Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"I'm a Feminist or a Fruitcake"

To be a female means I am supposed to be pretty. I should be kind, lady-like, motherly, and a great hostess. I should be intelligent enough to manipulate others, and add a dash of demure to get away with it all. I must work a job like everyone else, raise my children, support my family, keep up a house, volunteer, and encourage never-ending quests for knowledge. I do not find my tasks in life to be easy, nor is my situation always fair – but I am a woman, and most importantly I believe that means I am here to endure, to encourage, and to enlighten.  Where some women may feel objectified by the female figure in art and sculpture, I find flattery and honor in the adoration of the feminine figure. While I wince at ridiculous western societal norms regarding feminine hygiene and hair removal, I can’t deny the irresistibility of the smooth, sweet-smelling female form. I have never been denied schooling at an institution based on my race, gender, or religion. I was challenged to accept masculine qualities as an athlete and performer, just as I was pressured to fulfill the most womanly and feminine attributes of a Southern lady. I experience gender privilege when men open most doors I enter; I experience white privilege when given the benefit of the doubt. However, I most often experience social misconceptions regarding my age, my religion, and my sexuality. Zinn & Dill (2009) say “the matrix of domination seeks to account for the multiple ways that women experience themselves as gendered, raced, classed, and sexualized” (p.92). This is the basis of multiracial feminism.
Under the heading of “third wave feminism” work can begin to level out the playing field; to give women a chance to understand the responsibilities inherent in their earned freedoms. Now is the time.  Multiracial feminism, however, has roots throughout every “wave” of historical feminism (Berger & Bettez, 2007). Personally, I would really like to take the time to reestablish what it means to be a woman in the ebb and flow of a third wave of feminism. Are cultural differences becoming simply an explanation for societal groupings, or is there still a lingering disadvantage tied to cultural and ethnic misconceptions? I have yet to personally witness any injustice in my life based on race or gender, but does that warrant my belief that all is well? I am, in fact, a woman who remembers Designing Women’s electrically charged episode The Strange Case of Clarence and Anita, where they donned black shirts with white letters: “He Lied.” I remember the words of second wave feminism ringing loud and clear, though I did not understand from my own perspective. Perhaps there is much to learn from the past, but I’d like the chance to reflect on just how far we’ve come. In Mary Jo’s Bette Davis-style monologue (Bloodworth 1991) I Encourage you to see the lengths we have grown.
Mary Jo: All we want is to be treated with equality and respect. Is that asking too much? I'm sorry, I don't mean to be strident and overbearing, but you know nice just doesn't cut it anymore. I'm mad because we're 51 percent of the population and only two percent of the United States Senate. I'm mad because 406 men in the House of Representatives have a pool, a sauna and a gym, and we have six hairdryers and a ping pong table. I'm mad because in a Seminole, Oklahoma police station; there's a poster of a naked woman that says 'Women make bad cops.' I'm mad because in spite of the fact that we scrub the nation's floors, wash the dishes, have all the babies and commit very little of the crime, we still only make 58 cents on the dollar. And I don't know about the rest of you women out there, but I don't give a damn if people think I'm a feminist or a fruitcake! What I'm going to do is get in my car and drive to the centermost part of the United States of America and climb the tallest tower and yell; Hey, don't get me wrong, we love ya, but who the hell do you men think you are?!!”
Berger, M. & Bettez, S. (2007). Multicultural Feminism. In G. Ritzer (Ed.), Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Retrieved from
Bloodworth-Thomason, L. (Writer), & Steinberg, D. (Director). (1991). The Strange Case of Clarence and Anita [television series episode]. In (Producer), Designing Women. Los Angeles, CA: Studio. Retrieved from;summary
Zinn, M. & Dill, B. (2009). Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.), Feminist Frontiers (pp. 89-94). New York, NY; McGraw Hill.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Sky Is The Limit: Researching New Ideas in Recovery of Intimate Partner Violence

