Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another Black Tuesday

Today just sucked: Alito was confirmed for the Supreme Court in a too close for comfort 58-42 vote and Coretta Scott King, MLK's widow, died. So much for social justice. It's bad enough that a man is replacing a woman on the Supreme Court (especially after the whole Hariet Miers debacle), but to replace O'Connor with a white, anti-abortion, anti-affirmative action man just adds insult to injury.

I don't have an adequate response to the status quo. Instead, I have a few questions:

1. What should we do now to make sure our so-called "rights" are not even more curtailed in the upcoming years?

2. Does anyone else find it ironic that a "liberal" university such as Yale could have produced not only George W. Bush, but also Sammy Alito?

I ask the latter question with a tinge of sarcasm. I'm actually not that surprised that Yale has produced some of the more conservative world leaders. Think about it: how many of you (and/or how many people do you know) carry liberal, progressive sentiments at this school and plan on engaging the world on a preferably micro-social level? Most of us see bad schools, bad healthcare, bad foreign policies, etc and we want to go straight to the top to fix it. OR we're so overwhelmed by all the issues that need to be tackled that we'd rather forget it by working 80 hour weeks, owning a bmw, making huge financial contributions to charity and then making sure our kids have the same liberal arts education we had.

I say all of this more about myself than anyone else at this school. I'm just trying to figure out what happens to one's drive to make the world better and when exactly it is that individual's stop questioning the system and instead resolve to accept it. I'm as guilty as anyone. Traveling for a year after college might make I-banking look like Mother Teresa's line of work. Forgive the rant. As I said, it's been a rough Tuesday.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Everyone knows Playboy = hott!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, i'm OBSESSED with "Hef" too! I mean, if you aren't, you're probably unattractive and "unusually sex-deprived"!

Stop repressing it. Embrace the obscenely misogynistic. You, too, can be someone's wet dream.

Reproductive health round-up

YUHS is still working on that survey, which showed "mixed feelings" about health services at Yale and in particular points to the problems with EC distribution revealed by the survey.
...Edelman said he thinks UHS does not do enough to publicize the availability of emergency contraception. In addition, the process for obtaining the morning-after pill in advance is often lengthy and stressful, he said.
Also in the YDN, a rather feel-good article discusses abortion at Yale (reporting that 5-12 undergraduates annually have abortions in New Haven), and draws optimistic conclusions about the importance of choice for our university and the increasing availability of EC. The RALY-CLAY dialogue (or lack thereof) is interesting food for thought.

This all points to the fact that sexual health depends on our access to information and resources. The real way to be "pro-life"? Ensure that choices about our bodies can be made in informed and choice-rich environments.

This part of the abortion article bothered me, because it reinforces something we've discussed here before:
Hartmann's decision is far from common at Yale, and the increasing polarization between work and motherhood -- or at least the perception of such an increase -- remains an issue for young women. The issue was brought to Yale's, and the nation's, attention last September in Louise Story '03 SOM '06's controversial New York Times article "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood," which suggested a disconnect between a modern woman's professional career and the responsibilities of a mother. With that perception comes the belief that the two are irreconcilable.
I know Story's article has become a catchy cultural reference, but it is out of context here. The article cites women whose life-plans involve being full-time mothers - and this involves reproductive planning. Also, the reference ignores the economic and social aspects of abortion; Story's sources were all planning to marry presumably financially-independent men, while students at Yale (younger, probably unmarried, and 'unemployed') who have abortions surely do so for more than professional reasons.

Moreover, the issue of parenting and reproductive health must not only be a young woman's issue (as the article states). The responsibilities of sex and parenthood are issues which affect individuals of all sexualities and genders. Secondly, "work and motherhood" is not a dichotomy. "Paid work and motherhood" - that's more like it!

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Pornographic Inbox

Nice party invitation, huh? You'd think that La Casa, as a cultural house, would steer clear of fetishizing and objectivizing advertisements (not to mention the nasty innuendos of the party's name, "Gold Rush").

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One in four college students reported they had experienced sexual harassment

One in four college students reported they had experienced sexual harassment, according to a report from the American Association of University Women released Tuesday.

Yale reported only four on-campus sexual assaults in its 2004 campus safety report.

What's wrong with this picture?

Yale's sexual assault response system is not adequate; there is little information regarding the resources available to survivors on campus, and YUHS/Yale-New Haven Hospital get very spotty reviews from rape survivors who seek mental and physical health services. On the disciplinary side, students are frequently discouraged from making official reports or pressing charges; again, there is a lack of consolidated information and advice. We need community consensus that rape is a serious crime and should be treated as such by the administration.

