S. Schmader's Gender & Communication Blog Just another Longwood Blogs site


Cuban Women Serving Jail Sentences for Killing Abusive Husbands

As I was scrolling through the latest news related to women and gender violence, I came across a story about Cuba and their penitentiary system. They have over 200 prisons, and several of them are for women only. Though over 4,000 Cuban women are currently jailed for embezzlement and fraud, several of the women are there for committing homicide against their abusive husbands.

An Afghan woman watches a media event from her window in prison.

According to Ivet Gonzalez of the Inter Press Service, "... civil society organisations and state agencies have been carrying out a campaign since 2007 calling for specific legislation on domestic violence. In 2012 it reached eight of the country’s 15 provinces."

Upon future research, I found out that this is a problem in other countries, as well. In Afghanistan, 650 women are in prison nationwide for crimes against their husbands. This also includes "moral crimes", like leaving an abusive husband to be with another man. These women serve seven year terms for leaving their husbands.

These women are victims of intimate partner violence, which, according to Julia T. Wood, is "physical, mental, emotional, verbal, or economic power used by one partner against the other partner in a romantic relationship". These men are abusing their wives and because they are taking a stand against gender violence they are being punished by the law.

Although murder is a severe crime and no one can really say if it's too severe due to the lack of knowledge of the level of gender violence that is going on in these marriages, the laws in these countries need to be reassessed in cases of women protecting themselves against abusive men.


The Onion’s Quvenzhane Wallis Tweet Crosses The Line

On the night of February 24, The Oscars were being aired. Twitter was incredibly active with the normal banter that surrounds award shows. The satirical newspaper The Onion was also tweeting about The Oscars, and while I'm a fan of The Onion and a regular reader, they tweeted something completely inappropriate the night of The Oscars.

The Onion tweeted this on February 24th at 8:42 p.m. during The Oscars.

The Onion tweeted "Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?" Quvenzhane Wallis is the 9-year-old star of Beasts of the Southern Wild. Over 500 people retweeted this tweet and several were outraged quickly. According to The Associated Press, the tweet was deleted an hour after it was posted.

In Chapter 5, we discussed that language is not neutral. The way that we use language can perpetuate sexist attitudes, even when used in jest. Not only is this spotlighting, or calling particular attention to sex instead of other matters, but the word "cunt" is a derogatory term for a vagina, so with that simple tweet you are not only using an offensive word toward woman but you are also sexualizing a little girl.

This kind of language is only furthering and making things like this okay. Using "the C word" in humor makes it tangible to people who think it's okay to also use it. The Onion has such a large readership that they need to be more careful with the language that they use. I understand that they like to push the envelope and shock their readers by their satire, but this was pushing a little too far.


“I’m glad you don’t have that lesbian haircut anymore.”

This is something I heard often at work as my hair started to grow out. I had a "pixie cut" for really my whole life; this is the longest it's ever been. Just from me having short hair my sexuality apparently was compromised because of this image people have of what makes a woman a woman, and what traits are associated with lesbianism. My hair was short, therefore not only did I lose attraction points as a woman to these generally ignorant men that come into the bar (apparently), but it even made people question my identity as a straight woman.

Lena Dunham cut her hair off and upped her "edgy" points in society.

Cutting your hair short is an action associated with "edgyness". It's a huge deal whenever a celebrity cuts her hair short; it's often assumed that they're going through a crisis or are trying to get attention. Not to mention their sexuality is sometimes questioned. But really, how does cutting your hair short before a hot summer determine what kind of attitude you have, what's going on in your personal life, or what sexuality you claim? Lena Dunham is a good example of this, where she, like Miley Cyrus recently did, cut her hair short and got lots of feedback from the media.

This expectation of something as trivial as hair length for women comes from the theory of symbolic interactionism, which is when society basically convinces an individual of what their gender identity should look like. According to Julia T. Wood in her book Gendered Lives, "from the moment of birth, we engage in interaction with others, especially parents, who tell us who we are, what is appropriate for us, and what is unacceptable". Girls generally grow up with an idea of what a girl looks like; in most children's books the little girl has long hair. Even the signs on bathroom doors have a woman sporting a skirt and obvious hair with length to it.

The symbolic interactionism theory gives insight and understanding into why girls feel the need to fit into their gender norm, and how even their opposite sex knows what their "supposed to look like". We are raised in a society where it is pressured and made very clear to us what our gender and the genders of our peers are, and you get a lot of grief if you don't fit that. It takes personal confidence and surrounding yourself with open-minded, supportive people to have the strength to challenge that which is expected of you in your gender norm.


Welcome to Sarah Schmader’s Gender & Communication Blog

My name is Sarah Schmader and I am a senior Communication Studies Major (Mass Media concentration) with a Graphic Design minor. I'm also the Layout Editor of The Rotunda and a DJ at WMLU 91.3 FM, but the "extracurricular" that takes up most of my time and energy is my job as a bartender/waitress/manager/bouncer at 202 Bar & Grill. I also run a Twitter account and blog called The Wry Waitress, where I share tales of working at a bar.

As far as my communication expertise goes, I think my job and the internship I completed this past summer have improved my communication skills the most. During my internship, I was basically running a website, which included communicating with writers, my internship supervisor, etc. And as far as my job goes, any job in the service industry is going to demand skills in communication, especially communicating with drunk people.

Chase and I.

My experience with gender may be a little different than the experiences of my peers. Sophomore year, I lived with a transgendered individual as they were going through the beginning stages of their transition. Chase (originially Colleen, then Coy) was one of my first friends at Longwood. We met in Unity Alliance and moved to Lancer Park together with two other roommates sophomore year. Though I am consistently a supporter of the LGBTQA community and being an ally is a huge part of my identity, living with Chase was very difficult. He was on testosterone at the time, which caused mood swings, lashing out, and even a couple suicide threats. Though Chase and I will forever be connected and I will always be someone for him to come to, our friendship is not as strong as it used to be.

The thing that I'm most interesting in learning about in Gender & Comm. is how my colleagues interpret gender and how thinking has progressed. I was raised to support the LGBTQA community, but I'm interested to see if there are as many people that interpret gender the same way as me and are as "open-minded". I also hope to expand my knowledge of gender as my "expertise" is really only with female to male transexuals.