Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week 10 & 11: A Culture of Torture

My heart was broken when watching the file “Born into Brothels”. I felt a range of emotions from heart-break, sadness, to happiness and enlightenment. It is appalling that children in this age have to live like this. They are unable to go to school because they have to work till 11:00 at night and start again a 4:00 in the morning. They are slaves and are constantly in an environment where women are degraded. They see women violated by men, they see women fighting calling each other names like “slut” and “whore”. One of the girls in the beginning of the movie stated “one has to accept life as said and painful” another said “there is nothing called hope in my future”. For the girls they have no future, their future is the same as their mothers and grandmothers to be sex slaves. The boys are taught from early on that women are worthless. One of the girls stated how her brother beats her and she would not mind if they were separated. For them the photography was a vacation from reality, but what I saw when I looked into their eyes and pictures were pain, photography was the only happiness they had. This film was so eye-opening and disturbing at one point I could hardly bare to watch it anymore. Towards the end when Avijit was analyzing a picture he stated that “even though there is sadness in it, we must look at it because it is the truth” that statement hit hard. This little boy knows more about the world than most. We must look at films like this because it is the truth and in order to change the truth we must acknowledge it exists.

As we saw in the film I think this vicious never-ending cycle contributes to violence against girls and women. From the time the boys are little they see how males and females for that matter treat women. These boys see women as only being useful for sex, they see how the males beat the women and the girls and they take on that behavior as children when they beat their sisters, it is a vicious cycle. Many would probably say there is a fine line between culture and torture, because for cultures like these in India torture is their livelihood. I disagree, and believe it does not have to be like this any longer. What is holding them back is education. One of my favorite quotes is by Nelson Mandela where he states” Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This is what will change the future for children like the ones in the red light district. Education offers them hope and a future away from the brothel. This culture of the brothel does not have to continue from generation of women to generation of women, education can end it. Culture is something to be proud of, it is values and goals, and torture is not an acceptable part of culture. At one time this culture was acceptable, but in today’s standards it is not.

It is also debatable if “outsiders” have the right to critique the cultural practices of others, but I believe when it comes to the safety and well-being of others we do. What we saw in this film was a culture of torture; these girls are being taught that they will never be more than a sex slave. These children have no voice, and so those who have a voice need to speak up for them. The same can be said about female genital mutilation. As the WHO states: “it reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.” It is a violation of children’s rights as well a health rights, the same can be said about what is going on in brothels.

What if this was going on in America? (some might argue that this does, and it does to a certain extent, but not openly like in India). But, here in America if a mother made a child stay home from school that would be considered abuse and they child would be taken from them. In America it is unthinkable to sell your daughter into sex slavery. It is not acceptable in America, so I ask why is it acceptable anywhere else in the world?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Born Into Tragedy

Week 10/11

I would like to start off by saying that the videos this week were AMAZING. “Born Into Brothels” was so heart wrenching- I felt like those kids were my friends by the end of the video, and to see what they have to go through (and will continue to go through) breaks my heart. Zana Auntie has a heart of gold- even though she knew there would be so many hurdles to get those kids into boarding schools she did everything she could. Those children are vivacious, perceptive, witty, and capable- to hear how some of the adults speak to them was horrifying. To think that these little girls will grow up to be “on the line”- that any man with enough rupees can come in and sexually use/abuse them, is horrifying to me.

The ONLY reason these women prostitute themselves, and the ONLY reason this cycle is being perpetuated, is money. These women are exploited, beaten, controlled, and oppressed by the men in their communities. Avijit’s mother was burned to death by her pimp in the kitchen! Is that the life these young, curious, innocent children have to look forward to? Days of endless sex with evil men, for years and years, until they’re finally killed by their pimp? I want to fly to Calcutta and take all of the kids in that brothel back home with me. Feed them good food, teach them how to read and write, enroll them in public school. The thing is, there isn’t just this one brothel in Calcutta- there are hundreds of thousands, even millions more- across the world. There are many other children living in violent, filthy, unstable, unsanitary conditions that are far beyond their control.

As the video was ending, it broke my heart to see that some of the mothers had removed their kids from the schools, and that some had left on their own. Only one little girl stayed. They all had the chance to take control of their lives, to get an education, and work in any profession they chose, but they didn’t. I think the biggest problem (and solution) to this whole predicament is education. Education. We live in a capitalist society, and although many don’t like it, it’s all we have right now. These women are sex workers, and exploit their children as sex workers, for money. They do this not because they love it or have a choice, but because they have no other means by which to make money, no skill or education to find alternatives. Also, if these women were literate, perhaps they wouldn’t be taken advantage of so much, would know when they weren’t being paid enough, or could read books that would teach them things like how to crochet clothing, cook, how to disinfect a house, or teach them about the dangers of violence against women. I feel strongly that education is the key to ending a lot of women and girls’ problems in the world.

A lack of education contributes largely to violence against women. If the women from the FGM video in Sierra Leone were educated about their genitalia, the risks involved, and were introduced to theory about “innocence” and “promiscuity”, then perhaps the tradition wouldn’t continue. Also, if these women were educated and economically stable, then they wouldn’t have to go around cutting off other women’s genitals to make a living. It all seems to go back to capitalism and ignorance. Money is the driving force, and lack of education is the road block. As far as what distinguishes culture from torture- that is a fine line, and I think that culture can be more of a disguise for torture. If you say “well this is a tradition thousands of years old” then it is hard to explain that it needs to stop, especially when it is deep-seated in religion. Outsiders do not necessarily have a right to critique the cultural practices of others, but when it comes to a cycle of violence where women are systematically mutilating the bodies of young girls in their communities, then I feel that the UN (and otherwise) are justified to call attention to the injustices that are being committed. My question is: when are we going to do something about it? When is the UN going to make classes about the dangers of FGM mandatory to the regions in which it is being practiced? When will punishments be distributed to those people participating in the ritual? Recognizing it as a human rights violation is a start, but it is not nearly the end.

The Eve Ensler video was really tragic and empowering- I know from performing in "The Vagina Monologues" that she mixes real accounts of women with fiction, so it is scary to think how many women actually go through something like this. It is empowering to hear her 8 different rules, ending with "No one can take something from you unless you give it to him". I like her message that girls and women should be strong, no matter how bad the situation gets. That if you do what is in your power to take charge, hope is never lost. This was a really haunting piece, one that makes me wish desperately that I could end sex slavery.

Finally, the Chain of Change videos were really insightful. Watching a few with black women in poor communities, I feel like like these girls are not empowered in their daily lives, that they are not told how valuable, useful, and unique they each are. They are kept down with verbal, physical, and mental abuse, so it is no wonder that poverty and oppression of women is so prevalent there. We need to have more outreach programs that empower and inspire women, that teach them of their self worth, their potential, and their power to do anything they want to do and change the world.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Review: The Road of Lost Innocence

It’s a crime, unmentioned and unnoticed.

Worldwide, it is estimated that somewhere between 700,000 and four million women, children and men are victims each year, and no region is unaffected.

