Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Girls Want What They Don't Have

The essays in this week’s Red were incredibly touching, honest and revealing. I felt like I related to almost every story. I was chubby growing up, and got teased a lot about being the “fat girl,” much like Amy in “Sleeves.” I never thought I would be the pretty girl that all the boys liked. However, when I did martial arts, I lost a lot of weight. I was tiny, but muscular and in shape. My experience was a lot like Alison Smith’s “Curve.” Strangers constantly told me how thin I was and that I needed food. Yes, I was thin, and aware of how skinny I was. No, I did not need food. I ate a LOT. I love that Alison embraces her hips, her one curve (9). I also loved the juxtaposition of the two stories- “Sleeves” and “Curves.” Both girls want what the other has, both girls strive to be “normal” (7, 9).

(As a side note- now in college, not doing martial arts, I have gained some weight. However, the only person that makes me feel bad about my weight is…me, if I’m having a bad day.)

Tiffani Hortman’s “Muscle,” was the most touching story. Even though Tiffani had a rare type of MS, she never allowed her illness to stop her (12). I think girlhood would be well served to hear more stories like this and less stories about Britney and Paris. Several of the Red stories and both of the articles deal with looks/dieting, however it seems like Tiffani did not suffer from such image issues because she was trying to overcome something so huge. Her positive attitude and close friends (13-14) undoubtedly helped. I personally think this story is one hundred time more positive than most popular teen media.

Looking at the website of the week,, I am reminded of so many nights spent in secret looking up answers to questions I had. My mother taught me about sex, we had sex education in school, however both of these methods always steered back to abstinence and waiting. As I got older, my friends were experimenting with sexual things, and I found that website particularly useful. I think this country does its youth a great disservice by teaching ONLY abstinence (I’ll save this rant for The Purity Myth discussions, since that book is fabulous.) I really liked “Lucky” because Caro Fink describes sex as emotional and important, but not life-changing; and certainly not worth “making a huge deal out of (27).”

I feel like overall, my mother spent a lot of time talking to me about things like my period, so I was well prepared. I remember being in fifth grade and being the only one to ace the pre-quiz given before the “sex talk.” (This, in fifth grade, was just about puberty and involved a movie about childbirth that involved an ovum with eyelashes.) After the initial talk, I did not feel comfortable talking to my mother, or anyone really. I don’t really know how to solve this problem, other than perhaps being more open to talking about things like periods and sex in the future.

Stick Skinny is Not Sexy!

My body was a mess when I was younger. I had long hair which was once pretty and straight and all the sudden turned into a poof ball. I was tall with big feet, a big butt, and a chubby stomach. Looking back, you would have never been able to tell what I’d look like now. My body went through changes before a lot of my friends. I got my period on Thanksgiving weekend of my 6th grade year. My mom was taking my sister and I to the beach and I woke up and found I had my period. I knew what it was because my mom was always open with me, but I was still embarrassed to tell her. Finally after waiting two hours I realized I’d have to tell her so I could swim. It wasn’t as bad as I though, she grabbed me some pads and we were on our way. That night was the worst, the blood ran down my back and bleed all over my bed. My mom bought me the biggest pull-ups they had and I was humiliated then but now I think it’s’ funny. For about the 1st year of having my period, I wore pull-ups to bed every night. Then there was a tampon drama- I thought if you out it up to your vagina it would get sucked in somehow and I couldent figure it out, I thought I had some problem.. It took about 3 days to get the hang out if. Man, looking back boys are lucky to not go through this. At this age, I remember boys would be like “ewww that girl has her period”. I had pimples all over my face and I was really really awkward. It wasn’t until 9th grade where my skin, hair and body really changed. I wasn’t embarrassed of my body when I was younger because I was so young I wasn’t aware of being self-conscious.

Tiffanies story was really heartfelt. She has muscular dystrophy, but she never let it get her down. She says, “I’ve always told myself I can do anything I want to. And guess what, I can! I have girl time and go to school. I also love singing, being crazy, and just being myself. I have some friends that are sick and others who are not.” I know that’s a long passage, but this is what really captured my attention and made me read on. She is very positive even though she has this disability. She tells of Starbright, the network like MySpace for kids with illness. Her friend Andrew, who has cancer told her, “Always keep your head high” and thinking that someone with cancer says this, makes me realize how great and precious life is.

In sleeves, I loved how Amy told her story. It was so true and yet so sad. It’s true how the skinny girls say they are fat, only because they know they aren’t. When she said, “If they’re fat, then what would you call me?” I have friends that would be those girls saying how they hate their bodies in front of chubbier girls and it made me embarrassed to be with them (the skinny girls), thinking why would you say something like that?! It bothered me how she was talking about the jerks and one of them said, “”she’s just a fat bitch. She should kill herself she’s so fat”, it’s sad because some boys are mean and don’t realize what these girls feel and what they do to themselves when they get home. I was always friends with everyone in high school, no matter what they were classified as. I had a friend that would cut his arms so bad and was so insecure that finally I told the principle and he never talked to me again. Since then he’s cleaned up and a confident, handsome young man, I hope he knows I was looking after him. In the USA Today web article it tells of how a Victoria Secret model says how skinnier and younger than ever the girls were in New York’s fashion week this year, it shocked me. I think girls look better with some curves and meat; it’s gross when the clothes fall off of these girls. Guys can’t think that’s sexy? I know I don’t want to buy that outfit she has on, because I have hips and I know it would fit totally different. I would like to see real size women wear these outfits. These girls today think that ebbing skinny is being sexy. There’s a difference in being fit than being skinny as a rail. Being fit and eating healthy and working out, is healthy for your body and heart. You can weigh 160 and be a rock. These girls probably weigh a mere 90 pounds and are 6 ft tall. They starve themselves. This is not something girls should be exposed to, especially at a critical young age. The article says, the promotion of the thin, sexy ideal in our culture has created a situation where the majority of girls and women don't like their bodies," says body-image researcher Sarah Murnen, professor of psychology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. "And body dissatisfaction can lead girls to participate in very unhealthy behaviors to try to control weight." I ask myself, why don’t they do something about it?! It’s only getting worse and the girls are only getting skinnier. Just everyone do me a favor and be happy with whom you are but make sure no matter what you do, that you stay healthy!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SL Opportunity!! Girl Scouts

One of my former Girls Studies' students emailed this to me. Contact Valerie if you are interested in working with them. Leandra

I am interning for the girl scouts this semester and my intern receptor is amazing and I had a few ideas I wanted to throw out there for service learning.
1) She is always looking for volunteers to help out with the events she sets up, so it would be an easy way for someone to fulfill their 15 hours
2) I mentioned a zine workshop for a national project they have going on, it's called Forever Green, and it's all about the girls actually getting involved in their community to make a positive change in the environment. I thought maybe someone might want to do this next semester.....?
And I'm sure she has some more ideas that will come up before next semester. I think it would go great for all your classes but especially gurl studies!!! She can give you all the details, or if you have a question you could always shoot me an email.

Her contact info
Valerie Dennis
Program Marketing Manager for
Younger Girls & Community Partnerships
Girl Scouts of Citrus Council
Office 407-896-4475 x 1233
Fax 407-894-0966

The American Dream: Week 6

Not until seventh grade was I exposed to girls wanting to be skinny. I had gone to public elementary school but in sixth grad and half of seventh I went to a Christian private school. Which was fun while it lasted; I was at the time a firm believer in Christ. I had settled into a group of friends 3 girls that seemed very nice and in fact one would be my very best friend till my move to Florida in 10th grade. During one of my first lunch experiences with them, one girl (I honestly can not remember who it was) said that she was not going to eat lunch because she wanted to loose weight. I was shocked, the highest pant size there had to of been a 4. I am proud to say that I gladly ate my lunch that day however, I am sad to say that soon I was skipping lunch daily to “fit” in. I do not know when I stopped pretending to hate my body but soon after I did actually believe the lie that I was not skinny enough.

It pained me to read “Sleeves”, Amy Hunt’s view of her body makes her not participate in class or in the “real” world. She is forced to write on a blog where no one will ever know it is her. No one will ever know how her body looks. What I really loved about her writing is that she uses “fat” as a sentence throughout the essay. Amy shows us that being fat is a defining characteristic, so much so that it is perfectly fine as a statement. It does not need a subject, or an article because as her life has told her, when you are fat you are nothing else. Amy also expresses issues with girls who “complain” about their weight openly because they actually have nothing to complain about. She states “Only the skinny can joke about how fat they are because they know how much they aren’t; all they want are the compliments…. But still they say, ‘Man I’m so fat,’ while they clench the tummyskin that is so perfect, which causes me to wonder, If they’re so fat, then what could you call me? And how is it that I’m overweight yet the most invisible one of all” (3-4, Red). The issue of “skinny” girls joking about their weight is something I participated in all the time during high school. I never thought about how it would make others feel or how I was perpetuating this “skinny” ideal until I read that. Amy also makes it clear that being overweight is like being invisible, her emotions are not thought about when shopping with friends or when discussing boys, clothes etc. She is oppressed in ways that remind me of my own oppression as a queer woman of color.

