Have you ever thought about how, like, femininity is SO strongly tied to men? Hear me out!
Yeah, femininity is traditionally associated with women. BUT! Think about what kind of women are afforded femininity. It tends to be straight women, or white women, orrrr thin women, or just women that fit into the cishet male gaze of desirability in one way or another. So if femininity (at least to a cishet world) means “desirable to men” has it ever really been ours to begin with? And what if our performance of femininity ISN’T for men, what happens then?
Now we all perform gender, right? I personally present very feminine, i’m talking almost-strictly-wears-dresses feminine. I also happen to be a lesbian. And plus-size. And a person of color. This for some reason sometimes confuses (and angers) cisgender heterosexual people.
Either my femininity is called into question or my sexuality is called into question: “Are you sure you’re not at all attracted to men? You dress so cute! I bet you secretly do like us.” Or…“Do you just dress this way because you’re not comfortable being your true self?”
Why does it need to be one way or another? Why does my femininity have to be me trying to attract men or make up for my fatness for men or appear more “soft” for men? What if I just want to present feminine? And even if I was if I was doing it for anyone other than myself, it’s definitely for other lesbians. Femininity can and DOES exist entirely on its own, completely separate from men.
In 2019, A Little Late with Lily Singh aired for the first time on NBC. Singh, a comedy youtuber and influencer, launched her career from her YouTube channel. Initially, fans and critics were cautiously optimistic, and at first the show seemed like it would be promising–then the first episode came out.
Christ on a cracker, was it bad. Every joke fell flat, every skit was played out, and Singh’s presentation felt forced and awkward. I’m not going to argue Lily Singh is some comedy genius, but I do think the widespread scorn she received was disproportionate. Sure, she made a bad show, and some jokes that were in poor taste, but it was her first time appearing in front of a TV audience. The show had budget and time difficulties, and it was filmed in the heat of COVID-19, further throwing a wrench into the show’s production. The problems audiences and media critics had with the show extended way beyond its quality, but that’s another blog for the time. For the time being, let’s just say some people thought Singh got a little too comfortable appropriating Caribbean/Black culture.
Everyone on the internet seemed to agree for one brief, delicious moment–A Little Late with Lily Singh was a swing and a miss. But then, it became clear to me that there were some people taking the opportunity not just to bash Singh’s comedy, but just female comedians in general. I remember seeing a lot of discourse online throughout YouTube, Reddit, and 4-chan. (Shout-out to 4-chan for always being there to remind me humanity is doomed.)
This incident reminded me of an ongoing argument that has never really ended- are women even funny? If you’re a rationally thinking person, this sounds like an incredibly stupid argument, and I agree with you–it is stupid. It’s ass-backwards, even. The idea that women can’t be comedians based on their gender is something I wish we left back in the early 2000s, but unfortunately it is still a thing. On the bright side, you won’t find a lot of reputable sources declaring women incapable of fun. On the not so bright side, you’ll find it’s the opposite on internet forums and social media.
So what exactly are people saying about female comedians? Well, I’ll save you the pain of googling it yourself. (You’ll have to take my word for it. I don’t want to link where I found these remarks–they’re hateful and not worth your time to read.) Here’s what I found:
“Women are more concerned with their appearance than telling jokes.”In a YouTube video called “Women are NOT FUNNY” (very creative title, 10/10), the guy in front of the camera reacts to some unfunny TikTok videos from a woman. His takeaway from a couple seconds-long videos? “Women just don’t seem to appreciate comedy at the same level a man does.” He also states that men are better at comedy, because they are willing to self-deprecate from an early age, while women prefer to avoid drawing attention to their imperfections. He categorizes women as being too vain and self-absorbed to take a joke. This dude talks like women are an entirely different species. His ideas were kind of interesting, but he had nothing to back it up- no research, no articles mentioned or cited. The comments had nothing but high praise for him though, and he’s got ~200,000 subscribers. Go figure, I guess.
“Female comedians joke too much about their vaginas.” This is another blanket statement I’ve come across on social media threads, and I’m sure it’s something female comics have been hearing for decades now. In my humble opinion, this is a double standard at play. I haven’t even watched that much stand-up comedy and even I’ve heard a ton of dick jokes from male comics. Why is it that guys can make dick/sex jokes all they want, but when a women does the same thing, people find it so gross? I think it has to do with the fact that people don’t expect sex jokes from a woman. From a man, they’re funny. From a woman, it’s annoying and icky. Comedian Emily Weir had some insightful things to say about this in an article from Farrago Magazine. The article is from 2016, but it still makes great points.
