Sepratism Shmeapratism (I made this title at 5:17 am)

In 1894, bell hooks wrote the book Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. My class was assigned chapter 5, Men: Comrades in Struggle.

Before I start on the topic of this blog post, I’d like to include a quote of her Wikipedia page to explain her name (bell hooks), since it was brought up in class.

She adopted her grandmother’s name as a pen name because her grandmother “was known for her snappy and bold tongue, which [she] greatly admired”. She put the name in lowercase letters “to distinguish [herself] from her grandmother”. She said that her unconventional lowercasing of her name signifies what is most important in her works: the “substance of books, not who I am”.

And in an interview from 2009:

When the feminist movement was at its zenith in the late 60’s and early 70’s, there was a lot of moving away from the idea of the person. It was: let’s talk about the ideas behind the work, and the people matter less. It was kind of a gimmicky thing, but lots of feminist women were doing it. Many of us took the names of our female ancestors—bell hooks is my maternal great grandmother—to honor them and debunk the notion that we were these unique, exceptional women. We wanted to say, actually, we were the products of the women who’d gone before us.

Also another thing I learned on Wikipedia (the page for the abovementioned book), is that bell hooks used the term “white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” throughout it. It was written in 1984!!! That is totally intersectionality, and the Wikipedia page for intersectionality credits Kimberlé Crenshaw for the introduction of intersectionality.

Okay, okay, anyhow, this piece of writing urges feminists to stop barring men from participation in the feminist movement. She points out that such prejudices alienate working class women from the movement

Additonal sidenote: for anyone unfamiliar with prejudice vs. sexism, sexism is power+prejudice, men have more power in this society, thus women can’t be sexist. Ditto for racism but put white people in place of men and people of color in place of women.

I am just full of tangents today; I just finished writing a 7 ¾ page paper that took me about 20 hours to complete over 3 days with 3 energy drinks and a 5:30am bedtime…as I write it is 2:51 and I’m running out of energy drink 3.

OKAY…okay…now. At the time that bell hooks wrote this book, the second wave of feminism was in full swing. A lot of feminists took on a separatist attitude, thinking women should separate from men to their own communities. Hooks (it’s the beginning of a sentence, what to I do with hooks here?!) points out that this position is bound for failure, specifically, “This position eliminates any need for revolutionary struggle and is in no way a threat to the status quo.” She also writes, “As a policy, it has helped to marginalize feminist struggle, to make it seem more a personal solution to individual problems, especially problems with men, than a political movement which aims to transform society as a whole.”

Separatism doesn’t make any sense for current feminism. First of all, intersectionality makes an argument of “all men are the enemy” seem hopelessly oversimplified. The third wave isn’t about having one specific feminist identity, it’s about participation from anyone that believes women should have equality to men. You can be a feminist today and still do things like wear makeup, have a bunch of kids, or even *gasp* be a man, because none of that erases your wish for equality among the sex/genders.

Third wave feminism is also about other movements—there can’t be an us against them mentality when gender is just a construction of society, and there isn’t just two, AND there isn’t even just one biological sex. How can a movement for equality of the genders discriminate based on sexuality? (alah the “lavander menace” crap of the second wave). How can it discriminate based on race? It can’t, without being hypocritical, and hypocrisy is an awful thing to be in this time.

Now, I do still believe that women need some spaces apart from men. Despite the fact that gender is a construction of society, it is one that is tied to the core of most people, myself included. It is insensitive and unrealistic to expect everyone to rip that foundational part of themselves away as if it does not have any deeply psychological roots.

For example, I support the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms, but I support them as a third option along with male and female bathrooms, not as a single option for everyone (and to be clear, I’m talking about bathrooms with multiple stalls). I also support legal protection for Transgender women to use female bathrooms and Transgender men to use male bathrooms; no one fakes an identity just to get into a bathroom *eyeroll*.