Something I still rarely understand is anorexia and bulimia; I honestly think it is because I was raised in a home that rarely had “good” food. Food was and still is an indulgence for me. I would like to see a study on the SES of patients with bulimia/anorexia faire with those who are overweight. This is mostly because I think we as a culture have forgotten that eating disorders are usually more about control than looking a certain way. We as Americans want to call the shots want to be the boss, and a way that we have direct control is through our bodies. What better way than to show how much control we have than through becoming “beautiful” controlling your beauty. Having that kind of “power” within our society could make you God; you can be ‘in’ and you can get their all by yourself. The American Dream; taking chances being ruthless and above all looking good while reaching your goal.

We see issues of control in Meike Schleiff’s essay, she states “Priorities have continue to shift from qualities like leadership, kindness, honesty to the extremes of ownership, personal property, and being thin” (31, Red), “I reasoned, gaining control over my body, growing smaller and withdrawing would help” (33-34) and lastly “I gained weight back and felt less in control than I had before” (34). Meike says that a very controlling boyfriend in college was the one who started her dieting, and exercising more. This is very common among girls who suffer from anorexia or bulimia, as well as those who suffer from OCD, Anxiety disorders. The main point of this was to explain that while we as a society do place a huge emphasis on weight, specifically thinness, we need to understand that as we try to work against this image we also need to say that being in control is not the optimal situation. We need to show young girls that they can be carefree and still be strong, beautiful leaders.

a. estrada

I'm Okay

When I reflect on how I used to feel about my body image when I was younger, I think about when I was in 8th grade. At lunch I would buy a cookie and a drink and that is all I would eat for lunch. For dinner I would try to eat crackers and cheese. I was so concerned with being skinny and not eating a lot. I also experimented with bulimia, but I think many young girls experienced that. I think it’s funny that I used to do that, because now I eat whatever I want, and in my personal opinion , I have a perfect body. Everything that most girls strive for, I already have and I can eat what I want! Please don’t take this as me boasting, I’m just using this as an example because I used to be so concerned with my weight and how my body looked, and when I stopped worrying about it, my body was still the same, probably even better! There was no need for me to worry about my weight. What I realized is that everybody’s body is different, we should all embrace our bodies as beautiful, no matter what.

I remember the day I got my period, and for some reason I didn’t want to tell my mom so I came up with my own little way of dealing with my period, which I don’t want to share online hahaha. It happened before a car trip and was probably the most uncomfortable situation I have ever been in. Eventually I told my mom and she helped me out. She had me wearing pads instead of tampons! How old fashioned is she? I could never wear a pad now. I’m actually the one who turned my mom onto tampons, which is very weird! That was probably because of the cultural differences, she was born in Jamaica, but she is very Americanized so I don’t know why she would prefer wearing pads. Blah.

I really think mothers should talk to their daughters about periods around the time that they should be getting it. Mothers should just let daughters know that they will start bleeding down there soon, and not to be alarmed, just to let her know when it happens and she will help her out. Mothers should also show their daughters a tampon and a pad, how to use it, and how to be comfortable with it. I think if this is done, girls will be more comfortable with the change that is happening in their bodies.

I DO NOT think girls are educated enough about their bodies. I swear my boyfriend knows more about my body then I do. He’s told me some things that I didn’t even know about the female body. There is something wrong with that. I think what we can do to change this, is to have sex ed classes in high school, not just middle school. What we learned from the sex ed classes in middle school, we forgot by the time we reached into high school. Not only should we be more educated about our bodies, but I think girls need to be educated about drug use and how it can really affect their bodies and lives. I just heard news about a girl I knew from high school, overdosing. I hung out with her last year and she was getting really bad on pills, and it was really sad. She was such a nice girl with a great heart, so I don’t know why she turned to drugs, but we all are dealing with different situations in our lives, and we deal with them differently. God Bless her.

The first entry “Sleeves” by Amy Humt, age 16 was one of my favorite readings. Sleeves. How many times have I had to wear long sleeved shirts in the Florida weather to hide scars from cutting. For some reason I’m not ashamed that I used to cut. I could never cut myself today, but I’m sort of content with my past of cutting, because it made me who I am today. I can also relate to a lot of girls who are going through this problem. “Sleeves” is mainly about a girl’s battle with her weight. I guess I never really thought about how an overweight girl may feel about her body. Obviously, I would assume she MAY have low self esteem or she could be happy with her body. Some of the situations that Amy explained in her entry were very disturbing. I do not think I’ve ever witnessed anybody saying such horrible things to someone because they are overweight. What doesn’t kill us can only make us stronger.

At the end of “Curve “ by Alison Smith, age 16 I smiled. Even though she had been scrutinized for being so skinny, she found something to love about herself; her hips. A lot of people just complain about everything that they think is wrong with them, and they never embrace what is truly beautiful about them.

Oh, The Jewish Hair. I’m not Jewish but I’m mixed and my hair is curly, dry and THICK. When I was growing up I hated my hair because I just wanted it to be manageable and straight. After years of wanting the perfect hair, my hair had a lot of breakage and now I wear extensions because my hair is only past shoulder length and it used to be down my back. Even though I love my extensions because it gives me an exotic look, I wish that I didn’t focus so much on having the perfect hair, and just embraced what I had. I had beautiful, thick, long hair. Oh, I wish I could tell young girls to just have patience. What you hate now, can be one of the best things later on in your life.

I could definitely relate to “Lucky” by Caro. This story probably explained my teenage years the best. Cutting and falling in love with my best friend. I guess I was fortunate that my best friend felt the same way about me but it didn’t last long, at 16 years old, two girls trying to have a relationship, with everything else going on, is not the best of the things. It actually ruined our relationship, we fist fought, and didn’t talk for a year. Today, at the age of 21 years old, she is my best friend, she will always be in my life and I really do think that she is my other half. We’ve been through so much together, that I can’t even regret expressing my love to her when I was 16 years old. I am so proud of the person that she is today, and I know she feels the same way for me. We are just comfortable together, in everything that we experience. Reading Lucky let me know that everything I experienced in my teenage years was okay, because obviously there are many girls going through the same things as me.

This week’s reading from Red was very encouraging and made my memories of the past okay. Things that I usually would close my eyes in shame when I thought of because it hurt to remember, today I feel okay about them. I’m okay.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Operation Beautiful

I want to share this amazing site/program I discovered a few weeks ago. is wonderful. It is run by a local woman named Caitlin and it is her brainchild. When she was trying to get fit for her wedding day, Caitlin began posting positive post-its to herself, like “You are beautiful just as you are!” She started a webpage/blog about it.

It has since spread across the globe. Women and girls are sticking post-its in public places for other women to read. For example, they will post them in bathrooms in stores on the mirrors and on scales at the gym. I cannot recommend this site enough to females of all ages.

Caitlin encourages people to take pictures of themselves putting the notes up or to write to her about it. I recently posted a bunch at my gym. (She is adding my story about it to the site this Friday.) You can see the pictures and notes on the site. You can also read how these simple acts have helped and changed the lives of many girls & women. It's incredibly inspiring. I encourage each and every one of you to check it out & post a note or two somewhere this week.

Challenge to this class (and reader's of this blog): I challenge every one here to post at least one note in the next week or two. It feels good. : )
Please post here about your experience (what you wrote, where, how it felt, etc.)

You ARE Beautiful!!!
Amanda W. : )

The Media's POTENTIAL for Good

This week was all about media. There were a few things I really enjoyed reading and exploring. Sarah Schelde’s “What Truthiness Taught Me About Being (Un)Cool” was very amusing. Sarah’s obsession over Stephen Colbert is hilarious (in a good way). She says, “I write a forty-three-year-old comedian’s name all over my notebooks and preach the (faux) evils of Nancy Pelosi to kids who don’t even know what the Speaker of the House does” (212).

I, too, adore Stephen Colbert, along with Jon Stewart. My knowledge that the title of Sarah’s essay is a reference to Stephen should be proof enough of that. What is great about Sarah’s essay is that while she clearly does not fit in with her peers, she continues to be herself and profess her love’s (Colbert) greatness. This is “truthiness”. She goes by her gut and follows her own version of the truth. As a matter of fact, Sarah sees her individuality as an advantage. “People who have a drive to do things their own way have a certain advantage” (213). They have the edge that will move them ahead of competition.

Sarah is a smart girl. She was reading “Harry Potter” by third grade (which was her first obsession) and she realizes that Stephen is playing a character in order to poke fun at politics and certain aspects of our government. Sarah’s dream is to be on Stephen’s show as a “Junior Colbert Report-er” and to be his close friend. I want to email her entire essay to the “Colbert Report”, in the hopes that her dream may come to fruition.

My next favorite area I rediscovered this week was the magazine “New Moon”. Every girl on the planet should be given a subscription to this magazine. “New Moon” is about helping girls feel good about themselves. It is not the stereotypical, hypocritical magazine that promotes self-esteem while littering the pages with ads for losing weight and models “gracing” the covers. It is AD-FREE!!! This alone, is a huge step, for girls, parents, and media. I cannot tell you how many times I refused to buy a magazine for my daughter because of the contradictory, harmful information and ads within.

I love that “New Moon” is ad-free. I am going to subscribe this month for my daughter. She needs some positive media images in her face. I will take any help I can get to get her to feel good about herself. The magazine is by girls, for girls. They have a fully moderated online community for girls to chat together safely and without feeling weird. They promote creativity and a positive body image, and it is educational. For example, there is a link on the home page to find out what Yom Kippur is all about. They also teach girls how to have a positive impact on the world. It’s just an awesome publication.

