Monday, September 23, 2013

10 Reasons Why I Love Being a Feminist

10) Free Lunch Every Tuesday at the WMST Brown Bags. Free food, free knowledge, good people… What’s not to like?

9) I can read @feministtswift and think it’s absolutely hilarious. “I don’t know about you / But I’m feeling 22 / cents underpaid on the dollar” (C’mon, that is creative.)

8) I can feel justified in shamelessly procrastinating on Jezebel. Sometimes I’ll come across great feminist articles and sometimes I’ll find things like this gem. All completely worth it.

7) I get to talk about sex. Let’s be honest. We all love to talk about sex. Whether taking the Yes Means Yes Seminar, sharing a bottle of wine among friends, or watching awkward sexual encounters on sit coms, we are fascinated by sex. Not that I necessarily divulge my own experiences (or lack thereof) when I talk about sex, but having people around willing to talk about sex and sexuality in a constructive and free way is pretty nice.

6) I feel justified speaking up in class. For a long time I didn’t think it was a problem that I never participated in class. I was completely content sitting in the back of the classroom and listening to what everyone else had to say. But, I came to realize that I kept on hearing the same voices, perspectives, and opinions. Finally I started raising my hand, asking the difficult questions, and voicing different opinions. Not that I always have something worthwhile to say, but expressing a different viewpoint is actually important, especially when it’s a feminist viewpoint. So, speak up! You may not always be right, but at least you put yourself out there. You actually learn the most when you have to defend something you believe.

5) I have one more reason to stop critiquing my own body. I’m not the first person to admit that I have problems with the way I think my body looks. Some days I feel fat. Other days I feel beautiful. What being a feminist has done for me is realize that there are different ideals of beauty (as corny as that sounds, it’s true). While I’m still working on accepting my body for what it is, feminism is one more voice in my head on the team “love you for who you are.”

4) There is a sense of solidarity among feminists. “Oh wait, you’re a feminist?! Me too!” Ok, this may be a little contrived, but the idea is there. Sharing a common belief and value is at least a conversation starter. And although feminists don’t always agree on all issues or perspectives, at least we can all agree that we value human rights and equality for all. It’s a starting point and a great thing to have in common with feminists all around the world.

3) I get to meet amazing people. You know how college is supposed to be the best four years of your life? I think this is true for me not because I can go out and drink like a fish whenever I want (not that I enjoy that much anyways), but because of all the amazing people I interact with on a daily basis. Specifically, the people in the Center for Women’s Studies are awesome. I have learned so much from people with different life stories and perspectives that have pushed me to become a better person and feminist.

2) I have a goal in life. Pick up any self-help book and the first step is to create a list of goals. While coming up with some and adhering to them can sometimes be a painful process, they are also incredibly effective. Goals are helpful because they help you become someone you actually want to be. I want to be someone who advocates for human rights and equality. Having my feminist lens and working through feminist theory (both in an academic setting and in my actual life) gives me a sense of purpose in my life. And, while currently in the midst of figuring out what I want to do when I graduate (eek!) at least I have some direction of what I’m interested in and would like to pursue.

1) I have the satisfaction of knowing I’m right. But seriously though. I dare you to come up with a good reason why people should be treated differently and have different opportunities available to them based on their gender, sex, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, religion, etc. It’s hard to justify the violation of human rights.

To sum things up: being a feminist is awesome. I dare you to try it. 

- Michelle Van Veen '14

Friday, September 20, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection: Whose Identity Is It Anyway?

Tuesday’s Brown Bag was a collaboration with LASO and was aptly titled “Latin@ Identity at Colgate.”I was particularly interested in this Brown Bag because my father is Puerto Rican. That would also make me Puerto Rican for those keeping score at home. The panel of 5 students from varying identities talked about their experiences at Colgate and back home and there were several things I noted in much of the dialogue that I thought was significant:

1. Latina/o Vs. Hispanic
I think most people use these two words interchangeable unless they identify with one over the other. The panel was pretty split between the two and it’s always interesting to see how others identify. I could write a paper on the differences and implications of the two terms, but I’ll save that for a credit bearing moment. Ultimately, latina/o refers to people who speak latin based languages, but in the United States we usually use it to refer to people who are Hispanic, Spanish speaking people or people with Spanish ancestry (i.e.: all Hispanics are Latin, but all Latinas/os are not Hispanic). It is incorrect to equate the two, but it hasn’t stopped the government from putting them together on the Census. Personally, I’ve always prefered Hispanic, but it’s really just a matter of preference I think.