“I don’t like(insert female comedian here) therefore all female comedians are bad.”This isn’t a statement I hear from people online–rather, it’s the thought process I’ve observed from people who hold that belief. Ok, remember what I said about Singh earlier? People took that one instance and spun their own narrative of all women being poor comedians, not just Singh. I see the same thing happen all the time with mainstream female comedians, such as Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and Ellen DeGeneres. It’s important to recognize that the comedian world is male dominated. Men make up roughly 75% of comedians. The few female comedians you see in the spotlight are not necessarily an accurate picture of all the others. There’s a cornucopia of gut-busting female comedians out there- you just aren’t looking. Additionally, I’d argue that there are a lot of mainstream male comics who are equally obnoxious and groan-inducing. I don’t like Joe Rogan, but that doesn’t mean every bald, red-faced, middle-aged man is a hack, just most of them! (Kidding, kidding… I didn’t mean it, Dad.)
It goes without saying that women are just as funny as anyone else. These three points don’t prove anything, and as soon as you start to think about them, their reasoning falls apart. As time goes on, more people are catching onto the weak arguments against female comedians. The way they’re viewed is changing, and I feel like the climate is improving for women in comedy. Even still, these backwards ideas against them still persist. They’ve always bugged me, and someone had to say it.
P.S) Here are a few of my favorite female comedians. Feel free leave your own favorites in the comments!
Trivia Question: In heterosexual married couples where both partners work full time, women spend ____ % more time caregiving than men.
By: Emma Sauer
When I think of caregivers, I think of my paternal grandma, who’s dedicated herself to my grandpa’s care for as long as I can remember, ever since he’s had difficulty walking. I think of my mother, a living reminder that housewives work their asses off just as much as career-women. I think of my best friend, studying rigorously so she can become a nurse.
Caregiving, whether its paid or unpaid, professional or personal, is hard work. I will forever have respect for caregivers, because they go above and beyond to help their fellow humans. It takes a special kind of person to be patient and disciplined enough to be a good caregiver. Caregiving, if you weren’t aware, is a broad term that covers those who “provide care to people who need some degree of ongoing assistance with everyday tasks on a regular or daily basis” (CDC). A caregiver can be someone hired to take care of a stranger, or an unpaid person taking care of a family member, friend, or loved one. Up to 81% of all caregivers, formal and informal, are female, and they may spend as much as 50% more time giving care than males. Even in heterosexual relationships where both partners work full time, women still spend a whopping 40% more time caregiving than their male partner.
So, why do women shoulder such a heavy share of the caregiving compared to men? If you yourself are a woman, you already know the answer: it’s what’s expected of us. This isn’t to say that caregiving and homemaking isn’t just as important as more traditional careers, or even that there aren’t women who love doing it. However, it would be outright wrong to say that that 75% number isn’t partly due to a sense of obligation. It was only as recently as WWII that the United States began to change its perception of women as primary caretakers. In those days, the nuclear model of family demanded that women stayed home to cook, clean, and watch the kids, while their husbands went off and did important man things, like selling vacuums door to door, committing tax fraud in the office, and whatever else businessmen did in the 50’s. You’d think things would have changed more by 2022, but a lot of women are instilled with an obligation/duty to take care of others, whether it’s their children, husband, parents, or someone else.
This month, let’s recognize the women in our lives who are caretakers. Better yet, let’s do it all year long. If you’re a caregiver yourself, thank you. Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and time you give to others.
Hi again, and welcome to a shiny new blog segment! Thrice a month, I’ll be diving into an aspect of pop culture with a feminist twist.I think this will be a great way to bring some awareness to popular media’s relationship with feminism. This time, we’re talking about anime. In other words, I’m going to ruin fun things for everybody by talking about how they suck.
Anyway, if you know anything at all about me, you know I’m a huge anime fan. My friends can attest to the army of anime figures on my bookshelf, my enthusiastic rants about the most newest shows, and those who have seen me at my most depraved will recall my Kuroshitsuji cosplay (we do not speak of those dark times). But as someone who has watched anime for half a decade now, there are things about it that I’ve never grown fully accustomed to.
There’s the fanservice- upskirt shots of barely legal schoolgirls, beach episodes showcasing cleavage, seemingly random nude scenes, and jokes that often end with an embarassed/angry woman as the butt of a joke. To clarify, I don’t have problem with dirty jokes or sexy characters in anime–this is not the issue. Rather, what skeeves me out is when sexual harassment is played for laughs, or when the “sexy” character in question looks like a child. For example, take the first season of the Netflix original anime, Seven Deadly Sins. The main character constantly harasses another character by groping or looking up her skirt, while the other characters berate him for being a pervert. This is supposed to be a running gag.