From the “New Moon” site, I was led to This is also a great resource. There are endless articles about how to raise girls, for mothers, fathers, stepfather, educators, etc. The sections they offer advice on are impressive. It seems like they did not miss a thing. From friendship, to eating disorders, to media, puberty and dating- I think virtually any question someone has about girls can be answered here.

Questions: What are your favorite resources for or about girls? Why?

If you have (or might have) daughters, what kind of media will you allow your daughter to view? What will you try to ban & why?

Thinking back to your pre-teen and teen years, are there magazines, shows, movies, etc that you wish you had not been exposed to? Were there parts of media (like certain magazines, channels) that you liked or loved at the time, but you now see as detrimental?

~Amanda W.

There's more work to do!

It is really hard for me to tell you how I felt about my body when I was younger, because 20, 30, and now the 40’s are all younger to me! I do remember my Mom and my grandmother were always on a diet and my dad used to say really derogatory things about women who were over weight. I always felt like I wasn’t womanly enough, because I was such a tomboy. This was reinforced when both of my sisters, who are 1 and 2 years younger than me, started their periods before I did, and started developing breasts, where I had none! This made me very self conscious and I don’t think I ever felt comfortable about my body until I was in my thirties. I went to my sister and asked her what to do when I started my period because I didn’t want anyone to make a big deal about it. I do remember my Mom telling me before I started, when I was upset about my sisters starting, that I would be glad some day that mine started later! Boy was she right! Now that I haven’t had a period in over two years, I almost wish I could go back to those days, because my body is so different now. And I had just gotten used to the old one!
While doing the readings this week I really could relate to the story in Red by Meike Schleiff. Although I did not have a problem with food, I did have a problem with drugs and alcohol. When she wrote “I was completely removed from the life I’d known” I could remember feeling exactly like this! Before I started using I had a total different life, with totally different kinds of friends, and when you wake up one day and don’t know how you got there it is pretty weird. I could also relate to Caro Fink on page 24 when she states that “quitting was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done” I knew exactly what she meant. And I also understand what she means at the end of her story when she says hers is a “neutral ending” because like any addiction, staying quit is the tricky part! There are no guarantees.
On the website Love Your Body: Offensive Ads I was totally offended by the ad in Esquire, with the girl in a suggestive position and all those men looking down on her like it was a gang rape of some sort. Being a rape survivor I am appalled that something like this was printed in a men’s magazine, suggesting that it is ok. All the ads I saw on this website as well as the ones on About Face are really despicable. The media is where the men and the women get their ideas from and we will not be able to change how society thinks about girls, or their periods until we start putting out different messages. That’s why I am glad there is a website for girls that talks about their periods, and sex so openly. I wish I would have had that. I was having a conversation with me 25 year old stepson and he actually said that his mom was no longer interested in having a boyfriend because she was going though the “change of life”. I almost lost my mind! I thought we had come further than that with the younger generation. But after hearing that, and seeing all these ads, it feels like there is a lot more to be done!

The "Slut List"

(click title for article with links--recommended; and check out her blog, perfect for our class!)

The “Slut List” as Badge of Honor: Breaking News?
By Rachel Simmons | September 27th, 2009 | 1 comment

millburnhigh480This week, New Jersey’s Millburn High School found itself at the center of a media storm over a hazing incident. A group of senior girls apparently publish an annual “slut list” of incoming freshmen, which is followed by intimidation and assaults. The New York Times has covered the story generously. Today, in its supposedly analytical “Week in Review” section, the paper proudly introduces the insight that it may be a “badge of honor” to be called a slut.

Is this really headline news? Girls have been making hay out of their own sexual objectification for a while now. The assumption that all girls would find their presence on a “slut list” disappointing stems from a knee-jerk belief that girls are victims, especially where sexuality is concerned.

The truth is much more complicated. First of all, girls are voracious consumers of a media culture that teaches them to compete for attention at any cost. This is not just the “me” culture; it’s the “click on me” culture. And it’s not just any attention girls are taught to want; it’s male and sexual. “Obviously,” my 18 year-old intern Blaine wrote in a letter this summer, “girls want to be liked by as many guys as possible.” This isn’t the case for all girls, of course, but there is undeniable pressure to seek male attention, making even the most resistant girls vulnerable to unfortunate social realities.

Girls are hardly passive in the drive to be recognized as sexually powerful. Take sexting. We’re big on portraying girls as ignorant victims of their own myopic adolescent outlook (I count myself just as responsible with my constant trilling, Girls, don’t you understand there’s no such thing as privacy online!). But plenty of them know full well what they’re doing when they press the send button.

“When a girl sends a picture and receives a ‘Wow, that was so hot’ response, it increases confidence and induces a false sense of worthiness,” Blaine wrote to me. “If a guy wants to see a picture of her naked, he obviously finds her worthy of his time, attention, and affection.”

The photograph replaces old-fashioned flirtation, but it’s also a rush of power for the sender. The attention is thrilling, and it places control squarely in her hands – for the moment, anyway.

Not to mention that sexting, despite its risk of mass exposure, is actually safer than the real sex girls are taught to feel so much anxiety about: it’s a no strings attached dalliance that carries no immediate risk of sexual pressure or assault. Again, more power for the sexter.

Back to Millburn. Because the media is largely watching this incident through a lens of “mean girl” power, it’s easy to reduce this to a hazing incident. And it is that, to be sure. But what we’re also seeing here is the dangerous confusion girls are developing around their sexuality and bodies.

Sexual self-confidence in girls makes our culture deeply uncomfortable. As Jessica Valenti points out in her important book, The Purity Myth, the unreasonable pressure girls face to be passive, pure (and uninformed) virgins is setting girls up to aspire to the hypersexualized images they see around them. And in the absence of reasonable sex education that might connect girls to their authentic sexuality, the media offers its own brand of sex education.

Enter what Ariel Levy calls “raunch culture,” the sexual objectification of girls and women rebranded as personal power. As she explains in Female Chauvinist Pigs, feminism’s original intent to define sexual self-awareness as a form of liberation was grossly distorted. Now, sexual objectification – whether being on a slut list or flashing your breasts on a “Girls Gone Wild” video – is seen (by some) as a new kind of girl power.

As a result, we see girls using sex to police each other (“You’re a slut”), and using sex for power (“I’m a slut”): that’s why the weapon in this situation — sexual notoriety — is also the reward.

This episode offers Millburn High School a chance to talk with girls about more than just bullying and power. As one of their past parent education speakers, I’d suggest asking female students some of these questions:

* Explain how being called a “slut” can be a put down, and how it can also be a sign of power. Is there a difference in your definitions of “slut as put down” and “slut as power?” Or: how is it possible for the term “slut” to be both a put down and a sign that you have status? What is your opinion about this?

* Do you see signs of the “powerful slut” in our culture? Does this influence how girls act? Does it affect how girls treat and judge each other? Discuss.

* Does sexting allow girls to become powerful sexually?

* Do girls use the term “slut” to call out other girls for sexual behavior, or does it mean something more? How is the word “slut” used to police girls’ behavior in general? What does the word “slut” have to do cultural rules about how girls should look and act?

PS: Another thing that’s missing here is the fact that girls use the term “slut” to designate much more than sexual misbehavior. It’s often used to pathologize outspoken or otherwise threatening girls. For more on this, see Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation by Leora Tannenbaum.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I am 32 flavors and then some!


I loved the Johnny Depp Story! It brought me back to my Backstreet Boys obsession. Brain was my favorite out of the five boys. He was my perfect man. Then the day came when I read in a magazine that he married his long time girlfriend. I cried for hours. HOURS! I was so convinced that we were going to be together. I did all I could to learn everything about him. It was intense. I was depressed for weeks. I think it was because I turned to them when it was an awkward time dealing with boys. Although I don’t think my obsession was much on an intellectual level as the girl felt in the story.

I found Just Watch to be very interesting. I feel the exact same way about T.V. It sucks people in and it sucks away time. It’s almost lazy in a way. Families don’t have to make any effort to connect when the T.V. is on. Don’t get me wrong. I think family movie nights are great, and I have my own “shows” that I always watch. A young girl needs the support from her family that the television takes away. Instead she will be filled with the pop culture ideals that dominate entertainment. Television just might make her miss that “what matters is the inside conversation", and she will get a head full of TMZ instead.

Queer Girls – Willow

I never watched BtVS so I knew nothing about Willow. I never stop to notice the transitions of female characters on T.V., and I will try to be more aware of it from now on. The book pointed out that most shows will devote one episode especially to a “queer” transformation. I completely agree. Sorry T.V…. we are not that simple! Who I am cannot be defined in an episode.

Queer Girl Music and Just a Girl?

Most of my girlhood I was obsessing over the Backstreet Boys. I really can’t recall one specific girl artist I was into. Maybe Gwen Stefani? I like her music, but I turned to her more as a style icon. It is actually now that I am getting into female performers. I love Ani DiFranco, but I don’t think I would have appreciated her as much when I was younger. The importance of a female rocker’s face is stressed in Just a girl?. I agree that most mainstream rocker females embody this, but I think many of the bands mentioned in the Queer Girls chapter break this mold.

