Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Difficulties of Fitting In and Being Yourself

This week’s blog is centered on the story of a sophomore woman, Alexandra Franklin, at the University of Alabama.  The article, “Part of a Whole, but Still Me” focuses on her reluctance to be anything but a feminist.  She was not the stereotypical young girl interested in ballet or being beautiful.  She remarks: “I remember my mother chasing me around the house with a tube of coral lipstick, begging: ‘Don’t you want to feel pretty? Don’t you want to look nice?” (Franklin 2011: 1).  Alexandra told her mother that she didn’t care about such things but she actually did.  She just did not want to have to choose between being smart and pretty.  She wanted to be Alexandra.  When she met her boyfriend, she felt as if her feminist strength had been diminished.  Then she felt that she reclaimed that strength through anorexia and bulimia.  This led to more challenges in her life and relationship.  However, her boyfriend stuck by her side and continues to be a valued confidant in her life.  He helped her during her darkest moments and helped her come to terms with her disorder.
 I think that this story caught my attention because eating disorders are not always talked about at Colgate University and it is important to discuss this condition since it is one of the leading causes of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 24.  This article helped me realize that we are not as alone as we sometimes may think.  It also makes me realize how detrimental categorizing people can be.  Alexandra just wanted to be herself, but she felt pressure to conform to gender stereotypes and expectations.  Thankfully, Alexandra was able to be the individual she wanted to be as well as a girlfriend.  She realized her full potential and all of these things helped her continue to heal.  I encourage everyone to read this and find some type of solace in being who they are.  
                                                                                                          Natalie George

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Global Effort to Lower Maternal Mortality

             As Morales states in her essay “The Feminization of Global Security and Violence”, to educate a boy is to educate that human, but to spend the time to educate a girl is to ensure the education of the generations to follow.  Women have an incredibly important role in the upbringing and wellbeing of the generations for which they care.  This is why it is crucial that all women receive adequate education.  The United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Development Goal Number Five addresses this issue in the importance of educating women about reproductive health and safety.  Without keeping women alive long enough to impart wisdom upon those they look after and interact with, they cannot pass down what they know to their child(ren). They also do not have the right to choose how many children they have and how.  As women around the world are generally relied upon and expected to raise children into responsible and respectful adults, they deserve to avoid the tragedies of maternal mortality and universal access to reproductive health services/care.
            The Fifth Goal aims to achieve two things: A reduction by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, of the maternal mortality ratio, as well as to an achievement, by 2015, of universal access to reproductive health.  According to the U.N. , more than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, with 99% of these deaths occurring in industrializing countries.   The vast majority of these deaths are avoidable, as they are common and able to be handled medically, and the rates are unacceptably high.  If women were to have the care they need and learn how to family plan, these death levels would undoubtedly go down.  An integral part of meeting this goal and of reducing maternal mortality rates is education, but from where does this education come?  Industrialized countries are a large part of this education, but have also done negative things to women of color through birth control testing and sterilization. Globalization is a huge factor here, as the United Nations is kept alive by countries working together. The question we are looking at in a more general sense is how is globalization impacting women within the Global South? .  When did globalization come into play for the women of industrializing nations and what has happened since then?  If the world came to work together, can we meet Millennium Development Goal Number Five by 2015?
             Our group plans to look into the lives of women and the health and safety of such women in three regions of the world: the United States, West Africa, and Southern Asia.  These regions are important to look at as the United States is often looked to as the standard for industrializing nations, though for an industrialized country, it still has an unacceptable rate of maternal mortality and is number 41st in the world for the lowest amount of maternal deaths.  There is still a constant argument as to what reproductive health strategies should be taught to young people in the US and the education is not universal.  West Africa and Southern Asia are also vital to research when looking into the achievement of Millennium Development Goal Number Five because the numbers of skilled health workers in these regions remains low while the maternal mortality is high due to lack of education and access to resources and facilities.  Can globalization improve this?  Can the countries of the world, including those that are developing and those that are developed, work together to achieve Millennium Development Goal Number Five?

Written for SOAN 354 by students: 
Breanna Pendleton (
Caroline Anderson (
Samantha Williams (

United Nations Millennium Development Goal Number Five:

Tuesday's Brown Bag: Behind the Scenes of the Student Conduct Board

This week's brown bag, Behind the Scenes of the Student Conduct Board, will be facilitated by Professor Meika Loe, and will attempt to give students a better idea of what happens at the Student Conduct Board.  Professor Margaret Darby, Dean Kim Taylor, and students Janna Minehart ('13) and Evan Chartier ('14) will be panelists with experience on the conduct board.

