Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Can someone please tell me...

...why this makes me so angry?

Out of the sorority house and into the boardroom
With new networking group, Yale women are cooking up more than just dinner.


printed in THE YALE HERALD, OCTOBER 20, 2006 VOL. XLII, NO. 7

I think Tina Wu (Calhoun, '08) said it best:

"We would NEVER see a headline like this for any other demographic. Could you imagine: "Asians, cooking up more than just pork fried rice"?"

Yale women have been cooking up a hell of a lot more than dinner for a hell of a long time. In fact, I find it pretty blatantly offensive that we choose to define ourselves in such binary terms: the sorority house and the kitchen? Yes, I understand that the title was intended to dismantle stereotypes, but by assuming that those stereotypes are the status quo, we perpetuate the stereotype and demean men and women who do cook etc.

Some thoughts:
1) "A woman who is assertive but not bitchy"
The very use of the word "bitchy" is problematic. It is men who perceive women's assertive behavior to be unfeminine or inappropriate who use this term. When men behave in a "bitchy" way, they are assertive. We should be working to eradicate that misconception rather than define ourselves in opposition to it.

2) "The Women's Center is a safe space, but there is a need to unite women of all political ideologies."

Where in the phrase "Women's Center" did you read "crazy Lesbian separatists?" We ARE a space that unites women of all ideologies. Come to some our events. Maybe you'd be surprised.

3) "We aren't going to whine about men keeping us down."

Well, see, I WANT TO YELL THIS, THE STRUCTURE OF THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT IS INHERENTLY STRUCTURED TO REPRODUCE GENDERED ROLES. I'm not advocating sitting on our asses and complaining about it -- I'm just saying that to not address the problem with WORK in the United States head on is to hold the glass ceiling firmly over your own head. You may think it doesn't affect you. It does. It affects how people see a woman in the workplace; it means you can't be assertive because that makes you bitchy; it means that you are either the bitch, the mother, or a sex object; it means people will not take you as seriously as a man. Maybe we shouldn't strive to be "like men." Maybe there is something wrong with the male ideal of work in the USA.

Here's the thing: supposedly women friendly policies--such as maternity leave--often exacerbates the very problems they seek to ameliorate. It makes women's labor market attachment more tenuous, and increases statistical discrimination within firms because employers assume women are more likely to take advantages of these policies. Perhaps we need to work on having both parents take equal responsibility, rather than allowing "femaleness" to be defined almost as a disability.

Oh, and some tremendous irony, the Women's Leadership Initiative didn't ask anyone from the Women's Center to participate in their campus-wide intiatives.

AND btw, this is nothing new. The WC has been doing the same thing for over 25 years with great success, and to ignore that is profoundly offensive.


Maggie said...

I know this seems like a minor thing, but I find the way women talk around the word "bitch" truly heartbreaking. The popularity of this word isn't a reclamation like the word "queer," for instance. Women use this term of male condescension to insult and demean each other, as demonstrated in the quotation from the Herald article. As Basha said, dinstinguishing yourself as a strong women by saying that you're not a "bitch" only perpetuates this negative depiction of strong, confident, assertive women.

Secondly, Basha makes a very important point about the essentially patriarchal structure of the workplace, and I want to reiterate what she said: pointing out this injustice doesn't disempower women. I feel like many ambitious, successful women, such as Yale undergraduates, don't want to recognize gender inequalities because they don't want to portray themselves as victims. They don't want to say they're being oppressed because to do so would somehow relegate them to an inferior position vis-a-vis men. I understand this impulse, but, as Basha said, recognize and rebelling against sexism is not the "whining and complaining;" it is asserting yourself and demanding your rights. It is not the position of the victim.

Perhaps this sense of victimization is part of the terribly stigma against the Yale Women's Center. Why don't groups like the Women's Leadership Initiative want to associate with the Center? Why don't more female undergraduates frequent the Center or join its residence groups? Is the negative vision of the WC as a group of "radical lesbians" just part of nation-wide stereotypes about feminists or is it particular to Yale? And, most importantly, what can the WC do to change this misperception?

Adda said...

Honestly, the thing that is most apparent to me about the WLI and the Herald article, etc. is how clearly unintelligent and uninformed it is. At the end of the day none of these people have done any really critical thinking about these issue, and are instead creating some sort of superficial response to a really profound problem. What gets me is just that its such a total waste of important time and energy--I just want to ask them why they even bother to suggest a gendered slant to their activities if they are going to deal with it in such a profoundly superficial way?