Monthly Archives: December 2013

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

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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!