              I’m tired of watching rampant demons destroy my new dreams slowly. can you explain the red-hot blackness of your soul that encompasses my skin, even today, remembering how you held me through the tears, and begrudged the blood like it was all my fault?
‘who knew she bruised so easily?’
I’m tired of listening and pretending like it’s gonna go away. I’m tired of lies and yet the most awful stinging pain in my core tonight is because being alone is somehow more terrifying than the memories of what you’ve done to me. to ruin me. to stand and live and bleed through me as though you had any further right to my soul. Please leave …
(Ramsey, 2011)
This poem was written by a survivor of intimate partner violence as she fights for recovery from abuse, and works through her many issues and mental conditions resulting from the trauma. But this poem was not written in the weeks following her being removed from danger, nor was it written on the one year anniversary of her journey into a new life without her abuser. This poem was written close to 3 years post-trauma. It is my experience that the effects of intimate partner violence are more long-lasting than most of society could ever realize. It is my experience, because this is my poem, and I am suffering emotionally as much today, as I have every day over the last 3 years.
There is an incredible need for social change in the realm of support services offered to victims of intimate partner violence. There are many agencies devoted to removing the victim into a safe environment, many shelters dedicated to helping victims get back on their feet emotionally, physically and socially. However, once that magical first year of recovery from trauma is reached, survivors find themselves on their own in a new world. It is my hypothesis that further study into the needs of these survivors, from the one year anniversary forward, must be done and these findings used to create a long-term recovery program for all victims to reach a level of living happily that we seek, and that we deserve. This idea, though truly selfish as it may be, is beginning to be apparent to researchers as well.
Given the absence of violence exposure post-shelter and the appreciable levels of satisfaction reported for most life domains, the results for depression and trauma symptoms are noteworthy. These “cream of the crop” domestic violence survivors reported symptoms of depression and trauma warranting clinical attention.
…continuing efforts ought to be made to assist women post-shelter in meeting their long-term needs and to examine the provision of specialized treatment, both in shelter and community, regarding depression and PTSD symptoms, such as intrusive memories of abuse experiences.
                                                                                            (Ham-Rowbottom, et al, 2005, p.118,120)
So far, it is evident that almost no help is offered, or readily available, to victims of intimate partner violence after the one year mark, post-trauma. Brilliantly helpful agencies such as The Refuge House in Tallahassee, Florida and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) offer almost no guidance to this long-term idea of care (Refuge House, 2010). While the FCADV champions the Survivor Listening Project, an avenue for survivors to “remain central to, and continue to inform the work of” the coalition (FCADV, 2010), there is no avenue to aid in the continued recovery of these survivors. Compounding the problem are the multiple levels of disadvantage and co-occurring disorders that are frequently ignored by support services for intimate partner violence because these programs lack the integrated services to assist in other related conditions such as mental illness and substance use. This issue will be covered thoroughly in a later section.
So, just why is it that victims of intimate partner violence face such a long road of recovery? The research of DeMaris and Kaukinen (2008) seek to explain this further. A frightening fact produced by their research findings shows that help-seeking behaviors, such as seeking aid from shelters, contacting family and friends, reaching out to therapy, etc. are not necessarily a buffer to decrease psychological trauma. It seems evident that the psychological traumas suffered by the survivors are severe and long lasting (DeMaris & Kaukinen, 2008). Getting to the bottom of this question feels more like peeling an onion than simply finding an answer. With continued research, I am hopelessly hopeful that we can create a plan of action to better aid our abused and broken women.
Clearly, the topic of intimate partner violence is one of specific relation to gender oppression. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse were also female (Durose, 2005). For the purposes of this research paper, only the findings and research as they relate to the gender oppression of women will be discussed. The social relevance of this issue is best described by the work of Dobash & Dobash who state: “it is the battered-women's movement, with the support of the media, who have put the issues of the physical and sexual abuse of women and girls firmly on the social agenda” (1992, p.2)
It is the opinion of Michelle VanNatta that domestic violence shelters, constrained by beaurecratic hierarchies, financial limitations, and the idea of the “normal” battered woman, are failing to provide enough intensive, long-term help to all women, especially those with existing social disadvantages (2005, p.439). We need to look into all aspects of the recovering victim and seek to align a productive recovery model for women victims post-trauma. Poole et al state that 42% of women in domestic violence shelters are substance users, and therefore “the need has been identified for more integrated services for women who use substances and experience violence in their lives” (2008, p.1130).
This layer of disadvantage should not be ignored by support services. The co-morbidity of substance abuse and intimate partner violence is of real concern, though frequently unaddressed by support services. Kail, a social worker looking to address the techniques used in therapies for victims of intimate partner violence and substance abuse, finds that “little attention is given to screening for the presence of IPV” when women are seen for substance abuse issues (Kail, 2010), though the likelihood of related events is common. In fact, Bennett & O’Brien have found that substance abuse “is one of the strongest predictors of intimate partner violence” (2010), and the vast majority of women with substance abuse problems have also been victims of IPV at some point in their lives (Bennett & O’Brien, 2010). So why are support services so clueless? Vast research has been done on the correlation of substance use and violence in intimate relationships, as well as research on the resulting mental health issues of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and intimate partner violence. The big issue, however, is that “few studies have investigated the prevalence of substance-use-related problems among women who experience domestic violence” (Poole, et al, 2008, p.1130). So the question should be how to best treat victims of IPV by also including substance abuse treatment techniques, aid and support. It seems likely that a long-term program of aid will be necessary and helpful to both issues.

