Friday, March 30, 2012

"But, I'm a REAL girl!"...

Ex-Miss Universe Canada, Jenna Talackova

For this week’s blog, I wanted to focus on something that is surprisingly shocking.  The incident at hand is that a Miss Universe Canada contestant, Jenna Talackova, was kicked out of the competition after they discovered that she was born a boy. Even though this is such a shocking event, we have seen a similar case in 2009 regarding the Olympic runner, Caster Semenya.  Caster was accused of being a male because of her strikingly muscular physique and her facial hair.  Officials demanded a battery of tests that forced her to put a stop to her competing.  I guess we haven’t really come a long way.  Jenna had already reached the finals when the officials disqualified her claiming that each contestant had to be a “naturally born female” (Pullman 2012: 1).  Many people have turned to mass media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to support Jenna and demanded her to be reinstated in the competition.  I agree with many of the supporters who are skeptical about these so-called requirements.  I do think that this is discrimination because Jenna feels like a girl and didn’t expect anyone to question the gender she identifies with.  The 23-year-old had gender reassignment surgery when she was 19-years-old.  She has been living as Jenna for quite a while.  I am saddened that something this petty is grounds for expulsion, especially when there have been numerous times when Donald Trump has come to the defense of a contestant and/or winner who has lewd photos or participated in dangerous drug usage.  The message these officials are sending to the world is that it is reprehensible to not be born naturally female; however, you can be forgiven for naked photos and hard-partying ways.  They should reinstate Jenna because she has done nothing wrong, and is being yourself is wrong then we are all guilty.  What are your thoughts?! 
                                                                       ~Natalie George 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brown Bag 3/29: Jaclyn Friedman

Today we had the honor of hosting Jaclyn Friedman at our Brown Bag. Jaclyn Friedman is the co-editor of Yes Means Yes and author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety. The latter of the two was what her discussion was focused on today. Here are two things that stood out to me (not a summary by any means):

We need to be teaching young adults (and all ages for that matter) tools instead of teaching rules. We all know the rules of what one should and should not do: don’t take a drink someone has given you, don’t walk home alone at night, lock your car doors when driving, don’t put yourself in potentially dangerous situations, etc. Although these are sound suggestions, they aren’t working. If they were, we wouldn’t have any problems, but we do. Instead we need tools to help us make decisions. What are the risks? How big are the risks in pursuing your sexual wants? What would happen if these risks came into play? How likely are these risks going to happen? And don’t forget, what are the awesome things that could happen? Every decisions involves risk, thus weighing the risks with the potential benefits is crucial when making decisions about your sexuality.

How to talk to your partner about... SEX!  Yes, I know. We usually love talking about sex (Cosmo anyone?), but as soon as we are with our partner, mum’s the word. Ironic, no? But, talking about sex can you improve your sex life! (I bet Cosmo doesn’t tell you that their magazines… They should hire Jaclyn…) Yes, talking about what you want and what your partner wants gets rid of all awkward psychic reading and you both get what you really want. So, here are some tips of opening the gates to communication:
  • Use your strengths: Use your communication style when talking to your partner. If you are funny, be funny! If you are serious, be serious! If you are blunt… (I think you know where I’m going with this)
  • Tell on yourself: So you have the perfect moment to bring up something with your partner that has been on your mind. But, for some reason the words just can’t come out. Instead tell your partner that there is something you’ve been wanting to say but have been struggling to bring it up. This way you know your partner is giving you support and attention to help facilitate a discussion (hopefully).
  • Boost your confidence: There was a study done that people who played a video game with a powerful character were more likely to flirt with someone they found attractive. Moral of the story: do something you are AWESOME at before having the discussion. This will boost your confidence so you can work up the nerve to finally get those things off your mind.
  • Do it anyway: You can be nervous and do it anyway. You won’t regret it. Cue the Kelly Clarkson song: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!…”
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: This is the ultimate cure for being awkward. The more you talk to your partner about sex, the easier it will get each time.

Obviously much more was discussed than I can write down. If you are curious as to what else Jaclyn Freidman had to say, check out her book! I would highly recommend it.

