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Posts Tagged ‘socialization’

First of all, hey everyone! I’m a new addition to the blog. 🙂 Aida, from Puerto Rico, rising junior at Brown, found this blog through Irene. Hopefully I’ll be contributing steadily. Anyway–I also wanted to let y’all know that I added two websites to the blogroll: Genderfork and Sociological Images. Now, for my first contribution–cross-posted from my personal blagh, found here.

In response to this (blog entry that just has an embedded video) and this:

The author here grosses me out.

That guy isn’t real. Somebody decided to make him up so they could write the “write fuck me on your chest and smile” line, claiming female = victim and that somehow, if only men would understand and be sensitive to this, it would be okay.

Most men aren’t anything like this guy, and for the rest of us the author has done nothing to improve our understanding of “what it’s like to be a woman.” If the author were listening, I’d respond: “Being a grownup means taking the fuck me sign off your chest and telling people ‘no’ or ‘piss off’ whenever necessary.”

Giving a reality check to a straw man, kind of annoying.

*

I see where the commenter is coming from, but I think it’s a *very* shallow reading of that clip. The message I got from this video/scene was different. Writing “fuck me” on his chest would be about drawing a parallel between the symbolic gesture and the reality of inhabiting a woman’s body–a body that is unfortunately read by some as “willing” just by virtue of being female. If the guy had actually gone out with the FUCK ME on his chest, it wouldn’t have been the same thing/feeling…but it wasn’t about him actually doing it. It was about showing the parallel between that and walking around with an INVISIBLE (yet oh so visible) marker of “oh yeah, sure, fuck me, that’s great, I really want it from you, thank you.”

A man walking naked with FUCK ME on his chest would be seen as abnormal, whereas a woman just walking around would not be. Violence against women is perpetrated because it’s, in a way, normalized. This is the narrative that we’ve been given; people assuming a naked man with FUCK ME scrawled on his chest wants and is ready for sex is not realistic, but people assuming a woman walking down the street wants and is ready for sex IS realistic. This whole scene is about the psychological impact; it’s about the female character trying to show this man how it feels by creating a “story” that APPROXIMATES that feeling. Taking that story to reality wouldn’t work, but THINKING about it and thinking about what it MEANS would certainly make an impact.

Woman is not inherently “victim,” but the truth is that in society, many times there is a strong correlation between the two. And if it’s not “victim,” it’s still the receiving end of violence, be it symbolic, physical, or both. And that being said…yeah–if only men could understand and be sensitive to the realities of living in a body marked as “female,” we would probably have less scenarios like this. A man would be way less likely to invade a woman’s privacy like what happened on The L Word if he understood how that shit felt. A man would be less likely to leer at a woman and think it’s okay to grab her ass if he understood how that felt. Obviously it would only be a start. Someone’s knowledge doesn’t predict what they will do with it.

But the thing is, there’s no real way to understand, FULLY understand, unless one has lived through it. Anything else is just an assumption, removed to a certain degree, or a sympathetic thought. No one can TRULY and wholly understand or “feel” what someone else is feeling. We have approximations, yes, and a “common language,” yes, but these are only approximations. Still, these approximations are valuable–very valuable. They’re the closest we have to the real thing, and they are important. And even if we can’t feel exactly what someone else has felt, there are probably huge overlaps, and we can sympathize and find solidarity.

Finally, the “…telling people ‘no’ or ‘piss off’ whenever necessary” comment? Telling people “no” or to “piss off” when necessary is a right (and sort of one’s duty to a certain extent), but to have that right respected? A totally different ballgame. Women usually don’t have the privilege of not having to worry that their “no” may not be respected or even taken seriously. Saying “no” doesn’t necessitate or equal a respect of that “no.” Just because a woman screams NO and fights back, does that mean a rapist will stop raping her? Just because we say NO, does that mean a mugger will suddenly return all our money and leave us alone? Just because a NO is necessary doesn’t mean it will WORK. There are various situations when saying NO just isn’t enough.

And sure, most men aren’t like the guy in the video, who will set up cameras all over your house…but that’s not the point. Most men aren’t rapists, or murderers, or robbers–but we still have to talk about those that are, and represent them in the media, and show that they exist. We still have to show that women are hurt, not to normalize that violence, but to show the realities of the world and that they are NOT ACCEPTABLE. We have to put these things in the forefront so people cannot ignore them, so people have to acknowledge them and get educated and DO something about it. The fact that a (presumably) Average Joe (whatever that is) cannot relate at all to this clip and feels that it provides NO insight into how it feels to be a woman is VERY distressing to me.