The panel will run through hypothetical cases, such as a DUI, plagiarism, and sexual assault, to describe how things play out with each case, including deliberations and sanctioning.  After this, the panel will answer broader questions and cover gaps regarding what was left unsaid through the demonstrations. As always, there will be plenty of time for questions!

Come check out this brown bag to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes of the Student Conduct Board and get your questions answered.  As per usual, we will be in the Center for Women's Studies (Basement of East Hall) on Tuesday at 11:30 am with FREE FOOD!

Breanna Pendleton

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BB 11/22/11 Introduction: Women in Education Forum

This week’s brown bag features the students of EDUC 312: Women and Education, taught by Barbara Regenspan.  The catalogue says that the course is “an examination of the structure, content, and expression of school curriculum to reveal ways that gender identity is formed as a moment in the general process of the reproduction of cultural consciousness. This course is of particular interest to those interested in the ways in which questions of gender should inform classroom practices and institutional structures.  The students will be demonstrating what they’ve been doing this semester, including participating in speak-outs and recording women’s memoirs.  A particular focus will be placed on these memoirs-- how they were collected, successes and failures, what was found in these memoirs, and perhaps even some excerpts.
                Student presentations tend to be very interesting to witness, and I’m always excited to hear what other students are doing.  The brown bag will take place, as always, Tuesday at 11:30am in the Center for Women’s Studies, and there will of course be food provided.  Come check it out!

BB 11/15/11 Response: The Lives of Tajik Women and Their Contributions to Folk Art

                It is not often that we in Women’s Studies get to talk about the peculiarities of a specific ethnic positionality of women, especially with an expert on the area, so Larisa Dodkhudoeva’s visit for Tuesday’s brown bag was a refreshing and intriguing look at the lives of Tajik women.  Speaking stereotypically, Americans are frightfully unaware of the world around them, so to hear of the lives of the women of Tajikistan was an interesting exposition of a relatively obscure part of the world.
                I was fortunate enough to have heard her speak in my POSC class a few days before, so it was nice to receive her insight in multiple contexts.  I was particularly interested in the realities facing Eastern Europe and Central Asia following the collapse of Communism, and the gendered aspects of this collapse.  Unfortunately, I don’t think she understood my question, but I wondered at how gender was a factor in the building of an independent Tajikistan.  Having studied the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war that ravaged the Balkans in the 1990s, I have often run across mass rape as an instrument of war in interethnic conflicts.  Rape has a long history as a tool of wartime oppression, but few areas saw such systematic usage as the former Yugoslav republics.  I wondered if the ethnic tension in Central Asia (caused by Soviet rezoning of the area across major ethnic centers) caused a struggle with a similar usage of rape as a weapon (which affects women much more prominently, although people of all sex/genders can and have been raped in wartime).
                Perhaps her inability to conceptualize my question provides my answer; perhaps gender was not so important in the building of Tajikistan.  These areas had never been independent before, so nationalism was probably not such a driving force as it was in Yugoslavia, where it was a major justification of the rape of the Other.  As far as other gendered political implications however, the rural nature and strong Islamic influence do not prove conducive to women’s voices in creating Tajikistan.  Nonetheless, the modernization of the region due to Soviet influence has provided women with artistic outlets, which can have political implications, and I wish she had touched more on the folk art aspects, which is clearly her expertise.  All in all I was overjoyed to experience Professor Dodkhudoeva’s presentation.
Xavia Publius

Friday, November 11, 2011

Has Feminism Died Out?

            My recent reading of Sharon Jayson’s article “As NOW marks 45 years, is feminism over the hill?” (Jayson 2011: 1) made me think about feminism in a new light.  I never felt weird saying that I was a feminist or a supporter of feminist causes.  However, I was not ignorant of the stigma attached to the word.  The article makes the opening statement: “For a movement so vocal when it began, feminism is largely under the radar of most younger Americans today, except maybe from gender studies classes or history books” (Jayson 2011:1). I think that this can be applied to Colgate University but I feel as though that is quickly changing here.  Personally, I see and hear about more and more people at Colgate University thinking and talking about feminist issues.  It goes without saying that the Women’s Studies Center has been a very popular place to be this year.  Everyone at the Center has thought of creative ways to make the Center a fun and comfortable place.  All of the Brown Bags and interactive opportunities help feminism seem more tangible in our lives.  Moving outside of the Colgate bubble, other students my age think: “…it’s a bit unattractive for a girl to be talking about things like that all the time…you get a little stigmatized, like ‘pushy’ or ‘problematic’ or ‘troublesome’ or ‘a lot to handle’” (Jayson 2011:1).  Well, I sometimes get called these things without talking about feminist issues, but I think that it is sad that anyone expressing their opinion would be stigmatized or chastised for doing so.  Another opinion in this article is that women in the past have won everything for us; therefore, we can do anything we want.  This is just an optimistic statement because there are still obstacles to overcome even in 2011.  There is still apparent gender inequality in our society and the world as a whole.  Overall, I think that we as a community can do more to make people proud to say feminism or feminist.  What do you think? Read the Article Here!!

