Monday, June 29, 2015

Slut Shaming - (Unfortunately) Alive and Well

            A few weeks ago I was in walking around downtown San Francisco with my two friends. We had just finished an important exam within our second year of our Ph.D. program and decided it would be a great idea to celebrate! It was a rather chilly night, so the three of us decided that jeans and a leather jacket would be the perfect outfit, although we all joked about how silly it was that we were all matching. As we walked down the stairs, we heard a young man scream, “Oh, the sluts are leaving!” Surprise hit me first then later came anger. I was confused because I was living in my skin and engaging in conversation with my friends. His remarks shifted my focus away from the way in which I view my goals, my humor, my relationships, and myself and altered my perspective to my gender. His comment was all of five words but they were a striking reminder that I am a woman. His words signaled to me that I am less than, I am a sexual object and that I am not safe, I do not have a voice; I am what he calls me. He reduced me to a sexualized object that is walking in the street late at night. How does a woman react? Does she stay silent and accept her verbal harassment knowing that her safety may also be at jeopardy? Does she internalize these comments, and if she does, what does she adjust?
            This event picked at me for days because it was more than just his words that struck me and left me feeling off keel. His words are a mere reflection of society and how our culture functions. Hell, many people just told me to forget about it and made claims that I should minimize the situation and excuse his actions. But the real issue is that fact that this happens, a lot. And to be frank, I can’t say that I’ve only heard it from men. Women have been known to slut shame just as much and police other women for their dress, their words, their sexuality, and their behavior. Its quite astonishing how pervasive women’s expected actions are throughout both genders and how, although knowing it limits us, we help set and maintain boundaries for women. The most upsetting part about the fact that society functions this way to facilitate in the moderation of women’s actions is that it is just another way in which oppression is further perpetuated.
            As Marilyn Frye states in her piece “Oppression,” we “participate in our own erasure.” But this is done not innocently; this includes systematic barriers that quickly downward spiral. “If we comply, (act in accordance), we signal our docility (ready to accept control or instruction) and our acquiescence (accepting something reluctantly but without protest) in our situation,” We become toys that are ready to accept whatever is being instructed and reluctantly without protest. Yet, if we do not comply in this woman-oppressed world, we are seen as “difficult.” Again, further proving that woman must obviously be oppressed if we cannot take control of things ourselves and must wait for instruction reluctantly. If one dresses one way, one is subject to the assumption that one is advertising ones sexual availability; if one dresses another way, one appears to “not care about oneself” or to be “unfeminine.” We cannot act angry or conduct ourselves with “strong language” (which is seen as not ladylike), we cannot act bitter, and this “Has been known to result in rape, arrest, beating and murder.” So we can conform into invisibility, again, participate in our erasure and die a dead soul or we can try to break these bias stances and risk our death.         
            Marilyn persuades her theory onto me, that “something pressed is something caught between or among forces and barriers which are so related to each other that jointly they restrain, restrict or prevent the thing’s motion or mobility. Mold. Immobilize. Reduce.”  Women are restrained from expressing natural emotions such as anger, are stuck complying to ways reluctantly, are categorized regardless of their actions and these categorizations immobilize women further. One thing that isn’t immobile is the participation of our own erasure.

            
- Written by Sevan Makhoulian

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Women and Wine

In today’s society, women and wine go hand in hand. Pictures on social media of women drinking wine are in abundance. Recently, painting classes where participants can paint on canvases while sipping on their favorite wine has become a fad. Women plan weekend trips to wineries for wine tastings. Elite Daily states that there are only two types of women: white wine women and red wine women. Drinking wine is seen as a form of stress relief; a glass after a hard day’s work. But does the prevalence and marketing of wine and women together suggest a larger problem?

According to Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink, women have started to view wine “like dark chocolate.” Wine is seen as a healthy boost or a treat after working hard all day. But Johnston states that this thinking has led to the increase in alcoholism in women. Johnston also reports that while men drink in social settings, women “uncork the bottle at home” and drink alone to “self-medicate.” When a woman pours a glass of wine at home after work, it is not often seen as alcoholism or binge drinking. It is socially acceptable and often encouraged.

While I do not believe that every woman who drinks wine is an alcoholic or a binge drinker, I agree with Johnston’s point of view. I do not seek to pathologize normal behavior; however, I feel bombarded with images and messages about women and wine. I see Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram pictures of glasses of wine with captions like, “Another bottle down.” Media has romanticized excessive drinking into something socially acceptable. We all need to recognize that some women who drink wine would meet criteria for binge drinking. Drinking wine may be a coping mechanism for depression, anxiety, or grief. Abstinence is not necessarily the answer, but I believe that we need to further explore the relationship women have with wine. Clarifying between healthy amounts of wine and binge drinking may help women know when drinking has become a problem. Women deserve to relax after a long day, but they also deserve to know the truth about wine and health.