It’s the second largest organized crime in the world, after drugs.

It robs its victims, who are very young, of their innocence, of their lives, of their souls.

The rates of homicide for these individuals is 17 times higher than that of the age-matched general population.

Florida is one of the top 3 states in the US for this crime. And I bet you don’t know what it is.

Its human trafficking. The majority of its victims become sex slaves. You can blame the purity myth for a lot of this problem, as well as greed and the idea that men should be sexual and violent accounts for most of the rest. Why? Many of these children are stolen or sold into trafficking at a young age to insure their virginity. They get a higher price. Families that are in debt and live in societies where women and girls are not valued sell their daughters to help pay off debts. Men who don’t get what they want at home see this as an easy solution to their “sexual problems.”

This problem is discussed in detail in Somaly Mam’s autobiography, “The Road of Lost Innocence.” In it we read her story about being sold into slavery, how she escaped, and how she is changing the world now by rescuing others.

At around the age of 6, Somaly was sold into slavery by a man who told her he was her grandfather. She was his slave. At around the age of 12, he sold her virginity to pay off some of his personal debts. At around 14 or 15 he sold her to a man to be his “wife.” When one day he did not return, Somaly’s “grandfather” sold her again to a brothel.

Somaly’s time in the brothels is best described in one word: Hell. She was beaten, tortured, and raped. Early on in her experience, she escaped for a short while. A man said he wanted to her marry, and she believed him. He told her to take a bus to another town. The drivers raped her and another girl in the truck. The man sold her to them. She got off the truck in a town she thought she had some cousins in. When she found them, they took her in. When the wife of the pair left, the man raped her. When she left them, she was jailed. The police raped her some more. She ended up back at the brothel. She told the other girls, “It’s worse outside. (Mam, 54)”

Another night one of the brothel guards came up, tied up a friend of Somaly’s, and shot her in the head in front of everyone. Another time she let two girls who had just been sold go. She was severely punished, of course. At one point, Somaly said, “My body was nothing, of no value…I wasn’t worth anything. I was srey kouc, broken and unmendable. I was dirty and could never hope to be clean again. (Mam, 75)”

One client did come to care about Somaly. He gave her money that she could use on whatever she wanted. Through him, she met a man that would love her and marry her, Pierre. Together, they worked to end sexual slavery, and Somaly ended up with her own non-profit organization to help these women and children. The entire second half of her book is on this, and it too is wonderful, but I want instead to focus on her girlhood, the time she spent in Hell.

Today’s reality is very harsh, and according to Somaly, much worse. She says they have rescued girls with nails hammered in their skulls. Men believe that having sex with virgins can cure AIDs, give a man strength, lengthen his life, and lighten his skin (something that is seen as attractive in many cultures). To insure virginity, girls are sold very young, as young as 5 or 6. Then they sow the girls back up and sell them as virgins again. And again. Because of how badly the tearing is, these girls are more susceptible to diseases such as AIDS (Mam).

Often times, we sit at home at watch the television, letting the world pass us by. We often forget just how fortunate we are. We wallow in our self pity, never trying to change it or change others. Somaly lived through the depths of Hell, and not only survived, she thrived. Her story is, unfortunately, not uncommon. She puts a face to it when others dare not mention it. This I think is one of the best things this book does for its readers, it puts a face to a global issue. It brings Hell home.

For those of us in Girl’s Studies, it reminds us that many issues that face girls today are not always the ones we talk about most often. They are not always the ones that affect Western women. Well, perhaps as the core they are (such as rape) but they are on a scale and in ways we rarely address. Feminism has received a lot of criticism about neglecting to address the issues of women in underdeveloped countries, of women of color, of women who are poor. Perhaps they are right.

But then again, this issues affects all of us. American girls and women are kidnapped and sold into slavery as well. We just don’t want to talk about it. To say it would mean it exists, and no one wants to do that. No one wants to admit that slavery today is worse than it has been at any other time in history. Florida plays a huge part in that. I will never forget being in high school and reading about how a neighboring town was one of the biggest slave hot-spots in the US. All of the lovely orange groves that I loved to see and smell, all of those oranges are picked by slaves. Chained to their beds at night, paid nothing. All in the name of juice. I don’t drink orange juice anymore.

So I challenge you this. What have you been through in your life? Have you stood up against it? Why is it that we wait until an issue affects us before we fight to change it? Why wait until after, why not start now? How can you do some good in this world, whether it be for women or men? Do you fight for those who have no voice? Ask yourself:

Have you left your mark on the world today?

“A seed is like a little girl: it can look small and worthless, but if you treat it well then it will grow beautiful.” – Somaly Mam


Mam, Somaly. The Road of Lost Innocence: As a girl she was sold into sexual slavery, but now she rescues others. The true story of a Cambodian heroine.. London: Spiegel & Grau, 2008.

"The Facts." IAST - Home Page. 30 Oct. 2009 .



Video Review: The Education of Shelby Knox

I picked a video not on our list. “The Education of Shelby Knox” is a documentary, following the life and struggles of a young high school student as she defends what she believes in. The movie is an awesome story about standing up for yourself and speaking out, even if you are alone in your stance. It shows that young people, young women included, can have a positive change on those around them.

Shelby lives in Lubbock, Texas. In her city, the teen pregnancy and STI rates are almost twice the national average. Of course, Lubbock is in the “Bible Belt” so purity balls and abstinence only education reign supreme. The coincidence is not lost on Shelby. While she herself has chosen an abstinence approach in her own life, she recognizes this is not realistic for the majority of students in her town. Shelby becomes a member of the Lubbock Youth Commission in order to strive to make a difference. She pleads with the school board to allow teachers to educate students on various ways to protect themselves. It is a losing battle, but for 4 years, she fights. In fact, Shelby is still fighting this issue today, although the movie ends when Shelby graduates high school.

We spent two weeks on the issue of sexual purity and the purity myth already, so I don’t want to dive back into that too much. But the film ties into the readings very well. Abstinence only education doesn’t work. More needs to be taught to our children. At one point in the movie, Shelby says something along the lines of, “[Sex education] is a life skill. Aren’t we supposed to be learning life skills in school? [The school system] is failing us.” And she’s right. Not everyone wants to be the Duggar’s and have 20 children. The desire to want to control your reproduction does end when marriage begins, or because you waited until marriage.

Of course, there are other purity issues that are addressed in the movie. Girls are only valuable if they are virgins. In fact, at many points in the movie questions are asked to people in the community. When asked what can be done about teen pregnancy, one person replied, “Girls need to learn self-respect.” Because girls make themselves pregnant. Yeah, I forgot we had that ability. Throughout the film, Shelby talks with her pastor, trying to reconcile her religious views with her social views. Of course, her pastor does not approve of her social views, but she tries anyway. At one point, Shelby is approached by a gay youth group. This starts her questioning even more issues. “If sex is only ok in marriage, what about those people who can’t get married?” Her pastor tells her that homosexuality is a sin, so why does it matter?