Addendum: By this post, I don’t mean to say that ALL women are a certain way or feel a certain way. No monolithic understandings of men and women apply. Kthx.

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img_0341So I saw this in the College Center last night and of course I’m wondering, what the fuck? For those who can’t read what it says, (sorry it’s a little blurry) it’s an advertisement for Vassar College’s Rowing team who have their Ergathon, where they row for 24 hours straight as a sort of fundraiser. The flyer is about three feet by 4 feet, I would estimate, and it’s hanging as a sort of banner in one of the most frequented parts of campus.

I know, who would have guessed from that picture?

I have nothing against rowing, or the Vassar College Rowing Team, but I’m so tired of seeing flyers just like this one posted all around campus, from all different orgs.

Why do we feel it is necessary to objectify women, and to reinforce dangerous hegemonic ideas of what it means to be sexy, just to get people to give money or come to an event. What, just because I see a white, skinny, half naked girl, I’m supposed to contribute some money to your organization? Thanks but no thanks.

To be fair there was a smaller poster I saw later on which had a white, muscular man, wearing a kilt, with the same message, “It’s gonna be hot”. And with this I’m forced to wonder, what’s going on? Is this some kind of irony? Regardless I still think it’s reinforcing these hegemonic notions of what is “hot”.

And of course, even if skinny, white, and half naked is what “hot” looks like (which I wouldn’t agree with), who cares? Why is “hot” such a big deal? Why wouldn’t it be enough to simply say, come to the Ergathon and see women show their athletic strength!? Why isn’t that something that makes us get excited?

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blank-slateIrene showed me this. Click here

It’s broken down into 4 videos, and adding them up results in 30 minutes of documentary about intersexuality.

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This is from “Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice” by Clare Chambers. I think it’s a really intelligent clarification of the idea that “gender is a social construct”, a phrase oft-invoked but rarely explained:

In Masculine Domination, Bourdieu asks why gender inequality has persisted throughout history despite significant social change. In general, Bourdieu is concerned with the question of why it is that many forms of domination persist with relatively few challenges: left to themselves and in the normal course of things, individuals will not disrupt structures of domination, such as patriarchy, from which they suffer (or benefit). Even if they have read and agreed with key feminist texts, most women do not stop wearing makeup, taking on the lion’s share of the housework and childcare, wearing restrictive and uncomfortable clothes and shoes that emphasize sexual availability, or being attracted to men with characteristics of dominance such as a powerful physique or job. Even if we believe that our desires are indeed the product of the norms and expectations of a patriarchal society, still we do actually like makeup, high heels, and men whoa re tall, buffed, and wealthy.

A central reason for the success of patriarchy, Bourdieu argues, is its ability to naturalize its distinctions. At the heart of any system of hierarchy is the distinction made between those who occupy different hierarchical positions. The system of masculine domination owes its success at least in part to its provision of “natural,” biological explanations for hierarchy. This point was also made within the liberal tradition by John Stuart Mill in The Subjection of Women. In response to the claim that sexual inequality is natural, Mill asks, “Was there ever any domination which did not appear natural to those who possessed it?…So true is it that unnatural generally means only uncustomary, and that everything which is usual appears natural.