Websites… – I was very surprised to see that there was article about getting ready for your first year of college. I don’t ever remember things like that when I read CosmoGirl. College life is in the media and entertainment more so this may be the reason.

Girl’s Rock Camp – Sign me up! I would have loved to go to a camp like this when I was a young girl. It seems like such a positive environment.

Bob and Tiger Beat- Oh my god! For some reason I thought these teeny magazines ceased to exist when the boy band trend died out. I had so much fun browsing around! It’s a lot more Hollywood oriented than it was when I was a little girl.

New Moon – I wish I had this magazine when I was a young girl. It fills me with so much joy that there is a magazine out there like this for young girls. I love the mission statement. “You won’t find diet advice or popularity contests here!” This is exactly what young girls should be reading.

Sooo tell me what you want what you really, really want.

Growing up, I definitely had a relationship with pop culture. It did not control my life or dominate all of my activities. It was just very prevalent in my childhood. I think growing up with two sisters, and no brother is a big reason as to why pop culture was in my life. My sisters are only two years younger than me (yes, twins) so we found it easy to relate and play when we were younger.
Ten years ago, the Spice Girls were big. They had a clothing line, candy, Barbie dolls, and much more. You name it, they had it. My sisters and I loved their music, and everything about them. So did every other elementary school girl we knew. I remember my sisters, and my two cousins and I would each be assigned a Spice Girl, and we would have to play that role for the day. I would always be Sporty Spice which seems kind of ironic considering I have grown up to be the least athletic person I know. But, that’s beside the point. The Spice Girls were there before I had an interest in boys, and they were my idols. They were the epitome of what cool was.
Boys got rid of their cooties around middle school. That’s when the Backstreet Boys and N’sync were running the pop culture world. This is when I learned what it was to have a crush on boys. My sisters and I learned their dances, and hung their posters on our walls. In that sense, we were maturing and learning that it is okay to like boys.
In high school, the words to songs seemed to get more promiscuous, or maybe I was just able to understand the innuendoes by then. I learned what “sexy” really was, or at least what the pop society considered to be sexy. In 9th grade I played around with revealing clothing, and then discovered that really was not for me. In the television aspect, I do not believe that TV really has had an influence on who I have become.
Being in college, the magazine, Cosmopolitan, has a significant impact on my life. I do not have the greatest fashion sense, and Cosmo helps me out with that. When it comes to guys, the only things I take into consideration are the pieces of advices from actually men. Its interesting to see what they are thinking, and hear their perspective on things.
I would say I went through a lot of phases growing up, but one I never went through was the “emo” phase. In “Red” one girl talks about how she wasn’t in a group so she felt emo. She said “see, I go to a school where if you aren’t a jock or a cheerleader, outside your circle, you aren’t worth anything talking to” (Red, 214). I didn’t really have a specific group. I was more of a floater and had friends from all of the different cliques.
Pop culture was not the main source of my development, and neither was the group of people I hung out with. I believe I am who I am because a series of experiences, different relationships, learning things from pop culture, environmental factors, and my upbringing. However, it really was fun pretending to be a Spice Girl. Those are some of my favorite childhood memories.
As far as homosexuality for females goes, I was reading in Queer Girls how much pop culture and introducing female homosexuality to the television has helped them. The book even stated something along the lines of how lots of queer girls would have killed themselves by now if it weren’t for the help of the TV (Queer Girls, 58). I can see how movies could help a young girl trying to discover herself. It could provide more confidence, and show that they are not the only one who has gone through those feelings.

The Vulture Pop Culture

Technology Has Taken Over

Saskia, the author of “Just Watch” from “RED” sounds like a very confused girl. On one hand, she has such disdain for television’s impact on her and her family’s relationship. She talks about how television was supposed to be something you watched “when you were sick or it was hopelessly rainy outside and you had nowhere to be” (224). However, it ends up taking over her family. By sixteen, television is the focus of the family – whether it’s That’s So Raven, The Colbert Report, or, as Saskia admits, her Food Network channel .

Saskia sees this evolution destroying her family, yet she refuses to do anything about it. What is most fascinating is how she relies on other technologies to soothe her hatred for television. Instead of watching television with her family, she’ll run off and listen to music on her headphones. I would argue that putting yourself in solitary confinement with your headphones and RENT CD while your dad is watching MASH is worse than actually watching television with your family.

Ultimately, she would like to have family time: play board games, gather the family around, and talk. But, she is unwilling to take the necessary steps. Her story focuses on how television has disrupted her family. However, the bigger story is how she alienates herself from her family. The bigger story is how she allows technology to take over her life.

Pop Goes the Parent

Something Wald said in her rock and roll piece really stood out to me: “‘wannabe,’ a means by which young women articulate their subjectivity through their consumption of popular culture” (22). Isn’t that essentially what being a girl or boy is? Pop culture is an invisible parent who is always there to show you the way. I don’t think kids understand that pop culture is an invisible parent. When mom or dad isn’t home after school, who tends to the girls? Most likely television. And through that medium, pop culture invades the lives of girls, changing their thoughts, their beliefs, their desires, and their needs.

Pop culture then becomes a prism in which girls look through to form ideas and concepts about themselves. It spreads itself through the minds and hearts of girls so much so that it infiltrates instincts that are naturally prevalent. Nowadays, pop culture is even more abundant because of the myriads of technological advancements. It started with MySpace and now Facebook. Pop culture invades girls through these mediums.

When I was younger, the only medium that affected me was television. There were no social network sites, free porn videos, or the like. I feel for girls (kids) nowadays because there is a ton of information coming at them that I didn’t have to deal with.

Bi the Way

I appreciate how Driver discusses Willow’s sexual evolution as an evolution “rather than create a ‘special’ episode in which to package a queer teen story” (63). What I don’t appreciate, though, is the idea that the evolution consists of a stop-off at Bisexual Avenue on its way to Gay Boulevard. I find it fascinating that the only way to make homosexuality palatable is to incorporate an element of bisexuality. Why couldn’t Willow just be gay? Why does she have to deal with bisexual behavior? And while this response has nothing to do with “pop culture,” I do find it worth talking about.

Hookay, so.

Music has always been a spiritual experience for me. I was raised in a church and when I was a young girl I believed there was this thing called God and I honestly thought that music was God’s greatest gift to mankind and that music made God really happy and that anytime I got God mad, if I just sang to HER all pretty-like that it would melt all the tigers in her heart to butter and life would be brownie a la modes and rainbows. So I’d sing to God every night. Then one day I heard Fiona Apple or The Flaming Lips or Neutral Milk Hotel or John Coltrane or Nina Simone or Kimya Dawson or Sonic Youth or whoever it was and instantly I got swept away in the sinful world of secular music. Now I literally spend all my time listening to music. Whether I’m studying, drawing, reading, writing, sleeping, eating, playing with my cat, you get it: all the time, music. I once spent an entire year listening to nothing but Joni Mitchell. I’d lay in my bathtub for hours completely enthralled with her unique tunings, polytonality and lyrics like “I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet” and “I want to make you feel better, I want to make you feel free.” I have every album she’s ever even been a part of, anything she’s influenced as well as several tribute albums. I never really watch TV but sometimes I won’t leave my bed for days, I don’t need to, I have everything I need: a bowl of cherries, some dark chocolate and my records. I pretty much make every life decision based off of music, for example: can I listen to good music at that job? If I move to that city will better bands play there more often? Can this new friend introduce me to something I’ve never heard before? Let’s face it: life would suck without it. As trivial as it may seem, supporting female (musical, visual, etc.) artists is something I feel extremely passionate about. It is obvious that these musicians have a massive impact on girls in society and can help in subverting the damaging effects of patriarchy. As Gayle Wald says in Just a Girl? Rock Music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female Youth, “In this realm, female artists have ventured to celebrate girlhood as a means of fostering female youth subculture and of constructing narratives that disrupt patriarchal discourse within traditionally male rock subcultures. The "girlishness" so conspicuously on display among these contemporary women rockers demands attention, not only because it signals the emergence of new, "alternative" female rock subjectivities (revising earlier genre-specific models such as the rock chick, the singer-songwriter, or the diva), but because in so doing, it conveys various assumptions about (white) women's visibility within popular youth/music culture, signposting the incorporation-indeed, the commercial preeminence of ironic, postmodern modes of gender performance.”

"I'm a Girl and You're a la la la la la la la"

The link to the song above has a line in which Morrissey says "I'm a girl and you're a boy." It came to mind so I thought I would throw it in there.

I first want to go to the "scientific" considerations of sexuality and wonder if testosterone and estrogen play a role. I mention it because I am not a girlie-girl: I am not butch, I am not gay, I am not completely straight, I am not anything. I prefer men and this is the only thing in which I am certain. However, I don't have any fashion sense (Gwen Stefani) as Stacey London told me ("Why do you dress like you're Amish??") so I went to to help out. Haha.

How does a girl feel pretty when she can't conform to the standards of her community in terms of femininity? I admire Gwen Stefani's fashion sense (is it hers or her designers?) as it is very feminine and I have NO IDEA how she does it. "Beautiful Girl, love the dress, high school smiles OH YES" (The Violent Femmes). What a funny name for a bunch of dudes, eh?

