Critical Feminist Studies Web Paper 3
I want to explore a text that is considered by mainstream audiences to be a text of female empowerment: Cosmopolitan magazine. I particularly am interested in the way that Cosmopolitan simultaneously instructs/ “empowers” women to reverse the male-female power dynamic through sex and tells them to feel guilty for doing so. The ideal Cosmo girl both objectifies men and feels ashamed of doing so; hence the woman who reverses this dynamic without this requisite guilt is considered shameless and worthy of judgment.
McMahon mentions early on that the magazine rose to prominence as a source of female empowerment (this is not to say it was universally understood as empowering; it was, and is, a controversial text) only after it came under the leadership/editorship of Helen Gurley Brown who at the time (she was editor from 1965-1997) and changed it’s purpose from a periodical of fiction stories to an extended advice column for the single, sexually liberated woman. McMahon does describe Brown as someone considered by Ms and The New York Times (during the 70s and 80s) to be somewhat of a feminist providing “ ‘half a feminist message’ to women who would otherwise have none (New York Times Magazine, 1974)” (McMahon 382): Ms referred to her as “the women’s magazine editor that first admitted that women are sexual too” (July 1985—30th Anniversary Issue). Thus she was considered and for the most-part is considered “somewhat” of a feminist innovator.
Sarah Palin is a fascinating figure that we have begun to talk about in this class, but I would like to explore more deeply the ways in which Sarah Palin’s political career was played out on the national stage and the feminist implications. The figure of Sarah Palin-- as a woman, as a politician, as a joke-- captivated America throughout the 2008 campaigning season. Tina Fey’s portrayal of Palin, especially alongside her colleague Amy Poehler playing Hillary Clinton in one popular SNL clip, demonstrates some of the popular dialogue centering around women’s issues throughout the election. By contextualizing Palin’s impact as a woman on the political scene with Hillary Clinton’s presence, this Saturday Night Live sketch positions itself to examine the ways in which America negotiates a relationship to its female politicians. Poehler’s portrayal of Clinton alongside Tina Fey’s Palin serves to both contrast and align the women in regards to their treatment in popular media and public imagination.
Kate Bornstein, in her Gender Workbook, comments that the transgender rights movement is exceptional in the facts that it has risen up via the internet, making it a uniquely modern age event. Through the new medium of the internet, the transgender movement is quickly picking up resemblance of the momentum of the women’s liberation movement of the 60s era. Both are closely related in their ultimate goal of equality and wanting, despite self- embraced or imposed gendered or sexed designations, to be recognize as persons primarily based on multiplicitous individualities. Another commonality between the women’s liberation movement of the 60s era and the more recent transgender revolution is the necessity politicizing of one’s identity, essentially to make someone’s identity into an issue to bring it to the attention of the greater population.
Better known as “Make the personal political” in the feminist world, it is that which is a response to the “mainstream identity.” The normative population, in an attempt to consolidate themselves as the legitimate identities, use the technique of othering certain groups, such as women and transsexual and transgendered individuals. Photojournalist and author of The Gender Frontier, a photobook largely dedicated to the conversion narratives of transgender persons, Mariette Pathy Allen, says,
I’m working to develop and create a storyboard for the video piece I want to produce for my final project, but I am wondering if the directive and narrative-reflective form of the storyboard. That is, this happens, then this, then this. And that is not the kind of video I want to make, nor does it reflect the way I do my work, so I’m not sure if I should try to conform to the process, that it might make my work better, or if I should just do as I typically do, which is to be a bit more organic in my process, although perhaps less deliberate?
After watching the documentary “Live Nude Girls Unite!” for the sex work unit of our curriculum, I was initially struck by the scene in which the camera records a man’s steady and clear gaze on one of the dancers. During our discussion, I realized that it was watching this gaze—the male gaze—that made me uncomfortable in ways that seeing the nude dancers in the documentary did not. Upon further reflection on this moment, I found myself thinking about the male gaze in relation to street harassment. Stop Street Harassment, one of many websites and blogs that deal with the issue, is an organization that defines street harassment as “Unwelcome words and actions by unknown persons in public which are motivated by gender and invade a person’s physical and emotional space in a disrespectful, creepy, startling, scary, or insulting way.” According to this organization, street harassment occurs frequently and globally. In Academic and community studies, research done in thirteen different cities found that of the statistically significant results, Beijing, with seventy percent of women reporting experiences of street harassment, had the lowest statistic.
