Body Positivity for ALL Women

I was always as skinny as a rail when I was a kid. Then, around ten years old, I started to get a little pudgy. By middle school, I was getting progressively chubbier. I remained that way into my high school years. I thinned out a little my freshman year, but I still wasn’t “skinny.” My junior year arrived and I began working at Dunkin’ Donuts. I ate donuts and hash browns, chugged coffees loaded with sugar, and gained about fifteen pounds in a short amount of time. My clothes were all super snug and that’s when I started to hate myself. I couldn’t believe I had let myself get so bad.

I started working out. I would leave work at nine at night, and head straight to the gym and workout for about an hour. I lost some weight, and people noticed. It felt good that people noticed a change in my appearance. By the end of my senior year, I was eating much healthier, and I had lost around twenty pounds. I received many compliments about my weight loss, and people started to pay more attention to me. I, of course, loved this attention.

Looking at it now, I’m angry that people didn’t really compliment me or talk to me before I lost weight. I was still the same person, just a couple pants sizes smaller. Sirena J. Riley went through a similar experience. “All of a sudden I was pretty. No one had ever told me that I was pretty before. So if I was pretty now, then I must have been ugly then,” she said. This screwed up her self-esteem issues even further. I, and I know so many other women, can relate.

I stayed home for my first two years of college and then transferred to where I currently am. I maintained my weight fairly well until I transferred. After transferring, I struggled to eat as healthy as I did before, and I didn’t have as much free time for the gym. I stressed about eating and stressed over when I would workout. I gained weight, lost it, and gained a little more. My wonderful boyfriend, who is super into fitness, has always supported me no matter what. I can say I am now at a place where I am my happy and healthiest, though I do still stress a little over a healthy diet and gym time. I’m slowly learning it’s okay to miss the gym for a day if I have a lot of schoolwork to do and that it’s okay to eat a bagel once in a while.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had an eating disorder, just body image issues. Riley realized something was wrong her junior year of college, and she sought some help. In her therapy group, she was the only black woman. As a women’s studies major, Riley realized black women were “barely a footnote” when it came to body image research.

“Again,” she said,”many white feminists had failed to step out of their reality and see beyond their own experiences to understand the different ways in which women of color experience sexism and the unattainable beauty ideals that society sets for women.” I’m sure we’ve all heard comments like “she’s pretty, for a black girl.” I know I have. Well, that’s rude. How would we (white women) like to be told we’re “pretty for a white girl?” Probably not so much. I just don’t understand why we still categorize body parts by race.

“She has a big black booty for a white girl.”

No, she just has a big butt.

“She’s too thin for a black girl. Where are her curves?”

No, she’s just thin. And beautiful.

I think we are progressing, slowly, in terms of portraying all types of women’s bodies in a positive way. Aerie, for example, has spokeswomen such as Iskra Lawerence, a curvy, beautiful white woman, and Dana Isabella, a curvy Latina woman. Aerie does not retouch their models, and they include all races and body types. Although I think they could for sure portray more women of color in their ads, they are progressing more than competitors such as Victoria’s Secret.

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“Even though young black women slip through the cracks from time to time, I still believe that feminism is about understanding the intersections of all forms of oppression” Riley states. That’s one of the main reasons I am a feminist: I recognize that the efforts of white women in society are progressive, like Iskra Lawerence as an advocate for body positivity for ALL women; however, I also acknowledge that we can put more effort into portraying more black women, Hispanic women, Asian women, etc. in this wave of body positivity and self-loving.

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Gender and Society

Back in May I broke my hand. This lead to a very difficult summer. I wanted to be productive, but at first, I physically was incapable, and then work and physical therapy left little room for homework and free time. I’m finally wrapping up my summer blog posts and readings. I felt one of the last posts I create (from my summer reading) should be on “The Social Construction of Gender” because this is where I felt I learned what I wanted to. I became a WGS minor because one, I love reading/studying any feminist literature; two, I WANT EQUALITY; and three, to learn more about gender and sexuality, for the benefit of my future students.

This article basically explains how our society “values more highly what men do than what women do.” This definitely makes sense. “Wherever a task is done by women it is considered easy, and where it is done by men it is considered difficult.” For example, when a woman stays home to take care of her sick child, it is considered an easy day off of work for her. But if a man stays home with the sick child, he is praised for taking on such a rigorous task. What created this devaluation of women and the social domination of men? Not sex. Not hormones. Not even genetic predisposition. Social processes. Social processes created by society. The society in which we live is devaluing us (women)!

Here is why I am going on a bit of a tangent, so get ready. Not only does society misconstrue gender roles, they misconstrue gender identity. One thing I have learned so far that I feel is important to help me as a teacher is that gender identity and gender expression and sexuality are all different. If a girl gets a short pixie cut, it doesn’t automatically make her a lesbian-it’s a form of gender expression. The same goes for a boy who decides to wear make up. I’ve learned a person could identify as a boy and be straight, but also likes to dress up in drag. There are so many different ways one can identify their personality. I say “their” to cover all genders in this matter- I’m an English teacher, trust me, I know my pronoun rules.

