Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Feminism: an unchangeable entity or a dynamic struggle?

This is going to be raggedy, so bear with me.

In considering girls and feminism, the questions that are commonly emphasized are “Do girls need feminism? Are they a part of it?” Implicit in these questions is the more problematic, self-conscious fret: “Do girls need us anymore?”

If feminism is irrelevant to girls, that is, at least in part, because it is being framed as a fixed entity, something “established feminists” own. The “problem” with girls and feminism comes as a result of the presentation of feminism as something one must adopt rather than define. Saying “Here, claim my feminism,” integrate my history, my struggle, into your identity, mirrors the social construction of girls as consumers rather than producers. If we are approaching feminism as something concrete, unchangeable, a pair of pants one must put on rather than fabric that someone can sew into whatever they want, we are still treating girls as a target group of consumers.

The idea that women can be post-feminist is ridiculous because, to me, feminism isn’t a set of criteria that defines our actions. It is a tool used to dismantle patriarchy and, as such, it should continue to grow and evolve with our changing needs – from an allen wrench to a mallet. It can become a manifesta, a creedo, a lifeline – but it must be defined by our own needs, goals, and life experience. The rhetoric of postfeminism frames feminism as a specific ideology with its own predetermined goals which girls must conform to, rather than one they are able to form to their needs. This requires girls to accept or consume feminism rather than form it.

I think, eventually, everyone must define feminism for themselves, based on their own contexts and needs. Hence the multiple branches of feminism: ecofeminism, anarchafeminism, radical feminism, etc. We can work together toward a common goal (ending oppression) without requiring uniformity from all our partners in struggle.

Third Wave emphasis on choice and an incorporation of a clear knowledge of the intersection of all oppressions may help redefine feminism as something that is accessible and useful to girls. The extent of its effectiveness will hinge on our ability, as feminists, to redefine feminism in society. The question is: how can we repackage it? The co-optation of Girl Power and feminism in the media is pervasive. (As a side note: I saw a commercial for an energy company that totally co-opted “Power to the People” as it’s slogan for disgusting, non-renewable energy. Great job!) So it happens. Our messages get co-opted. And the only solution to this problem that I can fathom is producing our own media – culture jamming, creating zines, re-forming advertisements. Getting into schools in programs like YWLP and starting conversations between girls and women is vital to the evolution of feminism. Feminism needs to be reclaimed as a word, yes, but it also needs to be redefined in popular culture to include dynamic choice. It’s our job to swing the conversation to include a true consideration of feminism as anything that challenges oppression and patriarchy.

- Ali

PS. When I looked for an example of girls doing feminism, a lot of porn came up. :/

Computer Grrrlz

“A Virtual Room of One’s Own” was pretty interesting, it had never occurred to me that almost all activities associated with girls were in the home. As a girl I did play outside a lot but I spent a lot of time in the home, baking, reading, talking on the phone, going online, watching TV, painting my nails, ect. I would agree that personal homepages do reflect a girls room. I volunteered for Perverted Justice which is an anti-pedophile association, and a lot of what I did involved myspace and creating a “girl’s” myspace. We of course kept all person and specific information out and pedophiles were still attracted to their web sites. Looking at real young girl’s web pages was almost scary, it was obvious of their age, they sometimes listed their school or the mall they liked to hang out in. It was pretty representative to the reading, bright colors, pictures of their favorite pop stars, animals, neo pets, and comments like the guestbook function.

My little sister that I am mentoring told me about her website the first time I met her and she wrote down the link for me to check out. Her mom helped her create it and helped her write and upload everything she wanted to put on. It had a homepage that noted this was a place for friends to hang out. It had links to pictures which had cute animals, and funny pictures you find on the internet. She also has a section for videos which include the Jonas Brothers, High School Musical and Hannah Montana. Knowing a young girls on the internet made me realize how much stuff there is online for young girls. Some of the sites I think are great, but all the social networking and fan sites I can’t help but find inappropriate. Why do young girls need to spend so much time online? There are so many things going on in real life they are missing out on. Perhaps this is a reason for social problems, when you socialize online a lot its very different to socialize in real life.

I thought the article about Girls Club computer classes in Ghana was great. Teaching a good skill to girls who have trouble graduating was helping their leadership skills. I think it was important to teach them the skills as well as let them have fun, but without incorporating things they didn’t need. They magazine they all made together was great, it not only used their computer skills but it collaborated a group of women’s thoughts and ideas together. Taking them to see computers in the workplace was really cool too because it shows where this is applied in real life and can give them a goal to strive to. I’m also really impressed the author was a male and though apprehensive had the courage to start and run the girl’s club.

Braincake at first appeared to me as the same girls website, but I was really excited to see it was a math and science partnership for girls. I’ve never really seen a site like this, it had links to cool programs for girls with stuff to do that was all related to math or science. Its links were to scientific websites like bayer making science make sense. I really thought it was cool that have like a little scholarship for making your dreams happen by participating in a program you might not be able to afford. I think this site is a really good idea, it has the appearance of other sites girls like but information that has a lot more substance than how to make your hair look good.

I also thought engineer girl was a really cool site, I never even thought about engineering until I met my boyfriend who is majoring in civil. I went to a few of his classes with him over summer and I was kind of surprised to see male dominated classes, all of my classes are mostly female so I wasn’t used to this. I never saw a girl raise their hand or ask questions either. I realized I didn’t know much about engineering but there are soooooo many careers available I thought this should be something more girls are into. I think the large amounts of math and science may intimidate many girls. This site was all about why you would want to be an engineer and how to get on track to become one. If this is something I saw as a young girls I would have thought this was really cool and something I wanted to do.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

OMG! Who are we?

I felt that so much of Trevor’s advice from “Girls in Ghana Get Computerized” on teaching computer literacy was relevant to the American digital disposition. While we in America are on the “advanced” end of the technological spectrum, many people have never touched a computer. It is imperative to tackle issues regarding the space of girls on computers and their relations with the World Wide Web, but I think it is even more important to learn from those who have a less complicated relationship with technology.

I really loved Trevor’s approach to introducing technology. He allowed it to be expansive to the girls in the way they wanted it to expand. He wanted them to explore on their own terms and discover their own relationships with the computer, whether that meant working with one for career purposes or simply singing fun songs into a recording program. This kind of simplicity is something I think Americans can benefit from, but can maybe, sadly, never return to.

On page 177 of “Girls’ Websites: a ‘Virtual Room of One’s Own’” , it is stated that girls manifest their playful selves by building websites instead of building something out of lego blocks or what have you. While I think that this functions in a positive way for some girls, allowing them to comment and gain perspective on different people outside of their social realm, (or maybe they simply hate being outside and do not want to build) I also believe that it takes away from their drive to think outside of the literal box. This is what differentiates the initial experiences of girls learning computers in Ghana and girls making creative homepages in the States. Girls in the United States are already being taught to understand the unavoidable computer takeover. “You can’t have a job without computer skills” is the mantra I’ve heard over and over again. Schools rely more on the jumpstart programs taught by computers than hiring a staff of qualified teachers. Therefore, girls in the United States use computers because there is simply no other “realistic/effective” option.

I think that so long as young people are being taught that they have options in life, that they can be themselves and function in society with or without computers, that things will be fine. Girls creating safe-space websites for themselves is amazing. Providing girls in Ghana a space to learn from and teach themselves computers is also wonderful, but what it comes down to is recognizing the balance of both of those things and making technology work to create better spaces for learning and security, and not simply relying on them for substantial conversation or self-representation.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Baumgardner and Richards: NO SEAN GRINGAS ESTUPIDAS

"We are not arguing that capitalism and clothing can't be political. Who makes your clothes and under what conditions is highly political. But when there is a critique of girlie-feminists and their clothes, the point is rarely the plight of sweatshop laborers."

So it stinks for Baumgardner and Richards that people tell them what they should and shouldn't wear. That certainly doesn't line up with the feminist principle of 'do what you want as long as you're not fucking other people over.'

But to put the "plight of sweatshop laborers" off as a side note....?
My question is why are they so focused on the women who are telling them what not to wear for the sake of being too girlie (whoever they are, they sound like lame self-absorbed feminists) rather than focusing on working with the feminists who are making their clothes?

