Saturday, December 27, 2008

Feminism on film: "Revolutionary Road"

by Chloe Angyal

The Huffington Post
calls it "required watching for all young women who think that feminism is irrelevant." Sam Mendes' new film, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is not, it seems, just for Titanic fans hoping for a Jack and Rose reunion.

From what reviewers are saying, it looks like Revolutionary Road is a movie version of The Feminine Mystique, which also makes it required watching for all young women who think that feminism is relevant and awesome. And it's at the top of a very long list of movies that I desperately want to see.

Melissa Silverstein, a who consulted on the film, writes that it "shows what life was like for women before feminism. It's an important history lesson from the not too distant past." She adds, "watch it and read The Feminine Mystique, and be thankful that there was a feminist movement, or who knows what life would be like now."

So, dear readers, through whom I'll have to live vicariously for now (there's a thesis deadline calling my name), have you seen Revolutionary Road? What did you think of it?

Friday, December 26, 2008

CSMA (Christmas spirit, my ass)

Try Christmas spite.

In "A Story of Christmas Past, Present and Future," a creepily political holiday parable, Dr. John Rossi calls feminism "the retarded sister of liberalism." Classy, right? The beginning of the parable, which ran today at Human Events, goes a little something like this:

Once upon a time there was a very happy couple. Their names were Freedom and Capitalism.They married and had many wonderful children. Their names were Independence, Self-worth, Hard-work, Dignity, Charity, Faith and Hope. They all lived happily for many years and the children respected their parents and loved them both very much.

But Freedom and Capitalism later had several naughty children, very naughty. They weren't so respectful and never appreciated their parents.

Their names were Wealth-envy, Environmentalism, Animal-rights Activism, Racism, Feminism, and Ultra-liberalism.

Human Events is one of my favourite anti-feminist sites. It is the epitome of classy. Ok not really. It's mostly just good for a laugh.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Your present from me is a couple of photos of my dad wearing the present I gave him:

(click to enlarge)
Yes, my dad is both a loyal Equal Writes reader and a self-professed feminist. That's the best present I could ever hope to receive. And yes, that's my dog Sammy in the background. I'm not sure whether or not she's a feminist.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
xoxo, Chloe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Complex women are unsexy. Like Playstations.

Ugh. The "I'm a Mac" ads were pretty appalling and reinforced some pretty ridiculous "nerd" stereotypes, and it was only a matter of time before people came up with a way to compare other competing devices, using sexism to drive home their message.
Here's "I'm a Wii,", which plays into tired old stereotypes that when it comes to women, "pretty" and "smart" are mutually exclusive, and that the pretty, dumb women are more fun to play with (get it, play, like with a console, but also play, like sexually, with a woman? It's pretty high brow. It could go over your head if you're not careful.)

Ugh. You know what's actually really unsexy? Comparing women to video game consoles.

Thanks to Elizabeth for the tip!

Deja-vu all over again

by Christina DiGasbarro

Now that we’re back from our first semester at college—our first semester away from each other—my friends and I have been frenetically scheduling lunches and movie nights and times to otherwise get together and hang out. After seeing so many friends, I’ve noticed something that I might not have given a second thought to if it did not reoccur so consistently: literally every time I have a sustained conversation with one of my girl friends (but never when it’s with a guy friend), we always get to the topic of boys.

We never start the conversation there, but once we’ve talked about “It’s so good to see you!” and “How do you like your school?” and “What were your classes like?” and “What are your plans over break/for next semester/for the summer?”, the next question is some variant of “So, is there a guy?” And then we spend quite a long time sharing stories about guys we like or boyfriends or whatever, asking each other for advice, bucking each other up, and otherwise dissecting our love lives or lack thereof, whichever the case may be.

Part of the reason I find the unerring reoccurrence of this topic curious is that these girls and I never used to talk much about guys as anything much more than friends. Maybe the reason we’re more willing or eager to talk about romantic endeavors now is that we have been leading separate lives for a while now and, in our desire to fill each other in, we just talk about everything and anything. But I’m also left wondering why, even when there’s hardly anything to say on the topic, we invariably find ourselves talking for extended periods of time about boys.

Clearly there is friendly interest and concern for each other in our conversations; it is the reason for this friendly interest and concern that I wonder about. I’ve come up with two different hypotheses about this phenomenon. The first is that our concern for things relating to boys is a manifestation of a basic human need or desire to have a meaningful and loving relationship. The second is that our repeated discussions about our relationship statuses is a manifestation of the influence of a societal or cultural undercurrent or idea that a woman needs a man to be truly happy or fulfilled.

Don’t get me wrong; my friends and I are all very happy with our schools and our lives, and none of us would propose to another that she is more or less happy because she has or doesn’t have a boyfriend. But there must be some underlying reason that so many of us, with different interests and personalities, have had virtually the same conversation in the past week and a half.
So I’m curious: girls and boys, have you experienced anything like this? Do you think these conversations are the result of basic human wants or of cultural expectations and pressures? Personally, I would prefer to think it’s the former, but I’d like to see more evidence than my own experience before I accept that as the explanation.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Take action on honour killings

by Chloe Angyal

Deepali Gaur Singh at RH Reality Check has a distressing piece about honour killings, something we've been reading a lot about this year. Singh explains the larger social structure that allows perpetrators and defenders of honour killings to paint them as a private matter, out of the hands of the law and those who enforce it:

... while such incidents elicit attention due to the intrigue and horror attached to them as some primordial custom practiced by certain sequestered communities, the fact is that this form of violence is just a part of a much larger problem of violence against women and an issue that transcends cultures and religions. Complicity by other women in the family and the community only helps strengthen the notion of women as property and the perception that violence against family members is a family matter and outside of the judicial and public domain.

