Tag Archives: feminism

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

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!

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.

The Girl that was Raised by…BOOKS! Part 2 of 3

As I grew older, my historical novels became more in-depth and realistic. My literary choices in other genres also matured.

I read almost every book by Meg Cabot. Her books are like chocolate chip cookies: the majority of the stories are a romance plot, but there are little nuggets of feminist topics here and there. These bits of difficult topics included discussion of female masturbation, birth control access, and politics  (in the novel All American Girl), peer pressure (How to be Popular), model culture (Airhead), and full-on obvious feminism (The Princess Diaries, the books didn’t involve Mia’s dramatic transformation, her Grandmother is not portrayed as the stereotypical nurturing matron, and there are a handful of self-identified feminist characters). I also loved The Mediator and 1-800-Where Are You series, but that’s another topic.

Creative Commons Attribution: Farrahsanjari, flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/farrahsanjari/with/5674100812/ It's okay, these stereotypically feminine items are probably the work of Mia's awful (in the book) grandmother :P

Creative Commons Attribution: Farrahsanjari, flicker
http://www.flickr.com/photos/farrahsanjari/with/5674100812/

It’s okay, these stereotypically feminine items are probably the work of Mia’s awful (in the book) grandmother 😛

In middle school, my librarian granted me permission to read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak because, to paraphrase greatly, she thought I was more capable of handling the mature themes than most other students. It was one of the first books that taught me what violent mental damage rape does. My first knowledge of date rape came from a book titled The Earth, My Butt, and other Big Round Things, which also dealt with body image.

Above all books in the “serious life stuff” genre that seems to be sweeping across young adult literature, is 13 Reasons Why. It was a book that truly illustrated how every encounter with others shapes who a person becomes and what they do with their future, and its message lives deep within my psyche.
I believe this novel had an impact on my path to feminism (and sociology, for that matter) because it showed how interactions others see as small and insignificant (“is calling someone slut really all that bad?”) have consequences that reach far beyond the simple actions. The book and its ties to issues of feminism are incredibly complex. The main plot of the book is that a girl, Hannah Baker, commits suicide, but before she does, makes a set of cassette tapes explaining the reasons that led her to that choice. It begins with a story about the boy who she shared her first kiss with making up a rumor that she did more. Throughout the book her reasons (that are very related to gendered expectations) pile on. Some of the reasons she gives are her humiliation about public judgment of the sexual appeal of her body, a peeping tom, a boy who assumes she will do more with him sexually because of her reputation as a “slut”, her guilt for not stopping the rape of her friend, public dismissal of her potential suicide, and unwanted sexual contact from a boy who doesn’t ask if she wants it or not (because of her reputation). The book is a haunting example of the dangers of slut shaming.

My literary tastes took also took a big turn that is, in hindsight, quite political and philosophical. I acquired a taste for post-apocalyptic and dystopian future books. The Shadow Children series was arguably the beginning of my formulation of opinion about a woman’s rights regarding her pregnancy. The Giver also made me think about my own culture’s model of childbirth (though the book was very much not in favor of alternatives). I also ate up The Uglies series, which contains several complexities, among them beauty standards, ethics, and a theme of questioning the judgment of authorities.

Stick around! There’s one more post in this series, and I have some school blog assignments left!

The Girl that was Raised by…BOOKS! Part 1 of 3

A few weeks ago my W&G studies class did an exercise that involved listing the people who had part in socializing us into our genders. It was through this exercise that I realized something big on a personal level: books and other media had more influence on my higher mental growth than the people I had face to face interaction with as I grew up.

I’m not saying they had a bigger influence on who I am overall: there are parts of my essential being that became rooted in me long before I could read. Basic survival and academic skills were taught by my family and teachers, as were experiences that cannot have the same effect on an individual if simply read in a book.

There is, however, something about the way I grew up that made me different from my family. A large portion of my values are different from the people I was in contact with from childhood to the brink of young adulthood. An even larger portion of my knowledge was gained from sources other than my family or my school. My ambition and expectations for my life and my beliefs about existence are alien from the surroundings I had.