I recently read a book about women in Nicaragua, some who identify as feminists and some who don't, who are resisting sweatshop conditions by organizing women's factory collectives. The book is written by a feminist researcher from the U.S. Jennifer Bickham Mendez (a gringa), but she did her best to represent the views of the all-women organizers and workers. The organization she researched is Maria Elena Cuadra, Movement of Working and Unemployed Women and you can visit their (amazing!) website here: http://www.mec.org.ni/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Not surprisingly, feminist factory workers in Nicaragua are disgusted with North American and European feminists who talk about "solidarity" and "sisterhood" but are more concerned with being able to live an unrestricted (affluent) lifestyle, than with the very real starvation, abuse, overwork, and assault that occur within and around sweatshops. They are careful to distinguish themselves from white elitist feminism, calling themselves "feministas de la base." This translates as "feminists of the base" or more commonly "grassroots" feminists. Grassroots? How ironic.

Their grievance is not that Baumgardner and Richards shouldn't wear Prada because it's too girlie.
B&R don't seem to be listening, so I'll repeat it:
Women who work in sweatshops do not care that Baumgardner and Richards might want to wear girlie clothes.
Many women sweatshop workers are girlie too. They also wear makeup, jewelry, and heels.

Their concern is that the U.S. corporations who make B&R's clothes have taken over their countries. Up until late in the last century, people in the U.S. wore clothes made in the U.S. Not that we weren't terrorizing Nicaragua and the rest of the global south for centuries before this. We know that our country is built on land stolen from indigenous people, with slaves from this continent and from Africa, and stolen resources from every region with smaller guns than ours. Building on the efforts of other European colonizers before us, at one point we white 'Americans' boasted conquering and colonizing other nations as a legitimate road to prosperity: the hundreds of nations native to this continent, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and many others.

In Nicaragua, we never broadcast our conquering efforts. Instead we militarily supported agricultural monopolies that displaced the majority of farmers in Nicaragua, forcing them to become migrant farmwokers, or in the case of many women, move to cities for factory work. While Nicaraguans struggled against the Somoza family dictatorship/agricultural monopoly in the 1960s-1970s to reclaim their land and livelihoods, the U.S. backed the Somoza family with arms and troops. Why would we fight against the interests of the people to support a dictator who was murdering workers and protecting millionaires? Many of the ag-corporations and factories are U.S. companies "investing" in Nicaragua. Our interest was a hungry labor force to fill our factories. They call this neo-colonialism. This is not radical history; this is common knowledge to the Nicaraguans who experienced it. Knowledge of a similar history is shared by every region where there is a sweatshop making clothes for a U.S. company: and we know they're everywhere when we read our clothing tags.

Why are the feministas de la base disgusted with feminists like Baumgardner and Richards?
When Baumgardner and Richards write an essay that focuses on their clothes but says "the point is rarely the plight of sweatshop laborers" they are blatantly supporting the corporate colonists: Sweatshops are sad, but not as big a deal as us being able to wear designer heels.

My thoughts are that maybe instead of defending themselves from a handful of judgmental no-girlies-allowed feminists, they should be worrying about the fact that were they to visit their feminist "sisters" who make their clothes in Nicaragua, they would be shamed out of town for supporting the corporations who have destroyed their "sisters'" communities. It's not that they wear clothes made in sweatshops; all "First World" feminists do that. It's that they are actively mentioning sweatshops, and condoning them by not protesting the deliberate destruction of the "sweatshop laborers'" nations, by our nation, in order for sweatshops to exist...
...And for us to buy Prada, or thongs from Forever 21, or jeans from the men's section at GAP.

We're doin it for all you baby feminists out there

When I think back to when I was young, I think of myself as being very self absorbed. I didn’t think about the world or society or oppression or the grand scheme of things. I thought about myself. I was too busy worrying about what I would wear the next day and drama at the lunch table. I was simply struggling to fit in and struggling to grow up. I wasn’t worrying about changing the world. In fact, I didn’t even know the world needed changing. I blame my obsession with myself on society and sexism.
As feminists I think that one of the things we strive to do is make life easier for girls. We want all females to live easier lives not affected by a sexist society. If we alleviated the pressure put on women and girls to be beautiful, thin, and popular, girls would have time to think about other things besides which brand of clothing is most in style. I think that is the point of Girls Studies. In an academic setting we can try to understand and analyze the problems that girls face in our misogynistic culture. Then we can figure out solutions and try to break down those barriers. Changing our culture in this way will leave room for younger girls to be strong and independent. This will also free up their time so that they can look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on themselves. They will have time and tools to focus on injustices and oppressions that face them and become social change agents themselves. This also creates new generations of women who can “continue to fight a war on patriarchy” (Eisenhauer 84).

One thing that I found particularly interesting in the readings was Taft’s discussion of Postfeminist Girl Power. As a young girl, I was a huge fan of the Spice Girls and I never thought Girl Power was anything but a positive influence on me. After reading this article, though, I realized that Girl Power did give me confidence and positive girl role models, but it also let me to believe that I would never face opposition because of my gender. This version of Girl Power was “dismissing the need for feminist action” and made the claim that “girls have attained all the power they could ever want, and there is nothing left to be done” (Taft 72). I realize looking back that this type of Girl Power gave girls a false sense of self-esteem and a false version of reality. I definitely agree with Taft’s article and thought it was an eye-opening argument.

A super sweet website/blogsite by and for young feminists called All Girl Army: http://www.allgirlarmy.org/

where are all the grrrlz?

"When being "young" is discursively linked with inexperience, the critiques issued by those identified as "young" become constructed as naive, disrespectful, and historically uninformed." (Eisenhaur p. 82). I have heard so many times coming either from jobs, school programs, and my parents that I'm simply too young and don't have enough "experience" yet. I think that to use this as an excuse so to not include people is the biggest cop out feminism can take. The way feminism is structured today in most feminist discourse is by using the "wave" system. First, second, and third to be exact. This structure is completely damning to what feminism is trying to accomplish in my opinion. We have alienated ourselves from each other so much that it's no wonder grrrlz are weary of becoming involved in the movement.

This so-called experience that we all need to have is a ridiculous concept. Because this of course leads to the merry-go-round of well, if I need experience how do I get it if no one will give me a chance until I have it. If more grrrlz could recognize that there is power in their youth I think they could strike a revolution completely backed just by them. Youth is one of the most terrifying things to older generations. We have new ideas, different ways of thinking, and a vitality that they once had. However I feel like grrrlz are constantly being made to feel as though they cannot participate without full "adult" supervision. Like with "New Moon" the magazine made for/by grrrlz. Even though it is completely all about grrrlz there is still the lingering adult supervision. I feel like this puts an automatic cap on some outlets of creativity even if they are not really capping it specifically.

I have met so many amazing grrrlz 18 and under who are doing so many amazing things for feminism just in groups of five or less. From small scale zine making to travelling around the country at young ages when most "adults" would say that it's a bad idea. These grrrlz are taking control of their lives in ways that we have always been told not to. I found this blogging website "All Girl Army" a while back and stumbled upon it again today. While I think it's a great example of grrrlz and womyn doing feminism it still has the constructs of the adult womyn running it. http://www.allgirlarmy.org/blog/heather/2006/06/welcome_to_the_all_girl_army

This website gives grrrlz a chance to write openly about feminism and politics and have a safe community to turn to when they need it.

Bring Your Daughters

So I got this idea that feminism to young girls is a lot like listening to our parents music, in a way. When you're young (for me anyways) you grow up listening to your parents music, hearing about their times, their experiences, the concerts and even though the music and time means a lot to them,you can't really/fully relate to it. The beats and the message are not speaking to you, growing up in a new age. The things they attended sound cool, but you don't know that much about that time and what they were searching for. And since you didn't live it first hand you can feel inadequate. That is when you start listening to the total opposite of your parents, they cannot understand it but you love it because it speaks to you, its current, they don't get it and that makes it solely you. Eventually you learn more about your parents and their experiences and once you get to a certain point you can appreciate their music and what it stood for and see how a lot of your own music taste is derived from the past and you incorporate the past tunes into your daily playlist. This is a little all over the place, but what I am trying to symbolize is that feminism, to people who were not exposed to it at an early age, can seem like an awesome past event that took place. Issues that were fought are not always appreciated (like parents music) at a young age and you strive to find your own issues and feel like older women would not understand what you're going through. But they do. And you do not realize it till you are a little older and can see that your issues today are special, but come from what was fought for in the past. And you can incorporate what past feminists stood for into what you stand for now and in that manner feminism becomes a constant continuation-like a family tree,with different branches and issues that are important but at the root is a movement. Like everyones different playlists but some songs everybody knows and loves, and you connect with others by singing along to them together.