I do not want to drop my pants in a room with cisgender strait men other than those I choose. I don’t want to be in such a vulnerable position. If I was a mother, I would not want my 10 year old daughter alone in a bathroom where there may be grown men. I understand not all men are rapists, but the fact that men sexually abuse 1 in 4 women (men are the overwhelming majority of perpetrators), means there must be a terrifying number of them. And yeah, I know that statistic includes acquaintance rape, which could still happen in a bathroom. How would you argue this idea to a sexual assault victim that may be triggered? Furthermore, I understand men can simply walk into a ladies room, but I am sufficiently soothed by the knowledge that the importance of separate bathrooms is so ingrained into society that cisgender men can get in legal trouble for going into a women’s bathroom. Unfortunately this applies to men that would have no interest in women, and I don’t know what to say to that.

I also think separate changing rooms are a good thing. It’s hard enough for me to crack a changing room door far enough to show my mom my bathing suit.

I feel a little defensive about this topic, because I know there are people out there that must think I’m some sort of brainwashed phobic individual. I honestly don’t know how I would defend myself against such a person, because I don’t understand how I would reason with someone that thinks they can just brush away such a deep rooted fear.

Well, the article just went in a sort-of-but-kind-of-not-tangent. I mean, I was supposed to cover the above, but it makes transition to the next topic awkward.

Aaaand, transition.

Women and men can work together in today’s feminist movement! We can both sign petitions and educate others and march for equality. We can fight the patriarchy together! I personally know men who acknowledge and aren’t cool with the fact that their gender is in control of everything (and still recognize their male privilege). If a white person can be against racism and fight against it, a male can do the same with sexism (again, recognizing privilege is important here). Why want’s to succeed just because of an arbitrary trait they were born with?

Unfortunately, before men can join the feminist movement today (and, in it’s current state, this applies to women as well) there needs to be widespread education about the inequalities that still exist, and this education needs to stress how reputable the evidence is. There will always be stragglers that refuse to acknowledge truth, but I think a far bigger problem is that so many people haven’t ever heard the truth. The wage gap, rape statistics, and second shift need to be part of mandatory curriculum in schools. If schools have enough time to tell kids the redundant fact that “if you don’t have sex you won’t get pregnant,” they have enough time to tell girls that 1 in 4 of them will be sexually assaulted, they’ll make 77% what boys make, and that they’ll have less time for fun because they have to take care of their house and family. They have time to stress to boys how wrong it is to have an advantage just because you were lucky enough to be born a certain way—that real success is earned, that upstanding citizen take care of their house and children, and that only an evil person wants to exercise power over someone else.

There is more that can be done, but it is 5:10 am and my brain wants to go crawl in a corner to sleep.

No pictures for this article; it’s finals week and I’m a lazy duck, also I might get distracted and start googling something else.

Niiiiiiiiiight blog readers (or morning? Noon? Twilight? I don’t know when you’re reading this).

I promise my other blogs are better and more coherent. Go read those.

That is all.

Oh god this is 6 Microsoft word pages #whatdidIdo #Idon’tevenusehashtagsinreallife

Fair Trade reflection…

So, today’s blog post was assigned for my class.

The topic: fair trade.

Q1: Where did you have to look to find fair trade items? 

My search started with Google, first stop: Wikipedia.

According to the site, big organizations like Fairtrade International and Fair Trade USA certify products as “fair trade.” The following quote really stood out to me, so I’m going to use the fancy blog quote function here:

“Packers in developed countries pay a fee to The Fairtrade Foundation for the right to use the brand and logo, and nearly all the fee goes to marketing. Packers and retailers can charge as much as they want for the coffee.”

Sooo, if you want to be labled fair trade you have to buy the right, even if you actually are fair trade, without the label? And they can charge whatever they want. I feel that this essentially ensures only people who are more comfortable in the wealth department can purchase fair trade goods and feel morally superior (costs are passed onto the consumers, I’m sure).

