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.