Gender in Chorus

Last week I went to the Winter Men’s and Women’s Chorus concert. I didn’t go into it expecting to find gender stereotypes but they were apparent as the concert progressed. There were three songs from both the men’s and the women’s sides that seemed to presented blatant gender stereotypes.

The women’s choir sang first and there were three songs in particular that were gendered. The first song was called “Little Lamb”. During the song a little child was talking to the lamb. The women were singing as the child and being the child in a sense. Upon hearing this song I was reminded of the magazine ads that portray women as children. In these ads women are dressed in childlike

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clothing and are often doing silly things that a child might be seen doing. The second song, “Fair and True”, was not quite as gendered but it was not a song that a men’s choir would ever sing. The women sang about having a loving heart and a good mind. It was evident that the composer wrote the lyrics with the intention that they would be sung by a female. This song also had a childlike feel to it and love was one of the main themes. The third song that was gendered was titled “He’s Gone Away”. The song was about a man that is going somewhere far away and while he is gone who will glove this woman’s hand tie her shoes. The song was from a different time period but all I could think was “really?” Was this woman so dependent on her man that she couldn’t even put on her own gloves? I couldn’t believe that any woman, even one from a different era could need a man so much. It may have been true that women needed men for many things at the time this song was written but I don’t think they were needed this badly and they are clearly not needed this badly today. Women now don’t even need a man to get pregnant but this song seemed to be trying to tell women that they should be dependent on men.

The men on the other hand had three short songs that were very silly in nature and were clearly meant to be sung by males. The choir was split in two and each group had a different part of the song to sing and the lyrics would cross to makes phrases like “look up her dress” and “hot dog”. It was very funny but it irritated me that a woman director would pick music that was so gendered. But there does seem to be some hope for the future. There was a student conductor who picked out and directed two songs. One of the songs she picked out for the women was just as funny as the men’s songs and gender didn’t seem to be so much of an issue in that song.

 

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Dress to Impress

Several weeks ago I went to a rave that was put on by one of my organizations WMLU, the local campus radio station.  I mean with flashing strobes and glow-sticks the event was to be a fundraiser for FACES.  Honestly I expected to walk in to see students just off the street in normal clothing just coming in to have a good time.  When I got there it was much to what I expected, except for these two girls who dancing.  Where everyone else was just wearing their normal street attire, these two girls were dressed in tighter skirts as well as more “unconventional” tops.  I was sitting there thinking to myself, “why would you dress like that”.  So my question is still just that, why?  The reason that I have concluded for why is based on how we as a society have shaped the view on how today’s young women need to dress in order to be found attractive or to be noticed.

When doing some research to back up my claim to found myself on a eHow page.  The page is titled “How to Dress for a Rave” talked about how women should dress when going to a rave.  Such things included putting on body glitter, dressing in very load primary colors, as well as even going as far as putting on a baby tee shirt to have a really tight fit along the chest.  It is like these girls looked up how to dress because that is how they looked.  Things like this articles are why women today act the way the do.  If you watch TV and if their is a show that involves a party or rave you will always see the girls within it dressed very suggestively.  Within Seventeen Magazine I remember by girlfriend showing me photos of what a rave is like, this is back in High School, when I asked her what a rave was.  She responded as such, “it has to look just like this to be a rave, you have to dress this way”.  Now she was talking both male and female, but that just furthers my point, as a whole our society dictates that to be accepted within the group, women almost have to dress like hookers just to be noticed.

The issue is what I say in so many of my posts, that as a whole we need to re-evaluate how our society determines fashion and beauty.  Right now it reads that you must be as skinny as a Barbie doll and dress in clothing that shows so much skin that you might as well not wear anything.  Do not get me wrong, their is nothing wrong with wanting to dress sexy, but their is a point when sexy becomes trashy.  Through our media and advertisements we are telling our children that this is who they need to be to be accepted.  The style is getting louder and louder and it almost seems like we will be asking our daughters to fit into a size 2 and weigh less than 75 pounds.  I know that is an extreme but my point is clear, these unnatural standards need to stop in order to save not just the health of our children but their dignity as well.