2. Stereotypes: What Does A Latina/o Really Act Like?
If you are Latin (i’ll use this term for the sake of this blog post since it was part of the Brown Bag title) and you’ve met more than 3 of your family members, you probably know that we all can and do look like absolutely everything. Because our cultures are so mixed with everything, there’s no real look to a Latina. We don’t all look like Soledad O’ Brien or Taylor Swift. We can also look like Kelly Rowland or Celia Cruz. Many people see me and don’t realize that half my family is Hispanic. They think my skin is too dark and my hair is too curly, even though my father, his sister and his mother are all more brown than I am. My last name is Jimenez (much like the “Sarah” of the Hispanic community) and people are still surprised. This needs to stop. It’s more annoying than offensive to me, but it’s 2013. We all need to realize that Catherine Zeta-Jones is the standard for Latinas.

3. International/Domestic Latinas/os
A common comment on the panel was the difference in being Latina in the States versus being a Latina internationally. Many Latinas I know who regularly travel to visit family outside the US say that their family consider them Americans instead of (insert your nationality here). This is frustrating for obvious reasons, especially if you were born in that country and then immigrated to the United States.

Ultimately, I think we can all agree that identifying others is a bad idea. We do not reserve the right to disregard someone’s identity because we don’t think they fit into that category. If you tell me that you’re Chilean, I do not get to say you’re not because you’ve never been there or speak Spanish. I also think that we need to work on not grouping all Latinas together as one big blob of Latina. Latinas look like everything and come from everywhere. A Mexican and a Spaniard are NOT the same. A Puerto Rican and a Venezuelan are also NOT the same. While we may speak mostly the same Spanish, we all use different sazon (but we all do use some type of sazon)...and that’s what makes us wonderful.

From Russia With Love,


Monday, September 16, 2013

Miss America

I have been thinking a lot about this weekend’s Miss America pageant and winner, Nina Davuluri, the first Indian American to win in the pageant’s history.  A few questions have been floating around my mind that I will ponder in this post.  First, why has there been such backlash on social media over the winner?!  People all over the internet called her things like “terrorist,” “Muslim,” “Arab,” “un-American” and so on...Just check out Buzzfeed's article.  Why do people think that it is OK to say these types of things online?!  There is so much anti-bullying discourse especially when it comes to social media and online bullying, and I just do not understand why the message does not get through to some people that if you do not have something nice to say, you should not say it.
Don’t people realize that America is a diverse place?!  And like Ms. Davuluri said during the competition, the “girl next door” (even though all of the contestants are clearly women...see my thoughts on “girl” versus “woman” a few posts down) could be ANYBODY! However, to many folks though, Miss America and the “girl next door” implies whiteness (and potentially blonde hair...and even blue eyes).  This is highly problematic.  America is a diversifying country.  According to most data on US demographics, white people will no longer be the majority and will begin to become a minority in the year 2043. Times are a-changin’ (preach Bob Dylan!), and people better start realizing that 30 years from now, America will be a new place and people must realize that the words “American” and “white” CANNOT be synonymous.  
Another question though is why does Miss America still exist?!  Sure it is classified as a scholarship competition.  However, there are plenty of other ways to win scholarships that do not require one to look good in a bikini and high heels, which is an impractical combination anyways.  People claim that America is now “post-racial” and “post-feminist” but this shows that we are far from “post-[insert system of oppression here].”  Miss America should either embrace itself as a beauty pageant or actually require more from their contestants to win the $50,000 scholarship besides just showing off one’s body and oh yeah, showing some knowledge of current events and pop culture.
I have to give the Miss America pageant a bit of credit though, as it certainly has come far over the course of its history since it began in 1921. However, more could be done to modernize and not play so much into gender stereotypes.  For instance, why do all of the talents have to involve showcasing stereotypically feminine activities like dancing or singing or playing musical instruments? It would be great if more contestants could break down the stereotypes and do something different on stage to show that women have so many other talents!  I just hope that young girls today learn that they do not have to look like models to lead successful lives.  All of these pageants that exist certainly perpetuate that idea, and I think that more girls need to learn that one should not aspire to look like a model but rather to learn to become a role model to others.