-Michelle Van Veen

Sunday, March 25, 2012

WMST BB 3/27: Refugee, Farmworker, and Gender Rights in Central New York

On Tuesday we will host 3 speakers who will discuss the status and rights of refugees and farmworkers in Central New York, with a particular focus on gender.

Shelly Callahan will be the representative from Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees is an organization in Utica that helps refugees relocate in the surrounding area. Their aim is help refugees and their families transition to life in America and in return these refugees become active community members. Over the past five years, the center has relocated roughly 500 refugees each year. People from a total of 31 countries have benefited from the center including Bosnians, Burmese, Cambodians, Romanians, Russians.

Barrie Gewanter is the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) Regional Director. "A graduate of Webster University with a Master's in sociology from Washington University, Ms. Gewanter has been a longtime community activist, focusing on women's rights, gay and lesbian rights, workplace health and safety, labor issues, economic justice, civil rights, and civil liberities.  She has been recognized by the Human Rights Commission of Syracuse and Onondaga County for her work on the Living Wage campaign and other social justice issues. Ms. Gewanter currently coordinates the NYCLU's Central New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign." *

Sonia Martinez is the Board President of the Mohawk Valley Latino Association. The Mohawk Valley Latino Association's mission is "To improve the standards of living for all residents of the Mohawk Valley through various services that will educate and empower them. To achieve awareness amongst the different cultures of the Mohawk Valley. To help shape the minds of our youth and demonstrate to them the great opportunities available within the Mohawk Valley and our Nation." **

Co-sponsored with ALST and Upstate Institute 
FREE food; all are welcome!


-Michelle Van Veen

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Princesses, Ponies and Prettiness are NOT bad

When I first saw that Feminist Parenting Perspectives was going to be a brown bag in the spring, I made sure to sign up for the reflection because I knew it was something I absolutely HAD to see. The brown bag was led by a panel of 5 women of different backgrounds, children and with different parenting styles.

I was really looking forward to this brown bag because I was interested in learning about the implications of being a feminist and being a mother. Being a parent is always very difficult as it requires you to find a way to pass on your values to your children without having them rebel against them. I could only imagine how difficult it would be to raise children in a house free of gender stereotypes, but have all that training wiped away the moment they enter school. One of the panelists mentioned that she and her partner were very set on raising their daughter in a home where being a girl is about more than princesses and high heels. While this proved itself to be easier at home, when she entered day care there were social implications for her. She wasn't invited to the princess parties because she wasn't as interested in princesses as her classmates were.

The Barbie dilemma also came up inevitably. While Barbies do impose an unachievable physical standard of beauty for young girls...they're also toys and all kids love toys. I know when I was a little girl, my mom got me Barbie dolls, but she purposefully did not buy me any white barbie dolls. All of mine were either black or hispanic to respect my ethnic background. This wasn't because she hated white people or anything like that, but because if Barbie was already going to be my standard of beauty, she wanted it to be a woman of color. I really appreciated that all the panelists, while being self-identifying feminists, stressed the importance of not de-valuing the feminine. I think this is the most important aspect of feminism that is often overlooked. Just because you encourage your daughter to explore things that "only boys do," girls shouldn't be discouraged from pursuing activities and interests that may be labeled feminine.

Finally, the point that resonated with me was one by one of the panelists who was a working mother. She said that while she was gone much of the week, her children's father was in charge during that time. She said that time was great for building the relationship between father and child. I thought that this was an EXCELLENT point. The relationship between fathers and their children is really unappreciated in my opinion. Many people stress that women need to be mothers and being a mother requires her to be home literally taking care of her family, but no one ever discusses how this impacts fathers. Part of being a father is taking care of children when they're sick and reading them stories--not just going to work and paying the bills. I also think that a large part of being a mother is allowing your children to develop a relationship with their father in the same way they develop one with their mother.

-Renyelle Jimenez

Monday, March 19, 2012

Upcoming Events!