A study project organized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sought to find all of these answers and more. The two-phase project enlisted consumer/survivor/recovering women as consultants involved in every phase and level of the study. The importance here is that women who have lived with substance abuse problems, mental illnesses and who have histories of trauma were an integral voice in the 5 year Women, Co-Occurring Disorders and Violence Study (WCDVS). The concept is one of brilliance and hope for survivors. It is the hope that voices just like mine, voices of women who sit in the waiting rooms for health care professionals biting back tears until we reach the safety of the inner office; voices of women who have been desperate, hopeless, and alone in our drinking; voices of women who became so accustomed to the beatings we began to do it to ourselves; voices of women who believe there is no help – will finally be heard.
How else can we as a society begin to be more responsive to the needs of those receiving services than to empower them to be a part of the design and implementation of those services? We need to invite service recipients to sit at the table and speak for themselves instead of allowing anyone else to think that they can speak for them.
(Mockus, et al, 2005, p.525)
The insight gained by SAMHSA is still materializing in the training of professionals in related fields, and through implementation of programs created through the work of this study, although I could find little evidence of an actual plan for either avenue of change.
It is my ultimate goal that the work and research set forth by this paper will become the groundwork for a new recovery support service for survivors of intimate partner violence. I believe the work done here is unique – as unique as each story of horror and survival spoken by the woman who lived through it. Through my research I have learned that we are a vast army, though still disorganized and fearful in our efforts, but we are forming. Mockus, Mars, Ovard, Mazelis, Bjelajac, Grady, LaClair, Livingston, Slavin, Williams and McKinney embody my sentiment perfectly:
Even the best science available has lacked a vital component: the insight and wisdom that can only come through the lived experience of recovery.
(Mockus, et al, 2005, p.515)
It is my hope that a new plan of recovery can be implemented into existing support agencies. Groups like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are making huge waves toward integration of violence safety, substance use recovery and mental health services. I plan to eventually enact this new recovery program within the Tallahassee community, but in the end – the sky may be the limit.

Bennett, L. W. and O'Brien, P. (2010) The Effects of Violence Acuity and Door to Service. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 10(2), 139 — 157. doi: 10.1080/15332561003769526
DeMaris A., Kaukinen C. (2008). Partner's stake in conformity and abused wives' psychological trauma. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23 (10), pp. 1323-1342.
Dobash, R. E., and Dobash, R., Women, Violence, and Social Change (New York: Routledge, 1992).
Durose, M.R., et al., U.S. Department of Justice, NCJ 207846, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances, at 31-32 (2005), available at
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) (2010). INVEST Program description. Retrieved from
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) (2010). Survivor Listening Project description. Retrieved from
Ham-Rowbottom, K. A., Gordon, E. E., Jarvis, K. L., & Novaco, R. W. (2005). Life Constraints and Psychological Well-Being of Domestic Violence Shelter Graduates. Journal of Family Violence, 20(2), 109-121. doi:10.1007/s10896-005-3174-7
Kail, B. (2010). Motivating Women with Substance Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence. Journal of Social
             Work Practice in the Addictions, 10(1), 25 — 43. doi: 10.1080/15332560903526002
Mockus, S., Cinq Mars, L., Ovard, D., Mazelis, R., Bjelajac, P., Grady, J., & ... McKinney, J. (2005). Developing consumer/ survivor/recovering voice and its impact on services and research: Our experience with the SAMHSA Women, Co-Occurring Disorders and Violence Study. Journal of Community Psychology, 33(4), 513-525. doi:10.1002/jcop.20066
Poole, N., Greaves, L., Jategaonkar, N., McCullough, L., & Chabot, C. (2008). Substance Use by Women Using Domestic Violence Shelters. Substance Use & Misuse, 43(8/9), 1129-1150. doi:10.1080/10826080801914360
Ramsey, C. (2011). Your Opinion Here: A Collection of Journal and Poetry. Publishers.
Refuge House (2010). General website.
VanNatta, M. (2005). Constructing the Battered Woman. Feminist Studies, 31(2), 416-443.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Leggo the Preggo