Works Cited:

Spade, J. & Valentine, G. (2011).  The kaleidoscope of gender: Prisms, patterns, and possibilities. (3rd ed.).  Los Angeles: Sage.

Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2007. Print.

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All I Do Is WIN

A couple weeks ago some friends and I participated in the Longwood Lacrosse Annual Turkey Trot.  This even required a giant, frozen turkey leg and a LOT of endurance.  We were required to run from Willet gym all the way across campus to Ruffner, pass off the turkey leg, and wait to run once more.  This was a competition, so naturally everyone brought their “A” game.  Although there were many male groups, I was surprised at how many female groups showed up to compete.  Due to the common notion that men are more athletic than women, I wasn’t all too shocked to hear all the locker room talk brought on by the men.  They thought they had it in the bag.

Rounding the corner of Ruffner, I saw two teams about to make their final sprint towards the finish line, one man vs. one woman.  They were neck and neck, and the outcome surprised a lot of people: the men’s team came in second, and the woman’s team came in first.  First place!  That was a big deal.  These big, tough men who I had heard ten minutes ago talking about how “there was no way they could lose” had just met their match.  I don’t believe they were too happy about it either.  Why is this?  Why do men think they have to be better than women?

According to an article by Prudence L. Carter, women are viewed as soft, men are viewed as hard.  That’s just the way it is.  Women are dainty little flowers that are put up on a pedestal, while men march around like they own the place.  Expectations are for women to act like women; if they act otherwise, then they are called names and judged.  However, men are free to act however they please and everyone always says “well, boys will be boys.”  This concept does more harm than good, as seen during the turkey trot.  These “boys” had been strutting around like they had already won the race before it started when what do you know, they were beaten by women!!  That ought to have knocked them down a few levels.

The concept of hard vs. soft is being taught at a very young age.  It is doing young generations no favors.  This limits their abilities to explore themselves as people because society has already told them how to act.  Well, I say act however you want; don’t stick to just hard or soft, be a little bit of both.  As seen with the turkey competition, you never know when you are going to have to respectively put someone in their place.

Source:  Spade, Joan Z., Valentine, Catherine G. (2011) “The Kaleidoscope of Gender: Prisms, Patterns, and     Possibilities.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE.

 

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Thanksgiving: Just for Women?

Like usual, I spent this Thanksgiving weekend at my grandmother’s house, where my aunt and uncle had come to visit. My family has done this for the past few years and until now, I had never noticed how sexually divided that household is. In fact, in the three days I stayed there, I don’t recall the men doing any of the household chores, much less spending time with any of us womenfolk.

To give a small background, my family is very conservative. My grandmother was a stay-at-home mom with her two children and never went back to work after they were born. My grandfather was the sole provider for the household, and my father and aunt seemed to pick up on this concept a bit. My dad brings in most of the money in my household (yet pays far fewer bills than my mother does. Hmmm…) and my aunt did not work until a year or two before her husband retired. We have been talking about working stereotypes in class, and I am certain that my family fits into the typical molds quite well.

In any case, when I was at my grandmother’s house, I couldn’t help but notice a few things. First of all, the men made their plates as soon as it came out of the oven and had first pick of the meals. They got as many mashed potatoes and as much stuffing as they could fit on their plates. It wasn’t until the hoard of testosterone left the kitchen that we were able to review the damage. The best pieces of turkey were gone and mysteriously enough, all the cheese and bacon was missing from grandmama’s signature mashed potatoes. Once we had made our plates, I realized something else odd. The four of us sat in the somewhat crowded kitchen while all the men ate their meals on couches in the den. Once they were done, my mother and aunt had to go search the men’s lair for plates so grandmama and I could wash them. And what did the men do? Oh, they talked about hunting and watched the football game. How is this fair at all!?

The second night (Black Friday night), the same thing happened again. When the menfolk were picking away the good parts of our meals, I asked my aunt how this was fair at all. I said “Why don’t we just make our plates before we call them in? Grandmama does all the cooking, but she always makes her plate last.” Not to much surprise, my aunt said that the men deserve to get their food first because that’s how it’s always been and they’re usually tired and hungry from working and hunting all day. Gee, I wasn’t aware we lived in the Stone Age. I can promise one thing about my future household: there is NO way we will ever be this sexually divided, especially during the holidays when everyone is supposed to bond with each other.

