Dr. Phil, Feminism, and Hands

In two of my classes this week, we’re talking about gender and related topics.  One, an education class, is about diversity and differences in education.  The other, contemporary art, is about feminism in art, starting in the ’60s and ’70s (although we touched on earlier movements a bit, they aren’t as key in the visual arts).  Of course, this has me thinking more than I usually do about social justice.  Really, I think about it a lot, but now it’s a lot a lot.

My assignment for the education class was to make a poster about the female gender, stereotypes, expectations, etc.  With only Time, National Geographic, and a few AARPs and AAAs, I had no problem filling the posterboard with images and words cut from the pages of these admired magazines.  At first, I thought I might have a problem, because they don’t have the typical models and fashion ads and sex tips that other magazines do (Cosmo, anyone?).  Well, I worried for no reason.  They were full of plenty of images of women, though rarely in “important” roles like the men they featured.  Women, in the ads and articles, were portrayed as emotional, needy, pretty, caretakers, and, well, feminine.  Other posters from the women in the class (the men are presenting theirs tomorrow) included similar themes, along with more overt sexual images and language.  The men in the class mostly seemed to realize that this could be a problem, especially after reading some articles about girls and education.  However, one man continuously made comments about how he was “enjoying the view” and liked the posters.  I found this offensive, but he was too far away for me to say anything directly.  I think, however, that I will talk to the (female) professor and ask her to address such situations immediately in the future.  We had another comment earlier in the semester from a woman in the class, speaking about Toddlers and Tiaras, saying that the dad was “supposedly not gay” and implying that, in fact, you could tell someone was lying about their sexual orientation through a TLC show and that only gay men could encourage their daughters in beauty pageants.  This, I thought, was a bit of a problem, but everybody let it slide and the professor kept talking.  Next time, I will speak up, I think (though it’s hard for me to do with my psych issues; I’d rather just blog about it).

Oh, the hands in the title.  The professor of my art class today, after a brief discussion of feminism, asked if anyone identified themselves as being feminist.  No hands were raised.  Later, after some more explanation and a bit of a “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude, everyone’s hands raised.  The most surprising part to me was that the class is all women, except for one man who, after prodding, joined the class as a feminist (even before some of the women did).

Why wouldn’t someone want to identify as a feminist?  Because the group is wrong, of course.  At least, it is according to this opinion piece on the Fox New website (which, by the way, is absolutely ridiculous).

Last night, driving home from school, the radio was on.  I was kind of listening, and an ad for Dr. Phil came on.  It was about a woman and her sister (we’ll call them A and B for clarity).  Well, A, apparently, had relationships with men.  B, apparently, liked to ruin them by having sex with the men.  Eventually, A got married.  B moved in with A and her husband.  And then B had sex with the husband.  Multiple times.  And all Dr. Phil had to say about it (at least on the ad; I didn’t watch the show) was that maybe the sisters needed some distance.  The way it was presented implied that it was all B’s fault.  What about the men?  They do tend to have control of whether or not they have sex with someone (sure, B could be a serial rapist, but that’s highly unlikely and should have been mentioned if the sex wasn’t consensual).

This brings light (though dim) to an issue that pervades our culture:  the idea that “boys will be boys” and that men have no control over their sexual practices, that it’s always the woman’s responsibility to make sure a condom is on, that rape victims are “asking for it” by what they wear (except in rare, hypothetical situations of rape fantasy, this is simply a stupid and harmful idea, at best).

That’s really a bad ending, but I don’t have anything else to say right now.  I’ll be back, though, don’t worry.  And I’ll certainly have more to say.

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4 responses to “Dr. Phil, Feminism, and Hands

  1. I relate with the feeling of seeing that type of stuff and then not having the opportunity to really speak about it in the room. Plus if nobody else is speaking to it, it’s extra hard. Good luck to you with that class and addressing those issues. I’d want to punch the nice view kid in the face in that moment. I wouldn’t do it of course..but the thought would cross my mind.

      • Talking to the professor may be the best. If they are all on the same page of not-caring, they aren’t going to suddenly care even if you point it out in an expert way. Probably a few people will agree with you, but may not speak up..so yeah it may be good to not confront the group as a group. But maybe if you get to do a project of your choosing, you could work your truth into it to share from that perspective, or something 🙂 At least know that you aren’t alone, and your experience probably resonates with far too many people in the college world.

      • It’s a pretty small class (maybe 12 people) and we’re all in three classes together, so that makes it even harder…but even more important. I’m definitely going to talk to the professor or send her an email, and maybe she will address it in the class, but the fact that she just let it slide in a class that’s supposed to be about diversity and fair treatment was very disarming.
        I do get to do a couple independent projects, and I haven’t been able to figure out what to do for them. I like the idea of incorporating this into it. Thanks for the idea!

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