Singing along to a song with a group of random people can almost instantly make you relate to each other and share an experience. And that feeling is at the heart of feminism in the fact that it is a collective, a group. That mentality that needs to continue on. As I read about how girls are breaking away from the group idea, " because of a new emphasis on individualization and personal choice that pervades late modern societies, their solutions to these structural problems tend to be individual rather than collective," I became overwhelmed for them (Young Femininity, 196). Girls and older girls (womyn) need a good group atmosphere and feminism can be that. Girls today are in the know and are much more aware of feminism but some are deliberately disassociating themselves with the term. As Sharpe writes, ' the ideas and values they express are still feminist, but by not labeling them as such they miss out on the power and pleasure of shared identification...' that idea needs a good 180 twist. To ideas and values be feminist but also that girls want to associate themselves with it and to have girls realize how diverse yet encompassing feminism can be for them (Young Femininity, 196). It is difficult for the movement to continue and grow if there is inner resentment. Like the idea that second wavers think that girls are ungrateful for the privileges they have now, and that can cause rifts and voids. I like how it was expressed by Jennifer and Amy in All About the Girl (don't know how to italicize) "It hurts to see the manifestations in future generations of what one has longed for for oneself. The feminists who implored gilrs to be "strong, smart and bold" got what they wished for. Some still need to recognize that the wish came true. And perhaps younger women need to share some of their entitlement with older women..." (67). By having girls of all ages (because when do you really become an adult? I still feel like a girl) share and tell their side of the story all the confusion could be erased. Older girls could see what their fight manifested into, like girl rock camps!

My girls doing feminism was the film Girls Rock http://www.girlsrockmovie.com/ which is a movie but also a real camp that has become worldwide! They hand girls the microphone and let their voice be heard, through song. The girls work together in forming a band and in turn build community with each other. Girls doing rock in the name of feminism may not have been what the 2nd wavers were directly fighting for but indirectly it has come from that. Girls can bridge the gap between feminism and those who doubt its authenticity or think it has become to broad by showing its many faces. Girls can be feminine and be a feminist, by keeping in mind that the content of the person is more important and should be the focus rather than what the person is wearing, their accessories their makeup etc. (All About the Girl 62). Older girls can share in their new success with younger girls, whether it be through sharing stories, asking for advice, or doing something creative like a girl rock band. There needs to be a stronger interest for girls to be feminists and only by really showing how amazing, collective and strengthening feminism is can that be accomplished. We still have old myths circulating, but by showing people at a young age what feminism really is, and how they can make it their own, the movement can become stronger and by connecting older girls to younger we can become more unified.

Do the girlie thing

I love being girlie. I also love being a Feminist. But what I love the most, is that I can be both. I truly enjoyed Jennifer and Amy's essay in All About The Girl, because it really does go into how we as the Third Wave should not feel inadequate for liking pink, high heels, makeup, and Barbie. We can fully enjoy all of these things that are "girlie" and still be the powerful women that we are. That is what the First and Second Wave paved for us, choice. The choice to wear and do whatever we want. If we want to play sports than we can, if we want to sit around and knit, than we can. I love how Third Wave embraces this thought whole heartedly. I definitely feel like we as the Third Wave have it SO much easier than the previous women before us, because they had to fit a certain persona, and had to reject the girlie in order to be a good Feminist and to fight patriarchy. Now we understand and see how the media influences us, but if we enjoy wearing makeup, then we do it for ourselves. We get to do what makes us feel good whether it is rejecting the norm or accepting it. 
The Spice Girls were also brought up several times like they always are whenever Girl Power is discussed, and my thing is this, I feel like The Spice Girls are always highly dissed, and I don't feel like they should be as much as they are. Yes, I do agree with the fact that they do not fully represent women and definitely do not portray the Girl Power that should be, but shouldn't they get a little respect? I mean at least there was a girl group that was pop instead of punk-rock, because maybe punk-rock isn't everyone's "cup of tea," maybe others prefer the light beats of "Wannabe," but they don't want to listen to Britney Spears. I remember growing up and really enjoying The Spice Girls, because I thought they were so cool, and I loved how they had Girl Power. Not going to lie, I felt a little empowered in third grade when listening to them. But yes I fully agree and understand with the consumerism concept of Girl Power, as well as the misrepresentation of what Girl Power actually is. Because even though there were five women in the spotlight always shouting "Girl Power!" they never tried to encourage girls to get involved politically, or sang about how beautiful you are as a girl no matter what you looked like or what you had. 
My example of girls doing Feminism is on engineergirl.com, and it is this website for girl that would like to become an engineer one day with fun facts, why to become an engineer and 
profiles of women that are already engineers. Why I choose this website, is because engineering has always been a "man's" job. Men are good at math. Men are good at science. Men are smart. 
But so are women. Women are all of these things and more, and engineering is not just for men. This website opens the door to young girls that are interested in engineering, but have always 
heard these negative statements against them about becoming an engineer. We (girls/women) should not want to be like men, but instead celebrate the differences between men and women, 
and like what Stoller said, "In fact, we should bring feminine things into masculine spaces" (Baumgardner and Richards 63).

Of course our reading relates to Women's Studies and Girls Studies, because the struggles and insecurities that we face as young girls carries on with us as we grow into women. If we as young girls knew everything that we do know, then obviously we would know how to counteract the pressure from society, the media, and friends and family. By studying young girls and understanding what we as older Feminists can do to help will definitely help these girls be able to develop into powerful women. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let's stick together like peanutbutter and jelly (unless you're allergic to or don't like peanubutter, and then we can use almond butter ?)

Yo, so here we go, do girls need feminism?

I'm going to talk about the U.S.

I think it's obvious that girls get pushed around, judged by their looks, sexually assaulted, taught to fear men, taught to fear authorities, used for the pocket change they have to spend at Hollister and Hannah Montana conerts...The debate over whether girls "have it all" or not is ridiculous: white girls with money don't have the same power in our society that white men, women, or boys do. And a person who says to working class girl of color that *if she works really hard*, she can be Donald Trump with all his power, deserves serious dismissal.

And of course here in the U.S. we're sold a storyline our whole lives that boys and girls are equal, just different. So when we notice that we have a lot more pressure to look right and act right, instead of having the tools to get together as girls do something about the way we're treated, we consider it just a normal part of being a girl.

I thought about what Young Femininity says on the topic of telling girls to fix their own problems, alone, (I think usually through good grades, looking good, and making money). "Budgeon suggests that young women perceive gender inequalities in social relations, and name them as such. However, because of a new emphasis on individualization and personal choice that pervades late modern societies, their solutions to these structural problems tends to be individual rather than collective" (196).

It made me ponder, where do we see girls getting together and demanding change? Social movements of girls? Who are their targets? What would the demands be?
I had a super nice, comfortable growing up experience but on the stuff that did make me angry I'm not sure how we could have addressed the problems collectively. I dealt with body image and appearance issues a lot, of course, and with feeling objectified by/being in love with men teachers. Also, I had a lot of stress around making stellar grades and balancing extracurriculars with being a good, caring, nurturing friend and family member. Okay I'm going to brainstorm collective action campaigns that we girls could have launched...more on this later.

Is the feminism the answer? I am a feminist, and feminism is the tool that I use to look at power imbalances in the world. I think feminists as an international movement are committed to identifying inequality and bullying/domination of all forms and struggling to replace it with communication, understanding, and the sharing of resources.