There's nothing to prove this without your help; we need your stories - accounts of how Yale's institutions and people respond to sexual assault on campus. Share them anonymously here, and please help spread the word.

Questions? Want to get involved? Email yalersvp@gmail.com

Get Out of My Uterus

Monday, January 22 marked the thirty-third anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

While we try to stay focused on feminist issues at Yale, we thought when it came to abortion and a woman's right to control her body, we had to say something (even if it was a couple of days later). Additionally, wiith the nomination of Alito, who attended Yale Law and his adamant anti-choice stance and the recent anti-choice activisim of our campus (read: www.yale.edu/clay), we think it's time the pro-choice camp made a visible response.

There are so many things to be said about this debate that it is hard to know where to begin. For one, there is the simple fact that the same number of women sought and had abortions before and after it was legalized; the only difference was that when it was legalized fewer women were dying from back alley abortions. Two, the fact that even though we may have a supreme court decision backing our "right," there is still very little acccess to safe, affordable abortions and even those of us who can afford them face increasing harassment and violent opposition. Three, the langauge of the debate has been co-opted by the "pro-life" movement which ignores that to be pro-choice is not to support the act of an abortion, but rather the ability for each individual woman to have a say over her body and her life.

Anti-choice proponents argue that an abortion kills a life. Where human life begins doesn't really matter to us. Sure, the embryo shows signs of life, the fetus, when more developed with its heart beat, is a moving and legimate proof of this. But that's not the point. Abortion involves making life and death decisions, literally but also metaphorically. Most women who seek an abortion do so because they cannot afford to have another child or because they were impregnated under horrendous circumstances - for them,
as Catherine MacKinnon put it, any choice about abortion involves making life and death decisions - why do we privilege the choice of someone else (say, a politician - in particular, a white man like Samuel Alito or George W. Bush), over that of the very woman who is pregnant? Why would we deny this choice to the women whose lives it changes and, many times, saves? Being pro-choice, ironically enough, is being pro-life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Self-Censorship & Being Anti-Feminist

It's taken me a week to write this because I guess this post involves calling myself out on my own sexism. My apologies for the delay.

The short version of the story goes like this: there was a party where people were pretty obliterated. After the party, people started sending emails suggesting that instead of consuming too much alcohol we had all been "roofied" (who knew it could be turned into a verb). The first mention, I let it slide. I liked these people and I knew they didn't really mean it. Then there was another email and another and another. Finally, I decided I had to say something not just because it was a bad and innappropriate joke but also because I'm always frustrated with people who see and hear offensive and insensitive things and remain silent.

So I wrote the following email:

Hate to be the token feminist . . . and I don't really think it's a solely "feminist issue" but this roofies/date rape joke isn't so funny. It happens a lot at Yale. It happened this week to a girl. I know you all don't really mean it and would never mean it and I realize it is just a joke, but I think I have a decent sense of humor and joking about roofies just isn't a good idea. Sorry to be a debbie downer.

Talk about eating your own words: "hate to be the token feminist". I was surprised by my self-deprecating tone in the email and yet I did it, deliberately. Looking back, I believe I wrote that particular email partly out of my own insecurity about my role as the one (and only) voice of dissent in this particular group. I also wrote it in a less combative tone because I wanted to get my point across. (I received apologies shortly after the email was sent.)

But I can't help but feel disturbed by what I wrote. For me, my email tells me I've bought into the very anti-feminist ideas I so often critique and resent. It also tells me that I'd rather get my point across than be ignored and dismissed because my tone is too combative, too hysteric, to feminist. Which leads me to the following, difficult questions: what is the most successful strategy for feminists and for all people voicing dissent and concern? Should we be appalled and show our outrage or should we tacitly, calmly disagree in hopes that others might see the light?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fluidity please

I was doing laundry today and reading a sign, produced by STEP, on how to save energy and water. One of the items is headed "Dad yells check the oil, Mom yells check the lint!"

I know that this is not explicitly that sexist; you could argue that it jokingly describes the usual division of household labor. But this sign perpetuates gender norms - norms that have more broadly delivered vast inequality within and outside of family units. I think we should at all costs avoid using such stereotypes (however trivial the situation!), in the hopes that individuals of all genders can be recognized as "experts" in whatever "field" they want.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Oh, man!

Another brilliant headline from the YDN:

Three join Yale Corp.
Newsweek editor, two top businessmen are appointed Univ. trustees

Problem is, one of those two "businessmen" is a woman. Listen up, editors: "man" is not an acceptable gender-neutral pronoun anymore.