So, I was not popular in high school and wore all black because I had no idea how to match anything. As girls, we're supposed to be able to do that (and our makeup-and our hair) naturally, right?

I personally didn't watch BTVS and the few times I saw Willow expressing her love for another girl was very unconvincing to me. I thought it very poignant about how gay males are more addressed in modern tv shows than females (even though females are more accepted and blown off as experimentation). I abhor Riot Grrls because I love melody and I hate it when girls complain. Is that conditioning, I wonder? The same with Ani Difranco--eww, eww, eww. I kick myself for being so judgmental because somewhere I think it stems from je ne sais quois. "...potentially furthers the notion that within patriarchal society women acquire attention, approval, and authority to the degree that they are willing to act like children" (Wald, 588).

I did find it interesting how many lesbians prefer mainstream music. I can relate because when a male sings about love with a female, I might love the song and reverse the roles in my mind. How does one exist as accepted without creating a space that is "other"? Also, I realized that gay clubs are one of the only spheres where everyone could potentially be attracted to one another (obviously attraction requires finding someone attractive so it is more complicated than that).

As a female "musician," I can attest that males on the average that I have encountered want all-male bands, want male lead singers. Even the band members of Paramore took some convincing to utilize a female lead singer. It's a big sausage factory-industry.

PS: This site has one cool feature: I accidentally shut my computer off while typing this at this point, and the website autosaved it.

I strongly agree with this for all genders and everything mentally and physically in between: "Understood in terms of imaginary cultural armor, music reassures girls and connects them in contexts where they are deprived recognition" (Driver 226). Also, "Music becomes a pervasive presence in their everyday lives from home to school to work to nightclubs to cyberspace, it cirsscrosses private and public spheres of experience, traveling with marginalized young people across multiple physical and imaginary spaces" (Driver, 198).

I wanted to close with this sentiment just because:

"I've found that there are two types of people in the world: those who share their music and those who keep it away from everyone else"(Goldwasser, 221).

it's just you and me now!

Hello lovely class,
Just wanted to let you know that we no longer have a teaching assistant in this class, so please address any questions/concerns/needs to me and I will assist you. I will definitely work hard to get your grades up in a timely manner (working on Week 3 right now) and maintain the best online class for us this semester. I'm really loving the class so far and appreciate the work you are putting into your responses and service-learning plans. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns (as always). :D Leandra

I'm just a girl and that's all you'll let me be!!!!!!!

I was always the loner in school. Very different from everyone else, but too scared to let it show, so I just stayed to myself. I can relate to Sara Schelde age 14 and I can learn from her. Where I tried to disown my strange personality she embraced hers and loves herself for being different. I wish Sara had been around when I was in school, maybe I wouldn’t have hidden my weirdness, because the truthiness about it is weird is good—-its what sets you apart from the crowd and gets you noticed.

"I’m just a girl” was and still is one of the greatest songs during my girlhood. The article titled “just a girl? Rock music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female youth” attempts to make sense of what female rock musicians and what their images are invoking in girl culture. I am not totally sure what the author was trying to voice, but I think it was the fact that men own the media or music industry and men are selling the contradictory images of female rock stars, which are sexualizing young girls. Therefore, women cannot claim girlhood as their own; rather girlhood is modeled into what the men in the media visualize it to be. That being said, “I’m just a Girl” and Gwen Stefani helped me realize the struggle of women in society. I had heard of the women’s movement in school and I was living my life as a girl, but her lyrics made my life make sense. I was sick of not being able to do what I wanted BECASUSE I WAS A GIRL. My brother was younger than I and he could stay out later hang out with his friends and do whatever he wanted because he was a boy. My fathers all seeing eye was always focused on me and simply for the fact that I was a girl and that’s all he would let me be. I recognized the contradiction in Gwen, but I saw her as a powerful, attractive woman speaking out against men seeing her as an innocent helpless girl and proving to the world that she wasn’t. I think her image gave me hope for my own future and goals. So as the Butchies resonates in queer girls so too does No Doubt and Gwen Stefani in me. Music is very powerful and there have been many musicians that have helped me through tough times. That being said, I think this article was created too early. Think about female musicians in our current time. The main musicians that come to mind are Brittany Spears, Miley Cyrus, lady Gaga, and Katie Perry. I think all of these girls are way too sexualized and are sending a poor message to the girls today. I can understand looking at today’s society why the author of “just a girl, Rock music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female Youth” was so concerned about regaining girlhood as a woman’s identity. Looking at media I can see that girlhood is no longer a depiction created by a woman, but a perverse sexualized creation of man. From the girl teen magazines who focus young girls attention on young teen boys to the sexualized young teen girls displayed all over the media—Girlhood is not a woman’s tale.

'Pick'ing Up That Guitar Again

When trying to think up a response to this week's readings I was kind of taken aback by how little I had to say about myself in relationship to movies, music and other media. Thinking back I can't really remember any specific obsession with an actor or actress. I even remember writing in my diary, circa age 12, that I "wasn't that into music" while I watched my girlfriends listen to their favorite pop singers over and over in their Walkman CD players - oh so 90s :) Growing up in a home with parents who could care less about pop culture and would rather take an exhilarating bike ride than sit in front of the T.V. I still am kind of 'out of it' when it comes to the latest celebrity gossip or the newest music.

But thinking harder I remember fifth grade and performing as Baby Spice in the Spice Girl's tribute (a.k.a. avid lip syncing and choreographing in my friend's back yard). I remember my first Walkman and listening to Sugar Ray's self-titled album over and over again and thinking about what my first boyfriend would be like. I remember wanting to have that certain something that Gwen Stefani had (and still has in my opinion) as I danced around my room to "Ex-Girlfriend" (the Return of Saturn CD is still on my iPod). My freshman year of college a good friend introduced me to Regina Spektor and I was enchanted by this woman who sang about wilting flowers and stepping in somebody's big fat loogie and left her heart out there like no male singer I had ever listened to had. Though I've never considered myself obsessed with purchasing new music on iTunes or attending every concert (I think that's more of a personality trait, I don't like to spend too much money), music has always lifted me outside of my head and yet deeper into my soul at the same time. As Susan Driver writes in Queer Girls and Popular Culture musical subcultures - something I define is the formulation of a distinct taste that you connect wholly with - provides "queer girls [as well as straight girls] with a sense of belonging to something bigger" (Driver 216).

Perhaps the reading I most connected with from the past weeks was Wald's "Just a Girl? Rock Music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female Youth." As Wald described Gwen Stefani's vigorous performance of "I'm Just a Girl," one performance leaving her with a broken foot from dancing so hard, I was pulled back to my first concert experience with my best friend Karen (Wald 585). I was in ninth grade and it was the Boston stop in No Doubt's "Hella Good" tour. I was in wonder of the platinum blond on stage. I wanted to yell like she did. I wanted to have the confidence to run around stage in front of thousands of people. I started to notice that day how girls had to literally search out girls in rock and alternative music. I was tired of the bombshell female pop singer looking for true love through catchy back beats. That wasn't real for me at that point. Sometimes I was angry, sometimes so preoccupied with just trying to find myself that bubblegum lyrics about love weren't really what I needed. Stefani showed me that I wasn't the only one. At that concert I realized in my own way how, as Wald writes, "female artists have ventured to celebrate girlhood as a means of fostering female youth subculture and of constructing narratives that disrupt patriarchal discourse within traditionally male rock subcultures" (Wald 588).

I wish that attitude stuck with me. I took guitar lessons back then with a Stoneham, Mass. resident named Bill. Bill was a musician, a great guitarist. But he didn't know how to teach teenage girls. He compared me to his male students who seemed to be excelling at a much more rapid pace than I was. Bill wanted me to provide music that I was interested in that we could play to. The fact was that I was scared that I would be criticized for the music I brought in. Like so many male friends I've had that discredit 'chick' rock simply because a woman is singing I felt the full press of a patriarchal society that defines true rock music.

I was impressed by the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls Web site for helping girls disengage from that pressure. By "eradicat[ing] all the limiting myths about music and gender that make girls afraid to speak up, sing out, and make noise" and "abolish[ing] all the obsolete traditions that restrict many girls' and women's free musical expression and obstruct their access to the world of music" the camps are providing an avenue for girls to find themselves in media rather than rely on whatever corporate whim that defines media at the time and then searching for themselves in the prescribed mold. As Sara Schelde writes, so precisely, in her essay "What Truthiness Taught Me About Being (Un)Cool" girls, and anyone for that matter, "who are afraid to do anything that's not preapproved by MTV or the 'cool' kids are so frequently those who lack imagination" (Goldwasser 213). We want our girls to have imagination, the freedom to explore the self in whatever medium. Initiatives like Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls is are environments that foster such growth.

I think I'm going to retrace my steps a little today and pick that guitar up :)

Service learning

I plan on working with the Beta Center and NOW. I have signed up for NOW and I already go to meeting on campus. However, I want to split the two because I am not sure how much time I can put in at the Beta Center because I work 20 hours a week on top of a full time school schedule. I am also a member of AAUW and we go to the PACE Center every once in awhile so, I think a combination of these three will work well.


I'm just a GIRL!