Not everyone views feminism this way though. The quote from Green on disabilities is challenging to us able-bodied feminists:
"the movement has come far in acknowledging the diversity of women with respect to ethnicity, sexual preference, and economic status. But where the movement still fails miserably is in disability. Women with disabilities are grossly concentrated in the margins. We are women, yet our histories are ignored" (197).
If feminism has ignored women and girls with disabilities, why should they reclaim it and expand it as their own? Maybe their analysis of power and privelege and justice will be centered around anti-ableism. Maybe girls who have been excluded from an "adult" feminist movement need girlism, not feminism. I think that if feminism is adaptable to any oppressed group, or else it's not being true to its principles. I guess my response is that yes, girls need the tools to make lasting improvements in their lives, and that yes it needs to change society, and that yes that takes people working together because when we don't have power, we need numbers and stick-together-ness. So yes, everyone needs feminism. [And I know what other people need, dammit! ; )] But if folks want don't want to be ""feminists"", whatever, you know?

Girls doing feminism:
Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) is a youth led organization in 6 underfunded highschools in Philly that demands a high quality education in their public schools and focuses on building student power and organizing skills for social change. Racism, the gross inequalities in distribution of resources, and the increasing presence of private businesses making money in public schools are central in their analysis. I met two activists from PSU, Zakia and Eric, this weekend at a Student/Farmworker Alliance conference. PSU is building a seriously powerful high school movement in their area. While I haven't seen any place where Philadelphia Student Union uses the word feminism as part of their analysis, I think the girls who participate are doing feminism in the sense that they are taking collective action to resist being used as "products" in the privatization of schools, in the words of PSU activist Zakia. Also, the students use organizing tactics that are characteristics of feminist organizing, including consensus decision-making, DIY (doityourself) media, and demanding to confront authorities by speaking for themselves.

I didn't find anywhere on their page where gender inequality is used as part of their analysis, and I saw that the group's "sex" on myspace is male. The areas I noticed where they do pay attention to gender are staffing and gender based meetings. One half of their adult staff is made up of women, and there are weekly meetings of Bros and Soul Sistas. "Soul Sistas is the young women’s empowerment group of the Philadelphia Student Union. It meets every other week and is open to all female-identified members. It is a space where young women can talk honestly about what is going on in their lives and receive support from trained mentors and health educators who are former members of PSU." The description for the Bros group is the same, but insert "male-identified members."



Are girls post-feminism?/girl girly girlie/REALLY?

In essay after essay, the question being asked seems to be "Are today's girls beyond feminism?" or "Is feminism relevant to them?" Apparently we must re-think feminism within the context of girlhood. I don't really get it. How is feminism not already relevant?

Girls may or may not claim the word. Still, how many women claim the word? Are women today "doing" a new breed of feminism, minus the ideology, beyond the ideology? Following advances of the first and second waves, are women just out there, living their lives, with no more need for feminism? This has been a topic of much debate, with many women answering an emphatic "Yes!" That women feel strong and empowered enough to reject the "F-word" is a sign of progress. I would also argue that the media and other powers that be don't want women to have access to feminist thought. Are women poor, helpless, living in the dark? Of course not. That said, I still strongly believe that the spread of feminist thought is integral to progress and social change.

So, okay, I get it. Girls are out there playing sports, wearing glitter sparkle "You Go Gurl" t-shirts, and becoming student body president. They don't call themselves feminists or identify with feminist thought. They don't claim it. (And why would they? I vividly remember from my girlhood a history teacher writing on the chalkboard as an actual, serious vocabulary word "feminazi." That's pretty much the most mention feminism or women's movements got.) They're just out there doing it, while we, whoever we is, sit, old-farts reminiscing about the olden days.

Just because the fruit of past women's struggles is now present, everyday, on the lunch trays of this generation of girls, does not mean that feminism needs to be rethought or that we are talking about a different entity when we talk about girls' empowerment. Girls are still connected to the legacy and future of feminism. Girls (and women for that matter) are doing feminism, label or no label, in the way that they so choose. Isn't choice part of the main point?

I wish that the label that I hold so dear to my heart didn't have such a stigma attached to it. Perhaps I'm forcing a lable, but ideally, in my mind, they would be using the word. Girls Studies is Women's Studies and Women's Studies is feminism. The difference with Girls Studies is its a study from the outside, which can always be problematic.

[[Speaking of problematic, we have an essay entitled "Feminism and Femininity: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Thong" by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards. They are certainly studying girls from the outside and a very strange, offensive one at that. I wonder how many girls, whose fingernail polish they so admire and write pages and pages of drivel about, would be angered by their assertion that "strong", "smart", "bold", "sporty", "powerful" and "political" are all masculine qualities. I thought that they were neutral and not tied to gender, but what do I know. Also, apparently the word "girl" has such an intensely strong stigma attached to that it must be reclaimed in much the same manner as the word "nigger." Who knew?

Here we have two worshipped third-wave feminist icons suggesting that feminine girls and women are somehow oppressed and must break free from their chains. (I thought that females' femininity was encouraged within society and made life easier if embraced...) What we really have is a horrific perpetuation of dangerous stereotypes that are full of the very nonsense that drive girls away from feminism. (i.e.: There are lots of feminists that are scary, scary, hairy, hairy manhaters! You shouldn't like them. We're cool, though.) News flash: There is no Feminist Police and they are not checking to see if you shaved your legs or put on lip gloss today and therefore are not welcome in the secret clubhouse. There ARE imperative critiques of the way that patriarchy socializes girls to behave. These critiques are then misinterpreted and misrepresented as critiques of individual women, either victims or traitors for their individual behavior. These misinterpretations and misrepresentations are then used to prevent relationships of girls to feminism and to divide feminists into sects. Voila!]]

The relationship between girls and feminism may be a complicated one, but girls are definitely doing feminism. Some of them are doing it in ways that challenge gender stereotypes and binaries and some of them are embracing femininity and finding empowerment within that. There are lots of different relationships that girls can have to feminism. Girls have definitely embraced the values of choice that have been passed down.

My example website of girls "doing" feminism is not a website that was created by girls, but is one that is utilized by girls. It is the VaginaPagina community on Livejournal. Girls frequently post to it looking for answers about sex, their bodies and relationships. I see this as a way of them taking control over their own lives and seeking out the knowledge that is not provided to them. Link: http://community.livejournal.com/vaginapagina/

Solutions, not criticism

When I was younger and I thought about feminism, I associated it (of course) with angry women who stopped shaving and hated men. I didn't really see this as negative, though. I thought they were just tired of having to clean up after every one and wanted actual jobs. But I also thought that this was a movement only associated with the '70s - one that was long gone.
I'm grateful that I had a fairly neutral perception of feminism because otherwise I might not have been as receptive when I took Intro. to Women's Studies last summer. After experiencing my "click," I came to realize that I had always been a feminist without realizing it. I truly think this is the case with most younger girls, especially because childhood/early adolescence is when a girl's self-esteem is the highest. The problem here is the feminist label. So what do we do about it?
I remember previously discussing (I think in Third Wave) instituting Women's Studies classes at an elementary/middle school level. The problem was that feminism is too "political" for public school. As much as that sucks, I think we need to focus on ways to get around it.
A lot of the reading was so focused on why and how girls aren't feminist - the "generational debates," the divide between the waves, the harm done by "Girl Power," etc., and I found that really frustrating. I realize that not all of it was, but I felt more barraged by the negative than anything else. In "Young Femininity" in the section called "Acknowledging but Criticizing Young Feminism" (what the hell?) there is something that I think is notable:

Garnet writes that young women's feminism represents the 'creation of a political position based on the virtue of helplessness.' She suggests that when they enact feminism by pressing charges for sexual harassment, for example, they demonstrate the problematic development of a feminist identity based on priggishness, a fear of sexuality and disempowerment." She argues that this kind of activism is a misunderstanding of the politics of feminism, as laid out by the second wave.*

I don't think we need to analyze this passage to realize that it is problematic in many ways. However, this is merely one example.

I just think it sucks that there is so much negativity coming from the previous wave(s). Like this sentence: "...This argument is consistent with the broader attack on young women for being 'ungrateful', in that it claims feminism as something that is owned by the previous generation and can only be passed on to appropriate heirs." What the hell is that? The worst part of this is that it's kind of like victim-blaming. How are little girls supposed to stand up and call themselves feminists when they're surrounded by anti-feminism at every turn and have no mentors to teach them otherwise?