This other influence was, as I said, the books, magazines, movies and TV shows whose information I consumed with a voracious appetite. An anecdotal demonstration of the volume of books I read is that, one summer, my local library allowed me to check out 100 books at once, all of which I read (except for the Gossip Girl series, which I skimmed). When I came home from school, my free time was spent watching TV, and, as I grew older, reading.

Creative Commons Attribution: Wonderlane, www.flickr.comphotoswonderlane3909074244

Creative Commons Attribution: Wonderlane, flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/

Media was an escape from my unpleasant station in life. There were many times when my reality literally slipped away from my perception—I was left behind in the library several times until my elementary school teacher realized she had lost a kid. Through the pages of books and the smooth glass of the television screen, I gained perspectives that I could not have encountered in my reality.

It was these media that introduced me to feminism. The most obvious example of a feminist influence on my young mind, was a magazine my elementary school inexplicably stocked (I grew up in a conservative area) that I only recently realized was explicitly feminist: New Moon. It featured an advice column that gave healthy advice to young girls, a section called “herstory”, information about physical issues girls face, and articles about important issues that were written purely by the young readers of the magazine. (If you want to get a subscription for a little girl in your life, just click the link here!)

There were countless, less obvious examples as well.

I burned through my libraries’ copies from the Dear America and The Royal Diaries series, and many miscellaneous historical fictions. Nearly all were written from the point of view of female protagonists, and though they were fictional representations of girls during their times, they were strong, brave, smart, and important. They faced obstacles related to their gender that often seemed foreign, but sometimes hit near to my reality. The injustices they faced made my fragile and developing sense of injustice boil.

It was through these books that I learned about my culture’s history with gender—from the treatment of women in Greece (discovered through a Magic Tree House book)—to the treatment of female factory workers. In a side note, the latter was learned in one of the most poignant novels in the young adult historical fiction genre that I have ever read: Uprising. It was about three girls who perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (the story still gives me goose bumps thinking about it today).
Throughout my reading, I encountered strong female role models. The widely adventurous Ms. Frizzle, teacher in The Magic School Bus series, was a favorite character of mine in elementary school. Leslie from Bridge to Teribithia was different and not afraid of her difference. Ella from Ella Enchanted did not need the prince to save her, she did it by her own will.

Creative Commons Attribution: electrictuesday, flicker www.flickr.comphotosdiscodoll4247118823

Creative Commons Attribution: electrictuesday, flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/discodoll/

Above all, Hermione from Harry Potter was my greatest fictional role model. She was intelligent, clever, strong, and fiercely loyal. These were not just additions to an already conventionally pleasing character either. She wasn’t initially a conventionally pretty young girl, and she wasn’t well liked by her peers (she was a teacher’s pet and a know it all). Despite the initial low esteem she had among her peers, she did amazing and brave things. By the end of the series matured into a well-rounded individual and maintained her identity even as she began to develop romantic relationships. She was my hero.

These texts are where the feminist in me was born.

The Skirt: Like seriously guys, grow up.

Ni hao! (I’m learning Chinese, let me practice!).

So, with all this talk in class and readings about gender, socialization, and all that jazz, gendered clothing has really been at the forefront of my mind.

I wear skirts. A lot.

I think maybe a reason this topic has been sticking in my brain is because I’m getting a bit defensive. There’s this idea in my head of judgmental feminist overlords that will chastise me for my clothing decisions, or perhaps do so internally with a *tisktisktisk* about how naïve and incapable of breaking free of gendered standards I am. I know this is (probably, for the most part, I hope) a fictitious creation stemming from my own insecurity, but nevertheless, I am defensive.

Judgey person
This…this is what the overlords look like. Feel the disdain?

