Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All Sides of Your Halloween Self

Boo!! Halloween is next Friday, so two lingering questions await.  First of all, what type of candy should I buy to give out to children (read: eat myself)? Secondly, what costume should I wear? Answering the former question tends to be easier for me.  My strategy is to walk into the depths of the candy aisle at the grocery store and buy whatever strikes my fancy.  Though effective, this strategy is also expensive and tends to lead to a stomach ache.  Answering the second question is definitely more complicated.

As a woman, I feel bombarded with the pressure to only be sexy for Halloween.  It seems that the entire world of Halloween costumes is not geared towards women, and the sexy costumes that are designed for women are often deemed “slutty.”  To be clear, women should absolutely feel free to be sexy, sexual, and sensual, but we should also feel free to be scared, gross, ugly, and weird!  

Herein lies my perennial frustration with Halloween.  Is Halloween just a holiday on which women are scripted to be sexualized, or can we be free to express ourselves as lumberjacks, athletes, and tacky 80’s prom dates? 

One of my favorite Halloweens was Halloween 2009.  In 2009, my partner and I dressed up as each other.  He was a muscular, solid 6’ 2”.  I was half a foot shorter with long red hair.  Besides the hilarity that we experienced poking fun at each other all night and acting silly, the highest compliment that I was paid that evening was when men and women thought I was a man.  I still glow with pride as I think of how I effectively fooled dozens of our friends into thinking that I was a man. 

An important memory I took away from Halloween 2009 was the widely positive reactions I received from friends and fellow-party goers when I was dressed as an over-masculine man.  It was nice to be affirmed in my costume choice despite shirking Halloween’s unwritten rule of sexualizing women.  As stated previously, I encourage women to explore their sexiness; however, don’t be limited by your sexuality or reduce yourself to only a sexual being.  We are funny, smart, independent, creative, and sexual beings.  

So whether you spend this Halloween as Catwoman, a tandem horse, a bloody zombie, or a sexy nurse, embrace all sides of your being.  Moreover, do not let others reduce you to just sex.  Be sexy, smart, sassy, and beautiful.  Or dress up as a man with a fake 5 o’clock shadow and a dirty-brown shaggy wig…

Happy Halloween!

- Written by Katy Owen 

Halloween - Let's Discuss!

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. 

There are many reasons for this and here are some:  

1. CANDY, 
2. Caramel apples, 
3. fall air 
5. Horror movies 
6. My husband and I began dating and 
7. Dressing up

As I was thinking about what to be for Halloween, just as I do every year, I wonder what ridiculous costumes I will find in stores. Of course, I run across this on Buzzfeed  and this at Huffington Post.  I have difficulty determining how I feel about the issue of “sexy costumes.” One time I dressed up as a “school girl,” but to combat the “sexy school girl female stereotype” I decided to make the costume bloody and look like a zombie. Last year, I created my own Red Riding Hood costume, which was an easy, comfortable costume, yet fun. This year, I am planning on making my own costume with a cool dress I found at Hot Topic. I found a cool Pinterest idea for a DIY costume.  I am not completely against wearing sexy costumes. I just have a debate within myself and have not decided where I fall on the topic. For me, the debate is between empowering female sexuality and body pride versus society’s sexualizing of females and perpetuation of stereotypes. I think that females should be proud of sexuality and should not have to hide it. I also think women should be proud of their bodies and not feel ashamed. However, on the flip side, I feel that society sexualizes women and sometimes reduces women to “sexy” or body parts. Many times, people are more concerned about females’ looks than intelligence, strength, or other characteristics.  Also, many of the costumes perpetuate stereotypes. I have not seen an engineer or scientist costume for women (they may really be out there somewhere), but I see plenty of nurse and maid costumes everywhere. I also think people should have a choice and determine if they want a sexy costume or not and when I go to the Halloween store, there never appears to be any costumes that are not sexy, but are still fun. I think choice is a key word for me. Another big deal to me is that women are choosing to show their sexuality for themselves (empowerment) and not just because of someone else or because they feel it is necessary for society (sexualization). Also, sexy does not have to be skimpy. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. And I hate paying $100 for less material or a costume that does not fit my body type. I seriously cannot even fit into most of the costumes anyway.

I would love to hear opinions and comments on this and whether or not others have the same debate. Please be respectful of those with differing opinions because there really is not a right or wrong answer here, just opinions. I would also like to know what others think can be done to change how people think about costumes or change what types of costumes are available (make a greater variety).

