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.