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You should have known better

 

The idea that women who dress in what some would say is ‘slutty’ attire are asking for it has been the stereotype in the United States for as long as I can recall. Everyone I know always thinks that because a woman wears a mini skirt she is just asking to get hit on, perused or even sexually assaulted. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.  In Jessica Valenti’s book Full Frontal Feminism she talks in chapter 4 about what she calls the blame/ shame game that women constantly play in regard to sexual assault and rape. I never realized before how many precautions women take to just be cautious of a potential rape situation until I read about it in FFF. For example I rarely walk around campus at night by myself even though I know Longwood has a relatively safe campus. I also, like Valenti describes is common for most women, hold my keys in my hand when walking by myself either to the car or inside a store just in case someone were to approach me. It is indeed sad that women take such precautions because of the fear and prevalence of sexual assault and rape in our society.

In the book Valenti also discusses how we often blame the victim for rape or sexual assault. Being in college I have heard many horrific stories from many universities about young women getting too intoxicated and having a male rape them.  All of these stories are told to me with the common theme, well that’s why you need to not get too intoxicated because then guys see that and will take advantage of you. Wait what? How is this the woman’s fault? Yes being intoxicated is not the best thing for this situation but shouldn’t we be more worried that males think its okay to take advantage of these women in the first place?

To change this blame/shame game we need to do yet more fighting for women’s rights. There are still many areas of this fight that have yet to be settled like the fact that spousal rape is considered a less serious rape crime than a rape of any other woman. We need to recognize the fact that our society is so desensitized to rape that it is part of a women’s daily life to avoid it. Raising awareness though organizations like INCITE!  Will help make a change in our society.

 

Source: Valenti, J. (2007). “Full Frontal Feminism”

Image source : Google Images

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Secretly Pregnant

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There is a new series on TLC titled “Secretly Pregnant” this show shares the experiences of women who are hiding their pregnancy from loved ones.  The whole premise of the show is to document this soon-to-be mother’s journey and struggle in eventually telling family and friends that they are pregnant.  Each person’s reasons for not telling are different but in a way the same.  For example last week a woman in her 40s got pregnant with her boyfriend and was terrified of what her two daughters would think.  She even told her boyfriend that if her eldest daughter (27 years old) didn’t approve then she would give it up for adoption.

Another episode had a woman who was dating a younger man (co-worker) and got pregnant.  She was scared to tell her boss in fear that she would lose her job.  In class we have discussed the struggles women face when being pregnant while trying to hold a job.  I feel as though this show brings to light what many women have to fear whereas men don’t necessarily have this problem.  But they do face scrutiny when they want to take off for the birth of their child. Back to the point, being pregnant should never be a “dirty little secret” to quote one of the women on the show.

A lot of the women on the show are ashamed of being pregnant or fear of other’s judging them.  In Full Frontal Feminism, Valenti she talks about motherhood and how woman should not necessarily think of themselves as the ones who repopulate the world.  She thinks women should also think of themselves first.  Valenti would probably have much to say about this show, she would probably encourage the idea of finding other options if these women weren’t ready for motherhood.

Being a mother is a huge job, one that not everyone wants or is cut out for.  Valenti enforces this idea to challenge the status quo if you so choose.  But at the same time it should be perfectly acceptable for women to want to become stay at home moms, as long as it’s their choice and not societies.

Source: Valenti, J. (2007). “Full Frontal Feminism”

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Thanksgiving Roles

Well its that time of the year again.  Families get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and then all go out the next day for Black Friday.  Just your average holiday right?  Well that’s the thing, this holiday was all but average.  For the first time in my life I looked at the season within its narrow context of gender roles.  When I got home the first thing that I saw was my mother and grandmother in the kitchen getting things ready for Thanksgiving.  When I asked, “Wheres Dad”, I was told that his is in his shop downstairs working on a gate.  Does that sound familiar?  Sounds like an episode of Home Improvement if you ask me.  I asked mom, “Why is Dad not helping make dinner?”.  Her response is what surprised me, it was not that he doesn’t want to, but as she said it, “He has to much testosterone to be able to help”.  What the hell?!?