Hello All,

  I hope that you are enjoying this amazing weather! I envy you all as I am typing this.  The general theme for tomorrow is Feminist Parenting. The Brown Bag, which is taking place tomorrow at 11:30 in the Center, is entitled “Feminist Parenting Perspectives”.  Faculty and staff members Padma Kaimal, Meika Loe, Elizabeth Marlowe, Mary Moran, and Letta Palmer will all discuss their personal feminist parenting approaches over the years. I am so excited! It should be a thought provoking Brown Bag.  As usual there is FREE lunch so be there or be square!
P.S. The Center also has two other events later that night!! The first event is a film screening, in the center, from 5-6:30.  The movie being screened is called “The Business of Being Born”, which documents different viewpoints of obstetricians, midwives, health care professionals, parents and activists, on the U.S’s maternity care system as well as the burgeoning nature/birth center/home birth movement.  There is also FREE popcorn! Don’t miss this fun and informative film!
The second event is a panel entitled “All about Birth!” which will take place right after the film screening.  We will be discussing pregnancy and birth in Central New York with local homebirth mothers, a midwife, an OB/GYN, and doulas!

                                                            Enjoy the sun,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

United Nations CSW Thoughts

Last week, I spent three days in New York City with three other students, our program assistant, and the Director of Women's Studies attending the United Nation's 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).  The six of us were able to attend sessions, both at the U.N. and parallel sessions occurring at the Church Center, across from the U.N.  I spent my days at the Church Center attending sessions run by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from 8:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night, with a lunchtime and teatime debrief to keep all of our heads clear and straight.  The specific themes of the conference change each year and this particular CSW had a focus on “Rural Women, Empowerment, Poverty Reduction, and Rural Development”.  I attended sessions on topics ranging from domestic violence, rural women’s access to basic health, using rural women in post-conflict reconstruction, as well as ecology.  Each session taught me something new and I very much enjoyed watching the NGOs getting to mingle and share best practices.  Many connections, whether formal or informal, were formed between NGOs here and I feel this conference helped each NGO that attended in some way.

My favorite session was titled “Ethics, Rural Ecology, and Poverty” and consisted of a panel of three women: two from India, and one from Ghana.  Each speaker talked about how important it is for women and men around the world to realize that we are all a piece of the puzzle and that we need to include everyone at the table’s discussion.  Maame, the woman from Ghana, who now works in California, was an incredibly inspirational speaker, who started off the session by singing a song about coming together and welcoming all.  She then went on to discuss how women on the ground are actually the experts and that NGOs should focus on working with them and learning from them instead of trying to teach them foreign concepts that might not necessarily help.  Maame spoke most about “soul consciousness” and how we all must come together to sing the same song.  She also reminded us to remember that though some of the stories of rural women are grim and sad, we should all use the power of voice and laughter to bring everyone together.  We must think globally, but act locally, always with laughter on our side.

Though that was my favorite session, I learned from each session and I took away many lessons.  First off, this conference proved to me that there are NGOs and women all over the world working on different issues so it is important to work on what we are most compassionate about and trust that others will fill in the blanks.  I also learned that we must include men in all conversations; we cannot educate women separately and hope that everyone will all of a sudden understand.  Gender includes men and women, as well as everyone in between, and to be successful, everyone must be included in the conversation.

Overall, I had such a great time learning and getting to know the women I traveled with; I hope to be able to attend this conference again and again in the coming years.  

Our Program Assistant, Kimmie, with students: Gwynne, Molly, and Caroline at the United Nations

Molly, Gwynne, me, Caroline, and our Program Director, Meika outside the U.N.

-Breanna Pendleton '12

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Queer Bully: A New Stock Character?

Last night, instead of doing homework, my roommate and I pulled an all-nighter marathon catching up on Pretty Little Liars, which is one of our many guilty pleasure TV shows.  We only got through season one, and I was only there for the second half of the marathon, but the episodes I did see raised a very interesting question for me.  SPOILER ALERT.  One of the girls, Emily, came out at school as lesbian so she could date Maya, but Maya was sent off to a camp for naughty girls.  Meanwhile, her rival, Paige, starts bullying Emily when Emily breaks a record, and harrasses her for her homosexuality.  When Emily's friend reports Paige, Paige thinks it was Emily and tries to drown her.  Long story short, there's lots of bullying going on, but there's one scene where Emily's sitting in her car and Paige gets in and kisses her and tells her not to tell anyone.

