Tag Archives: gender

#BlackGirlsMatter

I’m working on updating an older paper on high school feminism for publication, and stumbled across this report released in February of this year by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) called “Black Girls Matter: Pushed-Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected.”

Having heard about yet another murder of a young black transgender woman murdered in Florida this year, I wanted to give myself a refresher on this important study analyzing the intersections of gender, race, class, and age that shape young black women’s identities.  What can we learn from some infographics today?

Lesson 1: As exemplified by schools in New York, black girls are disciplined significantly more than other racial populations in proportion to their numbers of enrollment.

Lesson 2: Black girls are fifty-three times more likely to be expelled in New York City and ten times more likely to be expelled in Boston than white girls.

Lesson 3: Black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls in New York.

And what about the rest of the fifty states?  What’s all of this lack of education and overpolicing do to impact the lives of young black girls across America?

Stereotypes that black girls are dumb, immodest, or belligerent cause young black women to struggle emotionally and economically.  In the words of Thahabu Gordon describing her experiences as a young African American girl,

“As long as I was ‘respectable,’ I was better than more urban girls. By seventh grade, I had internalized those concepts and avoided hanging around black girls who exclusively listened to rap and weren’t afraid of enthusiastically expressing their opinions. I was conditioned to think I was better than them. You would never have caught me in a tight dress or short bottoms because I was trying to distance myself from being volatile and hypersexual—aka, ‘that black girl.'”

Without full access to education, black girls become a nearly minuscule portion of the the black faculty, black STEM majors, black graduate students, black undergraduates, and black professional students that go on to be entrepreneurs, political leaders, and scholars.

By the way, there’s a real shortage of black girls represented in the world of infographics online…I’m going to work on this.  #BlackGirlsMatter

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On the table, 7/28

Today I got to volunteer for a couple of hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  It was really awesome!  Those girls totally schooled me on playing pool!  They also, sadly, were out of ping-pong balls, so I’m going to donate some this week.  If you find yourself taking old board games to Goodwill, take them to your local youth club instead.

I have lots of stuff for you this week!  Here it goes:

Read more:

  • Christie Thompson at Ms. Blog argues that the new ads not only condescendingly argue that “strong women douche” (while adding to the tradition that vaginas are dirty), but also essentialize women by using racial stereotypes.
  • At AdWeek, Stan Richards explains Summer’s Eve’s defense: “After listening to thousands of women say they want straight-talk and lighthearted communication on a historically-uncomfortable topic, Summer’s Eve gave us license to be bold, irreverent and celebratory across a multitude of mediums and to different audiences….” [Read the rest of Tim Nudd’s article here.] 
  • Nudd later reported that in light of bad press, the company decided to pull the online videos: “Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go….” [Read on]

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  • Slut Walks
Slut Walk London

Read more:

  • Raymond Kwan at York Univesity’s student paper Excalibur describes how a Toronto cop told a group of college students women could deter rape by not dressing like a slut.
  • Needless to say, women have responded in droves in the form of Slut Walks – a march to decalre women’s “constitutional right to a freedom of expression and a freedom of assembly,” according to Slut Walk Toronto.com.
  • The movement has even expanded transnationally – making a profound impact in India says Nikita Garia at The Wall Street Journal.
  • Some feminists, however, have responded questionably.  Rebecca Traister at the NY Times makes a great argument: “To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers. So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling….” [Read on]

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a battery of tests and evaluations to go through before it will again allow gay men to donate blood. As midsummer shortages hit the nation’s blood supply, BBJ health care reporter Julie Donnelly writes that the process should proceed expeditiously.  [Read more here.]

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See the video here, or read the transcript below.

“Every empire in history has either failed or faltered, but for some reason – be it our arrogance, our hubris, or our nationalism disguised as patriotism – we turn a blind eye to the growing chasm between the have gots and the have nots. One percent of the population owning and controlling more wealth than ninety percent of Americans, is both dangerous and unsustainable.  At the heart of the problem is political cowardice….” [Read on]

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Gender and Super Heroes/oines

In light of Captain America’s soon-to-be film debut, I saw this article today on the Good Men Project:

“Captain America is the Best Man” by Mark D.:

As a longtime comics fan, I find inspiration in many of the superheroes whose adventures I read every month, but none inspire me as much as Captain America. Simply put, to me, Cap stands as an example of the best we can be. He embodies all of the classical virtues that are just as important now as they were in the days of the ancient Greeks, including honesty, courage, loyalty, perseverance, and, perhaps most importantly, honor (in particular, military honor). While I can’t be as strong or fast as Cap, I can hope to be as honest, courageous, and honorable.