- Written by Amanda Lappin




Mad Max: Fury Road

After hearing much discussion about Mad Max being a feminist movie, I decided I had to see the movie for myself. I have to say I was rather impressed with the movie. First of all Charlize Theron was a total hero. Her character was an awesome example of empowerment. Not only was her name Furiosa, but she was the antithesis of society’s idea of how “women should be.” She could fight as well, if not better than the men, she drove a huge military vehicle, she had a shaved head, and she was unafraid to take a stand for the rights of the women in this post-apocalyptic society. Another noteworthy moment was that she did not fall in love with anyone in the movie, as is typical of most movies. Also, Charlize Theron spoke out when someone asked if the movie was somewhat feminist: Check it out here.  

Something else that made the movie more intriguing to me was that I heard some controversy from men’s rights advocates and other men (claiming not to be men’s rights advocates) complain that the movie was disguised as an action movie to trick men into watching feminist propaganda. There have been people stating they will boycott the movie. Immediately, I thought “I have to see this.” I honestly do not see why Mad Max would be offensive to men. The movie does portray women as equally powerful and allows women to be part of the whole movie. How is that bad? There are many articles that can be found on the topic through google, but here is just one that I found: Check it out here.  

There have been many setbacks this year regarding the feminist movement (e.g. new rules regulating abortions), however keeping feminism as part of the conversation in society is a good start. It is my hope that we will begin fighting back more and more, movies and songs will continue propagating equality, respect, and even admiration for women and all people, and that we can move forward in society.

 - Written By Savannah LeBarre


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

#NoFilter: Towards More Participation and Less (Edited) Observation in the Lives of Women


Ten years ago when I was a college student, I was asked to write a reflection of my recent experience with anorexia, which I had developed and also recovered from during college.  The aspect of the experience that I was most interested in explaining to readers was one I had not heard talked about by any of my treatment teams, the many fellow patients I met, or eating disorder resources I read, and I was struggling to understand it.  For me, the most distinctive aspect of what it was like to have anorexia was this marked shifting of perspective in my memories of time I was ill.  I wrote at the time,

I feel like I have been living my life in the third person. Recalling the first half of my college journey, my memories do not play back to me in bursts of sounds or colors, friends or lovers, feelings, touches, tastes, or ideas. They play, rather, as silent images of myself that flicker disjointedly across my mind, the lens of my memory having recorded my experience from an observer’s perspective rather than through my own eyes. [...] Rather than living, I’ve been watching myself live, distancing myself from my inner experience in order to observe myself from the outside.” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/abc.202/abstract)

I did not understand at the time that this was what feminist psychologists had been identifying as self-objectification.  Today, this phenomenon of women internalizing an observer’s perspective on the self and habitually monitoring their own appearance has been written about extensively (see Calogero, Tantleff-Dunn, and Thompson, 2011 for a review).

Although self-objectification is associated with eating disorder symptoms for many women (e.g., Calogero, Davis, & Thompson, 2005), as it was for me, it is also associated with many other behaviors and experiences.  One I have been thinking about a lot lately is our cultural obsession with documenting our experiences.  Although this appears to be shared by men and women alike, I think this compulsive documentation is of particular consequence for women.  Because while men and women alike may get swept up in the allure of social-media-enabled image sharing, women are the ones who are disproportionately likely to internalize an observer’s perspective on the self (see Szymanski, Moffitt, & Carr, 2011 for review). 

So I could only think of women when I read an article in the New York Times this spring in which Fairleigh University psychology professor Dr. Linda Henkel was interviewed regarding her research on the impact of taking photographs on our memorieslastupid.  Dr. Henkel’s experiments suggest a “photo-taking impairment effect” in which the act of taking a photograph of an experience impairs our memory of the experience (http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/2/396).  Furthermore, she is examining how the act of taking a photograph changes our perspective within our memories; she explains,

“It’s like you’re watching a little movie; you’re seeing yourself in the scene. [...] There’s an ‘observer,’ third-person perspective versus a ‘field perspective through your own eyes. Photos seem to be shifting us to that observer perspective.”

