Respecting One Another

I am going to talk about a topic that I’m not 100% comfortable discussing. But that’s why I started this blog in the first place (besides the fact that it’s for a class requirement). One of the reasons I added a women’s and gender studies minor was to learn more about transgender individuals. One, I fully admit, I do not understand it. And two, I would like to understand it more, because as a future teacher, I am likely to have trans students and I feel it is important to be knowledgeable of some issues they may struggle with.

So far, I’ve learned there’s a difference between one’s biological sex and the gender one chooses to identify as. I still struggle with what it is for a person to be trans. But I also cannot understand what it is like to have ADHD, for example. While I can learn about ADHD all I want, I will never understand what it is like to have ADHD, just as I will never know what it is like to feel I was born as the wrong gender.

Being I grew up in a Christian family, I understand that most people are under the impression that Christians hate trans people. From my personal understanding and upbringing in Christianity, Christians are not to hate anyone. But we are also taught that God does not make mistakes. Some Christians believe being trans is a sin, while some people believe God makes people trans. I am not going to comment on what I personally believe on the matter, as I really don’t know. What I know for sure though, is whether or not one agrees with being transgender or doesn’t understand those who are transgender, does not mean they can be disrespectful or hurtful towards another human being.

Parker Molloy, a trans woman, says in her article “I don’t want ‘special treatment,’ I just want to be respected as a human being, as deserving of dignity as anyone else.” I really agree with this quote. All human beings deserve to have the same rights and respect as anyone else. It shouldn’t matter if they are not in the “norm” with society. Disagreement does not equal disrespect. I have seen liberals attack and disrespect conservatives because of their opposing views. I have seen conservatives tear down and belittle liberals for not agreeing with their opinions. It has to stop.

This is why I wrote about a topic I am little uncomfortable with. I see opinions from both sides and respect both opinions of conservatives and liberals. It all boils down to being able to respect one another, and most importantly, respect those who are trans, regardless of one’s own opinions of the trans community. A Christian value I always practice is “Treat others as you would have them treat you” Matthew 7:12. We all deserve the same respect.

The Flaws in Masculinity

In a culture full of women attempting to empower one another and evolve our standards of beauty, it has come across my mind: do we do the same for men?

I know I have been so excited to see all types of women portrayed in ads for companies such as Aerie and Target. Women with “imperfections” like me. No retouching. All natural and all beautiful.

Society is (slowly) but surely coming to terms with the fact that not all women are a size two with big breasts. Women have cellulite. And stretch marks. Companies like Aerie have acknowledged this and stopped retouching their models. This is to empower women everywhere to be more comfortable in their own skin and to start loving themselves. After reading “Stylish Hard Bodies: Branded Masculinity in Men’s Health Magazine,” I came to the realization that men may not be afforded the same luxury of being comfortable in their own skin the way women are now empowering each other to be. So I asked my cousin for his thoughts on the way society portrays masculinity.

Meet Matt, age 20, from Allentown, Pennsylvania. Matt is a part of the Air Force Reserves and is beginning his first year at Temple University this fall as an English major.

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Q: What is your definition of a “real man?”

A: A breathing male over the age of 18.

 Q: What do you think society’s definition of a “real man” is?

A: A strong figure who shows little to no emotions.

 

“The hegemonic masculine gender role as identified by Brannon, notes that a ‘real man’ must never, never resemble women, or display strongly stereotyped feminine characteristics,” says Susan M. Alexander. She says “physically REAL men have deeper voices, use little to no cosmetics, and give minimal attention to clothes and hygiene. Emotionally, REAL men are never vulnerable. Behaviorally, REAL men do not value feminine activities, from child care to poetry.” As Alexander states, Matt also agrees with the notion men are not to be emotional. I then asked him what activities he believes to be unfeminine.

 Q: What are some activities you participate in that may be considered “feminine?” Why do you think these things are considered “feminine?”

A: Cooking, because it is a domestic duty; Writing, because it is a creative outlet for emotions, and reading poetry, for similar reasons to writing.

 Not only are men stigmatized for their emotions, but they must also maintain a certain physical appearance as well.

 Q: Some stores such as American Eagle and Target have begun to use a wide range of different types of women as models. Do you think the male fashion industry has taken the same initiative?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: The fashion industry caters to women more than men.

Q: What types of male models do you usually see?

A: Guys with washboard abs, tall, etc.

Q: How does that make you feel?

A: Disappointed

Q: Why?

A: It only represents a miniscule number of men.

 

Alexander states that most men featured on covers of magazines are white, between

25and 35 years old, defined and muscular, and pictured shirtless from the waist up.

So if the women’s fashion industry is undergoing a “make over” why isn’t the men’s? Is it a societal problem? I asked Matt for more thoughts on the male societal standards.

Q: What standards do you think society thinks men must have? What qualities must men have (physically and emotionally)?

A: Muscular and fit, emotionally confident, stoic

 

Q: How can we develop as a society to change these standards?

A: Use male models that represent the average man, display more men in advertisements and awareness being raised for mental health, destigmatize typically feminist activities (domestic duties and emotions)

 

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: Our society is screwed up in the idea that cooking is a more feminine activity, but in the food industry, it is predominantly male. Why do we associate domestic cooking as feminine but not when it is done by a professional chef. I don’t know, there are double standards for everything.

 

Right he is. I think Alexander summed it up best when she said “In postmodern society, both femininity and masculinity are shaped by the images incorporated in popular culture.” With companies like Aerie and Target featuring women of all shapes, colors, and sizes, maybe it’s time for companies to do the same for men.