Ultimately, this movie deals with many issues that are often tough subjects for girls today. Girls are told to be in the background, quiet, seen and not heard. Shelby is a young activist, and a great role model for girls about the power they truly possess. It is not hidden between our legs and based on our ability to “protect it.” Our power lies in our minds, hearts, and willingness.

Sometimes I Just Can't Be "Culturally Relative".

I knew from the beginning of this class that the topic of female genital mutilation would come up and I have really been dreading it. Just the though of FGM literally makes me sick to my stomach. Since I am taking an anthropology class this semester, I know all about ethnocentrism (the tendency to believe that one's own race or ethnic group is centrally important, and that all other ethnic groups are measured in relation to one's own) and cultural relativism (the concept that one must suspend judgment or culture bound-values on other people's practices to understand them in their own terms). But to me, when a practice becomes dangerous and life threatening, and there is no real spiritual value to it, that's when the line from culture to torture is crossed. While I do not think that "outsiders" have a right to force other cultures to stop a practice, I do think that they have the right to critique it, and even offer alternatives to it. From the FGM fact sheet I read that often "FGM is believed to reduce a woman's libido and help her resist "illicit" sexual acts". In an article I read for that same anthropology class this semester I learned that in India, a country where FGM is practiced, they believe, unlike the Western world, that women are more sexually aggressive than men, and for this reason they must be controlled. Controlling women's sexuality is one of the main reasons that FGM is performed. What a cruel way to keep women from having premarital or extra marital affairs. According the video on Current, there are also economical reasons that these procedures take place. In the villages of Sierra Leon, many women perform the "female circumcisions", as they are called, as their only means of income. I liked how in the video, rather than trying to force the women of these villages to stop performing the circumcisions and leaving them with no way to make money, they offered to help them get an education if they stopped the practice, that way they could find new ways of supporting themselves.

The writing by Eve Ensler was very moving. Until recently, I just didn't realize how often things like that happen. Hearing an account of a girl who wa strong enough to escape from her captors was very uplifting, but we all know that this isn't the norm. Unfortunatley, most girls who are taken and forced into prostitution wont be seen or heard from again. Sex trafficking also goes on in the US, as much as we don't want to believe it, it happens. The sad reality is that many of the girls who are being kidnapped and forced into prostitution are being treated as runaways and prosecuted as criminals. If you're interested, take a look at this link http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27098993/. Its about a 16 year old girl from Pensacola, FL. who was abducted and sold into sex slavery.

Another look at children in the sex worker industry is the documentary Born into Brothels. I have seen this movie before, but I really enjoyed watching it again. As bleak as these children's lives are, it is uplifting to see their spirit and determination to better their lives. It is terrible to see how these children live and know that there is little hope for them to overcome it. How unfair that these children, especially the girls, were born into a life where they could be bought and sold; where their only means of bringing money into their families was by "joining the line". One of the saddest parts of this documentary, to me, was when one of the boys said that you just have to accept life as "sad and painful". To think that these children, who are clearly full of life, think that there is no happiness in the world is just devastating. Another thing that I found very sad was the fact that many boarding schools did not want to take these children simply because they were the children of sex workers, something that the children themselves had no control over! I think the work that "Zana Auntie" did was just amazing. Not only was she able to show the resiliency of these children and the transformative power of art, she was able to really help a few of these kids. The amount of work that Zana Briski went through, getting birth certificates, ration cards, passports and blood work, really shows how desperately she wanted to help them. And the fact that she was able to get each of them accepted into a school, despite their "sex worker" status, was nothing short of a miracle. Because of this, it really upset me to see that some of them returned home, either of their own accord or by the decision of their parents. But the ones who are in school and doing well, Avijit and Kochi, have hope for their futures. Kochi no longer has only the option of becoming a prostitute, and Avijit will be able to follow his dream of becoming an artist. So to me, and I have a feeling Ms. Briski feels the same, if even one child could be helped, then all of the hard work was worth it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Best Friends Forever

The first real best friend that I can remember having was in the fourth grade. Natalia was my neighbor, my confidante, and my partner in crime. In elementary school we were literally attached at the hip. We waited for each other every morning to walk to the bus stop together. We sat next to each other on the school bus, in class, and never had lunch without the other. If I wasn’t at home, I could be found at her house and vice-versa. We experienced the troubles of girlhood together from our developing physical changes and first periods, to teenage rebelliousness and first crushes. We spent so much time together; it was like we were practically sisters. The story “The Two of Us,” about the twin sisters reminded me of my relationship with my best friend. Just like Hannah could tell Sarah anything, Natalia knew every detail possible about my life. “It [was] hard to keep things from each other, and we both know what is said in confidentiality stays that way. Why go through something alone when there’s someone you can trust to be with you?” (45).


In the sixth grade, my parents went through a very nasty divorce. Natalia was there for me while I dealt with feelings of confusion and anger. After the divorce was finalized, my mother decided to move back to New York forcing me to leave everything I knew and was comfortable with behind, including my best friend. Emma’s story, “Bloody Red Heart” about the struggles of living in a separated family really hit home for me. “It splits up friends, ruins Christmas, and makes money tight.” (53). This statement could not be truer for my family. Having to choose between different holidays to spend with my mom or dad was very difficult for me. My family dynamic was never the same after that. The relationship I had with my father slowly began to deteriorate. I can relate to Alicia in “Country” when she says “family is important to me; it is my top priority. My dad, though, is the furthest thing from my mind.” (40). My mother and my brother mean the world to me. My father on the other hand is a completely different story. Our relationship was one that was defined by arguments, fights, and emotional damage.


My first boyfriend was not much of a relationship. In middle school, boyfriends and girlfriends were just people you held hands with walking down the hallways and sat with at lunch. We never really went on dates or anything like that back in middle school, so in my opinion that “relationship” doesn’t count. This all occurred when I was in eighth grade. The next time I got into a relationship was during my junior year of high school. At this point in my life all of my friends were in serious relationships and I was the ONLY single person left in our little clique. When Jasmine describes her best friend’s relationship in “Decent Guy on the Planet,” she mentions how she was “so happy for her but at the same time asked [herself] why [she] still didn’t have a boyfriend” (147). I found myself in that same predicament when I was in high school. I like something was seriously wrong with me since I was the only one without a boyfriend. Due to that influence, I kind of just threw myself into any relationship opportunity that came my way. Looking back on that now, it obviously wasn't the smartest way to go about things. I've learned form my mistakes however, and I'm now a lot more careful about the relationships I might be intending to pursue.

With a little help from my friends

In high school, I managed to find a tight group of girls at the end of my freshman year. We lasted until about the end of our junior year, until drama (and an out-of-state-move) finally drove us apart. We called ourselves the foursome and we stuck together like our lives depended on it. I was probably the least social of the four of us, so it was really important to me until my junior year that we were such good friends. It’s interesting now, to think about how we sort of disintegrated. I know now that they really weren’t the greatest of friends, and they definitely weren’t empowering- and neither was I.