As a young woman I worked as the office manager of a family-owned, high-end retail store. I loved my job, though it seemed there was no end to my job description. I was under-paid for my performance, but made more than anyone else my age – so I didn’t have much room to complain. In my years with the company I married, bought my first home, and got a dog. With children and a family looking to be the next logical step in life, I sat in my employer’s office one day and confessed that I was making plans to begin a family. To my surprise, her immediate reaction was one of shock, confusion, and general concern regarding my future with the store. The store owners, an older married couple with no children, could not understand why I would “end” my career to become a mother. Until that moment, I had not considered the decision to begin a family to be synonymous with professional suicide. Coincidentally, I was soon approached by a business competitor and family-man who offered an unbeatable maternity benefits package, so I jumped-ship, and the rest is history.
Soap opera actress Hunter Tylo filed suit in 1997 when she experienced discrimination and contract termination due to her pregnancy. Hired to play a sexy, husband-stealing vixen on the original Melrose Place (Dowd, 1997, p. A13), Tylo was terminated before filming began after she informed show executives of her pregnancy (Jennings, 2008, p. 211). The December 1997 court proceedings heard the Melrose camp claim “material change in appearance” saying Tylo could not perform the role of a seductress while pregnant. Appearing before a jury of 10 women and 2 men, a then-pregnant Tylo walked away the victor (CNN, 1997). Dowd (1997) reported “[the] eight-month-pregnant mother of three looked better in the tight miniskirts she wore to court than most of the women in America” (p. A13). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects pregnant workers as long as they are able to do their job (USDLWB, 1994).
Segura (2009) speaks to this same issue stating “employers may be reluctant to ‘invest’ in or train women workers who, they perceive, may leave a job at any time for familial reasons” (p. 309). The idea that motherhood is an employment hindrance is based in hegemonic ideals and intolerance. My former boss believed child rearing to be important, but time-consuming, unpredictable, and distracting. He assumed that an ideal worker and a mother could not be one in the same. Obviously there are others who share his opinion, but as long as we’ve got whistleblowers in the workplace, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The truth is this: “In 1998, almost three out of four women with children [under six years old] were in the workforce” (DOL, 1999, p. 29-30). With numbers like these, it’s no wonder employers are beginning to get on-board with benefits designed for the working mother. In fact, even the federal government is showing signs of enlightenment and understanding, as evidenced by Table 1, an excerpt from the Department of Labor report Futurework.

Box 3.1 How Long is a Mother's Work Day
5:30 a.m. Get up early to have thirty minutes to exercise, make grocery list while getting dressed
6:30 a.m. Make the kids’ breakfast and their lunches
7:00 a.m. Walk the dog, get kids up, dressed, fed and into the car
8:30 a.m. Take one kid to day care, the other to school, stopping at dry cleaner on the way to work
9:00 a.m. On the job!
1:30 p.m. Meeting at daycare center with childcare provider
2:00 p.m. Back on the job
5:00 p.m. Shut down the computer, forward calls to the cell phone
5:30 p.m. Pick up child from school aftercare and discuss the evening’s homework assignment while driving to the daycare center
6:05 p.m. Pay the late arrival fee at the daycare center. Convince both children to help at the grocery store and do the grocery shopping
7:00 p.m. Arrive home, unload and put away groceries, make dinner, referee a spat between the kids over which evening TV program they’re allowed to watch
7:30 p.m. Dinner time—take a breath, sit down, and enjoy learning about the kids’ day
8:00 p.m. Do the dishes, supervise the kids’ household chores and homework, change the load of laundry put in this morning, and feed the dog
8:30 p.m. Bathe the kids, call home healthcare attendant caring for an elderly parent
9:00 p.m. Read bedtime story and get the kids their last drink of water
9:30 p.m. Sit down and put feet up while folding the laundry; fall asleep over the cable news

Table 1. (DOL, 1999, p. 30).

CNN (1997, December 16). Jury gets ‘Melrose Place’ pregnancy lawsuit [web post]. Retrieved from
Department of Labor [DOL]. (1999). Chapter 3: Work and family. In Futurework- Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century [report]. Retrieved from
Dowd, M. (1997, December 24). Civil rights sirens. The New York Times, pp. A13
Jennings, M. (2008). Business Ethics: Case Studies and Selected Readings. Florence, KY: South Western Educational Publishing.
Segura, D. (2009). Working at Motherhood: Chicana and Mexicana immigrant mothers and employment. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.308-321). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau [USDLWB]. (1994). In The ‘Lectric Law Library. Retrieved from