- Written by Savannah LeBarre

Masculinity, Objectification, and Advertising

My original idea for this post was going to be about ways to integrate men into feminist spaces.  I was going to talk about how once a man enters a feminist space and wants to talk about his experience, the reaction may feel like he is being slapped on the hand.  Though we want men in the space, feminist activism inherently deconstructs power structures in the dominant culture, one of which is the male voice as the voice.  This is often experienced as feminists being dismissive of men’s experiences, which seems hurtful and elicits defensiveness.  But the thing is: that is their issue to deal with.  We are not obligated to rush to them and listen intently, as our socialization might tell us that we should.  So I dug a little deeper and came to the conclusion that my greater concern is not whether or not men listen to me when I talk about my experience as a woman (I know it’s there, I live it every day).  What I do care about is how men listen to each other when they talk about the experiences of women.

I asked my spouse for some input on this one, and he told me a story from a few years back at his old job.  He worked in the restaurant industry, and a male co-worker was making very objectifying remarks about a female customer.  My husband, being the feminist he is, told the co-worker to cut it out.  The co-worker then called my husband a name, intending to insult his sexuality.  My husband informed him that what he just said could get him fired and that he really needs to educate himself about how to treat people or else he will be in serious trouble down the road, and the co-worker apologized (for real!).

This story got me thinking: what is the deal with the straight cisgender male?  Why do so many (read: not all) resort to insulting sexual orientation when given feedback on their objectifying behavior?  And, why do they objectify women anyway?  The sexual orientation piece has been unpacked before.  Having any sort of attraction to another person who is not a cisgender female suggests a man is less of a man.  In that way, sexual orientation is an insult to other men in the face of the insulter’s insecurity about being called out.  Done and done.  But, what about the objectification of women?  Where does that come from?

Drive down any interstate or watch TV for 30 minutes, and you are going to see chiseled men and women being used as sex objects to sell…well, anything.  It’s in our brains now: sex sells.  The reason it works is because it gets your attention, stimulates you.  You are going to spend more time looking at it, thinking about it, remembering it so that when you are in the store, you will buy it.  And, that strategy works for business, but it’s bad for our society.  The downside of this phenomenon is that we compare ourselves to these images.  Men and women see themselves portrayed this way and begin to think of it as ‘normal.’  Then, we start looking at each other, projecting these images on to people in real, non-photo-shopped life.  Thus, when someone calls you out on objectifying behavior, you think that person is being ridiculous, because you’re just doing what normal people do.  That may be true if you are talking about the majority of people, but it’s actually allowing yourself to be manipulated by advertisers, who make money off of making people feel a certain way so that they buy things.

The bottom line of this thought is that seeing people as people rather than as objects takes some level of mindful awareness.  We have to see our objectifying thoughts, recognizing that they are part of a culture that uses objectifying language and images to sell products.  It does not have to be who we are, though.  We can see each other as people and not tie our womanhood, manhood, or personhood into a dominant cultural narrative of objectification.  Advertising is not about reinforcing masculinity, it is about separating people from their money, and the two should never be confused.

- Written by Teresa Young

Recently, I attended a conference in the New England region. This conference not only 
enabled me to present my own poster on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in China but 
also it had led me to learn from the posters that were presented. One of the posters that were presented focused on substance abuse and eating disorders among college females. The presenter Dr. Dunham addressed the issues of enabling responses, attitudes toward and knowledge about substance abuse and eating disorders. 

As I was listening to her presentation, I thought about its relationship to feminist psychology. The psychology of female college students has a lot to do with perception of others and role taking. As a result, these factors contribute to the development of cocaine abuse, bulimia, and alcohol abuse. 

Through the study, it shows that enabling behaviors are associated with abuse. For example, the process of providing money to support the abuse and making excuses for the abuse are part of the enabling behaviors. Enabling behaviors can not only negatively impact the person choices, but also can distort the person’s perceptions about the world.  For example, a college female would see alcohol abuse to be a normal when others are supporting her behaviors. 

This poster points to future directions of research in drug and alcohol preventions. Both females 
and males are in danger of enabling behaviors on campuses across the country. In terms of 
future research, perceptions of others are an important factor in relation to alcohol and drug abuse.

- Written by Shengyong Zou (Sherry) 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Texas Tech University and Rape Culture: #TTUnomeansno

So, there is a lot going on here at Texas Tech University.  This has reminded me how important it is for students – undergraduate and graduate – as well as faculty to engage in activism and advocacy.

