Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lusty Busty and tottling on high heels

I just wrote a lengthy post about my concerns regarding Ariel Levy's new book Female Chauvanist Pigs: The Rise of Raunch Culture, recently published by Simon and Schuster, for The Hippolytic. It details my concern that the feminist movement spends too much time picking out whats wrong with our culture and not enough time producing ways to change it. In essence, I want a positive sex role model. Read more here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thank Yous on Thanksgiving

Today, in the spirit of this holiday, I want to register my thanks for wonderful feministy people who have been important in my life. I want to include those who do small things (like the woman at Thanksgiving today who gave her mother a hard time for only asking the men if they could carve the turkey) or the large (such as Emma Goldman for being a female anarchistic rockstart).

Also, everyone should note that this post is totally self-indulgent, so feel free not to read it.

So here it goes:

Sabrina Manville/Della Sentilles for starting this blog.
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler for making me laugh.
Danielle Mysliwiec for being an awesome feminist art teacher.
Martha Stewart, love her or hate her, she is a shrewd business woman and a good cook (you can be both!).
Gloria Steinem, Jane Friesen, and all the other women who married late and make us all remember that marriage is not compulsory, nor necessarily anything we should do soon.
Marjane Satrapi, author of the Persepolis series, an awesome Iranian feminist.
Chase McAllister-Olivarius for making us all reconsider the political meanings of penetrative sex.
Katha Politt for towing the party line.
Grayson Walker/Eric Sandberg-Zakian/Colin Adamo for re-affirming that men are a vital part of the feminist movement.
Elizabeth Alexander for being an amazing feminist role-model.
bell hooks, Angela Davis, and many many others who remind us that race and gender and class all work together!
My dad for reminding me that women are entitled to get pregnant and take time off whenever is best for them.
Erin Gaines and Carey Pulverman who reading all those crazy books with me in junior high and then following through on all our awesome feminist plans!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Not Ms. Yale?

Is anyone else troubled, or irked, or maybe just puzzled by the YSAC's Mr. Yale competition? YSAC describes the contest in the following words:

"YSAC seeks the best, craziest and funniest representatives from each college to compete in the first ever Mr. Yale. This exciting showcase will feature modeling and talent competitions, interviews, special judges (including Dean Peter Salovey) and much more! It’s your chance to show your Eli spirit as we gear up for The Game. At stake: a chance to debut the Mr. Yale crown and sash in the the halftime show at Yale-Harvard."

I guess I don't understand why the "best, craziest and funniest represetatives" must be men. Perhaps YSAC feared a "beauty-contest backlash" in which female nominees would only be judeged by their looks. Alternatively, perhaps YSAC was only using the phrase "Mr. Yale" as an all-encompassing, universal term (a problematic action nonetheless), but even if this was the intenetion, Yale students took the Mr. prefix seriously. All 12 candidates are male students. Are we saying the only men embody the spirit of Yale? In my opinion, the whole thing smacks of the ethos of an earlier Yale, a Yale that promised to continue to produce "1000 male leaders" every year, despite the sudden influx of 300 female undergraduates. By identifying a male student as the quintessential representative of Yale College, we ascribe a male normative standard to the university. Women become add-ons, after-thoughts, supplemental figures to this core of male students. The YSAC contest revives Yale's historically partiarchal identity, an identity that most of us hope had faded over the last 35 years.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Election Victory and Women

I am thrilled with the results of this week's election, and that we will have the first woman speaker of the House--Nancy Pelosi. However, I'm feeling a little annoyed about a couple of comments. First of all, Pelosi said (and I quote) that maybe we "need a woman to clean house." And secondly, the first thing Bush said in his press conference was that he would contact the decorator to help speaker-elect Pelosi redecorate her office and change the curtains. Umm, yeah, when are we going to stop using rhetoric (at the highest level of government, no less!) that reinforces that it is the norm for women to be at home. By no stretch of the imagination do I intend to denigrate women who stay at home or women who are concerned about the curtains in their office; in fact, I'm sure, as Pelosi seems to imply, women can garner and hone valuable skills in the home that could be a boon to their political careers. I just don't get why women who haven't been at home or have no interest in it need to somehow prove that they are a true woman, and that a true woman has connections to the home. It seems that there is a skills bias: the same skills that make men a qualified politician aren't sufficient for a woman--we need extra proof that she is competent and that's just not ok. Ultimately, women need to prove their competence along two axes, whereas men only along one.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Who's on Top?

Next Tuesday night at 9pm at the Women's Center, we will be having a discussion/study break about... Who's on Top? After our last event about the Hook-Up Culture at Yale, we realized that there had been very little discussion about the act of penetrative sex itself. It's sort of a hard topic to broach, and as such, I think that it's often hard for us to think of how sex and misogyny may be intertwined. So, I envision that we will talk about sex in two ways. The first is in light of of Andrea Dworkin's article /IntercourseI.html that an attendee at our last event sent to me afterwords. Dworkin argues that intercourse and patriarchy are inseparable--or that, in the context of patriarchy, they are inseparable. I'm not sure that I necessarily believe the relationship is inevitable; however, it does seem to me that the way we experience and practice sex is probably somewhat patriarchal. I mean, even in colloquialisms about sex, we situate men in the active tense and women in the passive (getting pounded, for example). The woman is getting, and the man is doing. I would hazard a guess, and I would love it if someone would/could correct me here, that the way most people practice sex most of the time reflects this dichotomy. Hence the title: Who's on top?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I swear, I will leave the NY Times alone . . .

as soon as they leave mothers alone. At least the Times reporters don't discriminate; they critique the habits stay-at-home moms as well as the lifestyle of working mothers. Last week, the Times revealed the frivolous behavior of business women, and this week's style section contains an article on "Cosmopolitan Moms," mothers who gather together to share a cocktail while their children play.