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stop the Violence

Before the invention of the term ‘homosexuality’ in 1869, Anne Lister saw her love and desire for women as a defining characteristic. She . . . considered her attraction to women natural, and proclaimed proudly that ‘I love, & only love, the fairer sex & thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any other love than theirs.’ (Rupp, 2009, p. 395)
In her article “Loving Women in the Modern World”, Rupp sheds light on the varied relationship styles through history and up to modern day, of lesbian women. It seems the relationship boundaries and courting procedures of the women discussed are as unique as the individuals themselves. This is not unlike heterosexual couples. Interestingly, there is current and ongoing research into particular aspects of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBT&Q) relationships and their similarities to heterosexual couples. An area of interest to discuss is the similarities in occurrences of domestic violence.
“The rates of domestic violence in same-gender relationships is roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual women” (AARDVARC, 2008). A quick Google search of the topic will yield various advocate websites, support groups, scholarly journals, and blogs. A bona fide social issue, intimate partner violence in the LGBT&Q community is shrouded in mystery as the scientific community has only scratched the surface with research in the last 20 years. Understanding the similarities and differences of same-sex partner violence and heterosexual partner violence is the key to unraveling the myths and enacting programs of greatest support for survivors.
Regarding current research of LGBT&Q intimate partner violence, McClennen (2005) found: “The inability to receive helpful, responsive professional services and protection contributes to victims’ maintaining long-term relationships with their perpetrators, as they remain silent about their abuse” ( p. 151). Clearly, this data must be used to tailor support and outreach programs to the LGBT&Q community.
Also, Hester (2009) found “gay men were significantly more likely to use physically and sexually abusive behaviors” (p.171) compared to lesbian women in the study. “Regarding impact, lesbians were significantly more likely to be affected by emotionally and sexually abusive behavior.” This group also stated a majority opinion that the abuse made them want to change the problem behaviors for their partner (Hester, 2009, p. 171). Essentially, the data recorded by Hester and Donovan (2009) “appear to reflect wider processes of gendering and gendered-norms” (p.171).
This news is alarming to me as a woman hell-bent on relieving our society of such prevalence of domestic violence, and intimate partner abuse. Does the old patriarchal view of oppression still apply? Am I a victim of intimate partner violence simply because I’m statistically predisposed? What answers can we find to not only help victims and survivors, but to actually stop the violence.
Refernces Inc. (2008, September 24).  An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection. General format. Retrieved from
Hester, M. and Donovan, C. (2009). 'Researching Domestic Violence in Same-Sex Relationships — A Feminist Epistemological Approach to Survey Development', Journal of Lesbian Studies, 13: 2, 161 —173. doi: 10.1080/10894160802695346.
McClennen, J. (2005). Domestic violence between same-gender partners: Recent findings and future research. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20: 149-154. doi: 10.1177/0886260504268762.
Rupp, L. (2009). Loving women in the modern world. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.389-399). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oh, A Change is Gonna Come

Exploring the general public’s attitudes toward feminism and gender relations exposes opinions as diverse as the people themselves. This is the premise of Pamela Aronson’s (2009) research into how young women, specifically, “identify themselves with respect to feminism, and how [we can] make sense of their seemingly contradictory perspectives” (Aronson, 2009, p. 572). Looking back into my own Women’s Studies journey this semester, I recall my first critical response essay in regards to the questions posed by Aronson (2009). Ramsey (2010) shares, “white privilege is a concept I witness in black and white photos coming alive on my history book pages, not a matter of substantiating my success in life” (Ramsey, 2010, p. 2). Additionally, the sentiment of the essay is this:
Ignoring questions to our society of intent and motives, and looking only at failures as the proof of a problem, seems to fill-up the scorecard of the disadvantaged. But the application of an even greater principle of mankind, that of tolerance and understanding, would lighten the weight we all carry watching society eek its way to equality.
I would rather be a cheerleader for progressive changes in attitudes toward minorities in race, gender, and religion, while focusing on the vast accomplishments we, as a people, have made. I am not the feminist of the 1980’s. In fact, I do not know what I am – but I know how I feel. Perhaps my sentiment could be relayed best in the words of Stills (1969) “Remember what we've said and done and felt / About each other / Oh babe, have mercy / Don't let the past remind us of what we are not now / I am not dreaming.” (p.3)
I walked into the doors of Women’s Studies a member of the group Aronson (2009) defined as “’I’m Not a Feminist, but . . .” Her research reported “nineteen percent of the interviewees distanced themselves from feminism while endorsing many of the principles of feminist ideology” (Aronson, 2009, p. 578). And I can certainly relate.
Aronson (2009) also explores the possible explanations for such varied views by researching young women’s definitions of feminism. As the title of her work suggests, Feminists or “Postfeminists”? gathers definitive assumptions on feminism, postfeminism, third wave feminism as well as second wave feminism. The separation of beliefs and feminist groups is not a new occurrence.
This is evidenced as Jenny Coleman (2009) states:
From the time feminist theories began to be formalized in an academic context, tensions and contradictions emerged as a plurality of perspectives was developed. As their names denote, liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism, psychoanalytic feminism and the like were feminist adaptations of traditional accepted bodies of theory” (p. 4).
The author goes on to suggest “As in the case of first and second wave feminisms, third wave feminism is not a uniform perspective” (Coleman, 2009, p. 9). The point, I believe, is to focus our rallied efforts toward affecting those social issues which are most detrimental to us all. I believe Cathryn Bailey (2002) sums up the focus of today’s feminism precisely:
We cannot assess the meaning of younger women’s actions and attitudes without recognizing that the backdrop against which their actions are performed is, in many cases, significantly different. (Bailey, 2002, p. 145)
This is right on the money with a modern global feminist perspective, opinions and research in the field of women’s studies. We are now realizing the vast array of life experiences for women in today’s world, and adjusting our theories to encompass broader views. And I think this movement is just in time for a girl like me to finally catch a wave. Though I may not yet know where my feminist, or non-feminist, allegiances lay, I am here, I am learning, and I expect to experience social change. Aronson (2009) concludes with my thoughts exactly, “Most important, whether or not young women call themselves feminists, they support feminist goals. In fact, the young women I interviewed were more supportive of feminism than had been found in past research” (p. 580). Oh, a change is gonna come.
Aronson, P. (2009). Feminists or “Postfeminists”? Young Women’s Attitudes Toward Feminism and Gender Relations. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.389-399). New York, NY: McGraw Hill, p. 572-582.
Bailey, C. (2002). Unpacking the mother/daughter baggage. Women's Studies Quarterly, 30 (3/4): 138-154.
Coleman, J. (2009). An introduction to feminisms in a postfeminist age. Women’s Studies Journal, 23 (2): 3-13.
Ramsey, C. (2010). I am Not Dreaming. (Unpublished undergraduate essay). Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Protect All Women