(Although Mark D. argues that Captain America has moved beyond his jingoist, hegemonically masculine, and paternalistic roots, in a post-911 age these historic roots cannot be denied.)

And that’s great and all.  The guy seems just swell.

But it got me thinking – where are all of the honest, courageous, and strong superheroines?  Most of them are either crazy or can’t control their powers or they’re young with teenage troubles or sex on the brain. 

Literally I can only think of Xena.  Any thoughts?

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On the Table, 7/11

Some of these items I’ve been meaning to share for months and am just cleaning out my favorites folders.  Sorry for their belatedness.

According to a 2011 report from the U.N’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “32 percent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be urgently rebuilt.”

With conscious consumers starting to take note, Kristofor Lofgren, owner of the Portland restaurant Bamboo Sushi, says his strategy is to overwhelm them with proof that his seafood is actually harvested properly, because, frankly, sushi often isn’t. And even when it’s not from an illegal vessel or an overfished area, there’s still massive waste: As much as half of all fish caught never even make it to the table…. [Read on]

Read more: Looking for sustainable sushi in your neighborhood?  Use these sites to score some earth-friendly sushi.

  • Fish2Fork.com which rates restaurants that serve fish for quality and their sustainability efforts.
  • The Green Restaurant Association at DineGreen.com which is a national non-profit organization that provides a convenient and cost-effective way for restaurants, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers to become more environmentally responsible.

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The well-documented “other-race effect” finds that people are less likely to remember a face from a racial group different from their own. Northwestern University researchers set out to determine what causes this rift in perception and memory by using electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings, which measure brain activity, while participants viewed photos of various faces.

The researchers found that brain activity increases in the very first 200 to 250 milliseconds when seeing both same-race and other-race faces…. [Read on]

Read more:

  • Time“They All Look the Same: How Racism Works Neurologically,” by John Cloud on a similar study out of the University of Glasgow which notes that humans are “remarkably skilled at facial recognition: we can differentiate family members and friends from strangers in far less than a second.”
  • Check out The Hapa Project – a book and museum exhibit organized by artist Kip Fulbeck which explores the intersections of race, ethnicity, and identity.  When asked, “What are you?” how people of mixed race answer?  It’s pretty neat.

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  • And your clip for this “On the Table” is of two fabulous female comedians – Tina Fey and Ellen DeGeneres:

It’s kind of glitchy.  AND some of the good stuff is in the second half, which is here!  And part 3 is here!

Read more:

  • Check out Tina Fey’s new memoir Bossypants about her life so far as a mother and female comedy writer.
  • Ms. Magazine‘s Natalie Wilson provides some commentary of the interview here.  For example, Wilson states: “While Fey focuses on feminist issues relating to sexism in the workplace and in politics, DeGeneres is more of a comedic lesbian activist. While she has noted she doesn’t wish to be an activist or spokesperson for the LGBTQ community, she often publicly denounces heteronormativity and uses her show as a platform to promote LGBTQ rights….” [Read on]

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On the table, 7/6

Happy 4th!  I’m still recovering from my weekend of little sleep, grilling out, and eating lots of peaches.  I miss it all already.

Here’s what’s been brewing over the weekend:

In his book, Michael Billig coined the term “banal nationalism” to draw attention to the ways in which nationalism was not only a quality of gun-toting, flag-waving “extremists” (p. 5), but was quietly and rather invisibly reproduced by all of us in our daily lives.

So, what’s the problem with banal nationalism?  Sociologists have critiqued nationalism for being the source of an irrational commitment and loyalty to one’s nation, a commitment that makes one willing to both die and kill….  [Read on]

 

Read more: Check out Michael Billig’s book Banal Nationalism

 

 

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A few months ago I read about encouraging advances in the science of male contraception. That led me on a long search to speak to the leading minds in the field.

As readers know, I had a vasectomy several years ago. But I have several buddies who are either on the fence about wanting kids or don’t want them right this second. So, for those guys, I wanted to ask these scientists: What’s taking so long? [Read on]

 Read more:

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Georgia is having mixed results with a new program replacing migrant farm workers with probationers.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal started the program after farmers complained a crackdown on illegal immigrants was scaring away the mostly Latino workers needed to harvest labor-intensive crops like blueberries and cucumbers.  (This article sparks a plethora of conversation points – worker’s rights, prisoner’s rights, the value of migrant work and the claim that migrant workers take jobs from US citizens, and the intersections of class, race, and ethnicity to name a few.) [Read on]

Read more:

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“The moment when something is transformed into something else is the most beautiful moment; it’s a magical moment,” said Brazilian artist Vik Muniz in the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary Waste Land (in Portuguese, “Lixo Extraordinário”), directed by Lucy Walker, João Jardim and Karen Harley.