                                                                                                       Natalie George

“Mothers, Daughters, and Sexualities” Brown Bag Reflection

Author of Your Daughter's Room: Insights for Raising Confident Women, Joyce McFadden stopped by for a brown bag this week along with her fifteen year old daughter, Olivia, in order to discuss expanding honesty within mother/daughter relationships.

To start, McFadden talked about her study, which was conducted online. She read from a survey that was submitted by a Colgate graduate that dealt with feelings and practices surrounding masturbation. While the surveyer was very positive about masturbation, they admitted feeling a sudden guilt for it but could not explain the origin of that response. McFadden found that many woman-identified individuals were uncomfortable with their sexuality and that these women had not received positive attitudes surrounding sexuality from their parents.

From here, there were many different facets to discuss - from the disappearance of fathers in their daughters lives once they hit puberty to how mothers pass down their shame about their own sexuality to their daughters when they refuse to discuss it openly. The audience engaged in dialogue about how their own parents had or had not addressed sexuality in their lives, and how this affected their relationships today. 

Olivia, although a bit shy or distracted when addressed with a question, was very honest about the relationship between her and her mother, saying that talk about sexuality or the body was simply a normal part of the household. She said something along the lines of not knowing any other way to be raised so it was difficult to say whether discussion about sex had made their relationship closer. But, given the examples that McFadden uses in her book, there seems to be a knowledge that any question asked (and in whatever context) will be answered honestly.

It is this kind of freedom that McFadden advocates in her book and believes can be enacted in any child/parent relationship.

By Che J. Hatter

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Politicians, Sex Scandals, and Biology... Oh My!

Living in the Colgate bubble, I have found it difficult to keep up with the news and current events. Without a TV and no time to read a newspaper, I rely on The New York Times application on my iPhone to send me updates on breaking news and headlines of the day. Recently, my phone has been buzzing frequently due to the recent sexual allegations involving the leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party, Herman Cain. For those of you who also live in the bubble, over the past few weeks several women have come forward and accused Cain of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances. What fascinates me most about these recent events is their striking similarity to the Anita Hill hearings about Clarence Thomas in 1991. This shows that very little (if anything) has changed with regards to sexual harassment in the workplace, especially among men in power. If one looks at the past year, sex scandals are becoming more common and even expected from men in power (Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger, Edwards, etc.). Why is this happening? What drives these men to believe that these actions are okay?
I was prompted to write this blog post in response to an article I recently read titled The Real Reason Men Cause More Sex Scandals Than Women by Michael E. Rice. Coming from a background of psychology, Rice proposes that these men act this way due to their biological makeup. He explains his theory by saying that we are a product of evolution and evolution’s goal is to reproduce. An individual’s goal in the game of evolution is to pass on their genes to future generations. Women are guaranteed to have their genes passed on (if they choose to have kids). Therefore, because women invest much more time and effort in the raising of a child, they are choosy when picking a mate. On the other hand, men are not guaranteed to have their genes passed on and their parental investment is not nearly as demanding. Thus, men tend not to be picking when choosing a mate, but rather in order to maximize the chances of their genes getting passed on, they try to have as many mates as possible.  This is a biological explanation as to why men prefer having more sexual partners than women. With this biological explanation in mind, Rice continues to explain why powerful men are especially more likely to pursue more sexual partners. Due to the fact that these men in power are seen as “catches” (financial security, power, etc.) they find themselves being pursued by more women than the average man. Driven by evolution, these men find it hard to turn down these opportunities. Thus, Rice argues that powerful men are expected to a certain degree to be sexually unconstrained.
I believe that this argument lets these men off the hook too easily. The idea that “boys will be boys” is not an excuse. While I do believe that genetics and biology do play a role in people’s actions, there are plenty of men in power who are not involved in sex scandals (as far as we know). Clearly there are also some environmental and social factors that come into play. Maybe these men are having more partners to assert their masculinity? Does the media/social life encourage men to push the limits on sexual advances? Rather than point the finger and say these men’s actions are simply due to genetics or due to social pressures, I think it is much more important to think about how these two factors work together. Like many problems, this one is rooted in many different places and thus in order to fully understand this phenomenon and ultimately change it, we need to analyze them all. 

