Gender-accepted Occupations and the Women That Defy Them

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Looking at media in foreign nations, where freedom for women and their occupational decisions are much more limited, it’s become commonplace for local media outlets to openly condemn these women for stepping out of traditional roles. Anywhere from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan that condemn women for not being pious or conventional enough within the religious expectations, to single women in China constantly being reported by the media as ‘leftover women’ and not worthy of marriage. Women all over the globe are being harassed by the media and their own countrymen for failing to live up to unrealistic, and often times patriarchal, expectations.

There are still some strong women facing these unrealistic and archaic traditional values head-on, though. The indigenous women of Bolivia, referred to as ‘cholitas’ and seen in traditional dress and hats, have taken their expected style of dress and manner and turned it on its head—literally— within the wrestling ring. According to Broadly (a subsidiary of Vice), these indigenous women are openly flouting the expectation they are held to to stay in the home, be basically unseen, and resign themselves to a life of poverty. Instead, the ‘cholita’ wrestlers are taking their livelihood into their own hands by being the makers of their own financial success while simultaneously changing the opinions and respect of the audience one body-slam at a time.

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As a result of the Bolivian women’s obvious self-respect and higher self-esteem within the ring, they have had the effect of portraying themselves and their people as those who do not intend to remain passive in the face of adversity, but rather, to fight and change conditions for the better. This is significant because as a handful of pebbles thrown into a still pond will cause ripples to reach the far end of the shore, the actions and exposure of these women by the local media is slowly but surely changing opinions of what women can do, for the better.

Conditions are improving for other women around the world that have also chosen to take their perception as seen by society into their own hands. Instead of letting the media define who they were, the single, unmarried women of China took to the streets in a project of transparency and real understanding of just who they were as women. In a video by Broadly, the single women of China became their own brand representative, posting photos listing accomplishments that contribute to who they are as a person, not just their marriage status.

As women gain more confidence, and the necessary training to better themselves financially, politically, and physically that they may have previously been denied by their patriarchal government, conditions will only improve. As women become stronger in all areas in their life, it’s been proven that the communities in which they live will grow stronger as a result. This is why the powerful and far-reaching effects of the media are so important; they make the strides and advances of women aware to the general populace.

 Empowerment of women has historically been on the lowest part of the totem pole of priorities (mostly due to the fact that men want to maintain their position on the top of said totem pole), but as we see things change within the feminine circle, we will eventually see change within the masculine, as well. Thus getting us one step closer to global gender equity.

Keep fighting, ladies. And keep contemplating. 

Stonewall Riots: From Liberation to Commemoration

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Christopher Street Liberation Day celebration in Central Park, June 1970 by Diana Davies/Bethel Agency. 

 

It’s 1969 and you’re a closeted gay person. Homosexuality is still a dark and sinful thing, according to current public opinion that is. Because of this, the only places you feel safe to socialize in, the gay clubs and bars in the night scene, are constantly harassed by those authoritative men-in-blue with the black-as-night bully stick. You think to yourself, ‘Hey, this is my city, too. Shouldn’t we be allowed to live our lives free from judgment and infringement upon our very rights?’

These are the exact injustices and feelings that the gay men of Greenwich Village in New York, New York found themselves experiencing during an all too common raid on a gay bar called Stonewall Inn in June of ’69. But this time, the men had had enough of being harassed based upon their lifestyle, and decided to assert themselves and fight back. Thus, the gay liberation movement was born in the alleys and streets surrounding the bar that served as the nucleus of protestations and demonstrations from queer women and men across the nation. It’s an historic place. Just as historic as the streets of NYC that were once invaded by the original women’s suffragists in the early 1900s, marching militarily and uniformly in defiance of sexism and patriarchy.

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration has already announced its plans to anoint the small green space right next to the now historic bar that resides in the streets of Greenwich as a national monument.This would make it the first gay rights monument, to be registered with the National Parks Service, ever in the United States. While many queer people don’t need a monument to recognize the struggle and fight put up by their brothers and sisters before them, the placement of a monument would validate the struggle and importance of a movement that many straight citizens and leaders tried to deny or suppress.

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A gay rights activist celebrates outside the iconic Stonewall Inn on the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images via The Washington Post)

The significance of this is more important than many people not a part of the queer community can ever realize. When you are part of a marginalized group of people that has been systematically oppressed and allowed to be harassed due to a biased legal system that is supposed to protect you, to fight for your basic human right to love whomever you choose, to only just now in 2016 be granted permission to your recently denied rights, it is hard to be a part of a larger national community that fights against you. But with this monument, and the recent Supreme Court ruling to allow same-sex marriage within all 50 states, validation of a decades long struggle is the beginning of putting that struggle in the past, and hopefully will allow us to focus on living life with tolerance and acceptance in the future.

Keep contemplating.