Most of the policy claims made by Second-Wave feminists have emphasized women’s right to participate in men’s world and have made work outside the home a defining element for women’s full and equal citizenship. . . Now doubly taxed by the dual responsibilities of earning and caring, many feminists have demanded labor market policies to address the family needs that fall disproportionately on women (Mink, 2009, p. 541)
Mink’s The Lady and the Tramp (II) . . . shines a white-hot light on the issue of welfare politics and justice and the feminist struggle with poverty.
Mink’s opinion is that “most congressional feminists . . . have conflated their right to work outside the home with poor single mothers’ obligation to do so” by requiring welfare recipients “to work outside the home both as a condition of welfare and as a consequence of time limits” (2009, p. 541).
Mink is, of course, referring to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) which enacted many restrictions on welfare and “’devolved’ responsibility for assistance to the poor from the federal to the state level” (Adair, 2008, p. 4). This was a huge setback in the feminist fight for equality when
“throughout the fall of 1996, on the floor of the U.S. Congress, women on welfare were characterized as dirty, oversexed and dangerous. Senator Mica of Arizona compared welfare mothers to alligators who if allowed would eat their own young and U.S. Congressman Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania referred to recipients as ‘unfit parents who view their children as nothing more than increases in welfare checks’” (Adair, p. 5).
And just where were all the feminists while this bill spread through Capitol Hill? “Although the leaders of the NOW were keenly aware of the connections of poverty, race, and gender, this did not come intuitively to all NOW members. Due to its membership demographics — predominantly white, middle-class, well-educated women—welfare did not directly bear on the lives of these women” (Snyder, 2005, p. 9). Mink solidifies this notion, as well, saying: “Part of the problem, I think, is that white and middle-class feminists – who are the mainstream of the women’s movement – view mothers who need welfare as mothers who need feminism” (Mink, 2009, p. 540).
Clearly, the current state of welfare programs in our country needs to be addressed. It is time to hold feminist organizations accountable to their pledge to stand for all women, not just middle-class and white. 
Adair, V. C. (2008). The missing story of Ourselves: Poor women, power, and the politics of feminist representation. The NWSA Journal, 20 (1): 1-25.
Mink, G. (2009). The lady and the Tramp (II): Feminist welfare politics, poor single mothers, and the challenge of welfare justice. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.389-399). New York, NY: McGraw Hill, p. 538-543.
Snyder, B. (2005). The Welfare of Feminism: Struggle in the Midst of Reform. (Unpublished doctoral case study). Center on Women and Public Policy Case Study Program, University of Minnesota.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's a Make-Up Day