The naturalization of gender hierarchy is reinforced in several ways. Women are, according to the patriarchal story, different from men in that they have different bodies and different biological functions. They must be different from each other so as to reproduce; the differences could not be wished away, for without sex differences we would have no means of perpetuating the species. Moreover, these differences justify different positions on a hierarchy in that they dictate different behaviors for men and women regarding matters such as childcare, breadwinning, and courtship, which affect the wider social positions of the sexes. Instead, Bourdieu argues that the categories of gender are constructed and not necessary. Gender differences start with the socially constructed and thus contingent division of people into two kinds according to their bodies, and specifically their genitals. To say that this is a contingent division is to say that everyone could in theory have the same genitals, or that there is no biological difference between men and women, but it is to say that differences between genitals need not be socially significant. Christine Helliwell describes a tribe in Indonesian Borneo, the Gerai, for whom differences in work, not differences in genitals, are the determinants of a system of classification comparable to gender. Although there are people with different genitals in the Gerai tribe, this fact is not seen as particularly significant, and certainly not as the determinant of gender. While there is a correlation between different genitals and different genders for the Gerai, this correlation is contingent and not necessary. In Western societies, for example it is overwhelmingly women and not men who provide the primary care for babies in their first weeks of life. However, genitals and not childcare are the determinant of gender: a person with a penis who is the prime caregiver for a newborn baby is still a man. For the Gerai, in contrast, it is the work that is determining–a person who performs certain tasks in rice cultivation is a man, even if that person has a vulva. Helliwell herself was categorized as a man for some time after her arrival in the tribe as a result of the work she was able to do, despite the fact that everyone in the tribe frequently observed her genitals when she urinated in the stream used for that purpose. Thus, “As someone said to me at a later point, ‘Yes, I saw that you had a vulva, but I thought that Western men might be different.'”

Genital difference, then, does not necessarily signify different roles or identities. But once the difference between genitals has been instituted as socially significant, it is justified by reference to the naturalness of the distinction. In other words, in answer to the question “Why are genital differences socially significant?” the answer given would be something like “because there are differences in genitals.” Moreover, this difference is further idolized by its naturalness. If we ask, “Why are there differences in genitals?” we will receive the answer “because that is how nature is,” which is something like saying “because it couldn’t be any other way.” This circular reasoning leads, Bourdieu argues, to symmetry between the subjective and objective elements of domination. Subjectively, people believe that there are significant differences based on genital differences. Objectively, there are genital difference. The circularity comes in as follows: people believe that there are significant differences based on genitals, and people are inclined to notice and reify such differences because they believe that they exist. In sum, one of the key reasons for success of the system of male domination is its ability to make itself appear as natural–not only in the sense that differences between genitals are natural, but also in the sense that social differences based on differences between genitals appear natural.

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towelhead I just watched “Towelhead: Nothing is Private” on surfthechannel.com and I can’t recommend it enough.  The film focuses on a 13-year-old, half Lebanese girl named Jazeera and contrary to the title, the movie dedicates much more time to gender issues and the complex relationship between gender and race, than to race issues alone.  The film, which is based on Alicia Erian’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, tackles  a range of feminist concerns (from virginity to homosexuality to the mixed messages women receive as they go through puberty to unwanted sexual advances from older men) and does so with striking honesty as well as a microscopic accuracy.  Recalling my pre-teen years as I followed Jazeera’s story, I often found myself thinking “wow…I thought I was alone in this…”  One scene that really stuck out was when Jazeera discovers masturbation.  That’s right!  Not only do women masturbate, we start pretty damn young!  Discreetly she rubs her thighs together while sitting at her school desk or the outdoor lunch table.  Flashback to when I was in 7th grade and the boy I had a crush on, caught me under these exact circumstances.

Jazeera’s relationship with a black boy in her grade (not ok with her father) was impressively nuanced and it showed how even this very well-intentioned, likable boy could, with his attitude of protectionism and entitlement, add to a troubled girl’s confusion instead of filling the typical, heroic role so often seen in blockbuster films about STRONG, INDEPENDENT women.  In one scene, the boy, who is angry about hearing how Jazeera really lost her virginity, says “that was my blood,” to which Jazeera responds “no it wasn’t.  it was my blood.”

While the film picks up on many feminist frustrations, Jazeera’s trials are not once over dramatized.  Furthermore, the film does not attempt to give a story of womanhood, domestic violence, and rape, a clean, lifetime ending.  The conclusion, while very hopeful, does not offer any feel-good delusions about the future of Jazeera’s relationship with her boyfriend, her traditional father, or her inappropriate neighbor (played by Aaron Eckhart).

While Jazeera remains very shy and mild-mannered throughout the movie, one can see her gradually learning (sometimes on her own, sometimes from others) how to respond to the racism and sexism she experiences.  Are her responses are the best?  I don’t know and I don’t think its very relevant.  But they do very realistically reflect how us conscious creatures begin to notice that something is just a little off.

You can watch the movie on surfthechannel.com.   Five stars.  brilliant.

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Here’s why!