At my high school, similar to perhaps many other high schools, making gay jokes was always a popular thing to do. I feel ashamed to have participated in this crude and horrible form of "humor" and teasing when I first entered high school. I loved my high school and I had a great high school experience but I did think my school needed to revise it's policy on tolerance. Not just on anti-gay rhetoric issue but on an overall issue of tolerance and respect. It wasn't until the end of high school that one of my very good friends who had been constantly made fun of for "acting gay" that I realized this was not right and that this had to stop. I couldn't articulate why I felt it was wrong. I don't think I was the only one who thought this was a problem but I do think it was an easy pitfall to trap yourself into when you were with a group of people and you just wanted to tease someone. And I saw no way of changing it. I just knew it was unfair but I didn't know for what reason and I couldn't understand why this kind of homophobic subculture was so deeply ingrained in the way my high school interacted with each other.
Exploring Women in Violence
For a long time, the focus of domestic violenceand crime commitment has been put on men, who are believed as conductors of a vast majority of violence. bell hooks in her book Feminism is for Everybody (2000), yet suggests that women’s involvement in violent crime has increased over the past decade. I therefore want to explore women’s role in conducting violent crimes. What makes them commit violence? Is there a link exists between violence against women and women’s involvement in violence? Does it undermine the importance of feminism because women violence-perpetrators show the masculinity in their behaviors? This paper begins with a snapshot of violent women offenders in the US. The theories that have been proposed to explain women’s violent behaviors, as well as the factors that have been found to place women at-risk for violence, are subsequently reviewed. Finally, a discussion of women in violence and its connection with feminism and programs targeting violent behaviors among women offenders are highlighted.
Story telling is an important part of the human experience, and in this class we have focused very much on the stories that people tell. Feminism is about story telling, and, as MC said long ago, “…listening, particularly to people who are often given no voice or agency, is a solid tenant of feminism.” In order to listen, we must also tell. Throughout our journey in Critical Feminist Studies, we have heard stories about a wide variety of folks – ladies, men, and people above, below, around and in between; queers, straights, and everything else; white people and colored people; people from this world and from other worlds; people who are rich, poor, famous, obscure, enslaved, powerful, intellectual, uneducated, able-bodied, “others,” outsiders, insiders, and every level in between. Hundreds of stories about hundreds of different people. The voices we hear, however, are not always the voices of the people whose story is being told. This is something we have discussed often in class, and the curriculum is carefully constructed to give us a wide selection of voices. Not all of these voices are the ones we’ve been wanting to hear.
TW: Discussion of rape) On Possibly Breaking The Bubble of Silence: How Our Community Discussions of Rape Are Harming Us
I should have written this paper a long time ago, but the truth is that I was scared to approach the topic and felt somewhat unqualified in my position as something of an outsider in the sense that I don’t live on campus. However, as we’ve come through this semester together, and since we’ve discussed “Half The Sky” extensively, and the way that rape gets addressed on campus briefly, (thank you to rayj for providing some really great links and some really great insight) I’ve come to understand that hesitating to speak is part of Bryn Mawr’s problem. From what I have read and heard, we, as a community, rarely talk about rape, and when we do, we do it in a very particular way. In our collective mind, and in the school’s covert marketing message, rape is something that happens when a strange male attacker (perhaps that fabled “suspicious male on campus”) assaults a woman.
In the beginning of the comic book, The Adventures of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware wrote a series of tests and notes for the reader. An exam question asks for the gender of the reader. If the reader is female, she is to immediately put down the book (Ware 1). This implies that there is something about the experiences within the comic book that are so inherently gendered male that a female could not possibly understand them. She may as well never read the book. Jimmy Corrigan examines masculinity and what it is like to constantly battle the social pressure to live up to an ideal masculine identity.