Week 4 & 5

When I looked at the schedule for these two weeks, I immediately became excited. Anything related to the media, pop culture, or music tends to instantaneously grasp my attention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type of person who becomes completely enthralled in the latest issue of People or wants to know every intimate detail of Brad Pitt’s daily life. No, that’s not me. I love analyzing the effects of the media, pop culture and music on our society; specifically, when it pertains to young girls. That’s why I was excited. And now, on to the readings. :)

I found the Red stories to be pure, honest, and real. It always amazes me how eloquent these young girls are. Their stories and accounts are so expressive and they frequently share powerful messages. The first story was about 14 year old Sarah’s love for Stephen Colbert and his philosophy of truthiness, or “the state of something being true because you find it to be so” (Red, 211). I am not a part of the faithful “Colbert Nation” but I do agree with this philosophy. In middle school, I was the girl who changed her likes and dislikes to fit in with the “cool” kids. It took a year for me to grow out of that and find what truly defined me. It was then that I realized the importance of staying true to myself and what I believe in, and not caring about what everyone else thought. That is the real essence of truthiness. It is great to see that at such a young age, Sarah is going against the norm of what is “cool” and is not afraid of voicing those quirks and habits that make her unique. I hope that more teenage girls are doing the same thing.
One of the main reasons I changed my likes and dislikes to fit in with the “cool” crowd was because of how harsh, unkind and pretty much cruel middle school students can be. Kali sums it up flawlessly in the second reading when she states, “the high school social hierarchy is the perfect evil recipe, preparing kids for lifetimes of intolerance and fearing anyone who’s not like them” (Red, 214). I am most certain that we all have faced some kind of prejudice and narrow-mindedness during our middle school and high school years. I think it is second nature for kids to pick on each other; they learn it from television, movies, and other social interactions. It is very disheartening that Kali’s main concern was the fact that her school administration took no disciplinary action when it came to punishing those who were promoting discrimination through bullying.

The next story kind of caught me by surprise. I am totally aware that teenage girls go through phases where they are completely obsessed with and devoted to certain actors, musicians, etc. However, Grace’s story about Johnny Depp was more than an obsession – it kind of creeped me out. On one hand, it is admirable that she views him as an inspiration to her acting career; after all he is a very talented performer. On the other hand, the fact that she knew so many details about his life and his views on life and family values simply worried me. Like many other bloggers have posted, I guess we have to determine if her obsession is healthy or not.

I absolutely LOVED Olive’s article on music. I can relate to her on so many different levels because my life was also centered around music for as long as I can remember. She says that the reason she loves music is because “it doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you’re from […] every single person has a piece of music that they enjoy” (Red, 221). I have always said the same thing. One thing that fascinates me and will continue to do so is the interesting reality that one person may love a song and then another person may think that it was the worst song they have ever heard. That’s the beauty of music.

I really enjoy Saskia’s story about her problem with television. She put things into a new perspective for me with this article. I never thought of television as force that distances our families and society. She says that “TV is family time, the way we connect.” With television programming become increasingly popular and our society’s need for reality TV shows, we tend to forget about the importance of actually sitting down and having family time. What frustrated Saskia most is that she doesn’t have the courage to say anything to her family about her attitude toward this situation.

Growing up I used to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow and Tara's relationship never seemed stranged to me. I have a lesbian cousin, so I was always exposed to this type of interaction. I can't say the same thing for my friends though; but, this show helped them become more open-minded and accepting to same-sex relationships.

My obsession...

I identified specifically with one of the entries in "Red" this week. The entry about Johnny Depp. I could have written that myself. From the time I watched "Cry Baby", to when Pirates 3 came out, it is safe to say I was obsessed. I have watched every movie he was in, and am anxiously awaiting Alice in Wonderland and hoping for Pirates 4. I don't want to appear as a psycho or a stalker, but honestly - have you seen those eyes? haha... Now that i'm older, i'd like to think this is "obsession" is more of just a healthy admiration for the man. He honestly is someone that I idolize because he doesn't give in to the "hollywood lifestyle" that so many other stars do. He has his career and his family, he wants to live like a normal person. It's funny that I should be writing about this, because the Biography of Johnny Depp is on TV right now. I am trying my hardest to do this homework instead of watching it. A few years ago, this wouldn't have been possible. haha... i'm a recovering Johnny Depp addict.

But really, I used to write blogs in high school. There were days when my blogs were "emo". Only because there were days that the kids at school were horrible to me. I wasn't popular, and until I hit high school, I wanted to be popular more than anything. Those kids were downright mean and hurtful to some of us "less fortunate" kids. And, much like the story in "Red", the teachers did nothing about it. I can remember coming home and locking my door in tears. Of course, looking back at it now it wasn't that bad... but at the time it was the end of the world to me.

I think when you're growing up it's good to have someone to look up to or idolize (like me and Johnny Depp, haha). It helps you stay sane. Because you always have that one thing that makes you feel better or helps you cope. If I pop in a Johnny Depp movie, I could be having the worst day ever, but I will immediately feel better.

I also identified with the entry about music. I am obsessed with music. I love most any music, no matter what the genre. The lyrics move me, the beat gets stuck in my head... sometimes your favorite song is all you need. I had a favorite band a few years ago (they're still my fav), no one knew about them then but almost everyone can say they've heard of them now - The Fray. I was going through a tough time and their first cd (the one no one knew about) helped get me through it. I honestly don't know how I would've made it without that cd.

As far as the bit we read about Willow, I used to watch that show when I was younger. I didn't completely understand what was going on until I watched the reruns years later. I was too young to grasp what was going on. But I think that it's awesome that there are characters on TV that represent the gay community. It gives the kids who think they have no one a hand to hold onto.

I guess it'd be different if they thought we were human

Revolution! Grrrl Style Now!!!
Support female artists

“Female artists have ventured to celebrate girlhood as a means of fostering female youth subculture and of constructing narratives that disrupt patriarchal discourse within traditionally male rock subcultures” (Wald, p. 588).
Music as a medium for self-discovery and progression, personally and politically, remains consistently operative and successful in its far reaching capacity. I know it has been a passion of mine since I can remember and this week’s reading all about feminism, girl culture, and music as an outlet and channel is right up my alley! Since I could write a novel with all my thoughts, opinions, insights, and inquisitions on the matter of females in punk and indie rock I will stick to those I am most familiar with.
I loved Wald’s article based on Gwen Stefanie circa No Doubt because she was a staple character in the anti-corporate girl power movement. Wald does not attempt to argue the positive or negatives of the matter, but explores the context and discourse created by the paradoxical girl-power movement, where female characters are using constructed ideals of girlhood as tools of denying the tyranny of patriarchal methods previously employed in the female music world.
Some seemingly innocent, such as the harmonious yet jolting musical compositions and lyrics of the Canadian lesbian sister duo, Tegan and Sara, while some make a point to be brash and evident in their displeasure of the status quo, such as Kathleen Hanna’s projects: Julie Ruin, Bikini Kill, and the existing electronic/dance feminist group Le Tigre.
Kathleen Hanna is my personal hero and definitely one of my favorite musicians. As the chief representative of Riot Grrrl, she has kept the movement and activism alive via passionate creations of music and been the controversial voice for the Riot Grrrl movement.
A song created in the 1990s with her sophomore group, Julie Ruin, is one of my most favorite and I would love to share the lyrics with you, and then go download it! While you are at it, check out the other girl bands mentioned in our text. Maybe even get inspired to create your own girl rock band!

“How many girls stay awake all night
too scared to sleep and too scared to fight back
i know you know what i'm talking about
another woman killed and hardly a pout about it
green river killer my f***ing ass
the cops have gotta be deaf, dumb, and spastic
to not catch the killer of one hundred woman
i guess it'd be different if they thought we were human

i wanna know what love is

what the f**k if we all got guns
to off the f***ing pigs and all the other motherf***ers
raping the children they paint like dolls
jon benet didn't scream because she never f***ing was
come on now the police aren't gonna save you
they're part of the problem that society gave you
locking up black men for whistling in the wind
you see a mirage when you call the cop your friend

i wanna know what love is

the killers and the cops give us special advice
like cross your legs and act f**king nice
while they kill us off old and f**king young
for breathing, relieving, and having fun
they'll keep you scared so you have to have a boyfriend
and take your kids away if you're a la la lesbian
arrest you for whoring then rape you in the car
it's time we point the finger at who the real criminals are

i wanna know what love is
i want you to show me

so i'll stay awake almost every night
a pen in my hand and in the other a knife
because i'd rather be scared and fight back
than be some dick's maid, babe or wife

The discourse in these lyrics accurately convey the anger and frustration caused by an unjust political system and this is the reason we still need these strong female figures producing art that challenges the ideals perpetuated by the corporate rock world and our capitalistic worldview, especially when we have people saying there is no need for feminism!

Marina Maresca

Letting my Nerd Flag fly

I may be totally overlooking it, but I couldn’t find the specific blog prompts for this week so I’m just going to go ahead and respond freely to the readings, as it appears everyone else did.

I really enjoyed the readings this week- I definitely felt like I was reading my old LiveJournal entries (and my friends’ entries) when I read some of the “Red” essays, in particular the “Appeal” and “Depp” ones. “Play” also hit home with me, although I have to say Olive has a much better music taste than I did when I was in high school. “Willow’s Transformation” in Queer Girls was also really interesting, as I never really got into the show when I was in high school. (I didn’t have that much of an attention span for long series of shows.) I also loved reading the “Just a Girl” article, because No Doubt’s music took up a lot of space on my iPod when I was in high school, and I’ve never really thought about it critically before. Mostly, though, I want to respond to the readings by talking about my own “Freakdom” and “Fandom” in high school.