We all had other friends, and I while we were self-titled a group of four, I don’t think we were very exclusive- we simply didn’t have the popularity status to be (or have it matter, if we were). We treated each other pretty poorly- one of the girls, A, was “in love” with T, who strung her along while she dated boy after boy. I thought J was constantly stealing my boyfriends (it was only twice), and I made fun of T behind her back all the time. It was our own little soap opera. I thought about these girls as I read Sarah McIntosh’s “Lies We Have Told.” At the end of junior year, before J moved away, we all swore we were and would always be there for each other. After that summer was over, I hardly spoke to them. Like Sarah wrote, “Eventually, though, [we] just drifted apart” (121). I find, even now, that it’s difficult to make friends with girls. While I didn’t know it at the time, it was so discouraging being in such a volatile relationship with this group of girls.

I’m glad, now, that I had my mom during those years. She drove me home from school a good part of my time there, and I always chattered to her about the day and she gave me a chance to vent about my crazy friends and relax without having to worry that she was only pretending to understand. I’m so thankful to her and for the fact that I only relate to Jordyn Turney’s “Mascara” essay when she talks about her mom being the most beautiful woman: “It’s msostly because she’s someone who gets excited about watching chick flicks or black and white movies… The sort of mom who buys me chocolate when I’m on my period” (57). My mom, who didn’t have an ideal situation growing up- one that related more to the “TLC” and “Bloody Red Heart” essays- made sure that I had an empowering woman to talk to when my friends were ridiculous and my older sister moved out when I was ten years old.

All of these women had a hand in shaping my life, though, and my ideas of girlhood. T brought me out of my shell a little in the early years of high school, and A helped me to understand the different kinds of love girls can have for one another. The jealousy and anger I felt towards each of them at some point helped me to understand a little more about who I wanted to be. And my mom, even when she and my dad were separated, always made sure I knew I was loved.

WWII: Women in the Fight

Life Photo Slideshow

Take a look at some of these pictures of women fighting and supporting the war efforts in World War 2. I love these shots - many women, of various races, backgrounds, and social classes. All of these women proved they were strong, capable, and necessary for success.

BFFs

I read in the Wall Street Journal once that women are more likely to rely and keep friendships with other women than men are with their male peers. The article cited the case of a group of women who grew up together as girls and young women and continue to visit each other despite leading separate lives that drew them down different career and personal paths in all different areas of the country. I thought of this article instantly when I read this week's readings about friendships as a young girl. Growing up the friendships I had were a vital part of life's greatest memories, whether it be developing a secret spy club a la Harriet the Spy with my neighborhood girlfriends, running around hopped up on soda and pizza at a sleepover or taking my first underage swig of lukewarm tequila (harsh start to drinking, I know). You're best friends are the girls that are going through exactly what you are, that are closest to your school/personal/familial experiences. Having moved every two or four years throughout my childhood and adolescence I had a multitude of best friends that I vowed to continue writing once I moved and never did. But I can tie a specific happy memory to each of them. For Annie and I it's squeezing into the crawl space at her parents house and seeing how long we could last telling ghost stories in the dark. For Kathleen and Cassie and I it was writing letters to each other with neon colored pens. For Karen and I, it was watching fireworks at the summer festival and talking about boys (though she always had the boyfriend, not I). And there were more: Jennifer, Selena, Kendall. Each holds tiny pieces of my girlhood. For the most part these tiny pieces are memories of empowerment, where we, together, did something crazy and for us to understand alone. We rebuked what our parents, teachers and classmates said it meant to be a "nice, normal girl" and just were ourselves.

And then there's the other side of girlhood friendships. There's the hierarchy in the group of girlfriends. There's the one best friend that you always want to impress, to have her say you're so funny/pretty/smart for once. As Sarah Harrison writes in her essay "Tampoons" "There's something about her that makes me feel sloppy and always will" (Goldwasser 126). There's the best friend that sells herself short, playing coy and going for the guy who you know talks bad about her to his friends only to resent you when you try to be honest and say something about it. Best friends can teach you the meaning of the word "bitch" and sometimes they'll even wield the word against you. Friends can become 'friends' to the point where you become the shy member of the group who, as Rebecca Murray writes in her essay "Big Shoes," is "very concerned with what I was saying, worrying that people were judging me" (Goldwasser 128). You buy the pair of orange aviators because your best friend said they were sexy on you and she already has a boyfriend so she must know. Still, you know they're not you when you wear them. You laugh at some jokes or adore some male movie star your best friend(s) does too even thought you're not quite sure you get it. As much as you can be 'you,' sometimes there's too much 'you' and your bet friend(s) may think you're getting annoying and want to hang out with you less.

When this dark side reared its head in my friendships I had my family, always. Moving from place to place throughout your life can teach you that your family is the one thing constant, the one thing that matters above all. My parents stressed this point, making family camping trips and appearances at every holiday in New York (where most of my relatives reside) a priority. While reading Zulay Regalado's essay "Pots and Pans" I was taken back to my Cuban grandfather's warm yellow kitchen on Thanksgiving, the tiny room packed tight with parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers, sisters, smiles, tears, loud laughs and yelling. I say it was my grandfather's kitchen even though he lived with my grandmother because he was the one that spent all day cooking and singing. As Regalado writes one of these gatherings "can be quite the scene for any normal person to endure" (Goldwasser 63). To this day nothing makes me happier than a long table of food bordered by my noisy relatives and the sometimes startled girlfriends of my younger brothers (my boyfriend of three years has already been desensitized to the craziness. There I learned that I can be loved for who I am. That I can speak up about how I feel if I can get over everyone else. That being loved had nothing to do with how you looked or dressed but how you loved yourself and others. You want to be embarrassed about family but you just can't when you're sitting in the thick of it at 3:35 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Regalado's description of the scene warmed me over:

"Some of the children let out shrilly giggles, revealing brilliant holes where their baby teeth once were. As I sat at the packed table, the only teenager of the family, I absorbed the deep laughs and the distinctly Cuban slurring of s's" (Goldwasser 64).
My last year of high school I moved to Tampa, Florida and found Chelsea, Erin, Justine and
Amanda who remain my best friends to this day. We moved to separate parts of the state for college but I know who to call when I'm sad or lonely or really happy and have great news. We're all extremely quirky and I love it when we're together because we just click. As Jasmine Sennhauser wrote in her essay "Decent Guy on the Planet" "Hang out with us for two seconds, and you'll either walk away confused or start laughing your head off" (Goldwasser 146). We experienced college partying together, with all the awkward details of hookups as well as a healthy dose of skinny dipping on the beach. We've talked over the men in our lives as well as what we want to be when we grow up (though some of us still aren't sure). They aren't the best friends I've had in the past, they're family. Who knows, maybe one day we'll end up in the Wall Street Journal?

