Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Feminism Really Means

While doing some research for my Junior Theme topic, exploring the stigma that the word "feminist" or "feminism" carries, I came across some disturbing data which proves that people have a misunderstanding of the real definition of the word. Americans were asked by the Huffington Post, "Do you consider yourself a feminist, an anti-feminist, or neither?". The response was alarming:

As we can see from the data above, only 20%  of those polled considered themselves any kind of feminist. Those who were polled were also "asked if they believe that 'men and women should be social, political, and economic equals,' [and] 82 percent of the survey respondents said they did, and just 9 percent said they did not". We can see that people believe in the idea of feminism, but shy away from the label. Why is that?

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes". However, it seems to carry a different meaning to Americans, for "thirty-seven percent said they consider "feminist" to be a negative term". 

I was initially very shocked by this data, which in turn, prompted me to deepen my research into this misunderstanding. As I continue to explore this topic in the context of my junior theme, I will hopefully find an answer to this question, as to why feminism carries such a stigma. In the meantime, what are your opinions on this issue? What is your explanation? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Racing to Gender Equality

Today, my rowing coach forwarded my team an interesting email linked to a New York Times article titled "In Rowing, Women Catch Up With the Men". It discusses a change in the future that will bring gender equality to one of the biggest rowing events in London.

Oxford and Cambridge have a strong and well-known rivalry, and every March, boats from the schools come together and race each other. This a hugely popular and historic event; with "live television coverage by the BBC, which first broadcast the race in 1938, it is a national institution, watched by millions on TV and by hundreds of thousands along the towpath". However, "the women have a shorter — and separate — history".

The women have not been allowed to race the same course as the men, instead racing a shorter and easier course. "'Like any tradition...there wasn’t really a rational reason for it.” This proves that gender bias does exist, and is actively effecting women's lives without "rationals reason". Women have been discouraged from the start; at the first women’s race in 1927, “large and hostile crowds gathered on the towpath” to heckle the crews.

Years later, not much had changed. In 1962, the response to female rowers illustrated through the words of "the captain of Selwyn College at Cambridge [who] wrote: 'I personally do not approve of women rowing at all. It is a ghastly sight, an anatomical impossibility (if you are rowing properly, that is) and physiologically dangerous.” He added, “Wouldn’t you rather be playing tennis or something like that?!'"

Since such times of disapproval, this gender issue has improved. In 2015, the women are allowed to race on the mens course, on the same day as the mens race, therefore receiving more attention. Although this change is great, I am concerned that it has taken so long until this situation has been resolved, and I realize that much of the sexism that I thought was in the past still perpetuates to this day.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Rules of Aging

More magazine, appeals to an audience of older women, and many of the headlines on the cover of their magazines are sending some disturbing messages. Their website states that they are a magazine "for women of style and substance", but do these restricting rules of aging really have any "substance"? These kinds of rules aren't unusual; the media creates many ways to make aging women feel terrible about this natural process:

In the top left photo, the statement that being over 40 was "never" so "fabulous", suggests that this age is normally miserable for women.

The top right photo tells the audience exactly what is their "best haircut", defining rules that women of different ages must follow in order to look their best.

The middle picture shows that Jennifer Beals is not expected to be enjoying her life, and its is a huge "reveal" as the surprise that she does actually love her life. To me, this suggests that older women are not expected to be loving their life, for age brings misery.

The bottom left seems to show that fulfilling your dreams is different after you turn 40 versus when you are younger. Does that much really change when you hit that certain age?

The bottom right suggests that there is a specific way to age well, which therefore means that they is a way to age badly. This is another example of a kind of rule that is put in place to make women feel restricted during the aging process. The media's construction of age as a frightening idea that should be avoided has created a fear of aging in women, which then leads women to try to defy the process:

Headlines that feature ways to combat aging are not uncommon, but us there actually a healthy way to stop aging? Why do women feel the need to stop this process? Why is it necessary to create definite rules to follow based on exact age?

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Burrito Box and Yik Yak

I never thought that discovering a new fast food option, the Burrito Box, would tie into a relevant controversy today, the app Yik Yak, but the two are related in a somewhat unexpected way; they both revolve around the idea of anonymity.

 People are calling the new Burrito Box the Redbox for burritos. It is a type of vending machine that allows you to choose between 5 different types of burrito, and cook it for you within a minute. The first machine has been set up inside a Mobil gas station in West Hollywood, California. The Huffington Post Los Angeles commented on this launch:

"It may seem strange that the Burrito Box debuted in Los Angeles, a county that is jam-packed with authentic and delicious Mexican taco trucks and restaurants. But we're not surprised -- Southern California is already home to vending machines that sell gourmet cupcakes, caviar, cold-pressed juice and marijuana.

Because sometimes you just don't want to look another human being in the eye while giving in to a craving."
I found the last line very interesting, for it was hinting at the idea of anonymity. People are moving away from in person interactions, and prefer social settings like Facebook, and communication through texting. In turn, people are losing their face to face communication skills, and have begun to favor these alternate modes of communication. If you can order a burrito without other people knowing, it increases the likely hood of you getting that burrito; as the quote mentioned above, you don't have to deal with the feels of guilty or judgement from others. If the anonymity makes it easier to order a burrito, doesn't that mean that the anonymity of the Internet make is easier for people to say things that they normally wouldn't say in person? This theme seems to be very popular today in America, proven by the rising popularity of the new app, Yik Yak.

Who hasn't heard about Yik Yak at New Trier. It's exploding (I came home yesterday, and my mother was talking about it; I walked into advisory this morning, and my advisor was talking about it). It is creating a dangerous environment that is leading to many cases of cyber bullying, upon which some schools are taking action, and some cases even leading to arrests.

Some of our new technologies like Yik Yak present an immeaiate issue, but other like the Burrito Box may lead to some more disnant consequences as we move further and further away from direct person to person communication. Are we going to far with the idea of anonymity?

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Salem Situation in Papua New Guinea

20-year-old Kepari Leniata was burned alive after being accused of witch craft. Sounds like The Crucible, right? Well, this didn't happen in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, it happened last year in Papua New Guinea.

The abuse of women in Papua New Guinea is not a new problem, but the increase in its severity has caused nationwide concern. Yahoo News found that "more than two thirds of women report being subject to domestic violence". This shocking statistic has been the case in Papua New Guinea for at least the past twenty years and nothing has changed.

"Rasta was accused of sorcery by the people in her village after the death of a local young man in 2003. She was set upon by a crowd at his funeral then beaten and strangled before she escaped. She lost her hand in the attack. (Photograph by Vlad Sokhin)"
"'Sorcery' is often used as a pretext to mask abuse of women", says  Amnesty International. This shows that people often have alternative motives behind their accusations of witchcraft. This parallels events in The Crucible, during the Salem witch trials. In Salem, people accused others of witchcraft for revenge, acquisition of property, jealousy etc. People in Papua New Guinea are acting in similar ways, covering up their actions with sorcery.

The citizens of Salem were not protected from these accusations under any Constitution, therefore making these accusations easily to legitimize, and the people of Papua New Guinea are not protected either, but on the contrary, their attackers are protected under the Sorcery Act of 1971. This act says that the accusation of sorcery is considered enough defense in murder cases. This strong connection to The Crucible is concerning because many countries, like the United States, have advanced towards providing more civil liberties to their citizens, while Papua New Guinea seems to be stuck in 1692,  time with much injustice as illustrated by The Crucible. How did Papua New Guinea end up so behind?