What I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't focus so much on a generational gap. The truth is that times have changed and feminists aren't fighting for the same things they once were (for the most part - hey, still no ERA!). Instead of criticizing little girls for wanting to wear make-up and not spouting feminist rhetoric, let's take what we can get and help them in ways we can. We can't put Women's Studies classes into public schools? Well at least we have awesome programs like YWLP. Girls spend too much time reading harmful teeny-bopper magazines? Maybe we can spread the word about (or start up!) magazines like New Moon. Girls don't appreciate the hard work of their feminist foremothers? They why can't we work to alter the history programs/books in schools to include more HERstory so girls learn what it was like to have no rights at all?

When it comes down to it, we're all people and we all want equal rights. So why not focus more on solutions than criticism?

*This passage reminded me quite a bit of stuff we had read in Third Wave about Kaitie Roiphe. Everything we read about her was really negative but there's a passage about her on page 202 of Young Femininity that makes her sound really positive. Now I'm just confused. I guess I should just read The Morning After for myself, but I was wondering if anyone else noticed this and what you had thought.

My example of Girls Doing Feminism is the All Girl Army!

- Bianca

They Say Feminist Like It’s A Nasty Insult

I want to start my post off by first discussing the “Your Life As A Girl” article, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I felt such a connection to this story, almost as if I wrote it. So many times while reading it I just wanted to start crying. I seriously can’t tell you how many times I have had my mother tell me, “Amanda, if keep being mean to boys they won’t like you.” Seriously, mom, seriously! She would always tell me that I intimidate boys and I should be nicer to them. Almost everything in this article I have felt or have been told… “Aren’t you being a bit vicious? You’re intimidating them. The boys in your class will never think you’re beautiful. Boys can save you. Wait till college where dozens of guys will treat you nicely.” This is without my favorite article I have ever read and want everyone I know to read it.

I think girls should really get in touch with feminism at a young age as it could help with the struggles they may face doing adolescent. Even though I’m only 20, I think young girls have it a lot easier now days to join feminism then we did. Girls even have three “types” of feminism that they can connect with…power feminism, DIY and grrrlpower, and the third wave. I think these “types” of feminism can help girls and show them that they can be a part of whatever kind of feminism that they choose.

It’s important though that when we introduce girls to feminism we go about it the right way. I agree with Baumgardner and Richards when they say “it’s no better to teach girls to take on male values than it is to force them into stereotypical female roles” (Feminism and Femininity, 65). Girls should be who they want to be and understand that they don’t have to live up to the standards society sets. In Feminism and Femininity, Baumgardner and Richards bring up the point that “girlie is too often expressed by what young women wear and thus what gets focused on is the accessory, not the content of the person wearing it. “ (62).

I really like the quote by Baumgardner and Richards, “Feminists who implored girls to be strong, smart, and bold got what they wished for. Some still need to recognize that the wish came true. And perhaps younger women need to share some of their entitlement with older women, imploring them to just do it and be strong, smart, and bold” (Feminism and Femininity, 67).

My example of girls “doing” feminism… http://empoweragirl.org/pages/page.php?pageid=1

Wizard of Oz, Gertrude Stein, Girls....and Feminism?

I feel that the relationship between girls and feminism is, in one word; confused. Even in programs created on the foundation of feminism, such as YWLP, the “f-word” is one that is strictly forbidden.” While the girls think they know nothing about this land-mine of a word, they are taught methods of autonomy, competence, and connection among women, which unbeknownst to them, are the principles of feminism. They excel, blossom, and become independent under these lessons, all the while still feeling negativism or puzzlement in regards to the mythical ideal which is feminism. Although it is frustrating to know that a 12 year old who has just become more active in the community, more independent, and more confident in her own capabilities all due to feminism is still harboring pessimism towards the very thing providing her a newfound strength and belief, it is important to remember that a title isn’t everything. I understand why we can not present feminism as a term on a silver platter, because I understand that the survival of the program rests on not scaring the parents, the school system, and the financial supporters with the negative reactions associated with the history and sometimes radical nature of feminism. And the existence of such programs is more important than being able to tell them the origins of what we teach. A rose is a rose is a rose. It is what it is. It is enough that they are given the tools to land on their own two feet. It is enough that in our last meeting of the school year, one of the girls said, “I love YWLP because it taught me to love myself, and that I can do anything.” I am confident that the confusion will subside, and that the confusion is good; it will fuel them to discover their own path. If they discover and adopt feminism on their own, the connection will be 10,000 times more powerful than if we present it to them as such. Confusion is not always a bad thing. I think that too often, we rush to ease discomfort with a band-aid, when we should let time do the healing. Rushing to ease the confusion felt in adolescence with what we have learned out of our own confusion will not make it better. Adolescence is a time of growth, pain, joy, unsettlement, and self-discovery. Attempting to remove the journey with all of our answers; the answers that worked for us as individuals, is not the answer. The answer, I feel, is to give girls the power to learn what works for them. One day they will look back and realize, “Wait…I have been a feminist all along.” I don’t know why, but I was just reminded of the dialogue from the end of The Wizard of Oz:
Scarecrow: Look! Here's someone who can help you.
Dorothy: Oh - will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power. You’ve always had it in you.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn't you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Tin Man: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I - I think that if I ever go lookingfor my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard,because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with. Is that right?
Glinda: That's all it is!

There is a difference between studying feminism and living it. In Baumgardner and Richards’ Feminism and Feminity: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Thong, the idea of femininity as a source of strength, and the idea of living as a feminist without hating men, giving up dresses, or feeling pressure to live without what we sometimes desire (fashion magazines, nail polish, girly music, etc) made me really happy to read. I sometimes battle guilt and confliction over whether or not I should read Glamour, or shell out 16 dollars for the new MAC eyeliner; and I feel part of the rejection girls feel towards the “f-word” has something to do with their association of feminism with feeling badly about valuing ‘trivial’ and ‘girly’ things. As much as I am aware of the detriments of reading Cosmopolitan, or worrying about having the latest and greatest beauty products, I still want to read magazines and buy new face masks. Reading this chapter alleviated a lot of the shame I have felt over the years of believing and wondering whether my actions would be disapproved under a feminist ideology. The element of accepting femininity in third-wave feminism is something which I think will ultimately aid in the transition from young girls leading a feminist life without even knowing it, to embracing the history and knowledge available in classes such as Women’s and Girl’s Studies.


check it outttt:

Young feminism? Girl Feminists? Girl Studies!

I was trying to find the right title and for a moment I actually thought I originally thought of girl studies to describe feminism including young girls. I think the first thing I thought of was that would girls feel included in feminism? Would the issues really involve them now or just their future? Then it also occurred to me that young feminism might still look like the Spice Girls, with pink or some glitter and I really don't know if that's ok with every feminist. In our previous readings I felt the book came off as rather elitist, that spice girls weren't good enough to be feminist because they were mostly pretty white girls. So I'm kind of stuck in the relationship of girls and feminism. I mean all women were girls, we speak about issues affecting girls so I see how feminism relates to girls but I'm not sure I see how girls relate to feminism if that makes sense. I kind of see a one way relationship going on.

So I guess the question is, how do we include girls in feminism? Again I see marketing of pink and glitter slogans. Sexual issues can't always come up because some parents don't discuss it and some girls are growing up in an abstinence only sex education world. I find it hard to get girls interested in women's rights. A place I feel has done that subtly is YWLP at UCF. We get these girls interested in topics that affects them as girls. We also teach them how to get along with other girls by losing gossip and being positive about women. I really think this is a good thing to focus on right now, girls may not be activists in the way we protest but they do it in school by telling another girl that they aren't interested in gossip, and saying girls can be just as good at sports and math then boys.

Saying that my example of girls doing feminism would have to be YWLP.
The site explains some of the curriculum and its goal to make strong female leaders.

it's all in the name, right?

What troubles me most with the Third Wave is that it is still continuing its effort to define ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ as touched upon throughout this week’s article in All About the Girl. Although girls today can be seen praised for holding a baseball bat with polished fingernails, the focus is heavily placed upon the fact that she has combined these two ‘differing’ elements rather than upon her performance as an athlete. I understand that labels can help find one’s identity, but why must we find a name before an action? I say put all of the children’s toys together-advertise men wearing make up above Mary Kay’s row of lipsticks-address each other as person instead of ‘girl’, ‘boy’, ‘man’, ‘woman’. Let the youth decide what they are attracted to without calling it ‘girlie’, because as soon as this label is attached to their person, a sense of obligation to maintain it will follow.