The movie tells the remarkable story of how the “catadores,” scavengers of recyclable materials found in an enormous landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, are coached by Muniz to transform mountains of discarded items into breathtaking works of art….[Read on]

 

Read more:

Watch the documentary Wasteland on Muniz’s work.  Check out the trailer here or watch the film on Netflix.

NPR also has a few more articles on the project.  Check them out:

 NPR – “Recyclers Turn Rio ‘Waste Land’ into High Art”

NPR – “Film Chronicles Artist’s Work from Rio Dump” by Pat Dowell

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On the table – 6/28

Most of the time I don’t feel like commenting on anything.  In fact, my act of including it on this blog is a comment – I care and, therefore, I share.  And most of the time I have tons and tons of things to share.

So, here begins a new bi-weekly-ish assortment of interesting things.  And because it’s current, it’s “on the table.”  It’s like a “Blog Post Blizzard,” only less lazy.

Each bullet point will have the beginning of the article or a short blurb about the piece, with both a “Read on” link which will take you to the source and a “Read more” for thirsty minds.

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In 2000, Sports Illustrated named its 100 top athletes of the 20th century. There are names you no doubt are familiar with — Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and of course Michael Jordan. But there’s also a name that might slip by: Babe Didrikson. She is the only woman in the top 10.

In the 1920s and 30s, Babe Didrikson proved a girl could be a phenomenal all-around athlete. After mastering basketball and track and field, she eventually turned to golf — and won three U.S. Women’s Open championships before she died of cancer when she was only 45. This weekend, Babe Didrikson would be 100 years old…. [Read on]

 Read more: Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Don Van Natta Jr.

 

 

 

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The "Buranovo Babushkas" watch video, for the first time, of two of their members appearing on Russia's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? program.

In Russian culture, one iconic image is the elderly woman — in Russian, she’s called a “babushka” — sitting on a roadside, selling vegetables from her garden.  One group of babushkas from the village of Buranovo, 600 miles east of Moscow, is blowing up that stereotype.

The dozen or so women — mostly in their 70s and 80s — have become a musical sensation, charming audiences across Russia. They sing Beatles tunes and songs by iconic Russian rocker Viktor Tsoi. They fly around the country for concerts. They made it to the Russian finals of the Eurovision music contest. And they have a Facebook page.  These women are sending a message loud and clear: It can be hip to be a babushka…. [Read on]

Read more: Watch them on Youtube

 

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This week ABC news reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments… [Read on]

Read more: Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World by Lisa Bloom

 

 

 

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When his toddler comes home to say that she wants her hair straightened, Chris Rock takes to the street to understand Black women’s hair and the physical and emotional dangers of straightening it.

 Read more: Rent Good Hair on Netflix!

 

 

 

 

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Santa Claus vs. Gender

 

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Photos of Child Brides

Photos by Stephanie Sinclair, as part of her co-authored project in National Geographic, “Too Young to Wed.”
Listen to her interview with Michele Norris at NPR here.
Also, see her photo essay “The Bride Price: In Afghanistan some daughters to be married are just children” in the New York Times Magazine (see the third page – it is precious).

“I strongly believe there is not just a need for awareness-raising and prevention work, but we must find ways to help these girls who are already in these marriages — be it through giving financial incentives to their families to let them stay in school, or vocational training so they can have more say in their lives and households. Quality medical treatment is also needed for girls who are giving birth at these young ages. These girls need long-term solutions. There is no quick fix.”  (Sinclair)

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic "Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him," Tahani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah, Yemen.

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic Although early marriage is the norm in her small Nepali village, 16-year-old Surita wails in protest as she leaves her family's home, shielded by a traditional wedding umbrella and carried in a cart to her new husband's village.

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic Asia, a 14-year-old mother, washes her new baby girl at home in Hajjah while her 2-year-old daughter plays. Asia is still bleeding and ill from childbirth yet has no education or access to information on how to care for herself.

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic Long after midnight, 5-year-old Rajani is roused from sleep and carried by her uncle to her wedding. Child marriage is illegal in India, so ceremonies are often held in the wee hours of morning. It becomes a secret the whole village keeps, explained one farmer.

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NY Times – Undermining Title IX in College Sports

These are some juicy excerpts taken from “College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity,” April 25, 2011, by KATIE THOMAS.

 

Ever since Congress passed the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX, universities have opened their gyms and athletic fields to millions of women who previously did not have chances to play.