Essentially, a fraternity on TTU’s campus had a boat with the slogan “no means yes, yes means anal.”  This boat has been around for at least 6 years and they have similar slogans like this for all their parties (e.g., an ice sculpture with “put out or get out” at an 80s themed party).  They also had a “vagina sprinkler” where a wooden cut out of a woman’s spread legs were attached to a sprinkler at the party.  The image went viral the next day. 

Eleven days after the event a protest happened on campus – women (all of them de-identified – a common experience is fear among women, not just fear of the campus climate, but fear of being punished for speaking out) hung banners around campus with a list of demands.


At this point, the president of the student government – a member of that organization and at the party – is refusing to resign.  Here is his apology.

There is some mobilization on campus, and it is a true pleasure to engage – people participating in the #itsonus campaign, the dean of students is getting involved with FMLA (feminist majority leadership alliance), as well as people speaking out about the student body president.

We’re seeing movement here… but it not enough.  This is not the first university with this experience and not the last.

However, with combined and persistent efforts, we as feminist scholars/clinicians can work with organizations to effectively enact change to make campus environments safer for students.

- Written by Samantha D. Christopher

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Women In Film… Or Not

According to a recent study commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, with support from UN Women and The Rockefeller Foundation, women account for less than a quarter (22.5 per cent) of on-screen roles in contemporary popular film.Besides being a wildly inaccurate portrayal of humanity (after all, half of the world’s population is female), these stats constitute trends that should be concerning to women and men alike. Women and girls who do make it onto the screen are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, partially or fully naked, and/or thin. And, they’re five times as likely to be referenced as “attractive.”
Tomes of research from feminist psychology and beyond point to the importance of media in the gender socialization of youth. Documentaries like Dreamworlds – 3  and Killing Us Softly 4 (both directed by Sut Jhally) provide powerful illustrations of media messages and their potential consequences.
What should be done? Increasing women’s roles and addressing the disproportionate sexualization of women would be a start. But it isn’t enough. Consistent with the Bechdel test, the Geena Davis study found that females played only 15 per cent of on-screen high-powered roles (e.g., those of business executives, political figures, or STEM professionals). Is this the message we want to be sending our youth? It’s critical for us, as a society to look not only at how much but also at how we’re portraying women.
-Written by Corianna Elizabeth Sichel

Monday, October 6, 2014

Everyone's Issue

            Over the course of the past month, the media has splashed multiple stories about women’s issues from the icloud photo scandal to NFL football player Ray Rice’s, physically assaulting his wife. In each of these cases, I have found myself frustrated for the survivors of these attacks. In the wake of the icloud picture scandal the media splashed accusatory stories regarding the problems of taking nude photographs. In these articles, the newspapers accused the women of wanting photos to get leaked by merely taking the photos in the first place. In this case, there has been no suspect found guilty of either of the two photograph leaks. In the case of Ray Rice, only after a video leaked, was he suspended from the sport. Until this time, he was only removed from a few games. In both of these cases, the female survivors are blamed, and perpetrators only receive blame when there is visual proof of an assault.

            In the wake of these nude photographs and sexual assaults being splashed across the media, many organizations have begun to express the need for social change. Specifically, Emma Watson addressed the United Nations promoting her new campaign entitled HeforShe. She stated, “Men, I would like to extend your formal invitation to the conversation because gender equality is your issue too.” In her eloquent speech, Ms. Watson refers to her privileges of SES and familial support. However, as a woman, she also faces discrimination. In the wake of her speech, the media attacked her words and began to discuss the potentiality of her having nude photographs. In fact, I believe I saw more negative articles about Emma Watson than positive in the past few weeks. This is a travesty as many Emma’s speech supports gender equality for all.

            As a feminist and an advocate, I find myself frustrated watching the news and/or reading the paper. In fact, I have avoided doing so recently because I needed a break from being angry at the television. As I have grown in my own understanding of my feminist identity, I continue to become far more aware of the gender equality problems evident everyday in American culture. I agree with Emma Watson in this sense, this isn’t a female problem; it is an everyone problem. In his 2012 Ted Talk, Jackson Katz states “people believe the word gender is synonymous with women, so gender issues is equivalent to women’s issues…causing men to be invisible in large measure about issues that are primarily about them. In this sense men are erased from a conversation that is primarily about them.” In this case, gender equality, sexual assault, rape, domestic violence is everyone’s issue and should be treated as such. Think about it.

- Written by Emily L. Barnum, M.A.