That’s not a joke. It’s just sexual assault.
Even elements of anime as simple as character design show blatant sexism. Let me present to you: a murderous assassin who attacks under the cover of London fog, Jack the Ripper. If you clicked that link, I’m sorry. No, the show does not provide a reason for Jack the Ripper, of all things, to appear as a skimpily-dressed minor. And no, there’s not a good reason for her to be wearing a bikini. And no, I have no idea why she’s wearing heels. We all know that if this character was a dude, there’s no way he would be dressed like that.
Although these aspects of anime are unsettling, at least I can skip them. I can easily avoid a scene that will make me uncomfortable. If I’m bothered, I can just skip, or I can laugh at how stupid it is. But you know what I can’t skip or laugh off?
Crappy female characters—especially those in otherwise decent shows. Don’t get me wrong, anime has no shortage of awesome female characters, but too often, especially in shounen (usually action oriented and marketed towards boys), female characters are sidelined by their male counterparts. Take for example, a character that’s been universally hated since her inception: Sakura Haruno, from Naruto.
Sakura’s a train wreck of a character. Her deepest desire is to get together with a boy who has the romantic appeal of an enraged housecat. Sakura doesn’t have any complex desire for self-realization, or a reason to push herself that doesn’t involve a dude.
The manga’s creator intended for Sakura to be the quintessential “girl” character, which makes me pretty concerned about what he thinks the average woman is like. If every woman acted like Sakura, I think the human race would just be doomed. She’s a walking stereotype: a constant damsel in distress, weak, boy-obssessed, annoying, and vain. However, Sakura does have her redeeming moments- she gets very little action compared to the male characters, but she does have some fight scenes, and she’s regarded as a capable ninja in her own right. Personally, I can’t bring myself to hate her fully. I love Naruto, and since she’s one of the only major female characters, I have to take what I can get.
Although poor Sakura is an extreme case of a poorly written female character, I see the same issues she has in female characters all over anime. Female characters are seen as lesser in all contexts, both by other characters, the audience, and the people who create them. This issue is perhaps more complex than I give it credit for: anime is created for a Japanese audience, not an American one. They have their own unique issues when it comes to gender equality, as does the United States. The way Japanese society views women is different, and it’s important to keep that in mind as you enjoy your favorite anime. At the same time, I believe that’s a poor excuse for anime to have such poor female representation. I’ve seen great anime that don’t use the harmful tropes and stereotypes I’ve described, that allow female characters to be more than set-pieces for the male ones. It’s possible. Anime can do better.
If you’re like me, it can be hard to let go of anime, despite all of its systematic issues. I’ve spent my whole childhood watching anime. At this point, it’s just a parasite sucking out my brain noodles and replacing them with cup ramen. You don’t have to stop watching the anime you love. I understand it’s not possible for every person to do that. However, as anime fans, we need to at the very least, recognize the sexism at play in anime. The degree to which it’s ignored is astounding.
I get it’s asking a bit much to demand that the anime industry abandon its weird obsession with school-girls and french maids, but can we at least acknowledge it’s weird that it’s there in the first place?
When Chelsea came home from Target with us, my son said from the back seat that he wanted to be a mommy.
We had gotten into an deep conversation in the isles—other parents and kids were looking on as we weighed the options. I made sure he knew that if he chose a baby doll and opened the box, he couldn’t change his mind, it was non-refundable. But he articulated that he needed to buy this doll.
Chelsea had big brown eyes and pigtails, a flowery summer dress, and a pacifier. Chelsea was my son’s first Baby Alive doll, and she slept beside his bed in a painted shoebox with pillows and blankets.
My kid was 7.
Dr. Theresa Tanenbaum is an Associate Professor of Informatics at UCI, a trans woman, and a friend of mine who said, “I’ve been a girl my whole life, but I didn’t always know it. As a result, many of my childhood experiences were defined by cognitive dissonance. Growing up as a trans girl is like being gaslit by the whole world and still finding the strength and confidence to say ‘No! This is who I am.’”
She is a wealth of knowledge about the kind of trauma and pain trans women experience living in a male body most of their lives. I’ve know her since she was in 10th grade and she helped me understand that it’s not my place to guide my son to masculinity. As a single mother, I thought I needed to get him into Boy Scouts or sports, but she helped me stand back and allow him to lead his own journey. Part of the trauma trans people face is the internal struggle of living a double life.
One day my kid decided he needed a dress. I had never imagined I would have this conversation with my son, but he was crying saying he didn’t feel like he fit his own skin. So, we went into the little girl’s section and he happily picked out a pile of glittery rainbow sundresses to try on. He fell in love with one and we took it home. He wore it almost every day after school until it didn’t fit anymore.
