Sunday, January 29, 2012

Party Foul Mouth

Somehow, at a very conservative university, I've managed to fall in with a group that is more than accepting of all lifestyles -- the theater kids. No doubt, there are many other accepting people on this campus, but my group of friends is especially so. Many of us are exploring ideas of gender, sexuality, and self. Some of us know who we are, some of us are figuring it out, but in my group of friends, I am proud to say that we are all supportive of one another 100%.

I've been spoiled in this bubble of acceptance. I had a rude awakening the other night at a Glee Club party. I'm good friends with a large portion of the Glee Club, and was enjoying myself at a rather crowded, but fun get together. Suddenly, a loud voice cuts through all the conversation. I turned and saw a very inebriated and very angry young man yelling "I F***ING HATE GAY PEOPLE!"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Before I could really think I was shouting at the guy. "Shut up! How dare you?!?" All I could think of was of all the people in that room that I knew were gay or questioning that would be hurt by hearing this guy. Though I probably should have stayed out of it, I yelled back, because I wanted those people to see that someone was willing to defend them - even if it was a sober 5' 2'' chick up against a drunken 6' 4'' Goliath. Did my words help? No. Did they stop that guy from hating gay people? Probably not. Maybe it wasn't my best move, but I couldn't stand to let the guy get away with it without someone saying something to him.

I'm glad that all my friends are so accepting. I'm glad that we all understand what it means to struggle with who you are and that we give each other so much love. But, the fact is that there are still a lot of people out there who aren't quite as tolerant as we are. The fact is, there's still a lot of work to be done. It's not always easy for me to see that from my little bubble, but I hope to be part of the solution - I just have to rein in my temper to be able to do that effectively. I've got to channel my passion for these issues into something constructive, instead of just yelling at some guy in the middle of a Glee Club party. The issues are larger than just him.

Friday, January 27, 2012

When Did Beauty Ideals Change?

Today, I attended a panel for the "Food Networks and Gender" conference, that dealt with body image. The first speaker, Elizabeth Antus, dealt with the issue in (what we might consider) the most traditional sense of the phrase, with compulsive eating, dieting, eating disorders, and constant dissatisfaction, especially in terms of the female body.
This got me thinking about an idea that's been floating around the internet lately. You may have seen an image like this pop up on Facebook, Twitter, or your favorite meme site.
At the panel, Antus described body dissatisfaction as a "staple of womanhood," and seeing a photograph like this makes me wonder why. As someone who is locked in the constant battle with body satisfaction, it gives me great hope to see that even today, Marilyn Monroe is still considered beautiful. I see girls with a fuller "Marilyn"-type body constantly putting themselves down (and let's face it, I'm one of them, with my measurements almost exactly the same as our dear Marilyn's) or wishing to be something else.
The quote at the bottom of the photo really says it all for me. "Proof that you can be adored by thousands of men, even when your thighs touch." I don't know who made up the whole "thighs that touch are unattractive" thing, but it's time we got rid of it. 
I propose we get into a new mindset, and stop putting such strict limitations on what it means to be beautiful.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Sobbin' Women"

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: this movie is one of my favorites for its wonderful singing and dancing, as well as for the hilarity of it's so obvious sexism. This song is the perfect example of how offensive this film is!
I thought of this in our class discussion when we were discussing a certain comfort in dependency on men. This song shows this from a male perspective, where the men over-exaggerate their charm over women. Here, the seven brothers recount the Rape of the Sabine Women, claiming that despite all their whining "secretly they was overjoyed" at being captured by Roman soldiers. The brothers plan to catch themselves some wives in a similar manner. Awesome, right? I bet their girls will love that.

Enjoy! (couldn't get the link to embed properly, but have fun watching this ridiculous number!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How I Became a Feminist

Junior year in high school I was taking an English class titled "Gender and Sexuality" which not only horrified my very Christian boyfriend at the time, but surprised all the high school acquaintances who had pegged me as a "nun" during those four years. Erin was also in this class. Erin was famous in our very small school for being the most well dressed, the most tan, the most blonde, the most popular, the most attractive, and other "mosts" that I will leave out for our purposes. She was the epitome of feminine in her high heels, fake nails, and perfectly glossed lips.

It so happened that we were reading Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women. I never would have considered myself a feminist before this point, but I was struck by this work. This was new territory for me. It made me feel proud of being a woman and fighting the good fight. My "nun" reputation and Christian boyfriend could take a backseat. This was my time to share my opinion.

When it came time to discuss it in class, I was eager to put my word in, but Erin got there first. She talked a lot about how titles of "man" and "woman," "he" and "she" should be eliminated to foster equality between the sexes. She wanted to obliterate the differences between men and women and have us all function as one gender. First of all, no one could understand why Erin would want to get rid of these categories if it meant she would have to ditch her highlights and bedazzled backpack. It came as a bit of a shock to us all.

Confusion aside, I considered her point. While I understood the idea and found it interesting, I disagreed. I jumped in and countered her argument saying that being a woman was something I considered very important to my identity and I wanted to take pride in it, not throw it away. I babbled about embracing my gender instead of trying to hide it, but expecting equal treatment nevertheless. Being a woman meant more than living the life prescribed for you - it meant loving who you are and being happy with yourself. I could hardly stop talking, I was so high on the courage I'd gained to speak out.

While I was sitting there practically bursting with excitement about my new found cause, Erin looked up at me and said in the bitterest tone she could muster through her valley girl cadence "Natalie, I think Mary Wollstonecraft would be ashamed of you."

This is how I became a feminist. Defending my right to continue being a woman to the infamous Erin in Dr. Whitta's English class.