Additionally “no universally accepted definition of ‘fair trade’ exists,” but the general idea is that “fair trade” products pay a higher price to exporters and advocate higher social and environmental standards, specifically in regard to exports from developing countries to devolved countries.

Common fair trade items include coffee, cocoa (and thus chocolate), textiles, “handicrafts” and things like diamonds and gold.

Q2: How easy was it to locate the products? 

Well, you can google it, for starters. The Wikipedia page said Starbucks offers some fair trade coffee, Ben & Jerry’s in uses some fair trade chocolate, and American Apparel makes fair trade clothing. Some fair trade products re used by Sara Lee, Proctor & Gamble (Folgers coffee makers), Nestle, and The Hershey Company (through a brand they purchased: Dagoba). Much of these brands and companies only use a small amount of fair trade practice (the wiki said Starbucks is “only 3% fair trade”).

If you go to the Fair Trade USA and click on the tab “Products & Partners,” you can search a list of licensed partners and products offered by different companies. It’s really, really easy (go try it yourself if you’d like).

Q3: How expensive are fair trade compared to their counterparts and is the expense worth it? 

This is the most difficult question of the four.

First of all, issues of class are blindingly apparent to me that I’m sure most people are going to overlook. I grew up poor, and my parents were too proud to use public assistance. So I understand the value of a dollar (as cliché as that sounds). A gallon of milk costs $3, which doesn’t seem like a lot, I’m sure, but my family often had to water it down to make it work.

I know I am still more privileged than the people that benefit from fair trade subsidies. I am aware of that. But I am upset that the people that are often incredulous about a reluctance to spend $5 or $10 dollars more on a shirt are people who don’t have to do things like water down their milk.

I think the idea of fair trade being “worth it” should really be considered from this perspective.

Is it worth it if you have enough money (as in, you have enough to pay your bills and still have a savings account), yes, it is.

As for actual average expense of an item compared to its non-fare trade counterpart, that is hard to say. Comparing like items and then averaging up the prices is no easy feat.

An article I found by a Fair trade business owner asked,

“Which would you purchase? A white shirt made in Indonesia selling for $14.99 with a ‘designer label’ or a white shirt made in Indonesia for $25 which has a fair trade designation? Why do you think there is such a discrepancy?”

If about $10 difference was the casual example used by a fair trade business owner, I’d say it’s a pretty common difference.

It’s honestly hard to find any real answer about the added expense because all the pro-fair trade sites won’t give direct numbers and seem to try to sweep the issue under the rug.

Q4: After learning more about globalization, how could you better imagine supporting both American women workers and women workers in the Global South?

If this question is meant to ask if I’ll buy fair trade products to support women in America and the Global south, the short answer is no. I am not convinced it actually helps people. International Journalist Andrew Chambers points out in his article Not so fair trade,

“Fairtrade reduces the incentive to diversify crop production and encourages the utilisation of resources on marginal land that could be better employed for other produce. The organisation also appears wedded to an image of a notional anti-modernist rural idyll. Farm units must remain small and family run, while modern farming techniques (mechanisation, economies of scale, pesticides, genetic modification etc) are sidelined or even actively discouraged.”

He goes on later to say,

“Coffee farms must not be more than 12 acres in size and they are not allowed to employ any full-time workers. This means that during harvest season migrant workers must be employed on short-term contracts. These rural poor are therefore expressly excluded from the stability of long-term employment by Fairtrade rules.”

Later in the article, he points out that Mexico has more fair trade producers than the poorest nations in the world that need more help.

Apparently, as I suspected earlier, the high price of these “fair trade” products doesn’t make it back to the producers. Chambers writes, “only about 5% of the Fairtrade sale price actually making it back to the farmers.”

Now, I’m sure this is even worse for non-fair trade products, but 5% is far less impactful than the perception of Fair Trade leads people to believe.