Theresa also said, “As a kid, I yearned for ‘normal’ girl experiences, but wasn’t allowed to have them. I suffered in terror from ‘boy’ experiences. Not knowing I was trans, all of it was so confusing. My socialization wasn’t the same as a cis girl, but it wasn’t anything like a boy’s”
I can’t imagine what it feels like not to fit into my skin. But I do have empathy for those who live that way. I am trying my best to help my child feel at home in his body. It isn’t easy to understand what a kid needs when showing gender non-conforming behavior, but parents and guardians must be prepared to support transgender and non-binary youth. At the moment, I call my kid non-binary. Some days he calls himself a boy, some days he wants to be a girl more than anything. He might be a woman one day, or a man, or maybe he is neither, but it will be his decision. He still has to figure out what gender means to him, how pronouns make him feel, how he wants to present and be perceived. Gender identity is a huge part of our lives and kids need to be allowed to take their time figuring it out.
We need to work better to educate ourselves and others: kids are just kids. No one fits into a neat box. In the end, we should all just be kind and respect other’s lifestyles, decisions, and privacy.
This month’s influential figure in agriculture is Momee Pegu from India, who started RIGBO from a local tribe meaning, community volunteering for a cause. Pegu created a sustainable practice that converts 11,000 kg of water hyacinth into organic compost to address sustainability concerns. Pegu was able to observe the issues that this invasive plant was causing such, as water pollution, irrigation blockage for farming, oxygen reduction for aquatic species. She also started an initiative that fosters a safe and expressive place for young women in the village. In 2016, she collaborated with 32 other women in the community to empower and engage them in creating a shift in farming.
Pegu connected with these women by creating organic pesticides, sustainable activity, and organic farming that gives them the freedom to make decisions. The women in this committee turned the invasive plant of the community into an organic compost that helps. The income from this compost was distributed equally among the women, Pegu taking none herself. Interestingly according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women make 82% of what men earn, and nothing has changed. Pegu is a figure empowering women in her community striving for equality. Overall, these women have changed the perception of farming.
The message of this initiative is to spread awareness of sustainable farming. In this instance, women experienced engaging with other women in a safe space while practicing agriculture sustainably. The community also produced a positive response which created employment for villagers and creating a better livelihood for the future. Momee Pegu was able to produce something out of nothing. One thing to think about is our future generation of women having the equality that Momee displays and changes we can make ourselves to make that possible.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, written in 1791, questions societal norms placed on women in that time from a philosophical perspective. Chapter VI “The Effect Which an Early Association of Ideas Has on Character” focuses on the concept that women would never be able to experience true love and intimacy unless they were educated equally as men. She claims, as things were, that women had false ideas of what love would be as they couldn’t connect on an intellectual level with their potential partner, hence chasing charming but undesirable “rakes”. Wollstonecraft asks, “And how can they [men] expect women, who are only taught to observe behavior, and acquire manners rather than morals, to despise what they have been all their lives laboring to attain?” (126). In the 18th century, young, middle-class, white women’s education consisted mostly of learning manners, politeness and creating a demure, inoffensive persona. Therefore, that aspect of a partner was inherently valued more heavily Wollstonecraft argues. In the end, this hindered the ability of these women to experience real love and adequately navigate suitors. She laments, “…women are captivated by easy manners; a gentlemen-like man seldom fails to please them and their thirsty ears eagerly drink the insinuating nothings of politeness…” (127).
In the beginning of Wollstonecraft’s work, the reader may assume most of her points are outdated, as education systems have drastically changed and been standardized. Yet, her observations are still applicable to issues many of us encounter when seeking a relationship today. Consistently, people are charmed by someone only to later realize this person is not who they had thought. Are these simply mistakes that anyone would make or are womxn still conditioned to value surface level traits more in a partner? This chapter brings up many feminist ideological and philosophical questions. I recognize that Wollstonecraft’s work is probably the furthest thing from intersectional. However, it is important to ponder how the societal norms and constructs we grow up in influence our preferences in a partner, views on romanticism, or even our ability to love. For instance, many of the movies I watched as a child revolved around a marriage or a romantic relationship. Did this give me the impression that romantic love is more important or valuable than familial or platonic? We may never know, but asking these questions can help us better understand the things we do and the people we choose.
Reed, Ross. The Liberating Art of Philosophy: An Introduction. Cognella, Inc., 2020
When you hear the phrase “sex-positive” do you ever think of who coined the phrase? I know I haven’t. Not until one of my team members sent me her pick for our social media campaign Phenomenal Feminist Friday. Betty Dodson was a pioneer of her time, a feminist who was a sexologist that taught women (and men) the worth of self-pleasure, as well as to embrace sex as something that is natural and healing.