Let’s Talk Religion

There are two things we all know not to discuss: politics and religion. While I hate talking politics, I don’t actually mind talking religion.

I grew up a Christian, and I still proudly identify as one today. To me, being a Christian means more than having a religion; it is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe he died for our sins on the cross. I believe he accepts all people, all sinners, for who they are, regardless of the mistakes they made.

Not everyone believes the way I do, and that’s okay. Although I would love for everyone to know Jesus the way I do, I know a lot of people are turned off by Christianity. And a lot of people discriminate against Christians.

You read that right.

I recently read “The Voice from Within” by Souheila Al-Jadda. Her concluding sentence of her article is “…I will continue to tell my story. I encourage you to tell yours.”

So here is my story.

I was born and raised in a Christian household. When some people think of Christians, they automatically picture people like the Duggars: dressed very conservatively, having lots of kids, etc. Christians are typically outcasted by their peers. When I would tell my friends I was a Christian in grade school, they would kind of turn up their noses in disgust. Or they would say “Me too!” but it turns it, they were actually Catholic (Christianity and Catholicism are similar but also quite different). Anyways, I never felt like I really fit in at school because it was weird to be a Christian. So I stopped telling people I was. Souheila was the same way. Instead of people thinking she was weird because she attended Sunday school and went to church on occasions other than Christmas or Easter, she was judged based on her dressing (her hijab). People assumed she was a foreigner. They would assume she was a terrorist. She did not really get an understanding of what Islam was until college. It was not until college she was able to identify as a Muslim. The same went for me; I now do not care who knows I am a Christian. I still find that Christians are harshly judged. Let me tell you a little story about a young woman whose testimony I find extremely compelling.

First of all, I cannot tell you this young woman’s name, for she or her family could be killed. She is from Afghanistan, and she grew up practicing Islam. She converted to Christianity. It is very dangerous to be a Christian in Afghanistan. When she came to study in the United States, she thought she could not wait to freely practice Christianity. When she first arrived at her college, people would ask her where she was from. When she would reply “Afghanistan,” people automatically assumed she was Muslim and would say things like “Oh wow! We love your people. We don’t hate Muslims!” When she would tell them she was actually a Christian, she received a much different reaction. She would get very weird, judgmental looks and people began to not treat her like she was special. In fact, she was asked to erase a Bible verse off of her whiteboard because the person found it to be offensive. Would this person have found a verse from the Qur’an offensive? Or the Torah? That I cannot answer but I am offended on behalf of this Afghan young woman for even being asked such a question in a country where we have the freedom of religion.

Am I saying Muslims are always treated fairly by society? No. Am I saying Christians are always harshly judged? Absolutely not. As a Christian, I know how judgmental some Christians can be, but I also now how judgmental others can be of Christians.

So here comes my point (finally).

As a feminist, I believe in treating others equally. As a Christian, I believe in treating others equally. We need to stop judging people based on their religions. Someone could love Jesus but be extremely judgmental and critical of others, which is wrong. But it is also wrong to think that way of all Christians, just as it is wrong to think of all Muslims as terrorists. Instead of trying to force what I believe on someone, I am interested in hearing their beliefs first.

And the same goes for politics.

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Why I Identify as a Feminist

When I was younger, I had blindly believed a few stereotypes/misconceptions about feminists: “Feminists are lesbians.”

“Feminists don’t shave.”

“Feminists never wear bras.”

I’m not a lesbian. I can’t go more than a few days without feeling compelled to shave. And I kind of have to wear a bra. So I can’t be a feminist!

I fully admit, I was wrong.

I came to the realization as I got older and studied more feminist literature that feminists do not want to be men or be better than men. Many people that believe feminists are hairy, bra-burning lesbians believe this because they think feminists are trying to be men and be better than men. The definition of feminism, according to bell hooks, however, states “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” (Feminist Politics). hooks also talks about the misconceptions of feminism in “Feminist Politics.”

She says that many of our misconceptions about feminism is a result from the “patriarchal mass media.” The media focuses on issues such as “freedom to have abortions, to be lesbians, to challenge rape and domestic violence.” They also portray the idea of gender equality in the workplace. But there is more to feminist politics than just these.

What many people do not know  is many women were excluded from participating in feminist marches at one time. Marches were limited to rich, white, straight feminists. According to her book, “Feminism is For Everybody,” hooks explains that lesbian women were told “It was not their time.” Black women were told “It was not their time.” Even recently, pro-life women were excluded from Women’s Marches.

I have come to learn that feminists want equality for ALL.

All races.

All genders.

All classes.

All people.

It made me angry when I realized we primarily read works by rich white men in school. We study male artists such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But what about Sofonisba Anguissola and Mary Cassatt? I bet you probably never heard of them. We ready poetry by John Keats and Lord Byron, but what about the works of Letitia Elizabeth Landon and Felicia Hemans? You probably never heard of them either.

Feminism, I have come to understand for myself, is a desire for equality. Equality in education, from what is being learned in the classroom to the classroom itself. Equality in the workplace, whether it be at a fast-food company or a big law office. Equality everywhere for everybody.

I am a Christian, and I believe in a God who loves everyone. Equally. Jesus was kind to everyone and treated everybody equally. While some do not think feminism and Christianity are even remotely connected, I think Jesus is a perfect example of a feminist.

I call myself a growing feminist because I am still learning about what it means to be a feminist. And while I don’t think there is one clearcut definition, I think it boils down to one word: Equality.

And that is why I proudly identify as a feminist. feminism-is-for-everyone