He also points out that adding value to products—doing things like roasting coffee or making chocolate out of cocoa beans—happens in the west, and is worth more than the raw products. Emphasizing farming in the Global South keeps it from moving into other industries that may help it gain more wealth.

I don’t think purchasing fair trade items helps women nearly as much as people think it does, and I think more needs to be done. I believe fair trade is more effectively a way for wealthy (mostly white) westerners to feel superior. Morally superior, because they think they’re helping the disadvantaged, and culturally superior or somehow cosmopolitan—because the “exotic” origins of products are emphasized (especially in the little shops of several college towns I’ve been to).

*Sigh* bummer topic…

Be back soon with another post!

Response to the Movie Iron Jawed Angels…

Our class watched the movie Iron Jawed Angels. The movie follows (primarily) Alice Paul and Lucy Burns as they helped give the final push of the Woman’s suffrage movement in the 1910’s, culminating in the passage of the 19th amendment. The director is German woman, and the cast is made up of women from several English-speaking countries.

A big plot point in the movie was the clash of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which had been working towards the goal of women’s suffrage for a several decades, and the National Woman’s Party (NWP), created by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns in 1913. The two thought women had waited long enough for the vote, and their participation in the British suffrage movement taught them aggressive tactics, like street protests, specifically parades and, famously, the “Silent Sentinels.” They wanted to use these tactics in the U.S. (while  in the U.K., Alice Paul was actually arrested seven times, jailed three, and used hunger strikes while in prison, as she did in the U.S. later). Though both parties were working towards the same goals, NAWSA didn’t approve of the NWP’s tactics, especially President of NAWSA Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, who resigned in 1915 in the face of pressure to support the NWP. She thought there was a more peaceful way the vote could be won.

For this blog post, I’m supposed to tell you which organization I’d join—the NAWSA or the NWP. It easy for us to say now that we would join one or the other. There is no danger in speculating. I will try to answer this question as honestly as possible.

I would like to say I would join the NWP—they were courageous women who did something extremely outlandish for their time, and pushed the final move for the Women’s vote. I feel that perhaps if it was that time period, and I was a woman of means with parents who would still support me (or at least a paid worker of the NWP), perhaps I would join it. However, part of me believes I would be too afraid. When the Occupy Wall Street protests were happening in my Sophomore year of high school, I looked into the protest group in my area. They were picketing a national bank. I had fire in my eyes; I messaged the leader of the group and everything, to see if there was a place for a 16 year old (and my 15 year old friend). Due to a combination of lack of transportation (my mom humors me when I’m in the comfort of our home, but she wouldn’t take me somewhere to further my political activities, which I don’t blame her for), and, I think, a fear that stopped me from finding another way, I didn’t do it.

I did, however, make fact sheets about the movement, and posted them around my school while wearing one of my brother’s giant sweatshirts with the hood up. It was quite and subdued, but it did something for the movement—like the NAWSA.

So, in all likelihood, I would have joined the NAWSA. They didn’t really face violence, but I am all too sure they faced the threat of it and the general anger of others by having the positions they did. And to this, I am no stranger (I wrote a another post about the cryptic situation to which I am referring, but I fear I may not publish it after all).

Real Silent Sentinels

Real Silent Sentinels

I think this post would benefit from a list of the suffragists in the movie, and what they are most notable for. We aren’t often exposed to this part of history in media, and in school exposure is just as dismal. This movie is awesome for that reason! It gives us history in a neat, friendly, easy to digest chunk. It has its flaws, yes, but I believe the good outweighs the bad.

Oh, and a side note: I recently learned suffragette was a derogatory term that British suffragists used subversively, but in America this didn’t happen.