I’d like to personally thank the make-up and beauty industry for making it easier for me to command the attention of any room. With the use of eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss, I feel gorgeous, competent and ready to take on the world. I am not a girly-girl. I will always choose the football game over the salon, would rather roll in the mud than dish it, but when it comes to the artistry and power of a well put-together woman – the advantages are clear. Boris’s research into the hiring requirements, training programs, and job description of airline flight attendants in the 1950’s through the 1970’s shows the struggle for women’s rights on the job, and the precarious balance women keep between establishing our own power derived from beauty, and conforming to standards of beauty domination set by men. “Flight attendants wielded their sex as a weapon even as they questioned the cultural association of youth with beauty and sexual availability” (Boris, 2009, p. 247).
What women wear has been a hot topic of discussion since the creation of clothing. Fashion, beauty, and the like, dominate the lives of most women whether they like it or not. It would be almost impossible to enter the workforce as a woman without considering the dress-code and beauty standards of the career. Regardless of our opinions on the issue, personal hygiene, hairstyle, clothing, and use of make-up are all managed, in varying ways, by our employers. Airline flight attendants were sent to special schools as part of their training programs where they were taught how to apply make-up, do their hair, and “generally carry oneself” (Boris, 2009, p.248). As a locally-owned retail business employee at 19, I received similar advice and instruction from my boss. I learned how to properly pluck my eye-brows, apply effective make-up, and style my hair, along with operating the register, selling the product, etc. This “job training” was offered to me because my boss, the business owner, was a woman and also store manager of Mac cosmetics! Sometimes we enter a particular genre of business which requires attention and care to the details of beauty. I have not been required to wear make-up by an employer since leaving the retail industry.
However, court findings in the last five years show basis of women’s sexual discrimination complaints. JESPERSEN v. HARRAH OPERATING COMPANY INC (2006), states:
The plaintiff…was terminated from her position as a bartender at the sports bar in Harrah's Reno casino not long after Harrah's began to enforce its comprehensive uniform, appearance and grooming standards for all bartenders. The standards required all bartenders, men and women, to wear the same uniform of black pants and white shirts, a bow tie, and comfortable black shoes. The standards also included grooming requirements that differed to some extent for men and women, requiring women to wear some facial makeup and not permitting men to wear any. [She] refused to comply with the makeup requirement and was effectively terminated for that reason (2006).
Americans by nature perk up for issues involving control by authority. Women and men have the right to wear whatever they wish, except when dressed as a representative of the employer. Essentially, I feel most powerful when I know I look good, and I have utter confidence that my voice will be heard. I call those days: Make-Up Days. Be it right, or be it wrong, the beauty stereotypes of femininity, youth and seduction make for an unbeatable combination when attained. I thank the women who fight for our rights, and I thank men for the Achilles advantage I possess simply by virtue of womanhood. As new generations are raised in ever-expanding social consciousness, I can’t imagine we will suddenly stop desiring beauty in all aspects of life – but perhaps we can simply expand our beauty-consciousness to envelope a much broader spectrum of people, and life, and experiences.

Works Cited
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. (2006). Jespersen v. Harrah Operating Company Inc. Retrieved from
Boris, E. (2009). Desirable dress: Rosies, Sky Girls, and the politics of appearance. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.176-186). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gender, Stupidity, and the Media

The older I become, the less I am concerned with what the mass media is telling me to do. You want the truth in my opinion? In a whisper so they won’t hear me: We are the ones telling the mass media what to do! That’s right, I said it. And I believe it. I often find it funny when baby-boomers freak-out over the “no, not my country’s youth of today” antics of reality stars on shows like Jersey Shore and Big Brother. But what do we really expect? The youth of today, whom I personally consider to be the under 30 crowd, of whom I am still barely a part, have not the concerns of former generations. I am a member of a generation whose majority has never personally fought battles for equality in our daily affairs. Unfortunately, I believe the images portrayed in the mass media are quite representative of the sentiments and beliefs of people today. The online social network revolution now gives every Joe Schmoe the chance to be a video star, chat with Larry King Live, report the news, and even write his own encyclopedia. How can I see the mass media as anything other than a collection of my fellow countrymen’s stupid ideas?
But to take off my cynic hat and consider Richardson’s 1989 “Gender Stereotyping in the English Language”, it is easy to see her point. The “differential attitudes and feelings about men and women rooted in the English language” (Richardson, 1989, pp.120) are certainly a fact of life. I have no argument there. But, her suggestion that women “do not have a fully autonomous, independent existence” simply because the word woman contains the word man, is slightly preposterous. Likewise, I do not agree with Richardson’s closing arguments which seem to lay a blanket of gender stereotype and oppression over us all – this has just simply not been my experience in life. I read this article and hear a voice from a previous generation, one that I will eternally thank for my freedoms, and then ask to please make way for more productive and current information.
Gabriel (2008) makes an excellent point:
“With reference to stereotypes and grammatical information as two different sources of mental representations, the current study provides further evidence for the notion that both are included and do interact . . . gender representations might then be more likely to change along with changes in the world – if we perceive more female firefighters and more male nurses, these role names will become less gendered” (p. 456).