“Deal Me In!”

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Throughout this never-ending slew of primaries, political soundbites, and the incessant hate train that is Trump, the American people have witnessed misogyny and sexist rhetoric become the campaign spotlight. This isn’t new to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, however. Ever since her introduction into the political Coliseum that is modern American government, spectators (voters) and gladiators (fellow politicians) alike have gone to the extremes in ridiculing Hillary and attacking her for her femininity or lack thereof. This campaign is no different in this regard, but it seems the response will be much more radical.

In case you missed it, or are purposely trying to avoid any more exposure to Trump than you already have, this was his latest statement following a recent string of primary wins:

“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card,” said Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. “And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

This statement is layered with problematic undertones, but here are just a few of the big ones:

  1. Accusing Hillary of “playing” the woman card is ridiculous; she is a woman and she very much is interested in women’s issues (at least in her current platform). No man would be accused of playing the “man” card because this card is the norm. And when politicians pander to the male population at the expense of women’s autonomy, as in recent history, to appease their male constituents I ask you, where is the “man” card accusation?
  2. Looking at the two candidates’ track records in politics, the assumption that being a woman is the only thing Hillary can bring to the table, it is clear that Trump is just flat out bluffing. Compare the two: Hillary has been involved in high level politics for decades, including appointment to Secretary of State; Trump made a lot of money being a jerk on television and buying some real estate. Contrary to many Trump supporters’ beliefs, being able to competently run a business empire does not make for a presidential candidate.

Clinton’s response to most of the sexist language she endures is one of resolved silence; better to block out the haters than to gratify them with a comment. But her reaction to Trump’s sexist attack on her competency as the presidential candidate due to her gender was nothing less than a brilliant remark that made this feminist’s little heart warm for Hillary.

“If fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the ‘woman card,’ then deal me in!” said Clinton in response to Trump’s attack.

Being the politically advantageous person that she is, the campaign has ran with this sexist outburst with Trump, providing Clinton supporters with their very own pink “woman card” following a contribution to the campaign, as reported by Mashable. A very cheeky nod to Trump; spinning the rhetoric on him for being ridiculous and simultaneously using the opportunity to appeal to her female supporters.

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But like everyone knows, Hillary has been taking the brunt of gendered language in negative connotations by many people, men and women both. To this day, she is still suffering the effects of her husband’s infidelity while in office with negative impacts on her public persona— as if she were the transgressor. In fact, by analyzing over 100,000 tweets for their gendered language around the time of the New Hampshire primary, The Washington Post found that words used about Bernie Sanders included 9 negative and 40 positive. Compare this to Hillary with 8 positive and 53 negative words. But wait it gets better: 

Clinton receives more than twice the amount of gendered comments than Sanders with 13 of 29 gendered words being negative. While Sanders sits pretty at absolutely no negative connotations to the gendered words found in users’ tweets.

All of these are further broken down into some neat charts separated by words, gender, etc. and can be found here.

Unfortunately, I’m sure that Trump will respond in his normal fashion; calling Hillary every name befitting a misogynist such as himself. We can’t let ourselves accept hate speech like this from someone that is currently representing American politics to the greater global community on our behalf. When we stay silent on these matters we are simply complying with the sexist culture in which we already live. But, who knows, maybe the antidote to a lot of this is a quick stab into the main artery of sexist language and culture administered by a shiny, pink syringe: a different Clinton administration— this time with womanpower.

So deal me in, too, Hillary. And don’t forget to keep contemplating.

Islamophobia in the Wake of ISIS

Just a few mere months after the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Islamic State has laid claim to the two bombs set off Tuesday in the capital of the European Union, Brussels, killing 34. As a global network of news correspondents, diplomats, and allied military forces have worked on analyzing and stopping ISIS, the terrorist organization continues to grow in numbers. As a direct result of these attacks in the post-9/11 world of TSA security checks and full body scans, many have turned fear and uncertainty into ignorant hatred.

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Military response on Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium.

As you may have already gathered, America is one of the worst contributors to the mainstream Islamophobia that has permeated our culture. Following the attacks in Brussels, our not-so-favorite presidential candidate Donald Trump regurgitated the same bull he’s been feeding the media all election season. Not surprisingly, he reiterated the importance of “shutting” the borders— with a wall, a fleet of eagles with lasers on their heads, who knows?— and denying Muslim refugees of any kind from seeking asylum in the U.S. Oh, and lest we forget the comment on repealing the current U.S. laws prohibiting torture to bring back water boarding and other forms of torture. Ted Cruz, the charming booger-eater that he is, also made a statement calling for additional law enforcement to patrol and survey Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S., likening them to areas containing violent gang members according to a report by Democracy Now!

