Monday, April 23, 2012

BB Introduction

If it's Tuesday (read as: the best day of the week) then you're obviously coming to the Center. Tomorrow's brown bag is aptly titled "Gender Disparities in the Political Sphere: Preparing for Upcoming Elections." It will include a panel organized by Diana Stephens '13 of Democracy Matters. For those who don't know, Democracy Matters is a student political organization that, in their own words, "works to get big private money out of politics and people back in." The conversation should be especially relevant given the upcoming US Presidential Elections in November. Come join us tomorrow at 11:30 for great talk and great food!

-Renyelle Jimenez

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

4/5 BB Response: Research on Gender in Africa

This Brown Bag involved 3 panelists: Colgate President Jeffrey Herbst, Breanna Pendleton '12, and Caroline Anderson '12.

President Herbst had spent numerous years doing research in Zimbabwe. One of the biggest lessons he learned was that, often times, laws are just for show and simply signing them does not necessarily signify change. He did not initially begin his research focusing on the gendered aspect of land rights and the environment, but found later that he must include women in his research.

Breanna Pendleton did research on where feminism comes from in Western Africa. Specifically, she did a case study of ABANTU for Development which is an NGO in Accra, Ghana that works to train organizations for the purpose of helping women for her SOAN thesis: "Who Needs Saving? Neocolonialist Feminism in Ghana". While the group does a substantial amount of good, it is run by higher class and Western women who primarily work with and help benefit upper middle to upper class women which, unfortunately, overlooks the needs of lower class women.

Caroline Anderson researched Shapna Coffee and Tea in Uganda for her SOAN honors thesis on maternal health in Uganda. She led various focus groups with women from these coffee growing communities to discuss what was needed for maternal / reproductive health and family planning. Through these discussions, she saw room for growth particularly regarding:
a) education of men in order to diminish the stigmas about condoms and birth control, and
b) distribution of resources so that women would not need to walk 15 miles just to receive a birth control shot

Thursday, April 5, 2012

4/3 BB Response

The skype session with the New View Campaign at Tuesday's Brown Bag "Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery" brought up many fascinating issues, especially since we were reading about it at the same time in my Women's Studies class.  What's interesting to me is that people want to get cosmetic surgery on something that not only will most people not even see, but that for the most part they can't see either.  This seems to destroy the argument that cosmetic surgeries are done for one's own personal aesthetic, when a sexual partner is potentially the only person who's going to see your renovated vulva.  Of course, I certainly understand how having your vagina look the way you want it to is important, because mine doesn't at all; like I said at the brown bag, as a transwoman I have a lot at stake in the development of this type of surgery if I do decide to get it.  So why is it okay for me to perform a cosmetic (i.e. non-medical) surgery on my genitals, but not for a bio-female?  First of all, my issues are tied to gender and sex identity, as the speaker mentioned, and the type of procedure is different, but one could argue that the effect is the same: both are trying to conform the genitals to a narrow few of what a woman's genitals look like.  For this reason many transwomen don't get bottom surgery because they are just fine with the genitals they have.  The idea that one has to have a vagina to be a woman, and that this vagina must have small, unobtrusive labia and be really tight and perfectly hairless, is challenged by this notion.  But that doesn't imply that a woman shouldn't get or have access to the procedure if she wants it.  The critique is that the cultural construction of what makes a beautiful vagina is narrowly defined, heteronormative, and based on what pleases a man.  The vagina has to be tight so that when a man penetrates it, there's more pressure and therefore more pleasure.  Dangly labia are just weird, and pubic hair is too masculine.  Furthermore, the critique is that these procedures are done under the guise of female empowerment, because women are taking control of their own body and their own sexual pleasure (although the evidence is still unclear as to whether these procedures actually enhance sexual pleasure for the woman, or their partners for that matter).  These procedures are concerning on many levels, and I hope people will think twice before getting them, but I also recognize that in the end, it's your choice whether or not you want a "perfect" vagina.  From my standpoint, the foremost criterion is how comfortable you feel with what's between your legs, and how to figure out what would make you more comfortable if you aren't.

Xavia Publius

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thursday's Brown Bag!

Please join us for one of our more rare Thursday Brown Bags this week in the Center! We will have a panel speaking about their individual research about women and gender in Africa.  President Herbst will be joining us this week and will start the discussion by talking about his work in Zimbabwe, followed by Breanna Pendleton '12 talking about her Sociology and Anthropology thesis, which explored neocolonialist feminism in Ghana.  Caroline Anderson '12 will conclude by discussing her Honor's Sociology Thesis looking at women's health and gender structures in Uganda.  This more globally focused Brown Bag is one you won't want to miss! Please join us at 11:30 in the Basement of East Hall! As always, there will be free lunch and we welcome all!

Monday, April 2, 2012

BB Introduction - Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery

The New View Campaign is an organization dedicated to the preservation of women's sexual rights. Their manifesto aims to specifically protect the rights of women to sexual freedom, autonomy, pleasure, information, education and health care. One of their concerns is Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery and medical and ethical implications it places on women. On Tuesday, April 3, the Center for Women's Studies will be hosting the New View Campaign via Skype for a great conversation about FGCS. Do you have an opinion on FGCS? Come learn more about the procedures and New View's stance. Come out tomorrow at 11:30 for greet food and great company! We'll be expecting you!

- Renyelle Jimenez