I didn't rape you-you asked for it


I don't recall ever taking an abstinence-only class but it has been a long time since high school for me. I believe the only way to make people understand the harm that these courses are doing is to raise awareness via blog and similar media to young people and educate parents as well. If parents could understand the psychological harm they could do to their children by allowing these classes to be taught, it could help prevent their propagation (excuse the term). Additionally, a push against legislation that promotes this kind of education, or lack thereof, could help restrict this brainwashing of our youth. I have railed against the purity myth since I became sexually active, although I never named it before. This promotion of purity is severely anti-woman in all its forms. Its antiquated notions lead to a demonizing of women and perpetuates the sexist ideas in men that lead to sexual abuse.

I have read Katie Roiphe's book "The Morning After: Fear, Sex, and Feminism". In many of my women's studies courses it has come under fire. Here again Valenti comments on a quote from Roiphe stating, "Let's face it-this is "she was asking for it" trussed up in language about agency and responsibility (151)." Even Roiphe, a feminist, falls for the idea of a woman as a temptress. Valenti goes on to say, "Women get raped because someone raped them." Then she quotes a blogger who was raped describing the difference between the night she was attacked and any other night. "The difference was the presence of the rapist (151)." No matter what the woman is wearing or what rights she has men have always felt the need to assert their superiority and power through rape. It is within his power to control himself no matter the circumstance of the woman. It is the rapist who rapes; who forces himself on another; who basely violates the rights of another human being.

The idea of purity develops these ideas in men. He is not responsible for his actions according to the purity ideals. Women are responsible for instigating sexual acts by their words, deeds and appearance. Purity myth states that it is women who are at fault. In fact, as Valenti states, "most women are seen as incapable of being raped" according to the purity myth (157). As most women are or have been sexually active. They are already soiled and wanton because they have had sex. Valenti even points out how, "positioning women as naturally nonsexual and men as innately ravenously sexual sets up not only a dangerous model that allows for sexual violence and disallows authentic female sexual espression, but also further enforces traditional gender roles-the main objective of the purity myth (175)."

Dancing like a whore and actuallly being one are totally different

I loved Eliza Appleton's story "Cribs". It communicates so much of the frustrations and stresses of growing up girls and on top of that is full of quotable lines. From calling the dirty dancing of our times "grinding" and defending the desire the teenagers had to rub their parts against one another in front of crowds (which I can totally understand, I love dancing=). At the high school dances I was unfortunate enough to attend "grinding" was not allowed and if you were caught by the surrounding teachers you would get thrown out and that's all for your Prom experience. I think it is hilarious but aggravatingly dumb at the same time. I can understand though, just as Eliza understood why the parents were so shocked by their scandalous dance moves. I can also relate to her dreams of legend status at her high school. Being so popular and respected in high school is the adult equivalent of hitting the jackpot; that is how important rank and status seem at that time.
A great line that I feel encompasses growing up in our times:
"Condensations seemed to drip from the ceiling there as people danced, drank, did drugs, and basically sexually assaulted each other" (150).
To be half-joking, isn't this how everyone's high school years went?
Eliza goes on to cover the topic of sex ed in the school systems. From nonsensical exercises, such as naming all the slang words for reproductive organs, to the even more nonsensical, harmful rather, technique in which school systems inform student's on their bodies and sexual practices. Even a 16-year-old is mature enough to know how counterproductive the instruction (or lack of) seems.
She sums it up perfectly in this quote:
"I know it's important to be informed of the risks that go with sex, but shouldn't we also learn about it in a positive way?" (152).

Jocelyn Pearce speaks of the gut-wrenching style of crushing nearly every teenage girl is susceptible to, and falls victim to. Girls have so much strong, dramatic, and intense emotions, when mixed with pseudo-love/obsession it can lead to disaster! It is so common for girls to get enamored with crushes to the point where, like Jocelyn, they are willing to be late to classes and cherish every comment and every "hello" uttered in the hallways. Girls have the tendency to develop crushes so intense they lose any sight of common sense or good judgment. While usually harmless and short-lived infatuations, it can lead to self-destructive tendencies, or at the very least, an injured ego. Plus, lots of wasted time spent swooning and stressing, worrying, contemplating, or beating yourself up for the dumb comment your crush probably didn't even notice. Though, just as in Jocelyn's case, it can lead to something great, like the discovery of a new passion for soccer.
Reflections of previous events and emotions


I always love reading the short stories in red. I appreciate the fact that the girls get to express themselves so openly and honest. I recall my teenage years when reading the stories in red and realize times never really change from one generation to the next. The story of Cribs by Eliza Appleton made me appreciate the fact that things do not change much from generation to generation. The big difference is we call the dances different names, but each generation has its own form of dirty dancing. In Cribs Eliza’s mother thinks grinding is dirty dancing. What about in the fifties when the guys would pick the girls up and she would spread her legs and her crotch would be on his waist. I believe it was called the hop. This could be considered dirty dancing, but it was accepted. I think some parents forget what it was like to be a teenager. I understand parents want to protect their children but you have to start trusting them to make the right choices also.

I could relate to the crush in The Match by Jocelyn Pearce. I was in the tenth grade and had several classes with Kyle. In my eyes he could do no wrong and he was so handsome. He also was the teacher’s pet. He sat in the front row and I remember our teacher seemed older than my grandmother and taught English literature. Kyle drove a mustang and would go surfing on weekends. I also remember as the year went on my crush ended especially when the English literature teacher let Kyle get away with everything possible. He always turned assignments in late and was absent for every test. I knew he was the teacher’s pet when every grading period he had an A. I lost all respect for him and our teacher half way thru the year. I know looks may not be everything, but it helps in some situations.

Another story I appreciated was Bloody Red Heart by Emma Considine. My parents divorced when I was three. I have to agree with Emma separated families, does seem like a fad in America. I remember when I was young thinking this is great you do get more presents at Christmas and birthdays. I also remember thinking I do not want to go to my dad’s house and be around my stepmother. I remember thinking this is not fair my friends get to stay at home and play. My sister and I have to go to the other parents home for a visit and be away from our friends during school breaks. I have to say I had a bloody red heart too. I wanted the typical family mom, dad, two children, dog and the white picket fence. It seems when you are growing up everybody else’s family seems perfect compared to your own. In high school you realize your family is special and you are glad to have a mom and dad even if they do not live in the same house. The meaning of family can be many different scenarios. That is why America is called the melting pot.

Elizabeth Nesbitt

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Faux Twins

As usual, I loved the readings from Red this week. I love the way these girls let us peek into their lives for a moment.

I really loved both writings by the twins, Hannah and Sarah. While I do not have a twin sister (I always thought it would be great to have one though), I do think I understand some of what they say about their bond. Lindsey has been my best friend since 6th grade. The second I met her we had things to talk about and we haven’t run out of things yet. While Lindsey and I are not exactly alike, in high school we became something of a “package deal” like Hannah mentions in The Two of Us (Red 45). If one of us was doing something, the other had to be there, period. We even used to tell people that we shared a brain. Just like the twins, Lindsey and I can tell each other anything. I totally agree with Hannah when she says “Why go through something alone when there’s someone you can trust to be with you?” because that is exactly how I feel about Lindsey. Sometime I think that even though we aren’t really sisters, and we aren’t twins on the outside, we are definitely twins on the inside!