-Lindsey Skerker ‘14

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brown Bag: DOMA/Prop 8 Reflection

While I was enjoying the summers of Hamilton,  DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Proposition 8, a piece of legislation that originated in California, were struck down in June of 2013. At the time, I was  confused as to why so many people were rejoicing because I didn't know exactly what the two acts entailed. I understood Prop 8 as a similar version of my home state's Amendment 1 that also will not allow state recognition of marriage between same-sex couples or heterosexual domestic civil unions. I also remembered seeing commercials in one of my political science  classes in high school that were aired in California for upholding Prop 8 and perhaps DOMA. It was not that wasn't excited, I just didn't understand the gravity of what it meant until this particular brown bag discussion.
      DOMA essentially defines what the word "spouse" means and that didn't include someone of the same sex. Therefore, marriages couldn't be federally recognized. This leads to tax issues and I know a bit about taxes from my brief experience with the Colgate VITA program. For example, New York as a state now recognizes the marriage of same-sex couples. However, tax law states that a same-sex couple in a married union cannot file taxes jointly. Now that DOMA has been struck down, marriages between same-sex couples can be federally recognized, tax law is sure to change in the coming months to allow same sex couples to file federal taxes jointly in New York but not necessarily for all state taxes.
       Each person on the panel ( Brit, Tara, Professor Valente, and Professor Stern), brought something different to the discussion. I guess a high light for me was hearing Professor Valente's story relating to his partner not being able to live with him in the U.S despite the fact that they have legally married twice. Professor's Valente's partner is a citizen of the U.K. Usually when a non-citizen marries a U.S citizen, the non-U.S citizen spouse is granted citizenship and entry into the country through a process. Because of pre- DOMA legislation, the federal government would not recognize the marriage and Professor Valente and his partner could not live together in the country. Now that DOMA is no more, perhaps they will consider getting married again in the U.S for the third time, but "only for the toasters."

Monday, September 9, 2013

My Feminist Confessions

Happy Monday (It’s sunny and not freezing in Hamilton so I think it’s been a pretty great Monday so far)! I was originally going to post something about Miley Cyrus, but then I decided against it because just no. Ain’t nobody got time to continue to beat this dead racist horse. Anyway, once I decided against ranting about Hannah Montana, I had a hard time figuring out what to write about in this post. After digging deep into my soul I realized that I need to just be honest. While I am a Ladyist (I’m trying that out in replace of Feminist because I think it’s a cuter word and I love cute words. Let me know what you think.) and have been for quite some time now, I need to come clean about some things I do, believe, say, etc that don’t exactly fall in line with standard Feminist values. Now some of these may be more controversial than others, but the first step toward recovery is admitting the problem right? *nervous laugh*
1. I listen to misogynistic music ALL the time. I know we all agreed that “Blurred Lines” is not the move right now, but it’s still starred in my Spotify. What’s even worse is that that song is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t get me started on my heartbreak after hearing Rick Ross enthuse about date rape...
2. I refer to groups of people as “you guys” more often than I want to admit. This is bad one for me because this is probably the first feminist stance I ever actively took in life. When I was a wee little lass I realized that it was silly to call a group of people “you guys” especially if the group was not guys.
3. Bitch is one of my favorite words. Sorry ya’ll. I’m pretty vulgar in general and I can’t seem to shake this one. If it’s any consolation, I use it to describe people of all genders and not just women because I’m an equal opportunity offender.
4. Sometimes (very rarely though) I feel guilty for enjoying “feminine” things like makeup, heels and boys. Ok maybe not the boys part, but definitely the former things.
5. I don’t understand women who choose to be stay at home moms forever. I respect the choice, but I just think it’s really boring to sit home all day while your kids are at all school and your husband/wife/partner is at work.
6. I will never in my life pay for a date. Self explanatory.
Being a Ladyist, much like planning a dinner with your friends on a group chat, is hard sometimes. It’s something we all have to constantly work out. You can’t just achieve Feminism. We discover new ways the patriarchy has screwed us every day and we have to learn and adapt. While I can always say that my core values are pretty solid and unwavering, it’s the little stuff that trips me up. Humans are not perfect. Not even Feminists, believe it or not, but I really think it’ll help me get better by admitting some of these to ya’ll. 

I also know that I’m not the only one guilty of these things. What are some of your Feminist Confessions? I really would love to know!

Gossip Girl

EDIT: I'm going to be more clear for #6. It's not nearly as self explanatory as I thought because ya'll aren't in my head. Anyway, surely a strong and nominally independent woman like myself who will soon have her really expensive coaster Bachelor's degree can feed and entertain herself on her own dime, right? Damn right she can...but she can also choose not to. I will not pay for dates because 1.) I'm cheap. 2.) The wage gap among genders is real and as long as I'm on the losing end I will protest in this way. 3.) I think that any man interested in courting me (now accepting applications btw ;-)) should put a literal investment in feeding and entertaining me. If he doesn't want to, then he's not the man for me. That's all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection for “The F Word: Intersectional Feminisms”

