Thursday, March 22, 2007

What is Femininity?

I just posted this over at Twisty's place, because that's where I got inspired to make it, but I thought I'd post it here too. It's a collage I whipped up last night (I was in a funky depressed-manic mood, mostly from reading too many news stories that involved women being killed, maimed, or otherwise assaulted) in response to the question: What is femininity?

Femininity is one of those prettyful (and lately, empowerful) labels that society (a.k.a the patriarchy) uses to otherwise strip women of their status as humans. Some women cling to this label to be otherwise validated by men and women (as I used to be, in my insecure teenage days). Honestly, I'm not a great writer, so the collage below is meant to represent what I see when I hear the word "femininity".


(Here is the bigger version).

Take from that what you will.

I added the dumb fantasy part at the top, because to me femininity (as society sees it) is not only a stupid fantasy, but it's a fantasy where the feminine one is stupid (we're supposed to know more about the science of fashion, babies, and relationships, versus actual lab science, because our fragile feminine minds just aren't built for all those complicated concepts). On a side note, my dad told me he used to go to college with a guy who wanted to marry a "stupid woman", because then he would be able to tell her what to think and what to do. (I think he succeeded, and then they divorced just a few years later, unsurprisingly.)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Blog Against Sexism Day

I have two topics to talk about today, in honor of Blog Against Sexism Day.

I was browsing around yesterday (not necessarily looking for links about misogyny, but you know, they aren't really hard to find on the internet, where the sexists and racists can hide behind the cloak of anonymity), and I found a link to this forum. (A little background information, the forum is frequented by people either working in the medical/pharma industry or looking for jobs or advice about breaking into the industry. So, the people who post here aren't teenage internet goons, they're supposedly professionals, although that certainly doesn't mean that they're not prone to sophomoric behavior.)

The original poster says that she's interviewed many times for a job in medical devices (I'm guessing med device sales), and five times she's been up to the point where it's been her versus another candidate for the job, and every time it's been a guy and he's been chosen over her, and one time it was a guy she knew who was less qualified than her. (She posted twice in the forum, so some of this information came from her second post.) So she was asking for advice on what she could do to break into the industry. Here are some responses she got:

I let them know that I wouldn't back down regardless of what a doc did or said and I had specific examples to share as to what I had done in past circumstances when faced with a challenge.

So pretty much, one woman let her potential employer know that if she were faced with a "challenge" about what another doctor said or did to her, she wouldn't press charges. These good ol' boys wouldn't want to have any unpleasantness, you know.

This is the reason guys get jobs...they don't bitch.

Yeah, sure. "Bitching" is something exclusive to women. Guys never complain about anything.

I'm sorry, I have to laugh!! I would work with guys 100% of the time, if I could. I am here at home with no job due to the female cats out there. I also am turning 60 so I have age as another problem. BUT the women out there are a mess! They whisper, harbor knowledge, want to see you fall, etc. I really need a job and now my name is tarnished to say the least. Men are great, they take it and brush it off and move on.

That was from (supposedly) another woman. As Twisty said, "When women hate women, it is only men hating women by proxy." Women oppress other women all the time, because they themselves are oppressed (just as men are oppressed by the patriarchy).

For better or device sales are still a male bastion because the job is considered both physically and mentally hard. Women in the pharm industry have made a bad reputation for all women in med sales. Most female pharma reps are preening, pretentious, Barbie doll clones with questionable work ethics (I was a pharma DM for 4 years). Unfortunately this is the dominant view so you'll have to show real ACCOMPLISHMENTS to get hired.

Physically hard? Why, do you have to lug around a heart and lung machine everyday? And if "Barbie doll clones with questionable work ethics" are hired, maybe the ethics of the hiring managers should be questioned. More attractive people probably have an easier time making sales, so it's not surprising that a manager would consider looks over qualifications.
Each Manager wants something specific going into an interview (even if it is all HOT blonds with long legs, men, frat boys, etc).
Oh, each manager wants something different, so it's OK that they openly discriminate against individuals who are qualified for the job but not qualified enough to win a beauty pageant.

Most people know enough to know what racist statements are, but if you substitute gender terms for racial terms, people suddenly think it's OK to be sexist. Or sometimes there is the political equivalent, where people think it's OK to be sexist against someone because they don't believe the same political/social ideas as them (see Ann Coulter criticism from liberal dudes for a good example).


Now that you're done reading that, here's my second topic that relates to sexism.

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with two feminist colleagues about prostitution. I'm very much against the institution of prostitution (not prostituted women) and the practice wouldn't be so prolific if there wasn't a market for it. We were talking about the legalization of prostitution, and even though I'm against the legalization of the sexual oppression of women, I'm also against criminalizing these prostituted women. I hypothesized that perhaps by legalizing prostitution nationwide (because it is legal in Nevada, I think), the spread of disease could be regulated, and these women could be better cared for and safer (in a brothel versus in a back alley).