I can relate very much to the stories about, dun dun dun…boys. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I started developing crushes as early as kindergarten. When boys still thought girls were gross, I was chasing them around the playground trying to kiss them! All the way up through high school, I would like a boy, be to shy to tell him, act weird around him, find out he was dating someone else, and be crushed. I like how in The Match, Jocelyn says “whoever thought up the word crush didn’t call it that arbitrarily. Crushes hurt.” It’s so true.

When reading the essay TLC, I actually got a little mad! It upset me to read that because Annie decided to speak up about physical abuse from her father, she was treated like a criminal. It made me angry that her mother was ready to give up her parental rights and that her family members told her that she had “messed up big this time”. Annie felt as though she needed to be forgiven, and that the situation was all her fault. From what I understood though, it was her father that was the one who needed to be forgiven. It seems as though Annie thinks that because she was “a liar” or because she was mean to her siblings, that she almost deserved the physical abuse by her father. I feel like I can understand where Annie is coming from when she says “I had never been arrested, I had never been in a cop car or handcuffed” but that she felt as though she was “a delinquent like the rest of them” (Red 69). I have always been the sibling that would talk back and be disrespectful to my parents. I did great in school; I never got into any kind of trouble with the law, and was always very respectful to authority figures. But with my family, I had a short fuse, as did my dad. We would get into screaming yelling fights that would on occasion lead to something physical. I remember one time when my dad and I were inches away from each other’s faces, and he picked me up by my shoulders and shoved me into a door. He has never flat out hit me, but there were definitely times when his anger got out of hand. After the fights sometimes my mom would come into my room and we would talk and she would say things like “You know how he is” or “you just know how to push his buttons”. I always felt as though I deserved it for being a brat. I had made him angry so this was my punishment. I now realize that no one deserves to be hurt, no matter how bratty they may be acting. I think my family realized this too because when I was about 16 my mother signed the whole family up for counseling, an idea that originally, my sister, dad and I hated! But it didn’t take long before we were all getting along better. Yes, we still had arguments but we learned how to better communicate with out screaming, yelling or getting physical.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good ole family time!

When I looked back at the stories I marked from Red while reading, I noticed that they all were family related. My parents got divorced when I was about two, so having divorced parents is all I know. I don’t have any angry feeling about it like Emma Considine does in “Bloody Red Heart”. In “Country”, Alicia Davis wrote, “There is no wall of animosity between us, just a small cloud of irritation that comes and goes.” She is talking about her dad, and I now exactly how she feels. It has been a process to get to the relationship my father and I have now. My mother is very emotional and open, and my dad is definitely not emotional or chatty by any means. When I was a young girl I was often very frustrated with him, just like Alicia was with her dad. When he would pick me up for our time together he didn’t ask much about my life, and I felt like he didn’t really try to get to know who I was. Also my dad’s side of the family likes to tease the ones they love, and I was just too sensitive for it at times. When I brought it up I just got teased for being sensitive. I think a girl’s relationship with her father is very important. It’s pretty much her first glimpse of male behavior. I don’t want to say “relationship” because I don’t mean it in the freaky purity ball way. I am lucky that my dad is a very respectful man, and always treats women well. Now my relationship with my dad is great! We have dinner together once a month and bond over our love for sushi (just like Alicia did singing with her dad). He has learned to beef up his conversation skills and I have learned not to take his teasing to heart. Although, now I am not afraid to tell him when it hurts my feelings. Alicia wrote, “He does have a heart, although at time it becomes hidden.” This is exactly how I feel about my dad. I also think he is seeing how fast his little girl is growing up, and doesn’t want to lose anymore time due to lack of communication. Young girls get their first taste of communicating with men by interacting with their dads, and an open communication line is very important.

I am very close to my mother. I would say right now our relationship is at it’s best. “In Mascara Wands Are Instruments of War”, Jordyn Turney writes, “Mother-daughter relationships are famous for one thing, really: conflict.” This is not true for my entire relationship with my mother as a young girl. I would say that most of our conflict was from age 16 to 18. We had very emotional fights. We are not yellers, just criers. I think it was a combination of me fighting for my independence and my mother fighting letting me got. The year before I moved out was the worst. My outlook was that I would be moving away from home soon, so I should be able to do whatever I want because I would be doing it soon anyway. Lots of crying ensued. We have laughed over those years many times now. I openly recognize what a little brat I was, and she recognizes that she might have been holding on a little too tight. I think most young girls go through a time like this with their mothers. A girl’s relationship with her mother is very important. I believe your mother is your very first role model as a young girl. Both mother and daughter should work together to have a healthy, open relationship. It’s very crucial in a girl’s personal and emotional growth. Your mother is an ally that you will always have.

Everyone Can Relate

I spent 8 months in Pennsylvania and four months in Florida, so I shuffled schools. It was always fun, everyone looked forward to me coming back, yet I missed out on a lot. The kids had their clicks and it seemed as if I was an intruder, I’d miss birthday parties, fun field trips, and it was hard fitting in. I did this until I was in 5th grade. I must add, I was awkward during this time. I gained weight, had awkward spaces in my teeth and was totally uncoordinated. I wanted so bad to fit in with the “cool” girls, little did I know that I’d be their friends in high school and it wasn’t that great.

In high school, I feel like I was disempowered, I became a follower and did a lot to make people like me. They drank a lot, which I kept my boundaries and did not. They thought sex was a horrible thing and did every other crazy thing, so when I had sex they defended me. I was very hurt and upset, and then I realized I did not need friends like that. They ended up being huge sluts. Its funny one of them was president and that prom all the “good girls” got totally wasted entered prom puking and had to leave! During the time I was friends with them, my mom and I had a not so great relationship. I cannot blame this on anyone but myself, but their actions rubbed off on me. I am now a very confident person; I do not need people to make me happy. I keep to myself and enjoy my few good friends that I do have. Boys on the other hand, I was crazy about until senior year. I dated a lot and thought I loved them all, what was I thinking?! I had a serious boyfriend for a year, he then bought a house and we broke up and he became a heavy partier and would go out of his way to call and harass me, it was an ugly break up. Then senior year I had a few flings then I met David. We became inseparable, and were best friends. We went to my senior prom and finally he became my boyfriend on graduation. He was a sophomore when I was a senior, yet I knew he was different. That summer I was in love and before I knew it I went to college. I went down to the Keys a lot to visit, I feel that having him n my life and instilling his good values shaped who I am today. In high school, I goofed off a lot, but now I never drink and get good grades. We went out for two years and then broke up, even though he’d be going to UCF with me now. Were still best friends, we hang out every day, eat breakfast and dinner together. He’s a positive person I my life and showed me not all men are the same.