Title IX, passed in 1972 at the height of the women’s rights movement, banned sex discrimination in any federally financed education program. It threw into sharp relief the unequal treatment of male and female athletes on college campuses…

Over the next 40 years, the law spawned a cultural transformation: the number of women competing in college sports has soared by more than 500 percent — to 186,000 a year from fewer than 30,000 in 1972.

Universities must demonstrate compliance with Title IX in at least one of three ways: by showing that the number of female athletes is in proportion to overall female enrollment, by demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women, or by proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students.

But as women have grown to 57 percent of American colleges’ enrollment, athletic programs have increasingly struggled to field a proportional number of female athletes. And instead of pouring money into new women’s teams or trimming the rosters of prized football teams, many colleges are turning to a sleight of hand known as roster management.

According to a review of public records from more than 20 colleges and universities by The New York Times, and an analysis of federal participation statistics from all 345 institutions in N.C.A.A. Division I — the highest level of college sports — many are padding women’s team rosters with underqualified, even unwitting, athletes. They are counting male practice players as women. And they are trimming the rosters of men’s teams.

According to the most current federal numbers, women make up 53 percent of the student body at Division I institutions yet only 46 percent of all athletes. And that discrepancy does not take into account all the tactics used to boost the numbers artificially.

  • At Marshall University, the women’s tennis coach recently invited three freshmen onto the team even though he knew they were not good enough to practice against his scholarship athletes, let alone compete.

    They could come to practice whenever they liked, he told them, and would not have to travel with the team.

  • At Cornell, only when the 34 fencers on the women’s team take off their protective masks at practice does it become clear that 15 of them are men. Texas A&M and Duke are among the elite women’s basketball teams that also take advantage of a federal loophole that allows them to report male practice players as female participants.
  • Roster management came under scrutiny last year when a federal judge ruled that Quinnipiac University in Connecticut had violated Title IX by engaging in several questionable practices, including requiring that women cross-country runners join the indoor and outdoor track teams so they could be counted three times. The judge found earlier that Quinnipiac had been padding women’s rosters by counting players, then cutting them a few weeks later.
  • At the University of South Florida, more than half of the 71 women on the cross-country roster failed to run a race in 2009. Asked about it, a few laughed and said they did not know they were on the team.
  • Sarah Till, who graduated from South Florida in 2009, was a more extreme case. She said that she quit and returned her track scholarship in her sophomore year, but her name was listed on the rosters of all three squads through her junior year.  “They wanted to keep me on the roster because the more girls they have on the roster, the more positions they have to give for the guys’ teams,” she said, adding that a former assistant coach had told her she would receive running shoes and priority class registration as a reward for staying on the rosters.

Read the rest of Thomas’s article here at the NYTimes.

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Word to the Mother

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Baby Storm, posted with vodpod
 
Kathy Witterick, mother of “gender-neutral” Storm speaks out about being a mother, their family’s decision to keep the baby’s sex a secret, and the hoopla it has caused.  (Posted from Men Stopping Violence)

The bus driver smiled at me, my three children, the snacks that were rolling in all directions and the grocery bags hung too heavy on the back of the stroller. As always, he said, “You got everyone?” Then he added, “I haven’t seen you this week!” I was so relieved. “I’m glad to hear that,” I said.

We went to soccer class, played in the park with friends, read books at the library, learned a little bit about dinosaurs and observed the butterflies that only yesterday hatched from chrysalises in our kitchen. Jazz and Kio drew pictures. Jazz wanted to go to badminton at a local gym. An ordinary day.

My name is Kathy Witterick. I’m shy and idealistic, and all my life I’ve worked in the field of abuse and violence prevention. I married a teacher named David Stocker and we have three children.

Jazz is five years old. Since he was a young baby, he’s enjoyed colour, texture and vibrancy. When he was 18 months, he loved to wear layers of wildly striped and mismatched clothing and when his grandparents took him to get his very first pair of shoes, he chose the ones with orange toes and pink flowers on the side. When his brother was born, I joked I’d grow old as woman in a man’s world.

As Jazz grew, his love of bright colours (especially pink) and lots of fabric (especially dresses) continued, and he wanted to grow his hair. The older he became, the more he met with pressure from peers and adults to adjust his image and “act more like a boy.” Jazz remained committed to his own style.

I re-read the research and approaches of Alfie Kohn, Barbara Coloroso and Adele Faber to find ways to support him. The firm rule around self image became: it has to be clean and healthy, but you can choose the colours and the lengths.

