Critical Feminist Studies Web Paper 1
Merging the Female Movie Star and the Politician
I invited Sarah Palin to the conversation at our “feminist table” because I thought she and most voices like to hers would be excluded otherwise. I have though about her and other very visible public female personas frequently since then. And I have come to understand these women as part of a separate public world, which must be, in terms of feminism, examined it were a “separate geographical location” entirely. This public world requires a specific examination, just as the woman of the global south or the Korean woman might require examination through a specifically feminist lens or gaze. Others have addressed issues of “double standards” arising in very particular circumstances in very different parts of the globe. The public gaze (constantly directed at this public world) creates a unique combination of “double standards” when it turns towards the female body. I would like to explore the very unique position the public woman finds herself in, both in terms of the political and popular worlds and how these once very separate worlds have come to merge.
“Persepolis” tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s childhood, adolescence and transition into adulthood set on the changing backdrop of her cultural location and identity. Through her personal story, Satrapi educates her audience on what it means to her to be an Iranian girl and woman, the political situation in Iran at the time of her upbringing, and how she often clashed with her surroundings and fought back against oppressive and simplistic ideology encountered in both Iran and Europe. As inspiration for her graphic novel, Satrapi cites “Maus” by Art Spiegelman. While in some ways “Persepolis” is very similar to “Maus,” the changes that Satrapi has made can be seen as her way of creating a feminist text out of an uncommon genre – the graphic novel.
Reading “Goblin Market” as a Feminist Text
With its rhyming cadence and fable-like narrative, “Goblin Market” might easily be interpreted as a children’s poem. However, it is also the tension between these two elements—form and content—that evokes the question of whether or not “Goblin Market” might be considered a feminist text. Despite the cadence and use of a tone often found in children’s literature, “Come buy, come buy: /…Bloom-down-cheeked peaches, /Swart-headed mulberries, /Wild free-born cranberries,” (4-11) the protagonists in this fable-like narrative encounter mature and sexually suggestive situations. When Laura and Lizzie encounter the goblin men and their fruit, the language of the poem maintains its child-like tone but the words are also sensual and mirror the sexuality that emerges as a reaction to the fruit. It is this sexuality that is at stake throughout “Goblin Market”. By choosing to create tension between form and content, Christina Rossetti highlights female sexuality and desire in her poem. Doing so in a form so closely resembling a fable allows Rossetti to discuss female sexuality and desire in a public forum, which her position as an English female writer in the 1800s would not have allowed her to do more explicitly. Subsequently, “Goblin Market” functions as a feminist text through its acknowledgement of female sexuality and desire.
The Low Representation of Women in Math and Science
As a math major, I have almost always been in male-dominated math classes since the beginning of my high school years. Eventually, I have accepted the unbalanced ratio between males and females in my math classes as a norm because I did not find it problematic. However, the disparity between the number of male and female students in math and science classes poses social and economic concerns, such as the difference between the average income, social status and possible careers of men and women. To challenge the social norm that I have been drawing upon my own experiences and feminist observations I have made from them, I have chosen to research on the low representation of women in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) fields. According to research, facts show that men and women inherently and biologically have differently developed brains which filter women out of STEM field. Perhaps then, it is inevitable that women and men show their academic strengths in different fields.
To purpose the ambiguous wanderings of my forming identity, I must first name myself. By associating with resolute terms I mean to say I commit to them, taking both the burden and the pride of my self-claimed appellations, determinately thrusting myself under the weight of them. Inextricable from these things, they are a part of me. I take on their responsibility, actively challenging the connotations of those labels as I perceive them while also bearing in mind how I am perceived by outside of myself. I name myself a woman, resolutely. I name myself a feminist, resolutely. I name myself my mother’s daughter, resolutely. While I have been able to immerse myself in struggling with these few realms of self-discovery, troublingly, what I struggle most with is to claim my name as a Black woman.
From Harley Quinn to Marjane Satrapi: How Genre and Institutional Tropes Affect The Male and Female Gaze
In the summer of 2011, one of the world’s biggest comic distributors, DC, announced that it would be re-launching many of its most popular titles with new storylines and re-imagined characters. Superhero fans of all genders rejoiced until they saw the new titles and realized that many of DC’s female characters had been rendered flatter, more sexually appealing, and less dynamic than ever before. Female fans the world over began to press, at comic conventions and on the internet, for answers from DC as to why they had decided to leave 50% of the world’s population behind as they modernized their books. They were met with a variety of responses, many of which added up to a simple “We write for men.” Though this sentiment is nothing new, and female comic characters have always been rendered to suit the male gaze, it is problematic when taken in the context of a purported modernization and exceptionally problematic when one considers the extreme leaps in sexualization that many of DC’s female characters have endured in the context of the recent reboot.
How does form inform our reading of texts as successfully feminist? (I am aware of my own biases in the meaning of “success,” but for the purposes of this exercise, I will define success as elliciting a response in those who engage with the material that incites emotion of some kind, in this case an emotional response that leads us to seek to support feminism). Typically feminsts forms have included poetry and literature, but these forms are somewhat tied to conceptions of women as delicate and admirers of that which is flowing, flowering, beautiful. Other options include co-opting the form of the patriarchal institutions which reinforce sexual hierarchies, such as academic work and dense theory couched in even denser language. This kind of feminism is far from accessible and has a specific class (and typically race) bias.
Feminism in Korea
Though the United States is not a perfect country, the nationalism that’s been engraved in our history and in our citizens has flourished into the type of thinking that leads most North Americans to think that America is a place where people from everywhere are represented and have the freedom to speak out for or against whatever they choose speak out about. Ideas of Feminism are only relevant in a place as “open” and “accepting” as America. America: the country that gives voices to those who cannot speak. So, when the word Feminism is spoken, places like Korea and Iran aren’t what come to mind. Along with the war history between America and both these countries, Americans would normally not be able to relate Korean politics and Iranian politics to our own because of the differences we’ve associated between America and the rest of the world. America is different. Women here are able to be feminist. What is Korean feminism any way? Does that even happen there? And what about Iran? Certainly not, women aren’t allowed to go outside without head scarf on in Iran; they probably don’t even know what Feminism is. In our shallow American pride, we do not see outside of our nationalist bubble, but Korea’s history along with stories like Marjane Satrapi’s graphic autobiography “Persepolis” show that Feminism isn’t just a western idea.
Feminist perspectives on prostitution
There are many feminist perspectives on the issue of prostitution; some think it is bad for female equality, but should be decriminalized, some think it should be legal, and others think it should be illegal. Feminists like Pateman, Satz, and Shrage think prostitution isn’t morally wrong, but given the current social and economic situation women are in, it continues giving women subordinate status. Other feminist outlooks against prostitution come from taking issue with the heavy costs sex workers pay, like risk of violence and sexually transmitted diseases. An argument for legalizing sex work is that it lets women build careers for themselves, which can help build self-esteem and empowerment. Pro-sex workers think that saying that ‘prostitution’ is an issue for women, takes away from the reality of societies where other structures lead to oppression of women. I’ve found that there are rarely feminists who identify as purely for or against sex work; the issue is too complex so even if someone thinks that prostitution hurts the female goal of equality, they still might think it should be legal.