The News in Red was an uplifting story, Claudia says, “what doesn’t kill you make you stronger.” This story was every emotion filled, seeing that her sister was in a tsunami in Thailand. She survived and it showed how people overcome fears and move on. In the story of To See How They Look on Me, on You, really upset me when I first started reading it. It’s sad how they are twins yet they were a size 5 and a size 15, it’s even sadder that the brother, Ben, calls Hannah the “fat one” and Sarah the “skinny one”. It was nice to see how close they are and how Sarah feels the need to protect her, yet I think it’s bad how she wants her to be skinny so she doesn’t have to worry about her. I know she wants the best for her but it’s s if she doesn’t accept the way her sister is either.

In the Friendships section of Red, the story Big Shoes was sad yet inspirational. Rebecca tells of Sarah, a friend of hers that she met through dance class. She says, ‘Sarah Bradford was one of those people who, once you met her, treated you like you were her true friend.” Unfortunately Sarah died in a car accident. Rebecca stated that, “Sarah was always smiling or working her hardest to make other people smile.” To me that’s a great person, its ashame how young people’s lives are taken especially when they have so much to give.

These stories all girls and women can relate to, I read these stories and find myself thinking about when I was chubby, when I lost a friend, what I have overcome. I think schools should implement Red into the required readings; it could be beneficial for many young teen girls.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Put yo hand up on my hip, when I dip you dip we dip

Since this week’s blog prompt is “TBA”, I suppose I’ll just chat about some of the stories we read in RED this week. In the family section, it was really interesting to me to see that some of these girls had the same thoughts, experiences, or relationships that I had. For instance, almost every teenager goes through a bout where she is angry at one of her parents. This was surely true for me when I was 13, but just like Alicia Davis, we found things to bond over and became closer. Also, I know what it’s like to have a sister abroad when disaster strikes, as in “The News” by Claudia Berger. My sister was in Paris when the bombings started a few summers ago. She was a romance language major when she was at UCF, so she spent a lot of time in Italy and France. We definitely had a scare, but she turned out to be okay and came home to us safely. We used to have a very turbulent relationship, so I understand Claudia when she was worried that the last thing she told her sister was, “I hate you.”

The 2 essays by the twins Sarah and Hannah Morris were great, although I am sad to read how much Sarah is worried about Hannah’s weight. She’s not worried for health reasons, either- she’s worried that she’ll get made fun of, not find a boyfriend, or not get into nightclubs when she’s older. It saddens me that she is full of compliments about her sister, but always follows up with a “but I just wish she could lose weight” variant, as though she is less valuable or hasn’t reached her potential as a person. This just goes back to the media and societal pressures on our female youth to fit into a certain ideal look, and it even goes so far as to cause a slight rift between these sisters.

Emma’s bloody red heart really got to me, not only because both of my parents have been divorced twice, but because my little sister is currently living in a situation much like Emma’s. She travels back and forth between my dad and her mom’s house, often forgets textbooks or homework at one of theirs and can’t finish her assignments, and worst of all, is used as a bargaining chip between the two of them. “Well you got her for her birthday so I get her for Easter.” What about what she wants? I will be SO glad when she turns 16 in a few months so that she can decide where she wants to be and when. There is none of this “you need to come pick her up” nonsense, because she can take care of that herself. Her car will be her own domain, her own space, and she can do with it as she pleases. I think it’s really important for every teenager to feel like they have their own space, and are truly in control of something. Not another human being, of course, but a space, an object, a plan. Goodness knows it helped me to survive my middle and high school years.

In the “Friendships” section of the readings, I was surprised by Sarah McIntosh’s story in “Lies We Have Told”. I was surprised to read another account of a girl cutting herself, of trying to commit suicide. I don’t have enough information to conclusively say, but, as with the other story a few weeks ago, it seems to me that the most angst and depression happens when girls realize they’re bisexual. In this society, it is not okay to be confused. Even with all of the reforms and awareness that have occurred in the last few decades, people are still close-minded in a heterosexual binary. It is terrible that a teenage girl feels she has to close herself off from the world and that her only outlet is mutilating herself and deceiving people, because she knows she will be socially alienated or psychologically (even physically) hurt by her peers if they found out. These are the same circumstances that are directly affecting some of my friends, and we have got to change it.

Finally, in the “Crush” section, I was reminded of how intense young love can be. Oh my god, I yearned for certain guys! I could feel it in my bones, usually guys I barely knew but had seen on campus. Even in college, I haven’t experienced the same kind of agony as that of my first few crushes. I’m glad Jocelyn Pearce at least got soccer out of it. It also reminded me how detective-like girls can be: knowing when your crush has classes, where, and what they do after school, etc. Also, the grinding essay was great, simply because everyone of my friends, at some point, has talked about grinding, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything written about it. I’m not exactly sure how we went from what I like to call that “shoulder dancing” of the 80s to the grinding we so enjoy today, but it certainly is a stark contrast. Something that really stuck with me in this essay is that: just because you do something sexy doesn’t mean you’re going to have sex. Dancing “like a whore” and “acting like a whore” are two different things, says the author, and I couldn’t agree more (although I have issues with the word “whore”). When I was in high school, which was barely 4 years ago, it was cool to dress a certain way when you went to parties, or to dance a certain way, or talk a certain way. It never meant you had to do anything, and many of my friends as well as myself had lots of self control and resisted anything we were uncomfortable with. It’s really important to keep in mind that girls are strong, and although they may be easily influenced by fashion and the media on the outside, their minds are not so easily fooled.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dancing with Angels

I have had the same best friend for over ten years now. We found our womanhood and struggled through girlhood together. When we were about 14 we were obsessed with makeup, we had found our new love MAC. MAC was the best high fashion makeup out there, we were able to transform into adults with the simple movement of a brush. As got older and into high school I developed friendships with a group of girls who were “popular”. Three of them were cheerleaders; two were always on homecoming and prom court. I felt the pressure to be beautiful and fit into this stereotypical mold. Being a girl became was about wearing makeup, wearing the latest fashions, and having the perfect hair. My transformation in less than a year was significant. I went from wearing jeans and a t-shirt literally everyday to wearing skirts, dresses, and other preppy clothes. I felt the pressure to fit in. Something that stands out though is the comfortable environment around my best friend. My best friend has always and still is a very beautiful person naturally. She never cared too much what she was wearing and would go out without makeup, but was confident. To me this is what beauty is. She helped me find myself and be comfortable in my own skin.

I could relate to Jasmine’s story “Decent Guy on the Planet”. When I was 14 I had my first love. But, before he was my love he was one of my best friends. Like Jake, David was nice to everyone and fun to be around. He was cute and two years older. I noticed how I started paying more attention to my appearance. I always dressed nice, had my hair and makeup done when I was around him. I always had to look perfect. High school is a treacherous time when you don’t feel beautiful and are insecure, but my boyfriend helped me be secure. He would always tell me I was beautiful even when I did not feel this way. I truly became a different person; I became more outgoing and more confident. Over time I felt comfortable not getting dressed up or wearing makeup all the time around him, and yet he would still tell me how beautiful I was, even telling me how he liked my natural beauty better. He never made me feel self-conscious, only complemented me every time, it was his persistence and kind words that encouraged me and made me believe that I was beautiful inside and out. He taught me that being a woman was not only what I looked like, but what was on the inside as well. I ended up marrying him almost 8 years later and he is just as supportive. He is not threatened by my womanhood or intelligence; he encourages me and supports me in all that I do.

