Just a little venting…

I took a survey the other day for a national study that Marquette is participating in that focuses on student experiences in college with an emphasis on leadership.

First, the good. I really liked that for any questions that asked about gender, like one that asked “what gender was your most significant mentor at college,” transgender was an option. I think that showed some real inclusivity and I was surprised to see that option as one of the choices. So good on you, Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership.

On the flipside, some questions really bugged me. Like this one: the question used a likert scale that ranged from something like “describes me very well” to “does not describe me  at all” and stated “I am a cooperative participant in the activities of my racial group.” What does that even mean!? Ugh.

And then there was the question, “How frequently do you interact with student leaders from diverse backgrounds?” I think this is just me being picky, but the term “diverse” is overused like whoa and it has come to mean “other” and in this case, it’s “other” than the white, anglo, heterosexual, usually male, mainstream. Therefore, through our repetition of understanding the term “diverse” or “diversity” as such, we’re merely reinforcing these ideas of heterosexualwhiteuppermiddleclassmale as the normative feature in society. I think the question could be improved if “than yourself” was added on to the end of the question. That way, “diverse” wouldn’t act as a stand in for meaning “everything outside of the aforementioned norm”, but rather, it would stand more comprehensively and deal with people’s interactions with members from various backgrounds they are not as familiar with.

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The virgin on eBay speaks

If for no other reason to have a balanced response to my commentary, I’d suggest reading “Natalie Dylan’s” full apologia:

Like most little girls, I was raised to believe that virginity is a sacred gift a woman should reserve for just the right man. But college taught me that this concept is just a tool to keep the status quo intact. Deflowering is historically oppressive—early European marriages began with a dowry, in which a father would sell his virginal daughter to the man whose family could offer the most agricultural wealth. Dads were basically their daughters’ pimps.

When I learned this, it became apparent to me that idealized virginity is just a tool to keep women in their place. But then I realized something else: if virginity is considered that valuable, what’s to stop me from benefiting from that? It is mine, after all. And the value of my chastity is one level on which men cannot compete with me. I decided to flip the equation, and turn my virginity into something that allows me to gain power and opportunity from men. I took the ancient notion that a woman’s virginity is priceless and used it as a vehicle for capitalism.

Are you rolling your eyes? I knew this experiment would bring me condemnation. But I’m not saying every forward-thinking person has to agree with what I’m doing. You should develop your own personal belief system—that’s exactly my point! For me, valuing virginity as sacred is simply not a concept I could embrace. But valuing virginity monetarily—now that’s a concept I could definitely get behind. I no longer view the selling of sex as wrong or immoral—my time at college showed me that I had too blindly accepted such arbitrary norms. And for what it’s worth, the winning bid won’t necessarily be the highest—I get to choose.

I still maintain Dylan is doing harm to a healthful account of human sexuality by perpetuating the value of virginity by commoditizing (sic) it. Few people will read or remember reading that Dylan’s project was the exploitation of the arbitrary worth attached to her virginity; more will remember that some man thought it was worth $3.8 million.

Australia tourism commercial

I just became entranced by a television ad and had to instantly find it on youtube to re-watch it (and of course that wasn’t too hard since my computer never leaves my side).  

The following video is an ad for an Australian tourism bureau. Watch, and then let’s get into some discussion.

Personally, I was instantly drawn into this ad since it’s not like your typical commercial. It was so artistic and beautifully composed that by the end I just had to find out what the hell they were selling. This was an interesting angle for a tourism ad company to go.  While my immediate reaction was to an emotional appeal, upon further analysis, I realize there is something quite suspect in this presentation of Australia.

The ad uses Aboriginal or indigenous Australian people (as represented by the young boy) to create the idea of a mysterious and alluring Australia.  The ad is [seemingly] directed towards white upper class individuals and is promoting an “escape” from their hectic lives.  The escape being to bask in the beauty of Australia and “find” themselves again, all with the inspiration from the young aboriginal child. The exoticism of the Aboriginal people becomes evident when one looks at the intent of the commercial.  It is “ironic” that only a couple hundred years ago, white imperialism and colonization worked to kill off half of the Australian indigenous population and appropriate their lands and now, Aboriginal peoples are being used to attract and sell vacation packages to upper class white individuals. This too is appropriation, just in a different form. 