I’ll admit it. I was That Girl. The one totally obsessed with Harry Potter. I tried to hide it but I always failed, usually by correcting people when they were having conversations about the books or movies and pronounced something wrong or said something bad about the Glorious J.K. Rowling. I had a few friends that were obsessed as well- some even more so than me. My friend Sarah would throw Harry Potter parties all the time- she really had a knack for themed parties, and when it was time for a new movie to come out, she’d be brewing butterbeer and developing some sort of Sorting Hat game. One Christmas we made a gingerbread Hogwarts (it turned out horrible- we decided it was a post-war Hogwarts, but Dumbledore tasted good).

This, along with my belonging to a particular group of “emos,” as we were called, made me a bit of an outcast in school. I always had my friends but I definitely wasn’t part of the in crowd. But that was okay with me, what did they know about good music and Harry Potter and my other obsessions, like Victorian-age literature and NES games? My obsession with Harry Potter might have bordered on distracting, but overall I think it was a good distraction. I’ve written in this blog before about how I’d sometimes get fixated on some of the more popular girls in the school, wishing I could have lives more like their (happier families, more money, a nice car and boyfriend and etc etc even though it usually wasn’t that way in reality). I know I wasn’t the only high school girl who fixated, either- as evidenced in every one of the essays we read, from girls’ wide range of responses to Willow to Grace’s Johnny Depp dreams.

My point is that my particular fixation was in a way, good for me. The fantastical nature of the books kept me dreaming like I did when I was younger, and Rowling inspired me to write- just like Depp inspired Grace to act. I fixated on literature with good morals with a community of other nerdy girls, instead of a number of other things I could have fixated on- America’s Next Top Model (Sarah was known to throw a good ANTM party, though), or dieting or being popular.

Obsession is a tricky term to navigate for young girls. Personally, I think it’s an integral part of being a young girl now- and maybe being a young boy, too, I’m not sure. The high school girls I work with have their obsessions too, and it’s hard holding my tongue when they gush about Twilight (don’t get me started) or the Jonas Brothers (this is making me feel old). When do you decide if it’s healthy and if it’s not? It may be totally healthy for Olive to spend every moment listening to music. Is it when my classmate, who had a similar level of obsession- but for Britney Spears- was declared to be at risk for an eating disorder? I keep trying to find an answer to these questions, but when I remember my high-school self, it's impossible to come up with an answer that isn't stifling to a young girls' creativity and livelihood.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Week 4 & 5

I was reading some others' posts, especially about the Johnny Depp story, "The Depth of Depp" by Grace. I kind of agree that it's unhealthy to put THAT much emphasis on idolizing somebody who is virtually unattainable. However, the IDEA of this dream is great. Having goals to "work together someday" as Grace wrote is admirable. The IDEA of being able to achieve great things, wanting it, and going forth and trying for it is definitely praiseworthy.

The "Appeal from an Angry Not So Emo" by Kali definitely left me with some insight as to how some girls' high school experience went. The halt of bullying is one of my passions that I hope to get more involved in someday. I myself have never experienced bullying- not in grade school, middle school, or high school. I realize how lucky I am to have never had to hate going to school, as Kali writes, " makes it very hard for us to ever be comfortable at our own school." I think I'm a strong person, but at that age and that time in my life, I can only imagine that it would be extremely difficult to have to deal with something like that. I went to a top high school where I never witnessed any such bullying whatsoever. This doesn't mean it wasn't going on, but as "preppy" as my high school could be, everyone seemed to get along and seemed to be able to talk to each other. It was not likely to see anyone getting made fun of while she was walking down the hall, in the lunchroom, or in class. It was clear that everyone had their own social groups, but talking and socializing with others in school was completely appropriate.

As I was reading the "Just Watch" story, I couldn't help but wonder why author Saskia didn't say anything. I immediately thought of the quote "be the change you wish to see in the world." As hard as it might be, I believe that one has to say something or make a move to make a difference in what is seen as wrong in his or her life. When there is that chance to be taken, it should be attempted. Maybe it's not something she can change, but if she knows that she tried, she might feel slightly better about the situation.

My favorite chapter that I read in QG was "Your Music Changed My Life." I always get inspired about how others get inspired by music. I thought it was really great that queer girls found a way to connect to music and also become physically immersed in the culture, as Alice called it an "interactive experience." One of my favorite parts of this chapter was how the author acknowledged that she would not stereotype the tastes of queer girls in their music. Of course, anyone can like any kind of music. Winnie says, "I like music and artists because of the sound... not because it is written/performed by a queer person." Exactly, Winnie. Later in the chapter, Jenna does say about queer music " makes me feel like I'm a part of something bigger, it connects me to others." I thought that was awesome. Yes, it's important not to stereotype what a queer girl would like in music, however- as is everyone when we break up into our small groups such as church, synagogue, whatever it is, being with a group of people with your same beliefs and possibly same experiences can be exhilarating.


If you would like to post your Week Six discussion to the blog rather than Webcourses, do so here as a "reply." If your reply exceeds the word count permitted, break it up into two or three replies. This might help keep discussion organized and allow you to revisit discussion for replies to your post more easily. We'll see how it goes. We can always move 100% of discussion to Webcourses and post other relevant blogs on the blog site depending on how it goes.

Blog Prompts: (which you may follow or depart from): Reflect on your relationship with your body when you were younger. What was your first period experience (or if you are male, how did you learn about periods?) Do you think there is any way to change the social stigma surrounding girls and their period? Do you think girls are educated enough about their bodies? If not, how can we change that?

Opening Remarks at Combating Violence Against Girls Event

Opening Remarks at Combating Violence Against Girls Event

Event hosted by the Government of the Netherlands

New York City, NY

September 25, 2009

I want to start by saying something that I believe with all my heart, and, obviously, those of you who are here believe it also, that the issues related to girls and women are not an annex to the important business of the world and the United Nations, they’re not an add-on, they’re not an afterthought; they are truly at the core of what we are attempting to do under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is the guiding message of this organization and what each of us in our own countries is called to do on behalf of equal opportunity and social justice.

So for me, this is a tremendous opportunity to speak about an issue that has basically been relegated to the backwaters of the international agenda until relatively recently: violence against girls and women, and particularly today, violence against girls.

I wish that we could transport ourselves into a setting where we could be in the midst of girls and women who have been suffering from violence, but we don’t have to because it’s all around us. It is in the home, it is in the workplace, it is on the streets of many of the countries represented here, including my friends Maxine and Celso. And it is in the places that make the headlines from time to time, and then in the very bottom paragraphs, there’s a reference to the violence that is a tactic of war and intimidation and oppression to prevent girls from going to school by throwing acid in their faces, by raping girls as a way of intimidating them and keeping them subjugated and demonstrating power.

So this, for me, is one of the most important events that I’ve done at the UN. I worked this week with President Obama on our agenda, on everything from nonproliferation and the threats posed by Iran to the P-5+1, to the ongoing challenge of the Middle East, and so much else. But oftentimes, my press – I’ll only speak for the American press – will pose a question that goes something like this: “Why are you spending so much time on these issues that are less important or not as significant as the ones that are really at the heart of foreign policy?”

And I usually patiently explain, for about the millionth time, that this is the heart of foreign policy. Because after all, what are we doing? We’re trying to improve the lives of the people that we represent and the people who share this planet with us. And we do it through diplomacy, and we do it through development, and occasionally we have to do it through defense. But violence against any one of our fellow beings is intolerable. And when it is part of the cultural fabric of too many societies, when it is an assumption of the way things are supposed to be, then it is absolutely a cause for our action collectively.

As some of you know, I traveled to Goma in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last month. I went to a refugee camp that is home to 18,000 people in a very small plot of land; in fact, land that is covered by lava from a volcanic eruption. And it was a stark reminder of a conflict that has left 5.4 million people dead since 1998. And walking through that refugee camp was, as I’ve often felt walking through camps in other places, both the best and the worst of humanity: the worst because of what drove these people to this extreme measure of fleeing their homes, leaving their fields, running from danger; and the best because of the international response.

But the people leading me through the camp – they had a man who was the president, a woman who was the vice president – were talking about what life was like day to day, because the camp provides no security. You are there, but if you venture out, as too many of the girls told me, for water or firewood, or literally just to breathe because you’re living arm-to-arm with thousands of other people, you put your life at risk. Something like 1,100 rapes are reported each month in the Eastern Congo; that’s an average of 36 women and girls raped every day.

I heard a lot of terrible stories. A 15-year-old girl who looked younger than her years, who was fetching water from the river, when two soldiers – she wasn’t sure who they were, were they irregulars, were they militias, were they the Congolese army. They were just soldiers who told her if she refused to give in to them they would kill her. They beat her, ripped her clothes off, and raped her.

I met one of the nine-year-old girls who was nabbed by two soldiers, who put a bag over her head, and raped her repeatedly in the bushes; and a woman who was eight months pregnant when she was attacked, and after being so brutalized and losing her baby, she was no longer accepted in her own home.