Whenever I’m in a tiz about something, or I’m afraid of people’s judgment, I think about conversations I would have with someone that confronts me. A conversation with the imaginary force I described in the paragraph above goes something like this:

Them: Why are you wearing a skirt? That is sooo gender normative.
Me: Oh yeah? Well that’s pretty ethnocentric. Where did you even get that t-shirt and those jeans? Was it from the juniors section? The women’s section? Maybe the petites? Why do you buy clothing in specifically gendered areas? That sparkly batman logo sure looks androgynous. Why is it a problem that I wear a skirt? That implies that females are gendered incorrectly, what if it’s men who are gendered incorrectly into not wearing skirts? Do you know skirts actually make more sense for men to wear because they’re better for sperm count?…

Aaand so on until I make myself actually angry at the imagined foe I am hurling my words at.

So, this is not so much of a conversation, and is probably something I would never do in real life.

I guess my worry is that even if I did have logical well thought out reasons, I would be so taken aback by someone tactless enough to say something like that to me, that I just want to have something prepared so I don’t stare back in gape-mouthed stupidity.

But I think my word soup of indignant anger up there actually has some good points.
1. Almost every single clothing item someone wears is gendered.
Even plain, solid colored t-shirts are altered to be feminine. Different fabrics are used, different edge detailing, different shades of colors, different cuts (though that part may be because of the shape the “average” female has that differs from men). Women’s jeans have different sizing logic, colors, detailing, and styles (as well as different names for similar styles). Shoes are either “female sized” or “male sized”.
The worst example of gendering clothes, to me, is the altering of licensed clothing for the female market. Licensed clothing is clothing items that feature elements from TV shows, movies, video games, etc. Color differences are huge. Pastel blue for superman shirts (because god forbid a woman wears bold blue), pinks in the batman logo and the Big Bang Theory “BAZINGA”, etc. etc.
It seems worse that people think something that already exists isn’t feminine enough, and purposely alters it so it will be “appropriate” to grace a female body.
I actually buy my nerdy t-shirts in the “men’s” section. I want my Spock to stay Spock, with shirt colors that reflect his Starfleet division, not colors altered to be “girly” enough for my oh-so-fragile body.
2. I think I could successfully argue that it is not so much that people are taught to understand skirts as something girls are supposed to wear, as much as something boys AREN’T supposed to wear. It is the socialization of the male gender that is incorrect. Skirts are objectively an advantageous form of body covering. They are cooler than shorts in the summer (shorts just mean more fabric is smothering my poor body), they’re easy to put on and to move around in, and they require less fabric, skill, and time to make (and thus should be cheaper). I’ve even read that they are better for sperm count in men, which makes them seem the logical choice as a gendered item for men. Which brings me to my next point…
3. It is a modern, western idea that skirts are for girls.
Think about the ancient Greeks, Romans (and though non-western, Egyptians). Picture what someone in that culture looked like. What are they wearing?
Then there’s the obvious: kilts.
Furthermore, varieties of sarong-like “skirts” are worn by men in India and parts of Africa, and pretty much every “loincloth” is, in essence, a skirt.
This article does a much better job of explaining the “only women should wear skirts” fallacy. It’s apparently information for hikers, but the first bit is all about the history of the masculine skirt. Seriously, it’s super interesting. Click on it. Here it is again, just to make sure you have tons of opportunities to click on it.
4. Some of the rigidity of gender is still being held up by the feminist side of thing, though not in the dynamic of my imaginary fight. No, it is not the women still wearing skirts that are holding us back, but the people like this author that use stereotypes as humor and accidentally reinforce gender norms (and accomplish extra horribleness by vulgarly making fun of other cultures in the process). Ohhh, the problematic Jezebel, full of articles written by the very people I am afraid to meet in person (possibly the kind I run through imaginary fights with, like the above). From white lady savior complexes about hijabs, to *tisktisking* about how naïve the participants in Lolita fashion are, to pretty much anything they don’t understand and take from the point of view of Western ideas values. But this is all for another article.

Whelp, that’s enough for now.
Keep reading guys. I promise I’ll work very hard to make it interesting and more like a real conversation than a regurgitation and summary of ideas on a half-hearted homework assignment.