Anyways, I guess my overall point here is, gender is controlled by our society. I mean, we have pink razors for women and navy blue for men (which the women’s cost more by the way-see my post about the tampon tax for that one). When we let ourselves give into the stereotypes surrounding gender is where we run into problems.

It’s time to put on our analytical glasses and view the changing society around us.

The Epidemic of Sex Slavery

I am heartbroken when I hear how some women are treated in some cultures. While we American women fight for our equal rights everyday, some women with no rights are fighting to stay alive.

When I read Eve Ensler’s article “Bureau of Sex Slavery” I felt sick.

“Forty to 50 year old women were priced at $41, 30-40 year old women at $62, 20-30 year old women, $82 and 1-9 year old children, $165.”

I can’t fathom a 30 year old strong man raping a one year old child. The idea is inconceivable and outraging.

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Sex slavery is everywhere. It’s an epidemic. There is even sex trafficking in the United States. When I visited the Czech Republic (or Czechia) I was informed that they are one of the highest sex trafficking countries in the world. There are people trying to stop it, but their efforts can only go so far.

I think sometimes, we (as a country)  get so caught up in one issue that we neglect others. I understand fighting for women’s rights is highly important; however, as far as I am concerned, we women here in the United States have it much easier than women in Iraq and Syria. I’m not suggesting we drop all of the women’s rights issues we are focusing on, but that we also look at global feminist issues, such as sex slavery. This issue needs more attention because it is happening to women and children everywhere. Feminism isn’t about sticking up for issues close to home, but issues that are affecting women everywhere.

 

The Sexual Double Standards Amongst College Women

School has been back in session at Kutztown University for a few weeks now. Right before Labor Day, a group of male students hung a banner outside of their apartment. This banner said “Wel(KU)m Ladies; We’re ur Daddies Now!”

So many thoughts.

Gross.

Ew.

Disgusting.

No.

Why do men think it’s okay to say things like this?

Not only is it degrading to women, but it’s also rude to the the families of new female students. If my parents had seen this banner while they moved me in, they would have been disgusted.

But my main point here is to rant about why college females are heavily sexualized and shouldn’t be.

The article “Hooking Up and Forming Romantic Relationships on Today’s College Campuses” says that hooking up has replaced casual dating, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Then comes the section “Gender and the Hook Up.” The authors of this article state that “Hook ups are ‘gendered.’” One way in which hook ups are gendered is that men initiate more of the sexual interaction and secondly, frequently orgasm more than women. Finally, a sexual double-standard persists in which women are more at risk than men of getting a bad reputation for hooking up frequently.

YES. SO TRUE.

Women are still held to a stricter double standard when it comes to sex. If a group of women hung an inappropriate sexual sign like these boys did, they would have most likely been ridiculed and labeled as sluts for doing so, where these guys receive praise (I know not all guys found this sign to be funny, but still).

I am not comfortable with the concept of hooking up. I simply am not into the hook up culture. Do I think it is slutty when a girl is hooking up with a new guy every other weekend and vice versa? Yes. Is it unfeminist to think that way? According to my professor, Dr. Clemens, if you recognize it is an unfeminist thing to think, it’s okay, you’re still a feminist.

My overall point in this mish mash rant of an inappropriate banner and sexual double standards is this:

Men get away with more sexually than women.

They orgasm more.

They have more free speech when it comes to sex.

They are praised more for their hookups while women are ridiculed.

This banner is a disgrace to all of the collegiate women at Kutztown University and I can only hope disciplinary action was taken, to show men they cannot get away with such degrading words.

Sexual Education

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I grew up in a Christian home. My church preached abstinence because that’s what the Bible says (here are a few verses for reference: Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 2:11). I believe it is right that the Christian church preaches abstinence; however, I have some gripes with it as well.

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After reading Brad Perry’s article with a ridiculously long name (the main heading is “Hooking Up with Healthy Sexuality), I was surprised to learn how much money our country spends on sexual education, with little to show for it.

The church is not entirely to blame and neither are parents or schools. I think our country needs a different approach. Some European countries, who have some of the best sexual health statistics in the world, use a couple different methods, like:

-Incorporating sexual education into all types of curriculum, not just on its own

-Morality of Sexual Behavior

-Address issues of around cultural diversity

-Research as the basis for public policies…political and religious interest groups have little influence on public health policies.

When I attended youth functions at church, I was taught that as a woman, men are going to pressure you to have sex.

“He could tell you he loves you so many times, but that still doesn’t mean you should have sex with him.”

“Don’t have sex with him so he’ll stay with you.”

“Respect yourselves. Dress appropriately.”

Huh?

I think churches need to be teaching girls and boys not to give into pressure of having sex if they aren’t ready. This teaching to girls implies that only men are sexual beings, and we are there to serve their needs. No, not okay.

