False Feminist Death Syndrome

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In a review of The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism edited by Vivien Labaton and Dawn Lundy Martin, Jennifer L. Pozner discusses the misconception that feminism is dead and buried. Like Mark Twain and his quip that “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” feminism has had to fight off the vultures for years who mistake it for roadkill. Estelle B. Freedman, in her book of essays, Feminism, Sexuality and Politics, declares the opposite:  “…contrary to the views of contemporary pundits, feminism has never been more widespread or more politically influential than at this point in history.”

I sometimes wonder if people just wish feminism was dead, so they don’t have to deal with the issues it raises, both personal and political. What they don’t realize is that feminism has existed in some form for thousands of years. It is not a static belief system. It evolves with the societies it wishes to reform, because it responds to the things that need to be reformed. First Wave feminism is criticized for limiting its raison d’etre to suffrage, Second Wave feminists are considered to be hopelessly out-of-touch with modern women and Third Wave feminists just want to be taken seriously as they search for whatever it is they are fighting for. Just because the issues have changed doesn’t mean that feminism is dead.

Continue reading False Feminist Death Syndrome

Violence Against Women

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I found an article from October, 2008, on the Muslim Media Network that states that “the hypocritical concern for Muslim women by Western media and organizations results in actions designed to destroy the patriarchal Asian culture in general and Muslim religious influence in particular.”

So what is it that Westerners are so concerned about? Honor killings and acid attacks. The author of this article argues that because there are so few of these incidents compared to the amount of violence against women in the West, it isn’t fair to judge them similarly. (The statistics he cites are that “America has 12,600 annual homicides [25% occur to women] for a rate of 4.2/100,000 compared to the 4,100 honor killings in four years which is 1,025 times per year in a nation of 165 million people. That is a rate of 0.6 per 100,000.”)

Violence against women is–or should be–a concern in whatever form or however often it occurs.  I find it incredible that the author of this article doesn’t see how particularly heinous honor killings and acid attacks are. I do think it’s hypocritical of the West to decry these incidents as particularly egregious when we have so much violence against women in our own culture.On the other hand, just because honor killings and acid attacks occur infrequently doesn’t mean that they should be tolerated.

Honor killings are the worst example of a patriarchal society gone awry. The fact that the man in the equation goes unpunished is bad enough (the double standard), but putting a woman to death because of her sexual activity (even if it’s forced upon her) shows to what degree men will go to keep their women under control. No man should have that kind of power over a woman.

Friday Videos: Maher on Feminism

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An episode of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, topic: Feminism. Guests include Michael Moore, actress Yancy Butler, Sandra Bernhard and Christina Hoff Sommers. Entertaining…and makes you think a little.

Breastfeeding: Whose Business Is It Anyway?

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Image Credit: Care2.com

Hilary Stamper has written an article on the Care2 website titled “Breast Is Best (As Long As You Don’t See  It!).” Apparently, in December 2008 Facebook censored all pictures of breastfeeding mothers (and even canceled the women’s accounts). The only reason for banning such pictures is because they’re thought of as sexual and like the sex act, too intimate for public consumption. But breastfeeding is not a sexual activity. It’s what the breast was made for.

There are at least seven states that do not protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public and only 28 states have exempted breastfeeding mothers from public indecency laws. (See how your state stacks up here.) On the other hand, the Momformation blog on Baby Center reports that Rhode Island’s recent legislation not only protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in public but permits a woman to allege a violation of her civil rights if she is prevented from doing so.

But all the laws in the world won’t protect women from society’s disapproval. Many, if not most, women are still made to feel that it is not proper to breastfeed in public unless it is done discreetly (meaning, absolutely no breast exposure). Some people get upset if they can hear the baby slurping under the covering. In 2005, Barbara Walters remarked on her talk show The View that she felt uncomfortable sitting next to a breastfeeding mother during a flight. In 2006, a young mother was kicked off a Freedom Airlines (irony, anyone?) flight for refusing a blanket to cover herself while she was breastfeeding. (Story here.) Another woman was asked to leave an Applebee’s restaurant because others complained about her breastfeeding. She actually handed the manager a copy of the Kentucky law which allows mothers to breastfeed in public, but he kicked her out anyway. (Read the mother’s account here.)

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health, Office of the Surgeon General, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are asking for the public’s input on a new HHS Call to Action on Breastfeeding. Go here for more information. There are a lot of issues surrounding the topic of breastfeeding, such as:

  1. Maternal and Infant Care Practices: Prenatal, Hospital, and Post-Delivery Care
  2. Access to Lactation Care and Support
  3. Health Professional Education, Publications, and Conferences
  4. Use of Banked Human Milk
  5. Worksite Lactation Support, Onsite Child Care, and Milk Expression
  6. Paid Maternity Leave
  7. Portrayal of Breastfeeding in Traditional Popular Media and New Electronic Media
  8. Support for Breastfeeding in Public Settings
  9. Peer Support and Education of Family Members and Friends
  10. Community Support for Breastfeeding in Complementary Programs (e.g., Early Head Start, Home Visitation, Parental Training)
  11. Research and Surveillance

Click on the topic(s) you’re interested in and make your comments.

What I’ve Learned About Being a Mother

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  1. No matter what anyone tells you, you’re never prepared for any of it: being pregnant, labor and delivery or motherhood itself.
  2. Children change your life in ways you never expected.
  3. It’s hard to be yourself and be a mother.
  4. If you are yourself, you will embarrass your children. If you try to act like them, you will embarrass your children. No matter what you do, you embarrass your children.
  5. Keep a detailed journal. Your stories will never jibe with your children’s versions and it’s good to have proof.
  6. You will not have time to keep a journal.
  7. You will never feel like you’re a good enough mother.
  8. Your children will always come first. That’s hard for the man in your life to swallow. That’s hard for you to swallow.
  9. You will need to have the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon.
  10. You will never again be lonely. Or alone. Even in the bathroom.
  11. At times, it will be all you can do to hold onto your sanity.
  12. At other times, your children teach you more than you ever thought possible about love, joy and laughter.
  13. A child’s love is pure–even when he or she doesn’t like you.
  14. You will always worry about your children–even when they’re grown.
  15. Don’t expect to get back what you’ve given; it’s your children’s job to pass it on to others.
  16. Live out your own dreams. Let your children have their own.

How Can We Be Positive About Our Bodies?

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A study of 4,294 network television commercials revealed that 1 out of every 3.8 commercials send some sort of attractiveness message, telling viewers what is or is not attractive (as cited in Myers et al., 1992). These researchers estimate that the average adolescent sees over 5,260 attractiveness messages per year. Source

I like this advice for building a better body image: Kill your inner supermodel!

More from Our Bodies, Ourselves: For women. life can often seem like a beauty pageant…Being born female automatically makes us contestants, whether we like it our not.

Read these “Shocking Statistics” from the University of Colorado at Boulder Student Health Center.This is a very good site that includes suggestions for media advocacy, survival tips, and advice on how to help a friend.

This video contains so many images of thin women that it actually starts to dawn on you that the media are jamming these images down your throat.