So please pardon my rose-colored glasses as I look around at a world full of historically mean slang terms, gender-specific titles, and pejoration of meaning, and I say, “You know, we’ve come a long way in my lifetime, and it’s just gonna keep getting better and better.” Why not give to this world and this life all the positivity I can muster? I was raised to believe that anything is possible, and honey – women have been proving that.

Gabriel, U. & Gygax, P. (2008). Can societal language amendments change gender representation? The case of Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49, 451–457.
Richardson, L. (1989). Gender stereotyping in the English language. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.), Feminine Frontiers (pp.120-124). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sex Slaves in Georgia

Siddarth Kara’s personal journey around the globe and into the seedy world of human trafficking and the sex trade presents a view on this social injustice that it seems few others on earth could convey. His explanation of the problem, the causes, and his proposed avenues to aid are written in a way I would classify as effortless – until I read that his book was rewritten 4 times before its publication. It seems fitting that even the author went round and round looking for a way to approach the issue of sex trafficking. Perhaps we could all take a rewrite of our opinions on the issue of human trafficking and forced prostitution. I suggest we start in our own back yard.
A recent trip from Tallahassee to Atlanta up I75 boasted numerous billboard advertisements for Peach Spa, Thailand Spa, etc. According to Mike Paluska, a reporter in Atlanta, the metro area has a major problem with sex trafficking (2011). For the last few years agents and law enforcement have been doing what they can to eradicate the problem. In 2008, local county police and sheriff’s departments raided 8 massage parlors, making arrests for such crimes as “keeping a house of prostitution” and “sexual battery” (Ramati, 2008). However, activist organizations like Sex Trafficking Opposition Project (S.T.O.P.) point out that few arrests are targeting the traffickers themselves (2008).
Understanding the gravity and severity of sex trafficking is exactly the intent of Kara’s book. The author explains in elementary detail each factor involved in the explosion of the sex trade during the 1990’s. He lays out the economic, societal, and political environments present in each part of the world that fueled this fire of modern day slavery (Kara, 2009). The “historic factors [that] helped promote sex slavery [are] namely: extreme poverty, severe gender bias, and acute minority disenfranchisement” in each region where the slaves originated (p. 25).

Kara provides an actual plan-of-action on the governmental and political level, as well as writing a section on what one person can do (p. 41-43). But, of course, the solution is not easy. Kara states:
Global efforts are already underway to remedy these issues, but I fear that too many of them rely on the consistent action of governments and institutions with interests that run counter to the measures required to redress the severe inequalities in the contemporary capitalist system.
(2009, p. 42)
And his fears may perhaps be founded. Researcher and feminist theorist Kimberly Williams writes about the correlation of sex trafficking discussions of the Senate and House during the late 90’s and the similarly-timed discussions of US failure in Russian economic policy. Apparently, the 1997 raid of a brothel in the Washington, D.C. area which contained sex slaves from Ukraine and Russia came to the attention of then-Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, who introduced a resolution on the floor of the US Senate in 1998 “denouncing the transnational traffic in women for sex work and domestic labor” (Williams, 2009, p. 2). However, Russia received most of the legislator’s attention as the country of origin for human trafficking, and therefore became ‘the villains” of the entire discussion (p.12). Williams’ research finds:
In effect, the causes of sex trafficking were largely associated with the political and economic chaos throughout the NIS, particularly in Russia, that had, according to the US Congressional anti-trafficking narrative, enabled a few corrupt (male) politicians and government officials to amass enormous wealth at the expense of their fellow Russians, predominantly women and children.

(Williams, 2011, p. 12)
Williams concludes that the problem of human trafficking for sex slavery became wrapped up in a capitalist, post-cold-war debacle of Congressional diplomacy. Perhaps this is why Siddarth Kara’s “Business Chain Analysis of Sex Trafficking” depends so heavily on awareness campaigns and prosecution at the criminal level (Kara, 2009, p.204). Laid out like a business plan, Kara suggests we attack sex trafficking globally in exactly that way.
Reading the many accounts of survivors so respectfully gathered by Kara is enough to incite the urge in me. Adopting item #1 of Kara’s one-man plan, I will pass this book on to every thinker and activist I know. Considering the close proximity of this modern day slavery to my very home – this is an issue that cannot continue to be ignored.
Works Cited
Kara, S. (2009). Sex Trafficking: Inside the business of modern slavery. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Paluska, M. (2011, January 27). Customs Agents: Sex trafficking major problem in Georgia. CBS Atlanta. Retrieved from
Ramati, P. (2008, June 27). Update: 13 arrested at 8 Bibb massage parlors. Retrieved from
Sex Trafficking Opposition Project [S.T.O.P.]. (2008). General website. Retrieved from
Williams, K. (2011). Crime, Corruption and Chaos, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 13(1), 1 — 24.