While some of the more tolerant and equal-minded of us may scoff at this comments, it’s important to note that the Trumps and Cruz’s of the world are not just pulling these comments out of thin air. They are simply reverberating the anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia that have been echoing from their constituents. A bubble of resentment and suspicion has slowly but surely been building in our social climate. As more attacks have occurred on foreign and domestic soil, those that oppose the Muslim people have found more confidence and numbers in their voices. Most of these people are generally guilty of conflating the radical Islamic terrorist agenda with the peace-seeking religion of Islam. That would be like people from the Middle East believing that all American Christians are like the Westboro Baptist Church; far from the truth.

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But these misconceptions have real-world consequences. More than just the ideological and theological differences that may be found between the two traditions, Muslim-Americans have been beaten, harassed, and discriminated against. Many young Muslim men are looked at with suspicion in public when traveling, entering government buildings, or schools. Racial profiling is felt by every minority group. What is unique about Islam however is that “just because these terrorizing hate groups may look similar to us, because they speak a language that many of us do, or because they’re from the same countries as our ancestors does not mean we are fundamentally the same,” said Biology junior Mifrah Maqbool in an editorial letter to the NT Daily. “We don’t consider them our brothers or sisters. Our goal is to differentiate between us and the radicals until the world knows Islam is peace.”

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Illustration by Katherine Killeffer, via Vice

Islamophobia is harmful to Muslim women in different, but just as harmful, ways. Many times the harassment that Muslim women may experience in the streets are compounded with sexist remarks in addition to racial and religious slurs. Even on our own campus, I have heard personal accounts from female exchange students afraid to even give me their name out of fear, recounting stories of horror. These women have been followed, mocked, asked inappropriate questions, and sometimes threatened with bodily harm. One incident that comes to mind a few years ago was a Muslim student followed by a few white males in a truck flying the Confederate flag, which later blocked her into the parking lot and waved their handgun at her through her window. I don’t know about you, but this has to stop.

Let’s all remember that every organized religion has at some point had a troubled past or has had religious leaders that have strayed from convention and caused global catastrophe (ahem, the Crusades.) And yes, there are some questionable passages in the Koran but any casual reader of the Bible is going to notice some ridiculous passages, too. Religion is meant to bring people of the earth together, before we end up wherever that may be. But if we keep letting it get in between peace and safety, then we are surely doomed. It’s time to put away our fears and misunderstandings. We need all the allies we can get, and alienating 1.6 billion people is not going to gain us any favor.

Keep contemplating.

Trump, His Supporters, and the ‘Great’ American Dream

 

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Donald Trump greets supporters at a political rally in Alabama on February 28, 2016.       Photo: JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

A year ago political correspondents laughed at the thought of billionaire businessman Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee frontrunner. Politicians balked at the embarrassment of even having to run against the eccentric reality television star, refusing to entertain the last-minute announcement for election.

In many ways, the people themselves were enjoying the drama unfolding on their TV sets. More news coverage was devoted to Trump’s antics and incendiary comments against women, Latinos, and even his fellow candidates. And while the people laughed and wrote him off at first, somewhere along the way Trump struck a long-suppressed chord of hatred and anger within many. As the political rallies, debates, and commercials unfolded themselves via television, Internet, or word of mouth, Trump Idealists suddenly started coming out of the woodwork. And the lone racist voice of Trump was suddenly joined by a cacophony of other voices, eventually rising to the screeching roar of hateful rhetoric that is a Trump rally.

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An example of one of the many memes circling the Internet with less than flattering photos of Trump.

If you’re even a casual American historian, then our country’s troublesome relationship with people of color is no mystery. Pretty much no minority group can or has escaped the proverbial “target on the back” as so placed by the majority- white, upper-class men- in order to keep the balance of power as it were. But it’s 2016, and there shouldn’t be a candidate- let alone a leading candidate- whom labels immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” and regurgitates anti-Muslim sentiment in the post-9/11 era. This, along with his misogynistic statements towards women in the media, anti-Syrian and/or Muslim refugee stance, and lack of political know-how created a dangerous formula of violence between Trump supporters and protesters.

“But you have people coming in and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country.” – Donald Trump

Granted, while most Trump supporters are lower-class, uneducated, white males, what may be truly frightening is the growing numbers of people on the fringes of society now backing him. Though we on the outside can look at these rallies and judge them as ridiculous displays of racism and power hungry cries, those on the inside feel much differently. “It’s not what you say, but how you say it,” said Patrick Stewart, political scientist in an article for Wired.  “He is saying things in such a manner that he is able to pull energy off the crowd. It’s a feed-forward mechanism. The problem is that his message is about anger, and anger vents itself.”

So while the racists, bigots, and extreme nationalists make themselves more public as the campaign season continues, the world continues to watch our political carnival. Not surprisingly, most of what they have to say is less than complimentary; why should it be? More than one foreign diplomat has expressed their concern and disdain for the billionaire and his followers, most vocal are those from Mexico. Felipe Calderon, former Mexican president stated that “[he is] acting and speaking against immigrants who have a different skin color than him, which is frankly racist and is a bit like the exploitation of raw nerves that Hitler did in his day.”