While I don’t think girls should be prancing the streets in lingerie, and that they should respect themselves, clothing choices need to be omitted from sexual health programs, in my opinion.

If we teach girls that they are sex objects, men believe that to be true.

Instead, sexual education programs need to teach both boys and girls RESPECT and CONSENT.

NO means NO. Clothing DOES NOT MATTER.

I could honestly rant about this topic for hours, but I’ll conclude with how I would incorporate sex ed into my classroom:

I would teach the book speak by Laurie Halse Andersen (If you have not read it, STOP what you are doing, read it, then come back).

This book is about a young teenager who is raped at a party and suffers depression and bullying afterwards. This book is a great way to not only teach students about consent, but also to teach them that they can get help if they have been assaulted in their pasts.

Sexual education involves a wide scope of things, such as STIs, unplanned/unwanted pregnancies, rape/sexual assault, peer pressure, etc. Instead of constantly preaching about abstinence, there needs to be more education about the negative consequences of sex.

Stepping off of my soapbox for now.

X or Y?!

What I love most about my Women’s and Gender studies minor is that I come across readings I normally would not. I recently read “The Story of X” by Lois Gould. In short, this story is about a baby who is raised genderless. It is referred to as “it” and is simply called “X.”

Recently, a non-binary trans person by the name of Kori Doty, chose to not assign their child a gender at birth, like baby X.

This caused quite a controversy, as many experts believe this to be detrimental to the child’s development.

Many people I know to be accepting and inclusive of all genders alike were upset by this.

My thoughts?

I don’t really agree with it either.

I liked “The Story of X” because it showed all of the different ways we gender things as a society. “And did X have a short girl’s haircut or a long boy’s haircut? As for the games X liked, either X played ball very well for a girl, or played house very well for a boy.”

Why can’t X just have had a haircut? Or just played ball very well? Or played an awesome game of house? Why are these things gendered?

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To me, it is still important to assign a gender at birth. However, if I ever have a daughter, for example, and she wants racecar pajamas instead of princess ones, she can get them. If I ever have a son, and he would rather take art lessons instead of play soccer, he absolutely can (here I am picking gendered activities, but I think you get the point I’m trying to make). I think if a child is genderless, they will end up becoming very confused. Having a girl doesn’t necessarily mean all unicorns and rainbows, just as having a boy doesn’t equal football and video games.

‘The Story of X” isn’t to try to persuade society to have genderless babies; rather, it is portraying all of the ways in which society is gendered, and why it doesn’t necessarily need to be.

Charlottesville and the Media

When I heard about what happened in Charlottesville, I was upset, as many people across the world were. How is it 2017 and that behavior still exists? How are their people that are still so full of hate towards other people based on the color of their skin??

For starters, black people weren’t chosen as slaves because white people felt their skin color was inferior to theirs. It was simply based on convenience. Africa was a key point in the triangle trade. Africa sent their own people to be slaves for goods. It wasn’t until these Africans became slaves that skin color began to be a marker in identifying them as inferior.

In fact, Irish people were the first race to be called the “n-word.”

But that word is typically associated with black people today. As a white person, I cannot speak for the black community on whether or not they should still use that word. Some blacks believe it is too painful a word to speak, while others believe they have the right to reclaim it and change its meaning. Either way, I feel I do not, as a white person, believe it is a word I should include in my vocabulary, which is why I don’t understand how there could still be white people today freely using that word and also judging others based on skin color.

Then, I came across a very interesting perspective by Candice Owens, a black female with a vlog series called “The Myth of the ‘Coon.’”

In this video, Candice addresses the Charlottesville attacks, as requested by her followers.

She first introduces some facts.

She says that before black people begin to freak out about these attacks, they need to hear these facts. The first fact she lists is that 93% of black homicides are committed by other black people. She then says that 84% of white homicides are committed by other white people.

She says some people blame Donald Trump for different issues and others blame Barack Obama.

Who she says we are to blame though, is the media. Whoa.

Let me say, I am not saying the Charlottesville events did not upset me, because they did. I just like how this girl, an African-American female, spoke a little truth. She says what she is afraid of is the oppression in our education and prison systems that prevent the black community from escaping the life of crime and poverty they are destined to be, and that those are issues are rarely, if ever, discussed by the media.

Remember when Brock Turner was labeled as a “college athlete” in the media headlines, instead of “rapist pig” like he so rightfully deserved to be called? If he were black, the media probably would have said “Black male rapes white woman.” You know I’m right. I agree with Candice, the media sucks.

 

Here is the link to Candice’s full video:

 

https://www.facebook.com/WorldCloudLA/videos/599970963460423/

 

Let me note one final thing: As a future educator, I would like to make it my mission to not allow any of my students fall to the statistics in which they are placed (according to societal standards) base on their races, sexes/genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. Just because these issues are not regularly broadcasted or discussed, doesn’t mean they don’t exist, so I will make it my job to bring awareness to these issues.