I feel like if our general cultural understandings of each other weren’t so surface-y and reduced often to things like “diversity day” trainings (think: Office episode), then maybe a commercial like this could mean something more and something different. But with our current lack of understanding true history and historical meanings and the continued racism evident in our world, this commercial only furthers the tradition of white hegemony.

With that said, I still find the ad aesthetically appealing. I wonder what that says about how I’ve come to understand “the exotic” since I think the ad would not have had the same effect had the child been white.

Thoughts?

Liveblogging my hijab-wearing

Woke up this morning, fixed up my hijab in record speed, but was late to class anyway (as per usual). I was late because I was [ironically] paying more attention to what I looked like today.

I walked speedily to class and ran into one other person wearing the hijab. Cool to see. I thought about how I didn’t feel like I was dressing any more conservatively than usual. I was also thinking: is this in any way sacrilegious? Not wearing the hijab for religious reasons, that is.

I got to class, sat down, and then realized how hot I was. Running up 4 flights of stairs does that, I guess. But all I wanted to do was take my headscarf off.

We talked about cross-cultural communication in my 10 a.m. Of course it was a very surface discussion, but it was still cool that I could reflect on my experiences this day within my class. I even discussed my hijab-wearing in class discussion. Plus one!

Well, time for my 11 o’clock. Will update throughout the day!

UPDATE: It’s 1:30 pm. I’m at work and have a couple more observations about my day so far.

A few people so far haven’t recognized me. I walked into work and was asked “Can I help you?” It was cute. A couple people have asked me how my day has been going, as well. People seem to be interested and I like having the opportunity to talk to them about my hijab-wearing.

Some sort of technical things I’ve noticed: I seem to have reduced mobility in being able to turn my head. I don’t want to ruin my supreme wrapping skills, so I’ve kinda been moving slowly.  (I think that’s just my own weirdness, though). Also, I’ve been going back and forth between feeling comforted and feeling constricted while wearing my hijab. Gives me something to think about. 

In my second class today I had a moment of epiphany where I was truly thankful to be able to live somewhere where I could dress how I liked without interference of the law.

For me today, this is a sort of political statement and a cultural immersion experience/reflection and not a religious statement of any sort (except for maybe in the religious tolerance sense). I wonder what the relationship is between hijab wearing as a religious statement and it as a social/political statement, especially for “Western” Islamic women who choose to cover themselves. 

Also, I forgot to add this in my first update–the first thing one of my roommates said to me this morning when I was putting on my hijab was something to the effect of  “isn’t this in conflict with your feminist sentiments?” and I’m so happy she said that. Way to go, K. for picking up some feminist cues!

UPDATE: It’s around 4 p.m. Done with class for the day. Had an feminist existential crisis about an hour ago. What was I doing? Isn’t this such an obvious symbol of female oppression? I really felt this cognitive urge to take off  my hijab. But alas, it is still on. And I still have a lot to think about.

UPDATE: The time is now 9 p.m. and I have successfully completed hijab-for-a-day. It was overall a really good experience. I attended the outspoken event at 6 p.m. but unfortunately could only stay until 7 or so. I think we had a pretty good discussion (at least for the part that I witnessed) and I’ll look forward to writing about it later!

Hijab-for-a-day is TODAY!

Today I will wear the hijab as a part of Islam Awareness week. The week concludes with hijab-for-to-day and then an outspoken event tonight. (6 pm in the Multicultural room. Come!) 