And then I met a woman who was about my age, who had four children and a husband. They were farmers from one of the small holding farms that so many of the world’s poor try to survive by. And she called them bandits. They took her husband out, shot him. Two of her children ran out to try to help their father, shot them, came into the house, shot the other two children all in front of her, and then repeatedly gang-raped her, left her for dead. And she told me she wished that she had died.

Well, these are the most extreme examples, but there are so many that we could point to. And since I believe that the progress of girls and women holds the key to sustainable prosperity and stability in the 21st century, this is a matter of great concern to me and to my country. When women are accorded their rights and accorded equal opportunities in education and healthcare and employment and political participation, they invest in their families, they lift them up, they contribute to their communities and their nations. When they are marginalized, when they are mistreated, when they are ignored, when they are demeaned, then progress is not possible, no matter how rich and well-educated the elite may appear.

The problem of violence against women and girls is particularly acute in conflict zones, but that’s not the only place we find it. The UN has done some excellent work in the last years in war-torn areas. And while boys are pressed into service as child soldiers and trained to kill, and often drugged to do so, girls are raped and often forced into becoming sex slaves. And this has happened to thousands and thousands of children. We also know that despite the best efforts of those of us in this room, all too often these acts of brutality and de-humanity do not just affect the individuals, they affect the fabric that weaves us together as human beings.

Next week, I will chair a Security Council session here in New York on the epidemic of sexual violence against women and girls in conflict zones. And the United States will introduce a resolution to strengthen our efforts to curb these atrocities and hold all those who commit them accountable. We will call for a special representative of the Secretary General to lead, coordinate, and advocate for efforts to end sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict.

But violence against women and girls happens everywhere. You have not only domestic violence, but female feticide, dowry-related murder, trafficking in women and girls. It’s quite alarming that even among well-educated people in some countries, the rate of selective abortion against girls is alarming. There are millions – some estimate as many as 100 million – missing girls. And they are missing because they’re either aborted or they are still subjected to infanticide or they are denied nutrition and healthcare and allowed to die in alarming numbers before the age of five.

In Thailand in the 1990s, I met girls who’d been sold into prostitution by their fathers, when they were as young as eight. And by the time they were 12, many of them were dying of AIDS. I drove around the area in northern Thailand, and one of the people with me said, “You can tell which homes have sold their girls, because they’re the ones with the satellites” and that there’s a lot of peer pressure; it would go satellite, satellite, then you’d have no satellites, and then satellite, satellite.

So we know these statistics. A third of all women will face gender-based violence at some point in their lifetime. In some parts of the world, the number is as high as 70 percent. The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 so-called honor killings take place each year. Nearly 50 percent of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or younger. And more than 130 million girls and young women have been subject to genital mutilation.

All over the world, you find a higher value on male children, girls being coerced into early marriages, denied access to schools, adequate nutrition and healthcare, and enslaved in forced labor. And so there are many stories. We have two young women with us today, and we have many more who they represent.

The problem is that very often there is no legal action taken against those who perpetuate this violence, even when they are members of a nation-state’s armed forces. We are pressing the government of the DRC very hard to bring to justice five officers of the military who have been implicated in either these actions themselves or in a permissive environment for them.

And there are many young women who are standing up and who need our support. The story of Mukhtar Mai, a young woman who I’ve come to know, who was gang-raped in 2002 on the orders of her tribal council in rural Pakistan because of something her brother had done. She was forced to walk home naked in front her village, and she was expected to kill herself. I mean, that’s what you do. You get humiliated, you get shamed, you get attacked. It’s your fault, you go kill yourself. And the crime, the best we could determine, was her brother was seen walking with a girl from an upper caste village.

So what happened to her? She refused to kill herself, and she refused to hide, and she refused to give in to the cultural milieu in which this attack had taken place. And her case became something of an international cause. And people began asking: What can we do for her? They donated money. She built the first school in her village. She herself enrolled in that school. And now, because of the money that has come in since she was courageous enough to speak out, the school has an ambulance service, a school bus, a woman’s shelter, a legal clinic, and a telephone hotline.

Now, she’s a remarkable young woman, but she’s not alone. And what we need to do is support those who are standing up. I have a friend here, Molly Melching, whom I first met and worked with more than 10 years ago in Senegal, where she very deliberatively began to build community rejection of female genital mutilation by going from village to village and making it a health issue, making it an issue that the tribal elders and the imams began to recognize was not in keeping with their views of themselves or of Islam. And this is possible. It takes time, and we can’t, can’t give up.

So let me just end with a call to action from the leaders of many religious faiths who came together last year to advocate for an end to violence against women, and here’s what they said: Each of our faith traditions speaks to the fundamental value of all human life. Violence against women denies them their God-given dignity. We cannot afford to remain silent when so many of our women and girls suffer the brutality of violence with impunity.

So this meeting could not be more timely or important. Now, we’ve got to follow up. And hopefully, in UNGAs to come, we will fill larger and larger rooms. We will have people making commitments. I know the Dutch Government is very intent upon trying to make sure that action follows. And we can work with our friends not only from Brazil, but I see many of my other colleagues here today. And I hope that we will be the voices for those women who will never appear before the Security Council, they will never leave Goma, they will never leave rural Pakistan, they will never leave their village in Latin America or anywhere else, to come and plead their case before us. So it falls to us to make sure their voices are heard.

Thank you very much.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Week 4&5 Oh that thing called TV.

When last week began I was super stoked for this reading list. Why you might ask since it was a lot? Oh I will be glad to tell you that it was because of the readings in Queer Girls Willow’s Queer Transformations on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was at first forced to watch this show because of my partner, he loves everything Joss Whedon touches. While I hated most of this show, partly due to Buffy’s constant crankiness of being “chosen” but she was middle class, white and hetero, meaning to me she was more privileged than I could ever be. Anyway it comes down to this; I started to like this show because of Willow and Tara’s relationship. An issue that I did have with the show and was touched on ever so briefly in the text was the absence of people of color on the show. I mean they lived in California and there were no Latinas what so ever. I guess you could count Faith but she was very stereotypical that I don’t think she counts.

Something that I loved so much was that Willow never called herself queer, lesbian, bi-sexual. It was just known that she was a girl who loved a girl. That was it, pure and beautiful. Susan Driver states “When she [Willow] Finally declares her love for Tara, it is neither the foundation nor the end of her ‘gay’ self, rather , it becomes interwoven through her changing experiences as a girl growing into a powerful young woman on the verge of becoming something else” (70, Queer Girls and Popular Culture). She goes on to say “Willow offers cultural relief from pressures to adopt a coherent transparent identify, offering room to explore the troublesome fit between social categories and subjectivities” (74). This depiction of a person’s sexuality is what I would love for the world to be like. I would love for everyone to not need to wear a label. I’m sure most of you remember the Lindsay Lohan “scandal” where every tabloid was pressuring her to say she was gay. In fact I just Goggled “Lindsay Lohan and girlfriend Samantha Ronson”, the first link says “Lindsay Lohan and lesbian girlfriend Samantha Ronson kiss”, the next says “Lindsay has lesbian kiss with Samantha Ronson”. I bring this up because when Brad and Angelina started dating there was no headline of “Brad and hetero girlfriend Angelina kiss” or “Brad has straight kiss with Angelina”.
The fact that not being hetero, white, male, upper class needs to be stated is insane to me. This kind of binary leads me an essay in Red, Kali Moriarty’s essay Appeal from an Angry not So Emo delves into the idea that if we allow people to be harassed and tormented than it could lead to something else. It pains me to read that after notifying school officials nothing was done about the online bullying. There have been many cases in the news about teens committing suicide after bullying from MySpace, facebook et cetera. She goes on to say “Bad things could happen if we keep promoting, or at least not punishing, discrimination against people who are different from us” (215, Red). I wish I could send her a letter with a Rage against the Machine CD, Battle of Los Angeles. So that she could hear “Voice of the Voiceless” and struggle to overcome.

I would have ended this post then but I went on the websites that were listed in the syllabus and found out that Cosmo Girl might not be that bad. It has a sex topics sections which girls can post to and ask questions. One even posted that she was nervous because she just lost her virginity and bleed a lot. I was very pleased to find a forum for girls to voice their concerns and questions. However that is not to say that Cosmo Girl does not have some work to do, the site is very hetero-normative, along with appeal to white upper class girls who have money to spend on the clothes shown in their fashion section. I then looked at the this organizations seems awesome and wonderful but then I looked at the mentors. One of which was an editor at Cosmo Girl and other various magazines that tell women to look, act a certain way. This made me remember a book from Intro to Women’s Studies Fight Like a Girl where the author praised Condoleezza Rice and various other women who are in leadership positions but in fact are not for women’s rights. I’ve seen it happen before and in fact it happened with this past election with Sarah Palin, women thought she was great because she was a woman. However she believed in men being the “head” of the house, she has fought for abstinence only sex-ed, she lowered funding for special needs programs within public schools. I don’t want to start a debate about how she was portrayed through the media, in fact I didn’t even want to use her as an example but for the sake of time I did. Anyway my question to all of you is: Within popular media what makes a woman leader? Does she just have to be a woman and “succeed” at her goal? Does she have to hold feminist ideals?