While I have had much love in my girlhood I also had many tragedies. I have gone to more funerals in my life than weddings. Both of my grandparents died before I was 12. I have head many cousins killed in car accidents. When I was in 9th grade my cousin was driving with his best friend on a two lane road that was notorious for being dangerous. As typical teenagers do being stupid he illegally passed a semi and pulled in front of it too closely clipping the front of the jeep. Both him and his friend where thrown out. His friend was killed instantly, and he was in ICU for months. We had originally been told my cousin was the one who was killed and I remember just screaming and crying uncontrollably in disbelief. It was hard for me to read Rebecca’s story “Big Shoes”. Recently, a girl who I had grown up with was killed in a car accident, like Sarah, there was speculation that she had not worn her seatbelt. Everybody would always say that she was so full of life and LOVED to dance. She end by saying “Teach those angels how to dance, will you?(130)” and it reminded me of my friend and what people said about her being up in heaven dancing with the angels.

Fat Talk Free Week

From the OperationBeautiful.com site:


This week is Fat Talk Free Week. Fat Talk is negative self-talk and it has NOTHING to do with being overweight, average weight, or even underweight. Like Operation Beautiful, Fat Talk Free Week has everything to do with how you see yourself and treat yourself. Watch the new FTFW video for more:



As part of Fat Talk Free Week,women all over the country are pledging to stop fat talking for just one week. Hopefully, this week will become a month, a year, a LIFETIME! We don’t need Fat Talk in our world, at all.

Did you know…

54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
The average American woman is 5’4” tall, weights 140 lbs, and wears a size 12 or 14. Fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.
Barbie, the best selling fashion doll in the world, has unattainable and unhealthy body proportions. If she were alive, her waist would be smaller than patients with anorexia nervosa, and she would be unable to menstruate.
1 in 4 women have avoided engaging in a physical activity or sport because they feel badly about the way they look.
81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat. 51% of 9 and 10 year old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.
Seventy percent of young women say they want to look like a TV character.

PLEASE take the pledge to stop Fat Talking this week.


Namaste',
~Amanda W.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Women, Sex, and Double Standards

At my high school, we attended abstinence-only sex education classes. We learned an extensive amount about different STD’s and diseases that could be the consequence of engaging in sexual activity. They stressed the importance of saving sex for marriage because having sex as a teenager would ultimately “ruin your life.” Different forms of contraception were briefly mentioned; however, abstinence was stressed as the ONLY way to protect yourself and your partner from pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases. These classes did not teach us how to properly use condoms or about the pros and cons of using oral contraceptives. Honestly, I never even knew that the Plan B pill existed until my freshman year in college, when my best friend needed emergency contraception (sad, I know)! Instead of focusing so much on trying to get the youth of our generation to remain abstinent, school officials and the directors of these various “sex education” classes really need be objective and teach safe sex and even bring to light the issues we are facing in today’s society when it comes to sexist gender roles.

I found Chapter 8, “Beyond Manliness,” to be very interesting. Jessica Valenti provides readers with a plethora of evidence regarding sexist gender roles that can be seen in our everyday lives and are included in television, movies, music, and even politics. The message was clear and consistent with each example she provided: “in order to be a man, one must avoid being feminine at all costs” (168). This notion is so crazy and absurd to me. It is a shame that this fear of being feminine is so embedded in our society. Sexist gender roles also play a role in the myth of sexual purity in which “men are “men,” women are chaste, and a gender-based hierarchy is essential” (168). The fact that these concepts and beliefs are so entrenched in our society is the primary reason why sexual double standards exist.

The purity myth itself definitely manifests itself in violence against women. It was so upsetting to read the different stories about rape cases and to see how quickly concern for the victims turned into blame. When it comes to sexual violence, the media is prompt in separating the “good girls” from the “bad girls.” Like Valenti says, these women are stereotyped into the “rape victims worthy of sympathy and the slutty girls who should have known better” (148). This mentality makes me so mad because no one is ever deserving of such a horrible act. Being responsible or “knowing better” has nothing to do with being raped. The media is notorious for labeling these women as impure which in turn goes back to the purity myth. The purity myth needs to be dismantled in order to fight back against rape culture. “Under the purity myth, the only women who can truly be raped are those who are chaste – and given how limiting the purity myth is, and how few women actually fit into its tight mold, the consequence is that most women are seen as incapable of being raped” (157).

Righting the Wrongs

Sexual education is a passion of mine as I believe we are cheating our youth by not giving them up-front, accurate, and objective information void of the conservative agenda forced to be promulgated by public school teachers. Our abstinence only programs taught in schools have good intentions using moot techniques to get young people to abstain from sexual relations with one another. These programs could not be more ineffective since the United States is known for having one of the highest rates of STDs among adolescents and the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world (http://www.themediaproject.com/topics/sexeducation.htm). It is an outdated concept that is not even backed up by any research, rather, as just explained, it seems to be outrageously counterproductive. The right-wing organizations that keep this policy in tact use misguided ideas to support their reasoning, claiming sexual education should be left up to the parents. This is not an effective way since most parents do not take responsibility for their child’s sexuality, it is more likely to be an issue left alone. Therefore, I believe it is the school systems job to instruct children on sexuality, contraceptives, and pregnancy.

What I remember from sexual education started with a program called “Girls are Great!” that came to the local community college. It was an enlightening experience that was taught by young women to younger girls about 9-13 that covered everything about the female body and taught us everything we needed to know about our periods and what to expect from puberty. It made the experience seem much less daunting. I recommend everyone partake in this program if the opportunity rises.

After this came the joke of a public education about sex. In fifth grade they separated the boys and girls and a sex ed teacher was brought in. We learned about the female body, how many sperm were in one male ejaculation (about 5 million), and puberty; watched dumb videos, but I always felt like I was being deprived of some information, like I was never getting all the details. That is because we weren’t. In high school they health teacher was not allowed to talk to us about any birth control besides abstinence, and I was disappointed not to be able to partake in the embarrassing lessons I saw in teen flicks (like learning how to put a condom on a banana) because these topics were not allowed to be discussed. If we have learned anything from the past, it should be that CENSORSHIP CAUSES BLINDNESS. But in this case, causes millions of new cases of STD transmission among young adults and thousands of unplanned pregnancies every year.

If we give children all the information needed to take ownership of their bodies and their sexuality we will be giving them the world. A positive light can be shown on the issue and this can lead to more positive stress management skills, because many disorders and personality issues stem from sexual problems, just ask Freud. Let’s be like the Dutch, who have some of the lowest rates of abortions, teen pregnancies, and STD cases in the world. This is because of their candid and scrupulously comprehensive sexual education they allow their children. Take the British for example, they have one of the most stifling attidues toward sex and they are reaping the consequences of their silence. Please read this interesting article:

Sex education: why the British should go Dutch -- The Times Online