The point that I am trying to make is that the gender roles of Thanksgiving with mom in the kitchen and dad who knows where is not about being forced into the roles society gives us.  I like to think my family is above those roles.  But it is the cementing of those roles is what hurts us.  We do not just cement our selves but push others away.  Then we all get very angry about how they are a typical man and men are sexist because the do not do feminine things.  Sure that is the case in some cases.  But as Valenti said “Boys don’t cry”, you are placing a trait, a characteristic on some one, thus making them who they are.  If that is the case then it is not the mans fault.  Nor am I saying that it is the women’s fault, but it is more of a universal failure.  Until our society changes as a whole this is going to keep happening.  Valenti  book “Full Frontal Feminism” is an attempt to point this out to her readers and allow them to understand what the real issues are.  It is not just about men being evil, but it is about the series of contradictions that exist within society that must be corrected.

The issue truly is not just one sided.  Men are not always the reason for the modern day gender roles that exist.  Yes men played a part in their initial creation, but today it is more of a self imposed idea.  Such is an example of my mom, who gets angry when myself or my dad try to help in the kitchen, thus we do not.  She is cementing herself in the role of the cook and pushing my dad and myself in the role of being inconsiderate and not helping.  That is if someone looked at it from the outside. That is something that we have to remember, most things we see, we see from the out side.  Sometimes we need to know all the facts before making determinations.

Works Cited

Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2007. Print.

 

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Lets Play the Blame Game

                So I must admit I am an avid, not afraid to hide, addicted, watcher of lifetime. More specifically, whenever I am able to go home for break I immediately get excited because I am able to watch LMN, or Lifetime Movie Network. This station is literally non-stop movies, all day that run every two hours. Simply put, when I’m at home a majority of my time spent is in my bed watching some good Lifetime movies. That being said, my favorite genre of movies are the ones where the woman marries an

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older man, kills him, uses his money and then gets caught (sometimes).  As Jessica Valenti points out in her book, Full Frontal Feminism, more often than not the plots of many Lifetime movies are of a woman being raped, sexually attacked, stalked, or harassed by a man.

                Lifetime is a network, which embraces the empowerment of women, so oftentimes these assault movies shown are true stories, which are supposed to be used as awareness to a large female population. Although I have forgotten her name, I will never forget the true story of a lady who constantly tried to get away from her abusive husband. She tried to go to the police multiple times, but the police would make excuses for him telling her things like “just leave him alone”, or “do what he asks”. Nevertheless, the lady took actions in her own hands, packed up her child, and left. As expected the man found her and beat her so bad that she ended up paralyzed. Those blaming techniques or excuses that we hear so often are exactly what Valenti talks about in chapter four. The first one she mentions is “wearing a skirt equals open for business”. While this is more centered on sexual harassment and sexual assault, she makes a good point in asking why does a skirt make it ok for someone to feel they have free access to female’s private parts? My point is that oftentimes when rape, or assault happens against females there is an automatic assumption that females brought the violence on themselves. As Lifetime often points out, either the woman was not subservient enough to the man, so that gives him an excuse to beat her, or the woman was too flirtatious in the outfit she chose to wear to work; so that gives a man the right to harass her.

                If people, men in particular, think so one-sided or as the saying goes only think with their male parts, then really what is that saying about men?(I know all men don’t think like that). All throughout our exploration of gender interaction and female feminism the strategies and goals were to create a society where men and women equally got along. I understand that this will only happen in a utopian type of society, but if we constantly see images of males thinking like this, ignorant people will eventually think this is how males and females are suppose to interact. I commend Lifetime very much for bringing to light the horrors of violence against women, but when is society going to change. As Valenti comments, “violence against women is at epidemic levels in the United States, and it is so common that it has become a normal part of our lives.”

*Valenti, Jessicae. Full Frontal Feminism. Emeryville: Seal Press. 2007.

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Get Out of My Kitchen!

This Thanksgiving I could not help but notice how defined the gender roles are in my family. We are taking a trip this weekend to Williamsburg in our camper. My dad spent the whole day getting the camper ready and grilling the Turkey. My mom and I were in the kitchen, baking dessert and preparing side dishes. My brother helped my dad for a while, but when my dad did not need help anymore my brother sat down to watch football. If never once occurred to him that he could be of help in the kitchen.