I know this might sound utopian and confusing. I’m still working out the kinks with this abstract idea. All I know is that not having to conform to a prescribed identity is a great way of achieving self-assurance. If we are going to continue these specific groupings of people such as girlie, we should at least create more options. Perhaps this is why so many people are having trouble connecting to the movement because it is still seen as an inflexible group, even though this is the exact opposite of the movement’s goals. And even though the movement is constantly battling the stereotype that all feminists are lesbians or anti-make up etc. etc., we shouldn’t forget that there are still a lot of people who are those things(!) and more importantly, accepting of those who do adorn heels and glitter…

Well, I hope you all can help me figure this thought out. And check out this awesome site about girls creating their own media!


Girlhood and Feminism

It seems like if you use the word feminist to describe yourself today, you are going to get an earful of mixed opinions. All too often people relate the word with a negative meaning and picture a group of women from the 1950’s and 60’s. This is not saying this group of women had a negative impact; it is just that viewpoints among women and girls today are different than that time period. Women from the second wave obviously made huge strides for women, and Harris made a good point by saying “these girls of yesteryear were protected rather than challenged, and restricted rather than encouraged (p.60).” This is a good comparison of the differences between girls today and girls from decades ago. So if the women and times have changed so much, can’t the idea of feminism?

Younger feminists today do not necessarily like to be called by such a title, even though they stand for a lot of the same ideas. Women from the third wave are building on the progress of the past and making it easier for girls to participate in feminists’ activities without being scared to stand up for herself or being part of the stereotypes that come along with it. Girls that believe in taking a stand should not feel ashamed of being “girlie” either; that should be part of the fun.

“I think activism is about the belief in change and vision of a better society/environment. It can occur on any level…(Young Femininity, p. 209).” This is a great quote for girls; activism does not necessarily have to be marching around to show your belief or protest against an issue you feel strongly about, but do something that proves a point to yourself. Too many people assume that is all that feminists do. Girls have a much louder voice than we did 50 or 60 years ago, let someone hear it.

This is a web site from the American Psychological Association on “A new look at adolescent girls: Strengths and stresses.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"I'm not a feminist, but..."

In the past, I have been severely annoyed by the reluctance of friends, educators, clubs, and even activists for women's rights, to call themselves feminists. On the first day of my Sexual Behavior class, Dr. Fischer explained that he describes himself has an "egalitarianist," rather than a feminist, because he beleives that feminism is "anti-men."

In addition, when it comes to young girls, most cannot relate to the term "feminism" at all. In my opinion, this is mostly because of lack of education on the subject and a culturally perceived stereotype of the "butch, man-hating, bra burning" feminist. In other words, a "feminist" is thought of as a one dimensional, negative character. Similarly, on page 197 of Young Femininity, the author explains that girls are reluctant to use the term "feminist" because it is seen as non inclusive. Though there clearly is a need for a collective, unified women's movement in which girls also participate and identify with, calling the movement "feminism" seems to turn girls off.

Then there is girl power. As exemplified by the Spice Girls in their book, Girl Power (what a surprising title), "feminism has become a dirty word. Girl Power is just a nineties way of saying it. We can give feminism a kick up the arse." When I read this, I was shocked. Having grown up with the Spice Girls, I always associated them with female bonding, personal freedom, and being yourself. But I had no idea that the Spice Girls so adamantly lashed out against feminism! I may have a whole different opinion of them now, actually...
However, I can't deny that I felt empowered by them as a girl. And I was not alone. In a study cited on page 200 of Young Femininity, the strongest messages that girls who were Spice Girls fans received were of girls' independence and self worth.

So maybe girl power isn't so bad after all?

The later texts assigned for this week described projects that young girls were working on, political projects that implemented real change in policy (for example, one girl successfully campaigned for a new sexual harassment policy at her school). In almost all these instances, girls were not self described "feminists," but clearly had feminist values and were making progress in standing up for their equality. In agreement with Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, maybe we need to stop worrying so much about the lables and recognize young girls for their acheivements. However, I still believe that there needs to be a movement to educate girls about feminism (shameless plug for YWLP! =D)

This is a really cool program where girls in the US work together to help out girls in other countries.

Where can I get some Girl Power?

As Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner state in Feminism and Femininity: "We see third wave not as a specific set of assumptions or theories, but as an evolution of feminism building on previous generations" (63), I believe that this is the way girls are brought up; girls come from a variety of backgrounds and then grow for against their families and the cultural standards that raise them.

This made me think more about “Girl Power” and its relationship with feminism and girls. On pages 71 and 72 of All about the Girl, Jessica Taft talks about this type of “contained expression of strength” which is seen as more ideally “girlie” and capable, but still “make(s) no indication that this alternative is a project for social or political change”. I felt that this was the perfect description of how Girl Power exists in our culture today. It is sold on Wal-mart shelves and bought up by consumers who still function under the rules of Girls rule and Boys drool, which still forces children to choose a side and act through hierarchy.

I also viewed this as a sort of joke between parents, that “Oh, kids!” response which assumes that these social issues don’t play crucial roles in the lives of children. I saw two notebooks in the dollar bin, on a middle school girl eye-level shelf that said “Gossip starter” and “I pass notes”. Making these roles empowering functions the same way that Girl Power does: putting something buyable in front of young people in order to make them have an identity that “counts” in their social scheme of things because “When being ‘young’ is discursively linked with inexperience, the critiques issued by those identified as ‘young’ become constructed as na├»ve, disrespectful, and historically uninformed,” (82, Eisenhauer).

With all of this being said, feminism plays a sketchy role in the lives of girls. It seems so difficult to step into that deeply embedded thought process which has so thoroughly manipulated girls today. I agree that feminism should be something all of us claim for ourselves, but I also have a hard time saying that girlie is the solution to these issues. Confident women in the board room is one thing, but confident women painting their nails to prove a point is another. This is difficult for me personally because I don’t identify with being “girlie” and have some beef with saying that nice hair and painted nails dresses are naturally female traits and interests. I think that so long as we’re all mindful of why we make our decisions and proving confidence through our actions, young girls have the ability to choose that kind of feminism for themselves, too.

This awesome feature story is about a girl who took charge on her own and made a difference.


:0) Jill

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Girls Like Pink" but what does that make me?

My parents had three girls, and it just so happened that we were completely uninterested in baby dolls; rather, stuffed animals were our thing. In preschool, for our class Christmas-present swap, I got a cardboard jewelry box with white & light pink stripes and light pink roses and a light pink ribbon to open the top. It might not have been the sole pink thing I owned at the time, but it was definitely the pinkest. I don't know how long after getting it home the redecoration occurred, but for the years after that I remember the box being stamped with two brightly colored but dark-inked stamps on either side of the cover. It wasn't that I wanted to destroy the pink, I just wanted to add my own touch. It was elementary school that I learned of girl's bathrooms being layered in chalky pink paint and unappealing pink tiles and boy's in a much more aesthetically pleasing and overall cooler color of blue. "MY favorite color is blue!" I would think to myself. It simply wasn't fair that I had to bypass the blue aquarium-like setting to pee under a peach-tinted fluorescent bulb. It was then that I saw pink as a deviation from the norm, and that norm belonged to boys.

Then in middle school came the socialization of "hot pink." Girls who wore hot pink, or had hot pink backpacks, or pink lunch boxes, or pink eyeshadow with pink lipstick, or pink ribbons in their carefully straightened hair, were the girls who sighed all the time and thought it was cool to not listen to the teacher. "HELLO this is our EDUCATION here!" I would turn around and think to myself. ".... And why do you have so many 'cool' friends and if my one friend is absent I have to eat lunch with people I don't even like?!" Not only did I have social jealousy of these pink-wearing girls because of their fan-base and seemingly cooler less-controlling parents, but I also felt disdain towards their actions and what those actions implied in a social construct. In P.E., a girl in my glass wore tight bike shorts that's length were so short on her thighs that it didn't pass her vagina. Honestly I'm not making that up, I remember commenting to a friend that I couldn't believe that first she wore that and second she didn't get in trouble for it. Her standing in the middle of the field with her arms crossed talking to a friend and making the voluntary class soccer game unfold around her. Hot Pink now equated to me that I am over-sexualized and society accepts it. I can also act apathetic to other people's interests and actions and when I am required to kick, I will do so poorly because I obviously couldn't care less about your boy stuff, only how to tease you boys.