So here goes…

  • Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw—President of NAWSA from 1904-1915, a physician, and the first ordained female Methodist minister
  • Carrie Chapman Catt—President of NAWSA from 1915 to 1947, founder of the League of Women Voters, the International Alliance of Women, the Protest Committee of Non-Jewish Women Against the Persecution of Jews in Germany (which made her the first woman to win the American Hebrew Medal),
  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett—born a slave the year before the Emancipation Proclamation, became a teacher, sociologist, investigative journalist, editor, publisher, and book writer, co-founder of the NAACP, did notable work about lynching, refused to give up her train seat 71 years before Rosa Parks and won a settlement against the railroad company (there were many more people who did this; the selection of Rosa Parks as an icon for the movement is an interesting story for another post), the fact that she was only featured in the movie for a few lines and another silent scene is sad.
  • Alice Paul—leader of the Congressional Committee of NAWSA until becoming a founder of the NWP, part of the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K., earned a Doctorate in 1928, part of the Silent Sentinels protests, one of the women jailed for protesting (force fed after hunger strikes), original author of the Equal Rights Amendment that didn’t get to senate until 1972 and was 3 states away from becoming an amendment (it still isn’t one)
  • Lucy Burns—leader of the Congressional Committee of NAWSA until becoming a founder of the NWP, studied at Oxford University, worked in the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K., part of the Silent Sentinels protests, spent the most time of any women in the movement jailed for protesting (also force fed)
  • Doris Stevens—regional organizer for NAWSA, member of NWP, a participant in the Silent Sentinels protests, one of the women jailed for protesting (she wrote a book about it, Jailed for Freedom), supported feminist studies as an academic field (yay! one of my three majors!)
  • Mabel Vernon—member of the NWP, responsible for managing the Silent Sentinels protests, one of the women jailed for protesting
  • Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch—daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the Woman’s Political Union that merged with the NWP in 1915
  • Inez Mulholland—a female lawyer, protester for pacifism in World War I, member of the NAACP, the Women’s Trade Union League, the Women’s Political Union, the National Child Labor Committee, England’s Fabian Society, NAWSA, and NWP, Fun fact: she was suspended from her college for organizing a women’s rights meeting; she held regular “classes” on the matter (makes me think of Dumbledore’s Army in Harry Potter)

Whelp, I have another post coming literally right after this one, and three more before this time next week.

Thanks for reading!

Disrespect of the Hijab and Non-American Cultures in General (Ugh…just ugh)

A few weeks ago, my W&G studies class watched a video about the burqa (oh hey look, that word isn’t in the Microsoft Office 2013 dictionary) and life for Muslim women in a particular country (can’t quite remember which).

I tried finding the title online, but alas, it was one among many in the long line of videos and articles documenting the Western fascination with clothing of religious modesty—a fascination that often has Westerners stumbling clumsily in its attempt to understand.

After nearly 20 minutes of various key-word searching I found nothing except some additionally annoying article. Like this one, for example. It was one of many, “non-muslim girls going out in hijab” articles. Now, some of these articles are enlightening and non-offensive, but alas, this one was the opposite.

The writer compared a burqa wearer to the Grim Reaper and scoffed at the idea of a burqa with fashion sleeves. (Un)fortunately the writer was an equal-opportunity offender, stating that she dressed up as a pregnant nun for Halloween. Classy. Another gem among the awfulness was something I’ll add in full quotes for emphasis.

“I didn’t realize the significance of visiting one of the tallest buildings in New York dressed in Islamic garb until we reached the entrance. I felt like a jerk.”

So, I’m getting that the implication is Muslim women shouldn’t visit tall buildings?

To add a bit more richness to the crap that was this article, a response article by Vice staff and the original author was made against the criticism. They mock their critics by claiming that it was a sociological experiment. As a student of Sociology, I find this to be total bullshit. There was barely an ounce of scientific methodology in what they did. It is frustrating that an academic discipline I find so wonderful was dragged into this mess and made to seem unscientific (as if being a social science hasn’t given it enough crap to deal with already).

Also, big surprise here, the garment she was wearing wasn’t even a burqa. Despite her claim that she extensively google-searched the subject and she specified in her article that it was an abaya, she continued to refer to it as a burqa (she also added a niqab, which isn’t an actual part of the abaya, but an additional piece of clothing).

