What happened on the 8th? Women

I thought I had posted something, but apparently it doesn’t exist.  I know I typed here then, but there is no post.  I don’t remember everything I typed that day, so I’m not going to try to recreate it.  However, I’m going to bring up one topic from it:  International Women’s Day.  That was March 8th, exactly a week ago.  What I really want to talk about, though, is the UN Commission on the Status of Women 57.  Three years ago, I was part of an organization’s delegation to the CSW 54.  Before I collapsed in the streets of New York and was forced to stay at the convent the rest of the week (which was still pretty awesome), I was having a great time.  It wasn’t that it was particularly entertaining or anything, but it was amazing to be there with people from around the world connected for the purpose of talking about women’s issues.  It was so interesting to learn about international gender and sex issues, and be able to participate in concurrent events and talks about these topics that so often are forgotten or ignored.  The delegation I was with is particularly interested in education and the rights of the girl child, so I went to a few presentations about education internationally.  I got so many resources that I still haven’t completely sorted through.  It was truly amazing.  I also attended a Planned Parenthood gathering with a Catholic nun from my group.  Though we have very differing views on the issues discussed, it was nice to be able to discuss them in a civil manner and with authorities on the matters.  They also had really good food.

I hope to travel to another CSW in the future, with this same organization (I’m friends with some of the leaders on Facebook, so I can make it happen, hopefully).  The only problem is that the CSW occurs for two weeks in March, a time when I generally have school.  When I went, the program was coordinated through the school, so missing a week of classes–though I had a lot of work to make up–was excusable.  Now that I’m at a different school, I think that would be much more troublesome.  Once I graduate, I will hopefully get a teaching job soon after, which would, of course, most likely have me teaching in March.  It is too late for me to go this year, and next year I will likely be student teaching.  However, I really want to go again, this time for at least a whole week without falling over and needing to be helped up by the police.  (Good thing I collapsed next to them so they could keep me from being trampled or lost by my group.)

The focus of CSW 57 is ending violence against women.  This is a huge issue globally, manifested in many ways.  In a city near me, there have recently been a lot of news stories about domestic violence (one of the manifestations of violence against women).  There was a shooting in which uninvolved people died, along with the husband (the shooter) and wife (the intended victim).  The thing that struck me about this case in particular was that, according to the press coverage, the police had been involved with this couple on many occasions, and saw clear warning signs and even acts of violence.  The police officers, multiple times, pretty much ignored the issue.  The man should probably have been in prison, or at least treatment, at the time of the final incident.

These things happen across the world every day.  A lot of people, especially in the US, think that the feminist movement is over, that women are treated equally and have equal opportunity.  This simply is not the case.  Sure, there are female CEOs and even presidents of some countries, but too many women are hurt every day simply because they are women.  They are raped, murdered, mutilated, kidnapped and sold.  They are not allowed to go to school or get jobs.  They cannot feed the children they had no choice not to create.  Maybe the world is better for women and girls than it was 100 years ago, but the effort should not end now.  The state of the world’s females is sad.  Even sadder is the complacency of so many that allows it to happen.

Some people think there’s not really much that can be done to change these huge problems.  Again, that’s not true.  Every step anyone takes against an issue like violence against women impacts someone.  Maybe the entire world will never be safe, but each relationship we build with others can be a safe place.  We can support women’s shelters in our neighborhoods.  We can spread the word  about what we care about and can take action to get world leaders (and local leaders) to change what happens.  Perhaps things like rape can’t be prevented (though I think some cases might be), but they can be treated differently.  Victims can be supported, not blamed or even killed.  Perpetrators can be punished and prevented from harming others.  In some cases, they can be treated.  Other cases, like those involving war, may take more time and a larger task force to solve, but empowering women is an important step in stopping violence against them.

I encourage you to check out the many resources available concerning these matters, and pick one you care about to act on.  As I sort through my resources, I’ll periodically post links for you.  To start, visit the UN CSW website.  There, you can read about what’s going on and even watch webcasts of events.  Even if you’re not really interested in women’s issues, there are other problems in the world that you can learn about and help remedy.

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.