Women in Western societies do NOT need more cultural practices that shift us to an observer perspective. We already have too many forces pulling us cognitively out of our own experiences – worry about weight and how we appear weight pulling us out of the enjoyment of eating, of sex, of physical activity.  As Frederickson and Roberts wrote, “In a culture that objectifies the female body, whatever girls and women do, the potential always exists for their thoughts and actions to be interrupted by images of how their bodies appear” (1997, p. 180).  Indeed, already, research suggests that women’s but not men’s autobiographical memories consist largely of imagery of the self from an observer’s perspective (Huebner & Fredrickson, 1999).

In addition to facilitating self-objectification and its consequences, compulsive image-taking and sharing seems to facilitate striving for effortless perfection.  Effortless perfection refers to pressure many women feel to be “smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful, and popular” without struggling to get there (Wyler, 2003).  Effortless perfection focuses on the appearance of a perfect outcome, shielding the difficult process and many hard moments it took to get to that outcome.  Similarly, in the world of social media we do not post images in which we feel unattractive, or when we feel lost and confused about next steps in our life, or of moments that are sad or hard.  People may post photos of them working hard in a workout, but from the perspective of “This was easy for me to put in this much effort!”  The demand for posting (1) selectively images that show how enviable and great our lives are (look how beautiful my latte design is today!) (look at this gorgeous sunset from my vacation!) (look at how in love my new husband and I are!) along with (2) the cultural practice of editing these images to look even better than they naturally were (retaking selfies a million times until we look sufficiently attractive, putting filters on images until they appear vibrant) --- all of this continues to shift importance onto how these moments appear rather than to how we felt during them.

I am all for enjoying the beauty and art of photographs, and for preserving tokens of our experiences to serve as reminders that jog our memories, but I argue that it will benefit us to strive for more balance between being an observer and a participant than we currently practice.   I think a solution to this is striving to be more mindful – more present in the moment.  Gently reminding ourselves as often as we remember to bring out attention to what we are perceiving in a given moment using all of our senses, and even more importantly perhaps, to how it feels.

And when you go to take a picture of a moment, or to alter a picture of that moment to make it appear a certain way, maybe pause for a moment and consider – what do I want to remember about this?

 -Written by Kimberly Burdette 

References

Calogero, R. M., Tantleff-Dunn, S., & Thompson, J. K. (2011). Self-objectification in women: Causes, consequences, and counteractions. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Calogero, Davis, & Thompson, 2005. The role of self-objectification in the experience of women with eating disorders. Sex Roles, 52(1/2), 43-50.

Frederickson, B.L., & Roberts, T. (1997).  Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173-206

Huebner, D. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1999). Gender differences in memory perspectives: Evidence for self-objectification in women. Sex Roles, 41, 459-467.

Szymanski, D. M., Moffitt, L. B., & Carr, E. R. (2011). Sexual objectification of women: Advances to theory and research. The Counseling Psychologist, 39(1), 6-38.


Wyler, L. (2003, December 11). Variations on ‘effortless perfectionism.’ The Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.duke.edu/article/variations-effortless-perfection



            When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  - Audre Lorde

            I was just re-introduced to this quote by a professor of mine and was reminded of the power behind this message. Audre Lorde identified herself as “a Black lesbian mother poet” her work touched on topics such as love, racism, sexism, heterosexism, survival, motherhood, and powerful emotions such as anger and rage. In addition, she spoke a lot about her duty to “speak the truth” and the deeply embedded fear behind such a responsibility. Lorde was beautifully honest in that she discussed the paralyzing fear in having a voice and how she personally battled the desire, and often imposed through system of oppression, to self-silence.

            The above quote reminded me of a similar quote from one of Lorde’s works in which she states, “your silences will not protect you.” These are two quotes that I have held onto for a while but I find them to be extremely relevant to issues surrounding race relations that our country has been and is continuing to face. Talking about race is difficult and emotionally heavy. For people of color there is often a fear of being shut down with labels such as “too sensitive” or “overreacting,” downplaying and often denying their lived reality. For White people there tends to be a fear of saying the wrong thing or coming off as “offensive.” Of course for White people there is also the privilege to not address race at all and to walk away from these conversations… but that is something I could write a whole other blog post about. As for this post I would like to focus on the fear behind having a voice.

This fear as Lorde talks about, “protects no one” and it takes “power” and “strength” to speak up about the things you believe to be important and necessary for change. Now I could go on and on about this topic but for the purpose of this post I simply want to share Lorde’s wisdom and challenge you all to have a voice. I like to revisit Audre Lorde’s work from time to time to remind myself that yes it is normal to be afraid but that this fear is not important, it is my voice that matters.


- Written by Elizabeth Farrell Geiger, M.A., Ed.M.