the workforce until the past century or so, and to this day blocks them from ascending to the highest rungs on the corporate ladder.

We all know sexism is still out there, and we all know there are an abundance of people eager to see women returned to what is viewed by many as their proper place. But it’s a sad day when a women—a professional woman, no less—is one of the ones leading the charge against female advancement not only in the workplace but in the social sphere as well.

No, I do not think that being equal in worth is the same thing as being interchangeable. But, apparently unlike Suzanne Venker, I actually do believe men and women are equal in worth. Yes, there are fundamental differences between the sexes (see: reproductive system). But a capacity for work, for wage-earning, for power, authority, or responsibility—these are absolutely not among them.

-C.R.

feminism?

feminism?

I stumbled across this post the other day whilst browsing the feminist tag. In the writer’s defense, the rest of her post redeems itself. She goes on to say how women are awesome and deserve respect and that if people are going to call her a feminist for certain things that she does so be it. Her post is not exactly anti-feminist in it self, but rather once again reveals the tragedy of socialization.
She also poses a fair question: what is the definition of feminism? Many self-proclaimed feminists, like myself, would have a hard time giving you a straightforward immediate answer to this question. Every woman’s feminism is different. But really, what is it? I suppose it’s what keeps me going day to day, it’s what reminds me late at night that I deserve better and things will get better. It’s the simple idea that men and women are equal.
So, what bothers me most about this post? The strong negative connotation entangled with the word feminism. It makes me feel helpless to know that there are so many people out there, so many women out there, who do not have an idea of what feminism is or what it stands for. I feel a distinct sense of revulsion rolling throughout my body when I think about how feminism has such a strong negative connotation, how this woman feels offended when people call her a feminist, how people use the word feminist as an insult! I have actually experienced this myself many times. I voice my opinion stand up for something whatever and then someone says (thinking they’re being clever):
“ohmygod you’re such a feminist.”
“Why yes!! Thank you so much! I am in fact a feminist I’m so glad you noticed!” *fake smile plastered on face*
So to answer her question. No, you are not crazy to be offended because society has made feminism a dirty word. However, this DOES NOT mean you should feel offended if someone calls you a feminist. Feel empowered instead, at least people are noticing you stand up for yourself. That’s a good place to start.
Hello to our new followers!
Sending love all across the blogosphere.
-Katherine