Let me school you up, guys. “Burqa” is not a catch all term for any form of Muslim female dress. If you must mash them all up into one category, at least use the term “hijab.”

Now, some of you that have slight knowledge of the subject may be thinking, “but wait, I thought that’s just a headscarf.” Well, no. The term hijab generally refers to the idea of a sense of modesty that Muslim women (and, as I understand it, men) should possess, and specifically to the kind of scarf that serves only to cover the head. The burqa is a form of hijab, as is the niqab (covers the face except for the eyes).

In her big ‘ol response to critics she admits that she incorrectly called the garment a burqa, so I guess that’s a minor plus, but she argues that if it had been a burqa she would have gotten the same response. She tries to make the point that if people had reacted differently, then it would have been simply a fashion blog. This explanation just seems to fall short. Derailment anyone? And she tries to say she “was in no way making any kind of statement about Muslim women or Islam,” but her irrelevance for their culture shone through the whole article.

Personally removing the symbolism of something does not achieve a thing. No matter what one’s personal belief is, to a large number of people, the hijab has weight and meaning, just Catholic rosaries, Native American headdresses, U.S. purple hearts, white wedding dresses, and Olympic medals carry weight and meaning for many. Failing to hold the proper reverence for something important to a culture simply offends. For some reason, being irreverent and offensive, or mocking political correctness, is cool now. People seem to believe that being confident and not caring what other people thing is an excuse for ignorant actions that make other people uncomfortable. This is incredibly frustrating.

Every hipster wearing war bonnet, pop-star wearing a bindi, or white girl covered in wedding henna she got from a festival is contributing to a culture that disregards and disrespects other cultures (these examples are specifically examples of cultural appropriation, which you can read more about it here  and here and see here).

This just further emphasizes the “AMERICA IS #1” attitude these “totally multicultural appreciation appropriation” people are trying to dispel.

*Sigh*

I think my next post will be about my personal journey with the hijab, or my initial struggle accepting the idea of white privilege and cultural appropriation.

Response to Miami Dolfin’s Incognito/Martin “Bullying” (umm, harassment anyone?) Case

The first thing that came to me when reading a blog post by my teacher and a CBS news article, each about the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin fiasco, was how the term “bulling” really should have been replaced with the word “harassment.”

It is easier to excuse bulling. Bullying is Suzy pushing Rebecca in the playground, or Tommy calling Jacob smelly. Bullying is what school children deal with. How could an adult not “man-up” enough to handle such a small thing?

Harassment, however, carries the proper weight that constant and unprofessional torment in the workplace deserves. Harassment is illegal. Harassment will get you fired. Arguably, bullying should carry this weight as well, but one must use the words that properly gather the feeling of a matter when the matter is at hand.

Now, when writing this article I quickly googled what people thought the differences were, but the arguments were weak. One article said harassment implies physical force, however, the legal definition does not specify that this is the only factor of harrasment.

Words are powerful. That’s why people are more willing to approve the “Affordable Care Act” than they are “Obamacare” despite the fact that these words mean the same thing.

It’s why the reproductive rights debate in the U.S. today use emotionally charged language like “pro-life” instead of “anti-choice,” and “child” or “baby” instead of “zygote,” “embryo,” or “fetus.”

In important issues, one must stake stock of the emotional weight, meaning, and nuances of language.

Creative Commons Attribution: winnifredxoxo, flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/61056899@N06/

Creative Commons Attribution: winnifredxoxo, flicker
http://www.flickr.com/photos/61056899@N06/
Cue cliché picture of old fashioned weights. You know…for measuring the weight of words and such.

Then I got to the portion of the article that involved victim blaming and it was like a switch shut off in my head. How does one reason with such madness? With a person that is part of a culture being so repeatedly misguided.