I’m using this day for cultural reflection as well as feminist reflection. The issue of covering oneself or veiling oneself with the hijab is ripe for feminist interpretation and dialogue. Broadly speaking, in the past “Western” feminists have opposed this practice and seen it as a symbol of oppression(and I guess currently too…but I don’t know if there’s any broad consensus on this since “Western” feminism is not some monolithic group…), but I think more and more frequently, as cross-cultural discussion increases and the understanding of the intersections between sexism, racism, religion, feminism, etc. increases, veiling oneself becomes a much more complex and nuanced issue.  There are two important things that I consider with this issue: choice and intent. Does one choose to wear a headscarf or is it forced upon them? Is the intent to be submissive to the male gaze or is it more focused on conservative dress and a rejection of the hypersexualization of our culture? Faith and religion is important in all of this too, but I think choice and intent are key features of feminist debate surrounding this issue.

My personal opinions? I obviously think it is oppressive when women are forced to wear head scarves– when in places like Saudi Arabia, the law demands that women be covered.  What is key for me is that women have a choice whether or not they’d like to wear the hijab. So when places like schools in France ban the wearing of hijabs, I have a real problem with this as well. 

Like I said, intent is important too (and choice and intent are closely linked). Why does one choose to wear a hijab? I think listening to people’s stories is so important here. I have a friend I met in London that wears full hijab and she describes her reasoning as such: she didn’t want to be judged on her looks or beauty and she felt more comfortable when she knew people weren’t concerned with her body or how she looked. She was more confident when fully covered and more free to express herself however she wanted.

As someone who’s experienced a lot of street harassment, I’ve often thought of what it would be like to wear a scarf or some sort of facial covering. I hate the feeling of being objectified and I’ve always thought that I’d feel more comfortable being covered. I also revel at the opportunity to be judged on my intellect alone and not my body. But as I think this, I counter my own thinking with a thought that says, wait, why should I be cornered into feeling this way? This is society’s problem, not mine. I shouldn’t have to feel like I would be more comfortable if I was covered up. So I’m at a standstill here and while I think hijab-wearing can be a feminist statement for me in its rejection of hypersexualization and objectification, in many ways it’s only a bandaid solution and I know real feminist change requires a whole lot more.

So today I will attempt to wear a hijab. I wore one for a bit last night and felt that it might take some getting used to. (My head got really hot and I felt a little claustrophobic lol) But today, I will do my best. Is anyone else participating or have any thoughts on the subject? Here’s a Feminist Law Professors blog post to spark some.

Will any men wear a hijab today? Now, that’d be something interesting.

Congrats, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir!

I know nothing about the politics* of Iceland’s new PM, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, or even how to go about pronouncing her name. But, just as the election of the first black man to the highest office in a Western democracy merits a time to pause and reflect, so to must we on the occassion to mark the election of Iceland’s first female PM, and the first [openly] gay chief-of-state anywhere.  

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*From the Iceland Review Online:

Her first choice of a coalition is a minority government with the Left-Greens and backing from the Progressive Party. “Another option is a minority government with the Social Democrats and passivity of the Left-Greens and Progressive Party.”

 

Re: Damn hippie.

Belated 36th-anniversary-Roe v. Wade links

Liss at Shakesville posts the statement made by President Obama. My favorite part part:

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

And a statement from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.  My favorite lines:

The reality is that the cycle of poverty often revolves around unintended and unwanted pregnancy. A woman living in poverty is four times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy and five times as likely to have an unintended birth as her higher-income counterpart. The link between family planning and overcoming poverty is well established. Comprehensive reproductive health services contribute to better health for infants, children, and women and improve social and economic opportunities for women and their families.

[….]

Let us put aside our differences and honor our shared values of accessible health care and intentional parenthood by supporting measures to ensure services are available. I call on people of faith to lead the way to greater understanding of the causes of unwanted and unintended pregnancies. Our faith communities can be the spark of justice that causes government to make available the resources that are needed to reduce these pregnancies. These resources include comprehensive and medically accurate sexuality education, increased funding for family planning services, expanded Medicaid coverage for family planning, accessibility of emergency contraception for rape victims, and insurance coverage for contraception. These and other measures are in the Prevention First Act introduced at the start of the 111th Congress. Congress should move forward to adopt this legislation, with the knowledge that a more just, caring and life-affirming America will emerge.