But... you won't find a man!!

This is not official Yale news, but I just saw Katha Pollitt's article at the Nation and it seemed like a must-read for college women.
I, for one, am tired of being warned about the negative consequences of being a highly-educated and successful woman.

We've heard the argument a lot in recent years that the gains of feminism (and the resulting increase in numbers of women in college) represent a "War on Boys". John Tierney recently wrote a column (egalia has the full text and Pollitt comments on some choice exerpts) on the real problems with this imbalance: all these educated and financially independent women won't be able find husbands!

Pollitt's piece rightly points out that the numbers don't tell the whole story; university curriculums and policies are still masculine to the bone, and the "real world" is no better.
...does today's dating scene really consist of women who love Woolf and men who love Grand Theft Auto? College may not create the intellectual divide elite pundits think it does .... For most students, it's more like trade school--they go to get credentials for employment and, because of the sexist nature of the labor market, women need those credentials more than men.
Until that changes, let's not institute affirmative action for men.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Submit to Aurora

Aurora is a magazine for personal essays, vignettes, poems, and artwork dealing with the everyday experience of gender. Our pieces seek to point out the ways in which feminism is applicable to our daily lives - they tell specific stories.

This semester's issue deals with anger and violence. As feminists, do we use or reject them? How does gender-related violence or anger manifest itself to you, and how do you respond?

Please email us with questions or submissions (due by the end of the month), or to be involved in the editorial process.

Friday, January 13, 2006

For Shame, Silliman N

Speaking of complicity in sexism and the refusal to recognize it.... a reader sent us this announcement for a party today (Friday) in Silliman. I think most of us will immediately see its message as unabashedly patriarchal: the CEO (symbol of power) is a white male. Women who work in an office must be sexual pawns of this man (their "power" is sexual and leaves them under - literally and figuratively - the male figure).

While guys can aspire to run the company, girls aspire to please men - professional dress code be damned. Didn't you know? That's the way the corporate world works!

We've seen hundreds of parties with similarly offensive themes (your nominations welcome in the comments section), and I expect some of you will say, "big deal, it's a joke - we know it's sexist." Here's the question: if we know it, why do we ignore its implications? Can we please find a version of "sexy" that does not entail the
subjugation of women? Entryway N, aren't you ashamed of yourselves?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Women Can Be Sexist Too . . . Who Knew?

We’ve spent some time bashing Yale and celebrating good old Harvard for its proactive stance against sexual assault and rape. But a recent editorial published by Virginia A. Fisher, a Harvard undergrad, entitled “Fie Feminism” may prove that we have one more nasty little thing in common with the crimsons: sexism.

In her article, Fisher argues that feminism has made “enough real gains that organizing women to struggle together as a special interest group is often counterproductive, as it encourages the development of a victimized group mentality, rather than encouraging women to develop as individual people.” She then goes on to defend President Larry Summer’s lovely comment that women were not as gifted in the sciences as men (“he may have had a point”).

While her article seems pretty shocking to the average intelligent and educated individual, especially considering that she is a woman and a math major, what is more disturbing is how much her attitude resonates with other women on college campuses. Many women do not think such blatant inequality exists and see feminism (and women’s centers and adequate sexual assault policies on college campuses) as unnecessary and even “counterproductive”.

The question we want to ask is why? Why are so many WOMEN (and men) so against feminism? Ms. Fisher has an intelligent point: identifying as a feminist means admitting that you are in a less powerful position in society, that you are oppressed, that you are a victim (to use her language) of sexism. Although feminism is meant to empower women to fight for equality and to fight against oppression, it also requires women to acknowledge that they live in a compromised world with compromised power and compromised agency.

For many people, being a feminist then is mutually exclusive with being a successful Ivy Leaguer. Being a student at an elite university where students are trained to become powerful people in powerful positions means that no one wants to admit to being powerless (or even less powerful) than their male counterparts. What people are missing is that to be less powerful does not mean you do not have the brainpower or even the physical strength to compete and to succeed, but rather that there are institutional and cultural impediments to women’s ability to be their best and greatest selves. Recognizing the ways in which our power in compromised is the first step to reclaiming our lives. Denying that sexism exists, allowing President Summers to get away with those kinds of comments, and even agreeing with him suggests that women would rather be silently victimized by men and by themselves than admit to being oppressed and actually doing something about it.

[Welcome back...stay tuned as our blogging gets underway again]