-Michelle Van Veen

Introduction to 11/8 BB: Joyce McFadden

Today at 11:30am, the Center for Women's Studies will host Joyce McFadden, MSW and psychoanalyst, for a talk on "Mothers, Daughters, and Sexualities."  McFadden is the author of Your Daughter's Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women, which explores how mothers can support their daughters to be comfortable and aware of and with their sexualities.  Her research is based on the Women's Realities Study, in which 450 women between the ages of 18 and 105 responded to questions about relationships, motherhood, and mental health.  In the study, respondents' emphasized the importance of daughters' relationships with their mothers and how that influenced women's sexual well-being and confidence throughout their lives.  

She will be here to discuss her book and findings today, along with her daughter, and we are very excited to have her here.  We'll continue the conversations later this evening at 8pm in the Center for Women's Studies during an Our Bodies, Ourselves Consciousness Raising session in which we utilize our own experiences and Our Bodies, Ourselves as a guide.  We hope to see you at both of these fantastic events!

By: Kimmie Garner

Thursday, November 3, 2011

BB Reflection: Daily Double

This week I had the pleasure of going to both of this week's WMST brown bags. (SPOILER ALERT: They were both awesome.) The first one was on Tuesday and was a celebration of Dia de Los Muertos. Fun, fun fun all around! It was a wonderful afternoon where we contrasted the American idea of mourning the dead to the Mexican idea of celebrating life. We celebrated the lives of several incredible women all over the world who were significant and extraordinary in their own right. We heard the work of Caribbean poets and African activists heard the story of a Syracuse woman who's death was a landmark case in the persecution of hate crimes in the state of New York and the United States. After the presentations from interns (myself included), faculty and students, we ended the brown bag on a positive note with arts and crafts. There were rooms for skull and matchbox decorating, mask coloring and COOKIES! It was an overall great time and I'm glad I arranged my schedule so that I could attend.
I'm currently posting LIVE from today's brown bag: Same-Sex Marriage and the Limits of Equality. I was unable to go to Anne Pellegrini's lecture last night, but if it was anything like the current conversation I definitely missed out! Pellegrini is actually discussing a side of LGBTQ issues that people often do not consider. Many Americans see religion and sexuality as mutually exclusive ideas, but it seems like Anne Pellegrini and I disagree with that.
I think it is unfair that everyone should have to be governed by the religious ideals of one particular religion. I am a Christian, but I know that everyone is not. I am also an American who supports equality for all Americans regardless of their lifestyles or what they believe. I do not think that these 2 parts of my identity have to go to bat with one another.
Pellegrini also established that tolerance cannot be the moral language in the United States. This really struck a chord with me because it is something about which I feel very strongly. I agree with her point that the idea of tolerance is just a way to exacerbate oppression and domination of a majority group. The rhetoric of tolerance implies that there is one way that things are supposed to be and if something is different, it can exist only because it is allowed to by those doing things appropriately. I disagree with this mentality. I hope that one day (in a perfect world) other people can understand that there are ways for us to peacefully disagree with one another without stripping others of their humanity.

- Renyelle Jimenez

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The new/old consciousness rasing

I was recently passed along a link about a consciousness raising project called "A Feminist Tea Party" (link the the project is at the end of the post). It actually took me a while to wrap my head around the concept of this project that was started by Caitlin Rueter and Suzanne Stroebe. Without reading their description of what the project is, I immediately thought, "what kind of tea party are they actually talking about? The 50s kind where women sit and talk about weather and health? Or the Tea Party?" The first tea party made more sense because tea parties are considered very feminine but the second made sense for its political implications.
Rueter and Stroebe joined the two very different interpretations of tea party and this is how they explained their project:
"We wed two conceptions of a tea party: (1) the tea party as historical referent and site of political debate (think: the Boston Tea Party or the Beck/Palin “Tea Party”) with (2) the tea party as a gendered and highly-stylized ritual (think: 4 o’clock tea). Provoked by the Tea Party protests, our project recasts the “tea party” as a playful, progressive, inquisitive and inclusive space."
While I have never seen/took part in this "feminist tea party," I'm very interested by what it might imply about feminism being more acceptable when it is toned down or "feminized." This consciousness raising encourages discourse in a setting that is less intimidating and even slightly humorous, but I wonder if it suggests that people don't feel comfortable talking about feminism or taking part in it if it does not hold some characteristic of femininity.
Sure, feminism doesn't always have to be serious and I would probably enjoy a good consciousness raising in a very different/gendered kind of setting, I am just a little worried that if in real life, people won't take part in consciousness raising if it isn't in a setting that was not feminine.
To learn more about the Feminist Tea Party

-by Catherine Yeh