However, one of the women pointed out that most prostitutes are under the age of 18, therefore illegal prostitution would still exist, even if it were legalized and regulated. So legalizing prostitution is a red herring thrown to those of us who want to make sure that prostituted adult women are provided with some sort of care. She found a report from a few years ago about prostitution in NYC that reported that "[...] some estimates hold that half the girls involved in street prostitution are between the ages of 13 and 15; many have been reported to start as early as age 11."

The report went on to state "Boys, perhaps surprisingly, are said to constitute up to half the population of sexually exploited youth in the City." I suppose this fact is only surprising to people who consider women to be the "sex class". Boys can be exploited sexually just as easily as girls.


To end on a lighter note, I just got my copy of Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex, so hopefully I will have some free time to read it this weekend (even though I missed out on the Shulamarathon at Twisty's page.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

My new favorite zinester: Merrydeath

I've been shopping at the local punk junk store (Happy Birthday Mike Leslie, where I also put a couple of handmade things up for sale), and I'm in love with the zine selection. (A bit of background: I didn't grow up in a city, so even after living in one for five years, I'm still getting used to the neat things a city has to offer, like access to underground punk stores and zines.)

I bought both issues of Mine: An Anthology of Women's Choices by Merrydeath Stern. Basically, both issues are collections of abortion stories. They are all pro-choice, but they all present abortion in a different light. Some women were relieved at the experience, some women were torn up emotionally (maybe not so much from the abortion but from the way they were treated), and some women were a combination of both.


Issue #1 had a lot of stories about medical abortion, and a surprising amount of stories about women who had successful abortions without going to clinics (through herbs or performed by midwives). I hadn't really looked into the herbal aspect before I picked up this zine, so afterwards I did my own research (on the internet, so it's a little sketchy) about emmenagogues and other herbs.


Issue #2 was different because Merrydeath tried to get more stories from women of color. The contributors for the first issue were apparently white, and they had better access to abortion services (even if the services were sub-par), so the author tried to get stories from poor women. I noticed that many women had heard about herbal abortions, but they didn't know any definite information. The main issues were illegal abortions and the lack of information on methods to try other than medical abortions (which are costly, and therefore inaccessible to the same people who can't afford birth control).

Both issues were only $2.00, and if you can't find them at your local zine shop, you can buy them online.

I really enjoyed both issues. First of all, they were put together really nicely, with Merrydeath providing a lot of the artwork and the layout (and she also talks about her own abortion in the first issue). Secondly, one thing most of the women had in common was that even though they had friends supporting them through the abortion, they didn't really have many women they could talk to about their own abortion experiences. I always hear about the debate between pro- and anti-choicers, but I never actually get to hear from the women themselves who have to go through this, so it was a refreshing perspective.

These weren't just stories about abortion. The women mostly told elaborate stories about their lives and events that were going on at the time of their pregnancies. The abortions themselves only lasted about 15 minutes, even though that was the main focus of each story.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Teenage Single Mom

Awesome graphic novel that I just finished

Even though right now I don't have much in the way of disposable income, and I am usually pretty frugal, I went to the local comic book store the other day and bought The Amazing "True" Story of a Teenage Single Mom. It was an interesting find, and even though it was $16.00, I decided to treat myself to an hour of entertainment.

I'm going to try not to give away the whole plot, because it is honestly a book everyone should read (and I could even see reading it to kids, although some of the scenes are a little graphic), so here goes: It's a first person perspective of one woman's life as a young mother. She faces not only adversity from being a woman, but also from having made a "mistake" by having sex at a young age. Because as someone told her while she was pregnant, "But someone said I made my bed, so I should lie in it." (Not only her figurative bed, but the bed she is implied to have laid in before her pregnancy.) After her baby, she laid in her bed and dreamed about her future.

She struggles through menial jobs to scrape out a living, and she ends up leaving her situation with a guy who turns out to be abusive. Then it is revealed that she has been around abusive people her whole life, from her mother (who didn't want anything to do with her and let her sister raise her), to her sister's husband (who almost raped her), to her baby's father (a random man who raped her after her sister kicked her out for fighting back against her husband).

But in the end, it's a story of hope (or else she wouldn't have been able to write this book), and it has a happy ending. I haven't given away the whole plot, mind you, because there are a lot of details and events that happen in her life. Also, the graphic novel is worth reading because the pictures are very interesting (the rapists and abusers in her life slowly turn from normal looking people into monsters). Whenever I read stories like these (see A Child Called "It" too), I always think it's so amazing that these people were able to overcome such hardships and tragedies to become the people that they are today.

The book at least one issue familiar to feminists: women who have babies (especially young mothers) and are unmarried are very publicly judged and people just assume that these "sluts" just got what they deserved. Of course, having a baby before marriage is wrong, because it fouls the property that only the husband can rightfully claim on his wedding night. (After marriage, babies turn from "mistakes" into "blessings".)

I'm a bit brain dead from my work schedule to offer much more than this short review, but this book is definitely worth a read, and I'll be keeping it around in my library and probably lending it out to friends.