Betty first started as an artist at the Art Students League of New York. There, Dodson was making erotic paintings and freelancing as an illustrator for lingerie ads. She then married an advertising executive but was soon divorced because she did not believe they were sexually compatible. At that time her artwork was not doing well in the industry. That’s when she began hosting workshops for women where she showed and told them how to please oneself.
BodySex was the name of the workshops she hosted. In these workshops’ women learned that vaginas came in different sizes, shapes and colors. Dodson believed that teaching women about their bodies, and how to navigate them, was her form of activism. Dodson said “If women could learn to pleasure themselves properly, they could end their sexual dependence on men, which would make everybody happy.”(New York Times, 2020). During this time Betty was vilified by conservative feminists. When teaching a class in Syracuse she was greeted with hissing after showing big displays of the vagina. But she continued to teach women about their bodies for several years.
In 1987 she published “Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving” which eventually became a best seller and was translated into 25 different languages. In this book she speaks about masturbation and how women should learn to view it. That it is a way to love oneself and a possible a way to heal oneself. She also writes in the book about techniques for masturbation using the instructions that she usually used in her workshops. Betty passed on Halloween this year but her works still continue to empower and educate women. BodySex will continue to be hosted several times a year via Zoom by Betty’s work partner Carlin.
Reading about Betty I know that she was very important during those times. To be that sexually liberated and free at those times took courage. I know that women were not as open about sex back in the day. Not knowing about orgasm and even about their own vaginas. I am glad that Betty was able to teach women that it’s okay to learn your own body. I think me and Betty would agree that self-pleasure should not be shameful but embraced, everyone should know what pleases them, even and especially sexually.
On October 31st of this year, we lost an amazing woman and feminist icon. Her website, with business partner Carlin Ross says Dodson was an, “artist, author, and PhD sexologist (who) has been one of the principal voices for women’s sexual pleasure and health for over four decades.” She’s received rewards from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
(SSSS) and Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR). Playboy even named her in the top 100 most important people in sex along with Cosmopolitan who named her in the top 10 sexual revolutionaries.
Her incredible work started in the late 60’s after her divorce from husband. Her first book, Liberating Masturbation, was self-published in 1974 and was later republished as Sex for One: The Joy of Self-loving in 1986 (thedailybeast). Although more conservative feminists weren’t on board with her message, this best-selling book has a “simple but powerful message that shame-free masturbation is the foundation of every woman’s sexuality” (thedailybeast). However, Dodson didn’t just write books, she also ran “BodySex” masturbation workshops that taught women how to explore themselves and climax. Although these workshops started in the 1970’s, they got revamped in 2013 because, according to the icon herself, “In the 1970s there was no information for women. With the internet, there is misinformation” (thedailybeast).
I cannot express how important Dodson’s work is in my eyes. In my own blogs I try to spread a similar kind of message she did: de-taboo and normalize female sexuality and pleasure. As sad as it is that we lost such a significant figure, we still have her books (listed below) and videos of her spreading her knowledge and message.
Rest in Peace, Betty Dodson. Thank you for your decades of work and incredible knowledge.
This semester, I am emerging into my minor by taking an introduction to sociology. The class has been everything I imagined, filled with much discussion and information about social structures and more. It has taught me so much about everyone’s place in society and our differing perspectives of the world in such a few short class periods.
One of the most fascinating stories I heard was on a podcast about a family who decided to raise their children gender neutral. I feel that raising a child this way really changes the way that you see the world and it shows how gender is simply a structure that society has placed on everybody. From the moment that we are conceived, many people ask, “What is it?” expecting the answer to be a boy or a girl. This tells them which adjectives to call the baby by and which gift to buy for them.
Before discussing this podcast in class, I didn’t realize how big of a deal gender is as a social institution in our society. There are obvious things placed in our day to day lives that separate gender, like appearance, restrooms, and clothes. Gender defines how people pick out clothes; girls tend to be gifted the color pink while boys are gifted the color blue. Even the material that clothes are made of reflects on gender, as girls’ clothes tend to be made from soft materials such as silk and boys’ are made from cotton. Boys are expected to play rough, so their clothes need to be able to withstand such destruction, while girls aren’t necessarily supposed to be involved in such activities. This goes to show how clothes tend to restrict girls into what they can and can’t do.
That’s just a little insight to the discussion we had in class, but if you would like to listen to the podcast in its entirety and hear more in-depth about the family and the outcomes, the link is as follows.