I see no way that these people blaming Martin for the harassment have thought that out logically. Incognito was sending Martin death threats about his family, and was calling him racial slurs. What possess a person to spend so much of their time making anther human being’s life awful? There is literally no logical rational for that. There is no way that someone can say Martin was at fault without sounding like a horrible person.

Cases like this illuminate problems in other areas of life. It is a small step to take from blaming a man for his own suffering of racist and cruel harassment to blaming a girl for being sexually assaulted.

Women in Government–If this were a survey, the results would be rubbish!

Women are dramatically underrepresented in our government. They share this under representation with other minority groups (and I’m using that term in its sociological definition—a group that is subset from the social majority which holds most of the power in a society—and not it’s “popular” definition [and I say that with as much feigned-butsortofactual-disdain as possible] of numerical majority, since, you know, women are the numerical majority *phew*).

This is a problem. It’s sad that I even need to say that. Or that there may be people reading this that disagree.

In 2013, women make up 18.3% of the U.S. Congress. There are only 5 female Governors. That’s 10% guys.

50.8% of the U.S. population is female!

Oh, and don’t sit nice and comfy in front of your computer thinking haughtily “at least the U.S. is better than other places.” Oh no…Oh no honey, it isn’t though. According to the UN’s infographic Women in Politics 2012, we place 78th in a ranking of countries by women in congress. That’s 78th place after other places tie with each other. We actually tie too–with Turkmenistan.

If you’re one of those people who think Muslim women are super oppressed in “their own” countries, I’ll be glad to burst your superiority bubble. Of the 15 countries with the highest populations of Muslims in the world, 9, (N-I-N-E!) beat us when it comes to female representation in government. In fact, most of the nations we deem “developing countries” beat us as well!

Now, discussions like this tend to start leaning towards the idea of biological and set femininity—that women are better at handling issues related to women because it’s something inherent in them. I’d like to break that part of the discussion right now. According to Unicef’s The State of the World’s Children 2007,

“Women are often exposed to different patterns of socialization and have different life experiences than men and are likely to bring their experience and expertise to bear on their political decisions. While important changes have been taking place over the past few decades, in most countries, women still bear the main caregiving responsibilities for their families, including children and the elderly” (54).

These patterns of socialization are also why women are less likely to run for office. Many women aren’t socialized to think they can hold a political office, so they don’t strive for it as much as men who are socialized to think they can. The effect of this socialization floods into many other fields (STEM, I’m looking at you! >.>)

A good way to think about the problem of under representation of women in government lies in sociological research. The idea that a sample must be an accurate representation of the total population being researched is constantly drilled into the Sociology student’s head. In order to collect data from a sample (the group of people who were picked to participate) that actually represents the total population, you need to make sure that it’s made up of individuals that actually match the characteristics of the population.

If you’re doing a study that isn’t about gender or race, and you want to make sure these variables don’t disproportionately affect your results, there are sampling methods to help you do this.  One is especially good at representing the ideas of the total population as a whole, by making sure the proportions of people in the sample are the same as in the population—it’s called proportionate stratified sampling. If 10% of a certain population is female, 10% of your sample should be randomly selected females. If 20% of the population is white, 20% of the sample is white.

If, however, a researcher wanted to know how the opinions of different genders or races differ, you need to have a sample size of each category so you have enough data from each to do a comparison (this could be used if, say, you wanted to do a survey on women’s vs. men’s opinions in the field of engineering). This is called disproportionate stratified sampling.

The key with disproportionate stratified sampling is, you want more opinions from a certain group.

Hehehee, the only public domain picture I could find was of one of former President Bush's State of the Union addresses, though, he did appoint Condeleeza Rice as Secretary of State, so perhaps he applies more positively than one may think to this post.

Hehehee, the only public domain picture I could find was of one of former President Bush’s State of the Union addresses, though, he did appoint Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, so perhaps he applies more positively than one may think to this post.