Scary stuff, especially the complicity of other women. Of course, culture is strong, and fear of death will make people do whatever it takes to survive. But women don't deserve this; no one deserves this. (It should be noted that honour killings aren't restricted to far away lands. Unless you count Canada as far away.)

Want to do something? Want to donate some money this Christmas instead of buying stuff? Check out the International Campaign Against Honour Killings, the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organization and of course, Amnesty International, all worthy causes.

Worst. Stocking stuffers. Ever.

by Chloe Angyal

I was doing some Christmas/Hanukkah/First Amendment-loving secular end-of-year celebration shopping this afternoon when I walked past a rack of novelty fridge magnets outside a store. Should any of you be considering entering the lucrative and glamourous novelty fridge magnet business, please take note. The following is not acceptable magnet material:

"DO NOT open fridge: you are on a diet"
"Lord, if I cannot be skinny, please let all my friends be fat"
"Take charge, don't be large"
"CAUTION: hungry dieter, may bite if provoked"

You know why a hungry dieter "may bite if provoked?" It's because dieting sucks. It sucks because it means being hungry, because it means adhering to unnecessary restrictions and most of all, it sucks because it doesn't work. And yes, a healthy diet (noun) is good - balance and vegetables and all that jazz. But these magnets are talking about dieting (verb), the process of eliminating certain foods from your life because they're "bad." But the verb kind of diet sucks because, and I'll keep saying it until people start listening, dieting doesn't work.

And yes, I know, we live in a culture where skinny women are considered more beautiful, even if they're so skinny that they lose the capacity to bear children. And yes, I know, it's in a person's best financial interest to "take charge" because large people earn less than slim people (although, one could argue that we should be working to change such inequities in society, instead of accepting them and working out to take advantage of them). And YES, I know it's not healthy to be obese. I know all that. But these magnets are not okay.

They're not okay for several reasons. The first is that they make the crappiest, most passive-aggressive stocking stuffers ever (keep that in mind, all you last-minute Christmas shoppers). The second reason is that they totally normalize dieting, and a state of mind in which the body is the enemy, against which we're expected to fight a constant battle with our main weapons being deprivation and control. Sounds like fun, right?
Also, merchandise like this is clearly aimed at women. Unlike men, women are expected to be in a constant state of dieting, as well as constantly keeping tabs on their friends' weight (remember ladies, if she's skinnier than you, she's a threat, so you should pray for all your friends to pork up). And seriously, what manufacturer made that throw pillow expecting a man to buy it? I'm not claiming that the pressure to diet and be slim only affects women, because obviously men are targeted by predatory weight loss programs too, but the idea that dieting is not just normal but what "good" women do, is ever present for us in a way that it isn't for men. As Equal Writes' own Jordan Kisner pointed out last month, dieting is so normalized for women that our own birthday cards tell us to do it.

So whether you're buying stocking stuffers, designing fridge magnets, or just being a decent human being, try to keep in mind that normalizing dieting behaviour like this, particularly among women, is not okay. Because dieting isn't normal: it's the number one cause of eating disorders, which I think we can agree are pretty damn abnormal, since they're psychological conditions. And it's also a really great waste of women's energy, keeping them preoccupied and miserable with their perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful, perfectly normal bodies - just imagine what we could do with all that mental energy.

And, in case you've forgotten between now and the second paragraph, it doesn't work.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The STEM dilemma: women in science

The most recent edition of the Harvard International Review has a piece on the low numbers of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the economic implications of that dearth:

As US competitiveness is increasingly challenged on all sides, the forced attrition of women from the STEM workforce represents an annual cost of billions of dollars. This loss comes at a time when the United States is facing an absolute decline in entry-level engineers and growing rivalry from foreign innovators. Most discussions hold that gender equality is the primary benefit of, and reason for, getting more women into science. But this is not the primary benefit. Instead, the failure to expand women’s participation in science is not simply an issue of “feminism” or civil rights but increasingly a problem for US economic security.

The bottom line argument is often the strongest one their is for implementing policy that will bring more gender equality and equity to traditionally male-dominated fields. You can argue with feminism, but very few people will argue with money. The article also explains why, despite increasing numbers of women getting STEM educations and entering STEM industries, so few of them make it to the top: they leave before they get there.

A primary source of leakage out of the STEM pipeline results from family obligations. For both male and female scientists, marriage and family create demands that can cut short a thriving STEM career. Women’s biological time clocks often mean that decisions regarding marriage and children cannot always be delayed until after their career has been well established. Therefore, they are often forced to choose, very early in their careers, between being a scientist or a mother, resulting in women being pushed out of science, engineering, and entrepreneurial careers soon after graduate school.