Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feminism and Breast Augmentation

I won't argue against the notion that unrealistic standards of beauty in the media perpetuate unhealthy obsessions with appearances for many women. With that in mind, what does a woman's choice to have her breasts surgically augmented say about the human and social condition for women as a whole? Does it speak to the fact that women's worth is often reduced, ultimately, down to her appearances? After all, a woman can be smart, kind, powerful, wise, outspoken, friendly and loving. But if she is not also beautiful, her worth is diminished when compared to a more physically attractive woman who may be lacking in intelligence and strength.

So. Is plastic surgery, particularly breast augmentation, "sexual mutilation," as Naomi Wolf describes in The Beauty Myth? Do women "resort" to surgical breast augmentation in a desperate attempt to conform to ideal beauty standards? Perhaps some do. But perhaps others do not.

Is a woman who seeks reconstructive breast surgery after receiving a mastectomy caving in to the pressure to have a more "perfect" body? What about a trans woman who seeks breast augmentation? Is it wrong for either of these women to seek drastic, permanent measures in order to restore or create the bodies that they feel are further extensions of their beings?

What about a woman who had perky breasts in her younger years, but is left with sagging breasts after having 3 children by the age of 26? What about a woman who has little to no breast tissue and desires breasts only large enough to fill an A cup? What about a woman who has ample breast tissue, but simply wants larger breasts? Is it wrong for any of these women to seek drastic, permanent measures in order to restore or create the bodies that they feel are further extensions of their beings?

Again, what does a woman's choice to have her breasts surgically augmented say about the human and social condition for women as a whole? Something epic or something trivial? Does it say anything at all? That is something each feminist has to decide for her or himself.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Protecting "education, safety and well-being?"

Instead of letting an open lesbian attend her high school prom with her girlfriend, a Mississippi school district flat out canceled the event. To avoid placing the "education, safety and well-being" of its students in danger, the district canceled prom. Way to go, Itawamba County Board of Education. Read more.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gender Imbalance on College Campuses

In a recent New York Times article, Alex Williams focuses on the gender imbalance on college campuses around the country and the "struggle" it causes for heterosexual college women looking to date. While it applauds the fact that more and more women are in college to get an education (rather than an MRS degree), its main focus is on the trouble women have finding and attracting boyfriend material.

While the article devotes some attention to commentary by professionals in the areas of sociology and psychology, it relies heavily on anecdotal information provided by the personal experiences of women on large college campuses:

“Jayne Dallas, a senior studying advertising who was seated across the table, grumbled that the population of male undergraduates was even smaller when you looked at it as a dating pool. “Out of that 40 percent, there are maybe 20 percent that we would consider, and out of those 20, 10 have girlfriends, so all the girls are fighting over that other 10 percent,” she said.


“A lot of my friends will meet someone and go home for the night and just hope for the best the next morning,” Ms. Lynch said. “They’ll text them and say: ‘I had a great time. Want to hang out next week?’ And they don’t respond.” Even worse, “Girls feel pressured to do more than they’re comfortable with, to lock it down,” Ms. Lynch said.”

When you remove the specific context of this article, you may notice that any of these statements could be uttered by almost any woman in any type of institution (not simply education-related) in America. One has to question whether the "struggles" of these women are truly any different than those faced by their sisters and mothers, let alone whether these struggles are caused by a gender imbalance of roughly 57% women 42% men.

Furthermore, the article points to college men's ability to "play the field" as a result of this gender imbalance:

“‘On college campuses where there are far more women than men, men have all the power to control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships,” Kathleen A. Bogle, a sociologist at La Salle University in Philadelphia, wrote in an e-mail message...“Women do not want to get left out in the cold, so they are competing for men on men’s terms,” she wrote.”

Seriously?! WAKE UP. For as long as we have lived in a sexist, patriarchal society, heterosexual women have always competed for men on men's terms. And as long as we live in a sexist, patriarchal society, heterosexual women will always compete for men on men's terms. To suggest that a gender imbalance on college campuses is what causes women to allow men to "control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships" is ludicrous. Some might even argue that suggesting a gender imbalance on college campuses today gives men more power over women in romantic relationships is tantamount to suggesting a gender imbalance in the past (favoring men) gave women more power in romantic relationships.