Many argue that homosexuality is not a choice—that we are born with an attraction to certain gender-identifications that define us for the rest of our lives. I think this is a well-intentioned argument from the gay pride movement that actually leaves no room for sexual fluidity. Sexual orientation is a social construct. We are socialized to find a certain gender attractive according to the gender in which we were raised. I believe a desire to conform to or deviate from the norm determines whether or not you want to be socially acceptable or “weird”. I have always had a generally non-conformist belief system AND I did not identify with the gender in which I was raised, which seems to be a perfect formula for me to find the “wrong” gender attractive. However, now, I have realized that it is just as close-minded to say “I am only attracted to women” as it is to say “I am only attracted to men”. I have stopped confining my sexuality and dismissing possible lovers based on their gender identity. I define my sexual orientation by keeping it open and flexible. I call myself queer.

Why do I think you should do the same? I think people fall in love with people, not genders. Why do we put “Interested in: Men” and/or “Women” on facebook or mark those categories off in our minds? I don’t know anyone who is attracted to ALL women and/or ALL men. It’s misleading, completely ignores people of non-binary gender identities, and only sets you up for confusion when you start questioning that sexual orientation. Let’s stop dividing ourselves into gay, straight, and bisexual factions. Let’s focus on being attracted to individuals, not a gendered idea of a person. Let’s stop this discrimination based on gender identity. Be queer.

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On Wednesdays, we exaggerate social markers of our femininity.

"On Wednesdays, we exaggerate social markers of our femininity."

Definitions:
– Habitus: The concept of habitus explains how social norms become embedded in individuals. An individual’s habitus develops in response to the social sphere in which the individual lives and acts: a space termed the “field”
– Field: The social sphere in which the individual lives and acts

“…As people respond to the circumstances within which they live, they become accustomed to those particular responses and, over time, repeat them with little to no conscious awareness or choice–whether or not the conditions that first made the response appropriate actually pertain. Bourdieu’s [cited author] preferred example is “the small, quick steps of some young women wearing trousers and flat heels” which have become habitual because they are required when wearing short skirts and high heels. In this way, the habitus prompts us to act in certain ways without needing to go via the mechanism of conscious thought and rational decision-making. Instead, the habitus operates through the mechanism of embodiment. We understand the norms we obey through acting them out. We do not think consciously about them, and consider on each occasion whether to comply with them. Rather, we comply as a result of prereflexive, habitualized action…what is at stake is whether we become certain sorts of people, how particular discourses construct our identities. Thus, MacKinnon quotes a woman coerced into pornography: “You do it, you do it, and you do it; then you become it.” …an individual’s range of possible actions is already suggested by her habitus. If her habitus and field are aligned, what an individual feels included to do will match the expectations of the field in which her action takes place. There will be compatibility  between action and expectation, and the individual is unlikely to be aware of, or consciously assess, her actions and dispositions. Individuals are thus very significantly influenced by the surroundings and structures in which they live. As individuals tend to remain in social contexts in which they feel comfortable, their habituses are reinforced and tend to remain constant [this is one possible explanation for Gloria’s preference of dressing “feminine” because she “just likes it”, I’m not saying that sardonically by the way]. It follows, moreover, that the social structures that influence an individual’s habitus will be strengthened over time as individuals act in ways that are suggested by, and serve to reinforce, those structures. In other words, in the absence of the kind of dissonance between habitus and field that can lead individuals to become conscious and questioning of their dispositions, systems of disadvantage are unlikely to be disrupted by those who are disadvantaged…”

From Pages 53-53 in Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice, by Clare Chambers

That was long.

My point is that I don’t have access to the kind of dissonance (other than online on this blog) between habitus and field that would help me become conscious of my own disposition. What do I really want to wear, or say, or do? I don’t know. I feel like I’m a product of my socialization, and without socialization, I would be nothing. So when I can’t help but wear makeup, for fear that others will judge me if I don’t appear “feminine,” it is because I don’t myself realize if I want to dress up or not. All I know is that many people appear to not take me seriously if I don’t. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to dress up. Other times, it’s nice. I don’t know what I would naturally be disposed to wear or say or do, because it is impossible to find a dimension in which I can explore what is comfortable to me outside of what society dictates.

Maybe for certain individuals, the meaning of “comfortable” itself cannot be exclusive of societal dictates. I think perhaps I may be such an individual?

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