Pink = Bad and Pink = Female so Female = Bad. As a girl I adamantly rejected the color pink, because it associated me with "girly" things and to be girly is to be prissy, easily frightened, dainty, naive and overall incapable. Politically and socially inactive, as Baumgardner and Richards put it.

Once I began studying feminism I realized that I was making masculinity the norm and striving for it. How wrong I am and how conscious I am now of my newfound perspective that all things girl are NOT bad, and I should NOT feel "ashamed" in loving the girly things that I do.

I just got a job at Smoothie King. I sat patiently for 20 minutes past my scheduled interview time. I waited quietly with my ankles crossed under my lacy skirt for the smoothie-rush to pass. Once inside I giggled at the right times and answered my interviewer's questions with cute yet confident quips. Once he offered a hot pink Smoothie King t-shirt I blurted out AH OTHER COLOR DO YOU HAVE. Aside from the broken English, it wasn't even posed as a question.

It isn't Girly stuff that I avoid, I love girl things, I really do. Feminine touches and lace and giggles and higher-pitched voices. Sweet stuff. Whatever. My issue is the generic girly things and attitudes automatically associated/assigned to me because I am a girl.

What needs to be done is a conscious separation of the girly things we know and love (because YES THEY'RE AWESOME) from the air-headed ideas we're supposed to represent. Girls ARE strong and Girls ARE powerful! I'm excited to participate in a community who thinks so as well, and as third wave feminisms grow I believe that peoples' understandings of patriarchal oppression will as well.

In the mean time... here are some links to articles talking about Girls and Pink, because it is interesting to see what everyone's opinion is of the color and what it represents (in order of what I think is most interesting).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Its about what we CAN be not what we cant be

Previous waves of feminists inspire me, they don’t just inspire me they inspired my whole world. They allowed me and future generations to grow in a space unlike theirs. As much as I admire them I do think it’s only natural for the course of feminism to change with the ever changing society. I think it’s true when Baumgardner and Ricahrds say we don’t spend enough time talking about feminism and "what it can be." The idea of Girl tells me I'm allowed to be a feminist in any way I want. I don’t have to reject girl things to embrace a feminist identity. I can wear pink, or paint my nails, or wear a dress, or decorate my room in glitter without conforming to traditional girl norm. The beauty of the girl (which I see in direct relation with third wave) is she has the choice to do these things. If a girl wants to grow up and own a bakery that’s okay. If she wants to grow up and play a sport that’s okay too. "When were feeling girlie, it's because we feel independent, irreverent, and free from judgment-and this could happen at nine or ninety." I love thinking of girlie as this instead of an age because it embodies what previous waves have done for us and all that we can be because of them. I also really connected with the section in the readings that talked about bringing feminine things into masculine space. I feel like it’s a modern jab at our patriarchal society for women to "paint her nails during the coffee break in the board meeting." It’s embracing girl and power all at once. It’s to show someone can be a business woman and work with men and still act like a girl and be accepted.
On a last note I found it really interesting that 3rd wavers are opening up girlie space for men’s girlie aspects. Third wave is so encompassing and this is just one step forward to breaking down gender roles. The girl ideal doesn’t discriminate; it’s whatever you want it to be.

For my example of girls doing feminism I found last years winning entry to the "love your body day" poster contest for the elementary/ middle school age group. Younger girls who can already understand what is being imposed on them are such hope!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Am I really a Feminist? Do I Want to Be?

Many women and girls do not think the label or movement of feminism is necessary any more. This is a result of our age, we grew up already having the right previous generations had to fight for. Those girls and women that see the need and are interested in greater freedom and equality for women, are scared to define themselves as “feminists” because of the negative connotation the word holds, even if they are doing “feminist works”. Speaking as someone who was called an idiot, dike, and bitch for declaring myself a feminist to others, I agree with the commentators that argue “Too much concern with labels interferes with our perception of the feminist work young women are actually engaging in.” (Young Feminity, 197) We need to somehow find a way to flip the word “feminist” so that it is seen in a positive light and non-threatening, or we need to adopt new words like “womanist” that are not so well-known and defined.

“Feminine things weren’t the problem; being forced to adopt them was. When we’re feeling girlie, it’s because we feel independent, irreverent, and free from judgment.” (Harris, 61) Heck ya! I struggled for a long time with how I could label myself a feminist and still buy strawberry lip gloss and high-heeled shoes. This chapter spoke to me. I too wondered why “given that girlie is associated with qualities feminists are arguing for- why then, is it so often interpreted as a rejection of feminism?” (Harris, 61) Thankfully, 3rd wave feminism seeks to allow girls and women to be more comfortable to express themselves, even if they do it with glitter and nail polish. The important thing is that I am not forced to act girlie, it is a choice I made. And after reading this chapter, I feel better about it. I am a feminist.

This is my example of a girl "doing feminism." This beautiful poem was written and posted by an 8 yr-old named Christa


Every girl deserves a choice

To use her mind

To use her voice

Every girl in every place

With every different kind of face

Should have a chance

To make a song

Or make a dance

That says I am strong

I am here

I am me

And this is how my world should be.


I've noticed that when I think of Girls Studies, I tend to acknowledge that I know very little about girlhood outside of my wmc 'white middle class' experience, and that I want to and need to learn about what girlhood is like for everyone who isn't part of my tiny subsection of girls. Really though, even though I acknowledge that I'm in a hyper privileged minority, my real tendency is to define everything in Girls Studies according to my experience. Having a space to reflect on and analyze my experience of girlhood is almost too tempting. My memories and stories of growing up and how my culture and family and friends and institutions influenced me, and how I influenced them, is a realm inside my head that I can explore and share for long chunks of time because it's personal...and who doesn't want to hear how I got to be the fab person I am? ; ).
So first I noticed that I tend to define Girls Studies along my experience of girlhood, and perhaps moreso than other women because girlhood was so recent for me. I considered myself a girl up to somewhere in my 18-19year-old-ness. And it's always dangerous to study a group of people from the outside, right? The dangers of assumptions and generalizations are everywhere. The authors of Young Feminity include the "feminist disclaimers" in their introduction: Our research is limited and in some ways limiting, When we include girls' voices "[w]e do not contend that...we are presenting the 'authentic voices' of girls of attempting to capture the truth from girls themselves" (16).
So here I am at age 19. My girlhood is recent and yet I, a woman--or at least an adult, have somehow distanced myself from that section of my life. I don't consider myself a girl, and I am studying girls.
And then something clicks. Who says I ever was a girl? How could I be a girl at 18 and a woman at 19? Why do I have to discard my girl self and distance myself from her to become a woman? Why can't I just be a person from the time I'm born to the time I die...who is defining me as girl child and woman adult...and WHY? And why do I accept these outside definitions to the point that I think of my life as broken into two chunks?
So it turns out girlhood is a construction, eh? It's funny how I think about the genders man and woman as "constructions"--categories people in societies have cooked up and attached values and rules to--but I haven't thought of age categories as society's constructions.

I have lots of ideas about how adults benefited from me considering myself a girl, who was less than a woman, as I was "growing up". I wonder how I treat girls as less than women now, now that I've graduated to the real-person-grown-up-adult-woman category. Even though I try not to.
And what do you know? It's so easy to relate girls studies to my life. I feel like I should mention that I also wonder what girls in other parts of the world (or girls who aren't white and middle class in the U.S., or girls who are white and middle class but aren't me) think about being part of the fuzzy, made-up category 'girl'.

girls and feminism

When I was younger, I remember thinking that feminism was a nice way of saying lesbian, or a way of labeling a girl as “different.”  One thing is for sure, it was a degrading term that my mother would become suspiciously aware of if it ever found its way into our Southern Baptist home.  In high school, my best friend was a lesbian and my mother seriously warned me against hanging out with her or inviting her over for fear that I would “catch” her sexual orientation.  A self-proclaimed “hippie” during the 1960’s, I would have thought that my mom would recognize this kind of oppression.  I wasn’t allowed to have my friend over, but that didn’t stop me from maintaining our friendship.  It was then that I learned that feminism was a state of mind, of activism, and that it had nothing to do with who you were attracted to.