...Where have I seen this before?  Oh yeah, they did it on Glee.  Twice.

Now don't get me wrong, I love both of these shows and I'm tickled pink that we finally have sensitive queer representations in the media, but I'm sensing a pattern.  Let's go back to Glee.  Audiences were shocked when Karofsky, one of the main bullies in the show who has been harassing everyone, but particularly Kurt for his homosexuality and gender expression, kisses Kurt in the heat of a fight.  The bully was harassing the out queer student because secretly he was in love with him.  Another character, Santana, has been nothing but rude to her fellow glee clubbers throughout the show, but it is slowly revealed that the motivation behind her bullying is that-- guess-- she's in love with her best friend Brittany.  Now two shows can be seen as a coincidence.  But two characters in the same show?  I smell a stereotype in the making.  The implication in Glee is that all bullies are just repressed homosexuals who are too scared to come out so they make everyone else as miserable as themselves.  And sure, that may be true for some bullies.  But the beauty of ensemble casts is the range of identities and experiences that can be presented.  When all the characters of the same standing have the same traits, however, a stereotype takes root.  Where are the straight bullies?  (Believe me I've met my share.)  The bullies we see that aren't Santana and Karofsky are not fully developed characters (with the exception of Sebastian, who started the show gay and therefore just supports my point, and Sue Sylvester, who occupies a different positionality).  Every time these characters are developed, it seems, the cause of their bullying is internalized homophobia.  This reaction formation resurfaces in PLL's Paige.

Is this a coincidence, or the start of a new stock character: the gay bully?  Only time will tell.  Furthermore, if it is a new stock character, is this still progress, or just tokenization?

Xavia Publius

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Two Brown Bags this Week - TUESDAY'S INTRODUCTION

Join us this Tuesday in the Center for Women's Studies, for a Brown Bag given by a panel of four seniors here at Colgate: Caroline Anderson, Gwynne Gallagher, Molly Kunzman, and Breanna Pendleton.  The four spent the last four days in New York City attending the United Nation's 56th Commission on the Status of Women, attending NGO and U.N. sessions to learn about situations involving women living in rural areas around the world.  Come to listen to their experience and join a great discussion about the status of rural women around the globe.  As always, there will be free lunch and we welcome ALL!

-Breanna Pendleton '12

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday (3/1) Brown Bag Reflection

Today's Brown Bag was a part of SORT's Africana Women's Week and was on the hypersexualization of women of color. The brown bag was led by a panel of different women on campus, all from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Each of them had a short presentation of their specific racial/ethnic identities sexual role in the media. 

I appreciate that this this brown bag was purposely titled for all women of all colors because too often we see things as black and white when there are so many areas of grey (or in this case maybe brown?) in between. One of the women on the panel is Indian. She admitted to being very naive about the sexualized image of Indian women, even saying that she had no idea what Kama Sutra was or that it had anything to do with India.

There were some very good discussion points raised in both the presentation and in the comments afterwards. Several of the presenters mentioned that while there are many actresses in Hollywood of Hispanic descent, only a select few get to play Hispanic women. Many of them either look "too white" or "too black" to believable as Latinas in films. Cameron Diaz and Christina Milian are two actresses who respectively represent those two extremes. Catherine Zeta Jones, however, is often portrayed as a Hispanic character when she has no Hispanic origin.

The main issue, I think, is truly one of color. White women in the media are always allowed to be dynamic and multi-faceted sexually, while women of color are rarely portrayed as such. They are too often static and one dimensional.The conversation, inevitably, led back to a discussion of sexuality and control in our patriarchal society. We talked about women portrayed as sexual objects in music videos and if that really is degrading. On one hand, there are many artists who treat the women in their songs and their music videos as nothing more than an sex object. On the other hand, these women made choices to be in these videos. They took control over their sexuality in a way that I never could. I think there's a huge level of respect that these women deserve for being willing to put their reputations on the line in a society that never does seem to look too kindly on girls in music videos...

- Renyelle Jimenez