 

It didn’t really bother me, but my mom was very irritated. She didn’t expect him to cook but she did expect him to offer to set the table or help with dishes. I don’t know if my brother’s lack of a willingness to get involved was gender based or not, but knowing him so well I would say it was safe to assume that he just did not think he belonged in the kitchen. He did the manly things, and then the manly things were over he felt as if there was nothing left he really needed to do.

 

Dr. Tracy has talked about the importance of having a conversation about household tasks. It’s okay for the women to do all the cooking and for the man to work outside, as long as the conversation is open for both parties to express their viewpoints. It got me thinking to my own life. I always make dinner for my boyfriend, no questions asked. We go to the grocery store together and he will pick some of the meals, but I always make the dinner. I often find that if he does try and help in the kitchen, I get frustrated and end up kicking him out.

 

I’m not being forced into the woman’s role, but rather I am forcing him out. He doesn’t get to make food. It’s his responsibility to fix things around the apartment. I was raised in a household where that dynamic worked, and I slid into the roles with ease. It never occurred to me to even ask if my boyfriend wants a turn cooking. If it does work out that he likes the arrangement, then we will be good to go. I imagine if he pipes up and wants to start cooking, it will be an adjustment for me to stop controlling the kitchen as I am used to.

 

I find that I am confusing myself. We have been reading “Full Frontal Feminism” this whole semester, and in countless times in the book Valenti encourages us to look at the world from new perspectives. She has a very vocal and non subtle technique to get her readers to understand what she is talking about. I have loved every minute of her book and enjoyed the enlightenment I have received in regards to the freedom I have. At the end of the day, though, I want to be in the kitchen preparing a meal while my man does something else. This just goes to show there is no clear cut feminist and non feminist. We each create our identity the way we want to be.

 

 

Source: Valenti, J. (2007). “Full Frontal Feminism”

 

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Always Pregnant

            When I was about twelve years old my family decided to get a cat as pet for the house. To take care of this cat my brother and I had to make sure she was fed and the little box was cleaned weekly. I remember one day I went to go clean out the little box and my mom stopped me from doing it. She told me that it wasn’t good for young ladies to mess with cat littler. I am not sure if this is a true fact or just something that she has always heard. But her reason was that something that was in the cat little could affect young women from having babies in the future. She told me that to be on the safe side that I would no longer mess with the cat litter.

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            This story showed me that even thought I was only twelve it was automatically assumed that I was going to have children and I couldn’t do anything to harm that. Even at such a young age I was suppose to keep my body healthy so one day in the future I could have no problems having a child. Personally, I want children one day so I didn’t think twice about this but now looking back I can see that this could be a problem especially pushing this on such young women. Not only does the assumption that women need to take care of their women in a young age but any time before the assumption of having kids.  According to the website, Women’s Health, “Every woman should be thinking about her health whether or not she is planning pregnancy.” It’s all over, from the media, doctors, and families that women need to take care of their bodies to be future mothers.

            The thought that the reason for women’s health isn’t only for their own care but for their future babies’ life as well never really went through my mind. According to Jessica Valenti the author of Full Frontal Feminism, this theory is considered to be that women have to “treat yourself like your pregnant….even if you’re not” (p.154). This is very true that women need to make sure they are eating healthy or making healthy decisions not fully for themselves but because their body needs to be healthy for women. Valenti also says that “…any woman who is capable of getting pregnant should be taking folic acid supplements, not smoking, and keeping herself generally healthy-but not for herself, mind you, but for the baby” (p.155). Therefore, women have to think of themselves as future mothers and take care of something that isn’t even in existence yet. Even though I do want children in my future I think it is very important that women are thought of for them and their own health and not just keeping their womanly body parts healthy.

            I never thought about this situation until I read this section on Valenti’s book. Then I thought that it is pretty valid that a lot of people force health on women because of their future motherhood. It is important for women to keep themselves health but they need to do it for themselves. Society once again puts another job onto women to be a baby maker and keeping themselves healthy to have babies. In my household it happened even at such a young age, so this thought is pushed on all ages of women.

Bibliography

Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2007. 154-155. Print.

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