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Most people have the sense to laugh at the ridiculous character that is the Trump. But there are still those that get caught up in his charm and perceived entitlement to say whatever, whenever, to whomever. America has always been that shining golden opportunity across the sea for foreigners wishing to emigrate to our shores. Now, it seems we have become the butt of an international joke, and it’s hard to not to join in on the laugh with the rest of the world.

One thing is for sure: this is not the American dream. Defending your rights and entitlements while simultaneously denying them to others is not the dream. Denying a group of people the opportunity for a better, more fair life due to the color of their skin or the language they speak is also not the dream.

As the old saying goes, “united we stand, divided we fall,” and we as a society and culture try to uphold this value, though imperfect our methods may have been. But this is not the motto Trump abides by. He wants to “make America great again.” I for one, do not pretend to know how we are going to achieve this, but it won’t be by following Trump. Hopefully, in time, voters will come to realize their folly as well. If not, there’s always Canada.

Keep contemplating.

 

 

Ke$ha and Cosby and the Media… Oh my!

As I’m sure any lawyer or interpreter of the law will tell you, there is nothing easy to understand about the US legal system. It is a convoluted, oft times contradictory, and frustrating institution of power. Though the law is set in place to help society maintain the basic ethical decisions and guidelines by which we live our lives, the bottom line is it is a flawed system created by flawed men. Worst of all, this same system many times enables and reinforces the cultural prejudices and injustices that it was designed to protect the private citizen from.

On February 1st, the legal system failed the accusers and victims of Bill Cosby, by allowing a man involved in an ongoing criminal investigation against multiple women to file lawsuits of defamation against a victim and her legal representation. On February 19th, the legal system failed women again, as the courts denied singer/entertainer Ke$ha’s appeal to break her contract with Sony Music and the producer, Dr. Luke, whom reportedly sexually harassed her for years. Oh, and the guy had the nerve to file his own case against Ke$ha for defamation, though that was thrown out by the courts.

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Singer and entertainer Ke$ha reacts to the rejection of her appeal on Friday, Feb. 19th. Photo cred: Jefferson Siegel/Poole

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Bill Cosby after a judge ruled the criminal case against him would proceed in Pennsylvania. Photo cred: AP Photo/Mel Evans

So, on a scale of “fucked-up shit,” I’d say these two ongoing cases alone, when looking at the events and decisions made in the last few months, would be a ‘perfect 10.’ What this really says about our society is that the experiences and trauma experienced by women, at the hands of men in entertainment especially, are not valued within the corporations behind them or the laws and regulations enacted to ‘help’ these same women. By refusing to grant Ke$ha’s appeal to no longer work with her producer, Sony has effectively shown us that the money that could be potentially made off of Ke$ha is valued more than the woman herself. While the company could just as easily fire the aggressor in this case and replace him with another, they refuse to do so while agreeing with the rational of the Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich whom “said Sony would suffer irreparable harm if Ke$ha was not compelled to abide by” the contract.

While thousands of fans expressed their support and solidarity for the “Tik Tok” star online, hardly any chatter was generated near the same level just a few weeks earlier, when Bill Cosby had the audacity to file the defamation lawsuits against his accuser, Andrea Constand, and her legal team. As a high-profile celebrity that has an almost unlimited amount of access to legal representation and the means to pay for it, the monetary reparations Cosby is seeking from the victim for participating in the criminal case against Cosby, after the victim’s original agreement to a monetary settlement in 2006, is nothing but a coward’s ploy.

As many of the women brave enough to come forward within the last year have had similar stories and experiences with the sitcom and stand-up star over many years, the media has been more than gracious with the comedian, while seemingly discrediting the women before their stories were even heard. Now, as legal proceedings continue, the women involved in the cases against Cosby are only further victimized by the system itself, which allows their rapist to “intimidate other victims from coming forward in the hopes that everybody will back off,”New York criminal defense attorney Isabelle Kirshner said.

If it isn’t obvious which side of this legal battle the system is working in favor of, it’s most definitely the men’s. And while it’s obvious to the many Ke$ha supporters and fans that the legal side of the entertainment industry is less than glamorous and could use a good overhaul, there are still those who side with Cosby, or that creepy producer of Ke$ha’s. Even more unfortunately, those that do are usually the same people perpetuating the never ending dehumanization of women, and the elevation of their male counterparts.

We need more litigation that protects victims of sexual violence. We need more representation for women in entertainment, as many are targeted for extortion and exploitation more often than men. But even more importantly, we need to stop allowing the men making these mistakes to escape behind their money or their contracts. What we need is accountability.

Keep contemplating.