Let's be honest, here: while probably not helped by gender ratios on college campuses today, as long as we live in a society where men are socially dominant, the opportunity for a heterosexual woman to "play the field" as college men do in order to choose a mate will always be considered socially unacceptable. Gender ratios may change, but until we face the root of the problem, heterosexual women aren't going to find dating any easier.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The return of the "real" woman?

The Fox News website features a slide show of voluptuous women featured in recent ads and magazines. While there may be an influx of "real" women in advertising, I have to wonder if the number of "real" (larger than a size 2) models appearing in ads is anywhere near representative of the percentage of actual women larger than a size 2.

I doubt it.
But hey, it's some progress, I guess.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Raising Awareness about "Curative" Rape

Zanele Muholi, an artist from South Africa, is raising awareness about "curative" rape in her home country. Curative rape, a violent act against lesbians in South Africa, is forced upon women to "cure" them of lesbianism.

How is she raising awareness? Through her unique art exhibitions displaying women's underwear.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rape Fables.

Friday, October 16, 2009

High School Yearbooks and Gender Performativity

Ceara Sturgis is a lesbian student at Wesson Attendance Center in Jackson, Mississippi. In addition to being gay, she chooses to express her gender in a traditionally masculine way. One example? She wears boys' clothing.

At Wesson Attendance Center, students take yearbook pictures in formal attire- tuxes for boys, drapes for girls. Clearly, the high school imposes a strict gender dichotomy upon students; females are to present as women, and males are to present as men.

Ceara Sturgis refuses to follow this tradition- she wants to wear a tux. Why can't she blur the gender lines a bit? School authorities won't allow her to appear in the yearbook unless she wears a dress.

Ridiculous. If Sturgis wants to wear a tux for her yearbook picture, her decision should be respected. Likewise, if a male felt more comfortable wearing a drape for his senior picture, his choice should be honored. In a world where gender exists in a continuum, Wesson Attendance Center's rules are simply too limiting.

Click here for more.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Food AND Feminism: House Party for The Advoctes for Human Rights

Today I had the privilege of attending an open house fundraiser for The Advocates for Human Rights. The event featured State Representative Michael Paymar- a key player in the recent changes in sex trafficking laws- as the main speaker. Rep. Paymar also recently served an important role in the Battered Women's Justice Project.

We listened to Rep. Paymar's inspiring speech- a call for further action- while sipping warm mulled cider from large mugs. Upon further exploration of the quaint buffet table, I discovered the most delicious artichoke dip I've ever tasted. Accented with black olives, it was the perfect combination of creamy and tangy.

Overall, the afternoon proved to be a wonderful success- the Advocates raised a good heap of money to help fund upcoming Women's Human Rights projects, I met several key people in the community, and we all enjoyed the delicious home cooking of our generous hosts.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Double-Daring Book for Girls

There has been a continued craze with The Dangerous Book for Boys series. Inside the first book were fun, constructive activities and lessons for young boys- how to build a tree house, how to tie a variety of useful knots, and short lessons on famous battles in history. The book was well received by parents and young boys alike.

Ten months later, the publishers came out with an edition for young ladies- The Daring Book for Girls.

Come on. Dangerous vs. Daring: which would you rather be? Shouldn't we be pushing girls more towards the dangerous end of the spectrum (and for that matter, bringing boys back toward daring end)?

As if the titles weren't bad enough, the contents of the Girls' book is horrifying; how to frost a cake, secret note-passing skills, and how to turn a perfect cartwheel...
Reviews of this book were less than stellar (we can thank the well-educated, enlightened consumers for lambasting this edition).

My confidence in American progress returned when they introduced The Double-Daring Book for Girls. (Okay, so the title is still lame). Inside lay a treasure of knowledge: how to run a magazine, how to say "no," even how to become the President of the United States.

"This," I thought to myself, "is a book I will let my future daughter read."