When Storm was near arrival, Jazz was listening to Free to Be You and Me on repeat (it was a gift from a friend). He wondered if people would respond differently if they didn’t know the baby’s sex. What gifts would they bring? If Storm were a boy, would he be allowed to wear dresses? Pink?

There are these moments as a parent when you wish your child could bring a different issue to the table — but there it is, plop! And if you really mean what you say about being kind, honouring difference, having an open mind and placing limits thoughtfully where they help children develop competencies and be safe, then you better walk the talk.

We agreed to keep the sex of our new baby private.

It is true that an infant, at four or five months is still learning to recognize themselves — to look in the mirror and think, “Hey, that’s me!” — and is not ready developmentally to find a place in a gender binary. It is true and demonstrated in research and in the day to day world that strict gender stereotyping causes suffering to both men and women. So surely, we thought, people would understand our five-year-old’s curiosity about why people need to know the baby’s sex.

The events of the last week suggest otherwise.

More accurately, we have received many letters that include intelligent, heartfelt, research and experience based support for the idea. We’ve also heard some articulate and meaningful concerns expressed. We’ve witnessed a discussion erupt that could be transformative. It is important to challenge orthodoxies and raise questions, because the discussion that emerges not only “outs” issues (in a rush to pass judgment, people articulate prevailing views, prejudices, and misconceptions), but also has the effect of helping people examine whether they truly do believe the status quo to be the best that we can do. Will these norms grow healthy, happy, kind, well adjusted children?

The strong, lighting-fast, vitriolic response was a shock. These voices demonstrate how much parents are in the world’s critical eye — in particular mothers, who are judged based on little (mis)information and not offered opportunities to share, grow, learn and be supported and celebrated by the community to raise children.

The psychologist on the Today Show for example, was willing to make strong, unqualified conclusions about a family (and children) he had never met, based on (generously) one per cent of what there is to know about said family. Will that behaviour help grow healthy, happy, kind, well adjusted children? Ironically, the idea to keep the baby’s sex private was a tribute to authentically trying to get to know a person, listening carefully and responding to meaningful cues given by the person themselves.

This short letter won’t help you to know my family. And to protect our children from the media frenzy that we did not anticipate, we have declined over 100 requests for interviews from all over the world, including offers to fly to New York all expenses paid and to appear on almost every American morning show.

We have learning to do, parks to visit and butterflies to care for. But we do feel it’s important to correct clear factual errors in the media, who incidentally have been reporting false information.

Having spent many years facilitating on the topic of abuse and violence prevention, particularly as it pertains to children, I would never tell my children (or anyone) to keep a secret.

Secrets are not safe and healthy. I, like many parents, have taught my children that some things are private matters, and when you want to share them, you need to do so honestly with sensitivity and consideration. If I had to convince my children not to share Storm’s sex (which I don’t because my children simply are not interested at this point) — I would teach them that someone else’s genitals and sense of how they relate to their gender is their private business, to be shared by them or in a context where safety, acceptance and sensitivity are paramount. Storm will certainly need to understand his/her own sex and gender to navigate this world (the outcry has confirmed this clearly!), but there has never been any question that within our family, the issues of sex and gender and the decisions relating to it are open for age appropriate discussion and action.

In my heart of hearts, I squirm when my son picks a dress from the rack (won’t people tease him?), even though I know from experience and research that the argument that children need a binary gender orthodoxy taught to them in order to feel safe is simply incorrect. My children know who they are, through supported and facilitated experience with their world, and I avoid hypocrisy, inaccuracy and exhaustion by saving my energy for non-negotiable limit-setting related to safety, kindness, self respect, health, fulfilment and fairness.

None of my children are gender-free or genderless (and neither am I). It is true that my oldest son Jazz does not have a traditional notion of what boys should wear, look like or do. It is also true that we believe our children should have the right to choose their clothes and hairstyle. Jazz has a strong sense of being a boy, and he understands that his choices to wear pink and have long hair are not always acceptable to his community. He chooses freely to do them anyway, because he also has been taught to respect difference, love himself and navigate the world in a way that is true to his own voice. Kio also strongly self identifies as a boy, and his choices around behaviours and image are different but have an equal amount of two-year-old integrity.

Storm has a sex which those closest to him/her know and acknowledge. We don’t know yet about colour preferences or dress inclinations, but the idea that the whole world must know our baby’s sex strikes me as unhealthy, unsafe and voyeuristic.

Storm is my third child and this is what I know — some day soon, Storm will have something to say about it, so in the meantime, I’m just listening carefully.

— Kathy Witterick is the mother of Jazz, Kio and Storm. They live in Toronto.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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