Whether or not you agree with the idea of drinking while watching children, the fact that this practice merits a feature article is problematic. First of all, the article focuses exclusively on mothers, ignoring the fathers who most likely drink in similar circumstances. As Brown anthropology professor Dr. Dwight B. Health says, "In this culture there is a still a double standard [. . .] It is more acceptable for men to drink, more often, and in greater quantities, and in public [. . .] This is not really exotic behavior." Heath's last sentence illuminates the central problem with this article, in my opinion. By examining and analyzing such banal behavior, the reporter problematizes and almost pathologizes these women's everyday existence. Having a drink with a fellow mother becomes an indication of rampant alcoholism among stay-at-home moms; the very act of drinking during the day exposes the depression and irresponsibility of these women. I know this sensational journalism occurs in other papers and about other issues, but I have to say that I'm a little sick of seeing this kind of reporting about motherhood in the Times.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Truly Insightful Opining Found in the YDN

Last week sophomore columnist Alexandra Schwartz wrote a truly insightful editorial for the Yale Daily News titled "Dearth of woman columnists is puzzling."

In the editorial Schwartz addresses the gender disparity found in the YDN's editorial page by considering what sorts of campus activities women tend to gravitate towards, in order to understand why so few women seem to be interested in opining in the Yale Daily News. Schwartz suggests that women often overload themselves with campus involvements and also are more likely to go abroad, both of which are valid points but it is slightly unclear whether Schwartz sees these facts as causal or simply corrollary to the problem she is getting at. I, of course, would have loved to have seen her title the article "Dearth of woman columnists is abhorrent" and criticize the YDN for not working their asses off to fix the problem, but hey, thats my opinion, not hers. She does sum things up very well in her last paragraph when she writes:

I don't wish that there were more female columnists to give the page some kind of vague "feminine perspective" that it lacks. Rather, I wish more Yale women felt compelled to write regular columns, if only to prove that girls can be just as outgoing and aggressive as boys in publicizing what they have to say and in standing by it. This page would benefit enormously if more women felt compelled to pursue a column of their own.

That said, its imperative that we take into consideration the greater social and structural problems that cause women not to write for the YDN, and not put all the onus on them.

Broad Recognition and the women involved (Maggie, Basha and I) obviously agree with Schwartz in that it is important for women to voice their opinions in a public way. Our hope is to enable women to do so by creating this blog and inviting guest bloggers. We would also like to develop an editorial relationship with the YDN--something Schwartz' editorial has now given us greater impetus to make a move on.

Finally, I just want to point out that the YDN isn't the only campus publication suffering from a lack of women editorializers. Yale's progressive publication, The Hippolytic, could only find one woman (me) to write for their blog (its great, you should all check it out). Fortunately, when I brought it to the attention of those running the blog (Noam Rudnick and Jared Malsin) they were both very responsive, and concerned about this dearth of women (to quote Schwartz) and we are now in the process of looking for more women to write (email me at if you are interested, please!).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Insightful Reporting from the New York Times

What is it with the New York Times and working mothers? In 2003, a New York Times magazine piece about eight female Princeton graduates announced the "Opt-Out Revolution": highly educated women choosing to stay home with their children instead of working outside the home. Last fall, an article about the professional ambitions (or lack thereof) of Yale female undergraduates caused a stir both on campus and nationwide. And yesterday, the Times published an article about working mothers who travel on business trips (you can click on the title of this post to view the article).

Once again, instead of addressing the complex issues surrounding working women and family responsibilities, the reporter chooses to write a simple, somewhat sensational piece about these seemingly flighty women who only travel in order to get away from their squabbling children. The article details the massages these women schedule and their elegant dinners; it positions these luxuries in contrast to the banal demands of the home. A quotation from one of the women interviewed anchors the piece: “I can go home and deal with two screaming 6-year-old twins and a grumpy preteen [. . .] Or I can go to the Four Seasons in Mexico City and drink Cognac in the bathtub.”

So, according to this portrait, women who travel on business are both irresponsible mothers and irresponsible employees. They neglect their children and erroneously see these important business trips as personal vacations. They are self-absorbed individuals who only want "me" time. Interestingly enough, this article unwittingly explores the conflict facing these women who don't fear being seen as bad mothers or bad workers. One of the women even says, "You meet all these investors, and they’re all men [. . .] They all look at me, and they always ask, ‘Oh, and how often do you travel?’ It’s such a loaded question. I’m now going to look like a bad mom or a bad portfolio manager.” Of course, instead of exploring such an essential conflict for these women, the article glosses over it and moves on to report another woman's "date with herself" in Vegas.

It seems that women continue to face stereotypes about their inability to balance their personal and professional lives. What no one is talking about, of course, is that fact that most work environments make it incredibly difficult for women to fulfill their duties at work and those at home. This article from the Christian Science Monitor - - explains how more women are "pushed out" of the workplace than "opt out" of it. As Basha astutely noted in an earlier post, the workplace is not yet family-friendly, and until it is, it's shameful to continue to criticism parents, especially mothers, for struggling to operate in both the professional and domestic spheres.