I was both shocked and honored this summer when I received an email from Kimmie Garner, the previous Women’s Studies Program Assistant, asking me to speak as a member of the panel for this semester’s first brown bag, “The F Word: Intersectional Feminisms.”  When I came to Colgate three years ago, I had no idea what Women’s Studies was or what being a feminist meant.  If you asked me my first year, I never would have imagined that I was a feminist (even though I have been one all along), or that I would have majored in Women’s Studies (WMST), or that I would become part of the wonderful extended community of WMST people at Colgate.
After reading Kimmie’s email, I began to question her choice in asking me to join the panel and worried that I would not know what to say.  I also began to second guess myself as I started to think that there are much more qualified people who could be speaking on the panel.  Maybe second-guessing oneself is more of a female thing as it is difficult to always be confident in yourself in the patriarchal society we live in, but I did say yes.  I dwelled on the topic the whole summer.  I began to keep a running list of bullet points about things I might say and by the end of the summer, I had come up with about 5 typed pages of why I am an intersectional feminist and the different ways it impacts my life.  Additionally it really allowed me to reflect on my intersectional identities and how those relate to my feminist views.  In the end, the hardest part was narrowing down what I wanted to say for the few minutes I was allotted. 
As I was first to speak, I wanted to make sure to clarify what I meant by “feminism” and “intersectionality” as I knew a lot of new people would be in attendance, and I can surely say that when I was a first-year, those terms were way over my head.  Keeping it simple, I gave the definition put forth by bell hooks and explained that feminism is “the movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” The movement is not about being anti-male (I like guys!), but rather that sexism is the problem.  It’s about recognizing and taking steps to combat patriarchy and institutionalized sexism.  This is an ongoing process and everyday all of us at Colgate can be part of the change on campus by doing and living feminism and showing that we believe in equality and respect for all peoples.  I explained that intersectionality is the way one’s identities come together and that in order to work to combat sexism, it is necessary to recognize other -isms that exist and learn about the ways certain intersecting oppressions interact with each other.
In my spiel, I talked about how I identify as a Jewish feminist as well as a feminist in Greek life at Colgate. Additionally, I touched on the importance of being a woman on campus and being a leader and upstanding citizen in whatever way possible.  Women at Colgate should not be afraid to speak up and to speak with authority, and we cannot let what men (or what others) might think of us hold us back.  I used to be intimidated to speak up in certain male-dominated spheres (which let’s face it, that includes most things), but that is something I am constantly working on.  Furthermore, it is so important for women at Colgate to hold leadership positions around campus considering the history of our school.  Colgate was an all-male institution merely 40 years ago and finally caught up with the majority of colleges when it became co-educational in 1970.  Being a woman on campus in the 1970s could not have been easy, and even today, it is not easy, but we can take steps to make it better when we speak up about things we do not agree with.  
Word usage is another huge aspect of how I try to live feminism everyday and how I think feminists as leaders can help make changes.  One important differentiation is “girls and boys” versus “men and women” which might not sound like a big deal, but it is.  All of us at Colgate are men and women.  Oftentimes, we fall into the habit of using colloquial language, and I am not saying that I do not do it too, but I think we need to be more aware of it.  One time, one of my male friends was telling me about how he was networking with “this girl at JP Morgan.” I called him out on it and explained that he could not call her a girl, especially as she was in her late 20s/early 30s and if he said that in an interview, he surely would not have been hired. Calling a woman that age a girl is frankly offensive and nobody would ever call a man that age a boy unless it was an insult.  Right there is just one of the many patriarchal biases that exist in English.  
Another thing I think it is important to just be conscious of is saying “hey you guys” to a group of mixed people. Guys do not make up the whole world, in fact, they make up a bit less than half of it.  Although it is a habit I fall into as well, it is important to just be aware and maybe make attempts to find other phrases that are more inclusive like “y’all” or “everybody.” Furthermore, it is important to keep others accountable of certain words and phrases that can be hurtful.  When someone says “that’s so gay” or “that shirt is dykey” or any other number of things along those lines, it is important as a feminist in everyday life to call their attention to that.  As Ben said on the panel, that does not necessarily mean embarrassing them but just making them conscious that what they said is not what they meant.  
In a nutshell, as an intersectional feminist, it is important to stand up for all sorts of identities and treat all peoples according to the Golden Rule. There are so many simple ways to live and do feminism, and some people might be doing feminism and not even realize it, which is OK!  At the end of the Brown Bag during the Q&A session, one male student in the audience raised his hand and almost in disbelief said, “Well I think I’m a feminist!” It was a great moment of self-realization for both him and I’m assuming other people in the audience. Feminism is not crazy or radical as it has been perceived in the media and throughout history.  Rather, being a feminist should be one of the most natural things for us as (I like to think) inherently good beings.  Why wouldn’t you want equality for all regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, ability, religion, etc?!

-Lindsey Skerker '14