Hopefully, you can see how I think this applies to the government. If the sample (elected officials) is unrepresentative of the population (the U.S. citizens), how can their ideas truly represent the whole? Spoiler: they can’t. No, the “sample” has a disproportionate number of men than the total population, and that metaphorically makes it a disproportionate stratified sample. Their opinions are inordinately overrepresented. Unfortunately, “unrepresentative” in that first sentence applies to literal government representation—elected officials are meant to carry out the will of the citizens who elect them.

Some may say “Men can represent women just as well as women can!” That could be and in some cases is very true! Unfortunately, most of the men in government simply don’t pay enough attention to issues that affect women. That Unicef’s The State of the World’s Children 2007 thing from earlier also stated,

“A study of legislatures in the United States, for example, found that women feel a special responsibility to represent other women and consider themselves more capable of representing their interests ” (54).

Women don’t just think they are more capable of representing other women’s interests, they really do represent them. According to the UN’s infographic Women in Politics 2012, of the 1065 portfolios held by Women Ministers (in government, of course), in 188 countries, 98 fell in the category of “Social Affairs” (9.2%), 79 in the category of “Family/Children/Youth/Elderly/Disabled” (7.4%), 73 in the category of “Women’s Affairs/Gender Equality” (6.9%), and 68 in “Education” and in “Employment/Labour/Vocational Training” (6.4%).

Women in government truly do advocate for other women (though, it should be noted, although women are more likely than men to advocate for women’s issues, not all women advocate for women’s issues.)

So don’t let your subconscious prejudices hold you back—go out and vote for your qualified female mayors, representatives, senators, and governors!

The Girl that was Raised by…BOOKS! Part 3 of 3

The final area of written word that I think was a contributor to my development as a feminist, was sex-ed books. I summoned the courage to check out such a book from my middle school library in 8th grade, and it was the first knowledge I ever received about the existence of the clitoris. The book—written for children going through puberty—enthusiastically included that it is the only organ on the male or female body that was created specifically for pleasure, and talked frankly about masturbation as an alternative to sex with other people.

I was outraged that I was never taught about this part of my own body (I had an entire marking period of sex-ed in 6th grade, but that part of female anatomy was mysteriously left out). I truly do not know when I would have learned about it if it weren’t for my slightly rebellious decision to check out that book. When I asked the girls in my 9th grade heath class if they knew what the clitoris was, and discovered that over half of them didn’t, I asked my female teacher to explain. She blushed and refused to speak about the subject. Now, I know perhaps that is because it went against curriculum (which is ridiculous in and of itself), but she didn’t even give the girls a reputable source from which to learn the information on their own.

I'm admittedly not one of those people that's all RahRah! about the "beauty" of female genitals--all genitals, female and male, are hopelessly disgusting. Buuut, this is so freaky and cool O.O

I’m admittedly not one of those people that’s all RahRah! about the “beauty” of female genitals–all genitals, female and male, are hopelessly disgusting. Buuut, this is so freaky and cool O.O

Since I wasn’t getting information about sex from the people that were supposed to be responsible for teaching me, I began to seek out information elsewhere. I read trashy magazines and websites whose reliability I questioned even then. Fortunately, I found a sex-ed education Youtuber whose name I can’t recall. She worked in an adult store, and her videos were incredibly straightforward and informative. She made fun of those trashy magazines and encouraged her viewers to actually talk to the person they are having sexual contact with. So, I stopped using said magazines as a resource and began to seek out more reputable sources.

I read through planned parenthood’s website for information about contraceptives, and with some Christmas money, I sneakily bought a book called “The Guide to Getting it On” (nice little hyperlink to the Barnes&Noble site guys, at the time of this blog publication, it’s on sale :P). It was pricy for me at the time, I was just a sophomore in high school, but the website and reviews said it was used to teach college sexuality courses. It is 981 pages of pure knowledge.

I believe a large part of feminism is taking control of your own sexuality, and these books gave me the power and knowledge to do that.