Working with Young Women’s Leaders Program, I have come to learn that feminism can be learned as a girl without ever placing the attitudes of feminism as “feminist.”  Unfortunately, this term still carries with it a negative connotation.  What we learn growing up and the experiences we have as girls, lay the foundation for the feminists we have become and the activism we choose to engage in.  As such, Girls Studies functions in an important role in relation to Women’s Studies and feminism.  Both Girls Studies and Womens Studies are areas of academic study that allow women (and girls) the freedom to explore their own individual girl power in a culture that discourages female power and comradery.    Both studies focus on the social influences and cultural situations that affect the lives of women and girls and draw attention to the fact that we should look to “fix the culture and not the girl” (pg. 23 “All About The Girl”).  

A progressive movement that allows women to not fixate themselves on age or situation, feminism allows girls and women to connect to eachother in an effort to strengthen understanding and generate a change in the way the world treats women and the way women treat eachother.  Instead of oppressing eachother, women are encouraged to be who they want to be, not flooded with images of women they aren’t capable of being (“fake women,” like the ones who are airbrushed into perfection in magazines and the media).

An example of girls “doing” feminism:


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lost Lonely and Young

Girl studies is probably the most important part of women's studies there is, at least to women. We all were girls, we all went through that lost period in our lives where we felt alone, confused and didn't realize how young we were. When I think about what things could have been done in my family, and school, and community to make this transition better for me the first thing that comes to my mind is attention! I felt like no one paid attention to me, no one gave me the knowledge I needed, nobody came along answering the questions I had but didn't know how to ask, and nobody told me how to deal with being a girl at my age. I think girl studies is very important and I'm really glad its come to UCF. Women's issues become important at a very young age and girls can benefit from learnong more about women and topics like body issues and gender roles.

The article "Your life as a girl" really hit me into remembering that time during my life and at the time it didn't seem like that big of a deal but now that I've grown out of it I know how wrong it was. It reminded me of when I got stuck in football and basketball class for gym and I was the only girl. The teacher wouldn't let me play either sport because I was a girl and he said I couldn't keep up with the boys so he made me play volleyball which I hated and refused to play. Why was volleyball a girls sport anyway? The line where she talks about looking back at old pictures from when you thought you were fat and seeing how thin you really were was familiar to me because it seems like everytime period I remembered thinking I was much bigger than I actually was.

In All About the Girl they criticized the field of girls studies. I just feel any field recieves criticism and its a good and a bad thing, it creates changes and furthers the field. But it also sets us back, why focus on the negative?

Monday, September 8, 2008

A New Wave of Girl Power

When I first heard that Girl’s Studies was being offered at UCF, I honestly believed that it was a class created specifically for our University. I assumed that we would be studying an array of issues currently affecting young girls – the influence of pop culture and mass media, body image, sexual autonomy, familial and friendly relationships, etc. – but I had no idea that Girl’s Studies was an established field of scientific and scholarly research until cracking open the books for this week’s reading. Upon finishing “Young Femininity,” I began to realize that the Girl’s Studies movement is very similar to that of the feminist Women’s movement. There have been eras, or waves, of study within the Girl’s movement that differ in the ways research has been conducted, and in the proposed methods with which to tackle and define the issues girls face on an everyday basis. According to “Young Femininity,” for example, the early Girl’s Studies researchers focused on girlhood as

“simply a physical and emotional stage of development along the linear path to female adulthood that all young women experience in more or less the same ways… experiences of growing up girl are supposed to transcend the individual and the specific” (Aapola 5).

More recent methods of defining and constructing girlhood, however, parallel the Women’s Studies’ Third Wave movement, in that they are beginning to include concepts of intersectionality within the identities of girls. These researchers “draw attention to the social, cultural, historical, and political dimensions of how we define youth” (Aapola 5). Likewise, this wave of Girl’s Studies recognizes that despite all of the outstanding advancements made for girls over the last few decades, “these opportunities are not available to all young women in the same way or to the same extent” (Aapola 6). The Girl’s Studies movement has thus been taken from a level of understanding all girls as a singular creature to recognizing their individuality, autonomy, and voices from the social, political, and cultural contexts in which they are growing and developing. This is extremely important in valuing each and every girl, and making sure that she is welcome and heard within the struggle for gender equality.

After reading “All About the Girl,” I was amused to find myself in a women’s bathroom at the UCF football game, debating whether or not I believed Michelle Fine’s depiction of it as a space for “radical possibility” among women and girls (xii). After letting an older woman and a young girl jump ahead of me in line, I couldn’t help but smile to myself as the three of us began to share stories of small bladders, embarrassing bathroom incidents, and an actual sense of shared understanding about these experiences based on what Fine calls our “thin reed of biology (Fine xii). It was in this instant that I began to understand what I hope to achieve through a Girl’s Studies course – connection, consciousness raising, and real change. Through our future studies as a class, I am excited to learn from the readings, and each other, about other’s experiences, as well as our own, and to then use these personal sources to turn Girl’s Studies into a political movement which will benefit women and girls of all ages.

Its a revulvalution!!

When I first thought about what is girl studies I thought predominantly about body image and the media, but from the reading I’ve come to realize that girlhood encompasses a lot more issues than I thought. Not only does it tackle popular culture and societal influences, but also consumerism, globalization, and how social institutions shape young womyn, among a number of ever changing topics that vary as much as the girls involved with them. The amazing and sometimes difficult aspect of girls studies is its variety, “Even in the same historical time-frame and social context, experiences and meanings of girlhood will shift because gender and age also intersect with race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, and ability” (Young Femininity 1). Girls from across the globe are going to encounter different situations but I feel there will be those same stories everyone can relate to like, the tale of your first period, a lost love, or family issues. I too deal with body issues but my experience is different than the author of Black Beauty. Though it can somewhat overwhelming I think girl studies is an important component in strengthening young womyn and bringing about a change in societal norms. There needs to be a switch from the individual to the collective when it comes to the behavior of girls. The strategy of directing girls to look inward, “to personal solutions rather than institutional changes,” is out of fear (Young Feminity 19). Of course it is easy to blame an individual, but there comes a point when all those individuals realize that it is their environments and societal institutions that are really to blame.

We need girl studies to help put some positive writing up on that bathroom wall, to create a collective that all can contribute and feel like their voice matters. It disheartened me to read, “the now popular idea that girls lose their resistant and authentic voices when they engage with cultural requirements to shape their indentities in line with dominant femininities,” (All About the Girl xviii). And from my experience it is true. The fear of acceptance and fitting in is drilled into our brains and I am mad at myself for just playing into it. We even hold ourselves back with friends, “girls begin to edit their feelings and desires out of their closest relationships, fearing that honesty will breed conflict, and that conflict will lead to isolation and abandonment” (All About the Girl 16). I’m sure we can all look back at times when we just thought it easier to keep your mouth shut, and did just that, and to those who didn’t I applaud you because you already knew that your input/ideas were not to be silenced. I am learning that more and more, and like it mentioned in the book, through girl studies feminism grows as well. No matter what the age you can reflect back and I think that is another reason why girl studies is expanding. Generations are thinking of their silenced times, their moments of “math is for boys”, fighting with an eating disorder or feeling brushed aside by your gender and age. As feminists of the third wave we have the ability, now more than ever, to pass down our oral histories through totally different avenues, like the internet. We can get our stories to the homes of girls all over the country and the world! (This is my first blog so I’m kind of excited and in awe of technology right now) Girls are amazing, there are activists half my age and that blows my mind. I’m a little jealous/amazed that they are so sure of themselves and beliefs and are involved in the movement and making it their own before I did, but it’s never to late to start! There are so many amazing opportunities for girls today and so many more that can be made if we all build more structural support so people of all different backgrounds can have access to them. Girls studies is about opportunity, because it is always changing and means so many things to so many different people. And with that opportunity us as feminists can really pave the way for this study and show just how crucial it is in the betterment of our youth and womyn.