Archive for April, 2011

My wonderful friend Elizabeth Chenevey, who was one of the writers of this previous post, wanted to expand on her initial section.  When we wrote the post it was initially designed to be an article in our campus newspaper, so of course our space was limited and we didn’t all get to say everything we wanted to.  With that, here it is:

I’m really fucking tired.
I am tired of the hate and ignorance that has been spewed here on JMU’s campus these past few weeks (from any of the sides).
I am tired of feminism being labeled as a breeding ground for “man-haters,” “whores,” and of being anti-mother and a threat to family values.
I am tired of choice being taken away from women and their bodies.
I am tired of hearing my peers claim, “I’m all for women’s rights, but I’m not a feminist.”

I AM A FEMINIST. Hear me say it. Say it for yourself. Scream it if you have to. It is an empowering statement. It is a statement that has given me the confidence to speak for myself and develop my own voice.

Anyone can be a feminist. Feminism is about empowerment and equality—not about making women the same as men as Emily Buck claims in her editorial. I don’t want to be the same as my male friends; I recognize and celebrate our differences, but that does not mean I do not demand as much respect as them (or from them). I love our differences, but I don’t want to be like them—I like being a woman.

I love my body and I respect and trust it.
I choose not to take the pill as I don’t like how my body feels on it but I support women who do.
I am not anti-mother-I one day would like to be one and I do not think I could ever get an abortion but I am glad the option is there for women who do have to make that incredibly difficult choice.
I have only had sex with one person but I support women who choose to have multiple partners (safely of course).

Do you see a pattern here? This is all about choice. I choose to be a feminist because I need to be able to have a say in my own life and in the society in which I live. And I do not appreciate people like Miss Buck condemning this choice (and therefore any other choices I make within that framework) as it is mine. The choices we make are personal, and my choices being lumped with those of others’ belittles them and feminism’s message. Feminism respects individual choices (I respect Miss Buck’s decision to not be a feminist even though I may not agree with her reasoning) and it has given me the strength to make my own informed decisions and speak out in defense of them.

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My dear friend Betsy Shepard was able to come to JMU this week to talk about her fight against a coal plant which Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is attempting/attempted to poison her community with (you can read more about that here).  She wrote a comment on Facebook going off of my last post, painting a portrait of her identity as a feminist.  I wanted to provide what she said here.


I am a feminist. I am a “homemaker” (at least that’s what my CPA puts on my tax return under “occupation.”)

I am married to a feminist who believes we are equals. (Though, after watching me give birth to our children maybe he felt a wee bit….shall we say….”less” equal.) ; )

I am feminist who is raising two little boys to be feminists. I don’t tell them to stop crying or be “big boys” or “real men” or any of that. When my oldest son picked out pink sparkly High School Musical sneakers at the store and a woman walking by asked him, “Don’t you want to put those back and get boys’ sneakers?” he replied in his politest voice, “No thank you.” Bam!

I’m a feminist who breastfed in public. For years. Because my breasts are functional AND hawt. Deal with it. Or not. I don’t care b/c the law is on my side on this one.

I’m an older feminist who desperately wishes young women could stop seeing their sexuality as a commodity that they “give up” or “hold out.” It’s yours. It’s you. Own it. Do with it what you want. But if you feel like people are “bidding” on you or your sexuality (and you didn’t set up that online auction w/ a link to your paypal account), then you might be doing it wrong. Just sayin’…..

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Each paragraph was written by a single author. The opinions and thoughts expressed are meant to give a clearer picture of feminism than has recently been presented, particularly in Emily Buck’s “Women Should Learn to Respect Themselves.”

I AM A FEMINIST. For me, feminism is about empowerment and the ability to have a choice in your own life. Emily Buck claims that feminism has brought about the acceptance of casual sex and reduced us to our genitalia. However, feminism has given women the choice to do what they want with their own personal bodies. If women are empowered by their sexuality and make an educated (and safe) choice to have multiple partners then that is their personal business and condemning them as “whores” is not conducive to promoting a supportive community of women. And by focusing solely on women’s sexuality, Buck herself has reduced us to our genitalia, degrading her point even further—I am not my genitalia, I am a woman who’s choice to be a feminist has given me the strength to defend my choices and the choices of others.

I am a feminist and I have a moral center.  I am a feminist and I do not engage in partisan politics. I am a feminist and I grew up in a small town. I am a feminist and I was raised in a Christian household, my parents are both Protestant Reverends.  I am a feminist and I want to know what it is about my genitalia that, being an integral part of me, they cannot participate in my  “dignity, integrity, and honor.” Feminism is not about promoting genitalia above all things; it is about the promotion of every part of every woman, mind, soul and body.

I am a feminist because I want to see my sisters live in a world where they are not reduced to sex objects.  My sisters are going into college, and I want to believe in a world where they can go out to a party and not feel pressured to dance with someone just because they give her a drink, if she should choose to drink.  If she chooses to have sex I want her to have access to contraceptives and birth control.   The modern feminist movement is about choice and fully valuing men and women as whole people, I want to see that world for myself, for my sisters, and for everyone.

I am a feminist. I have a boyfriend. We did not meet in a bar over a $6 drink, and even if we had I would not be ashamed of it. We met because we are both committed political activists and our ideals drew us together. He takes me out on dates and sometimes I pay for him, and he has never felt emasculated. Before I had a boyfriend, I had one-night stands and friends with benefits. I do not blame this on “feminism,” I blame this on my natural, normal desire to have sex, that might occasionally be casual. I am not promiscuous, and I am not a whore. I am a young woman doing what young men and women have done for thousands of years.

I am a feminist because I care about women’s health. Society has purposefully misinformed women about crucial aspects of their health to prevent women from exercising their right to choose, attaining bodily agency, and equality. We have seen in the past few weeks just how willing people are to mince facts when it comes to reproductive health. When Ms. Buck states that condoms are only 85% effective, she is engaging in scare tactics to prevent women and men from being properly informed about sex. According to the NIH, when properly used, condoms prevent against all STDs. Not 85% of the time, but all the time.

I am feminist and am disheartened that Emily Buck has reduced over sixty years of activism and academia into the entirely unfounded blanket generalization “Modern Feminism.” Where are her sources? It would greatly behoove Ms. Buck to familiarize herself with feminist history, rhetoric and texts before she begins writing arguments against vague scarecrows she herself has constructed. For example, had she read Susan Douglas (the writer she vilifies as “denounc[ing] motherhood” on the College Republicans website), Ms. Buck would discover that most feminists find Cosmopolitan an incredibly problematic publication. I hope this was a case of academic laziness on Ms. Buck’s part and not just simply willful ignorance.

Noelle Burgess, Anthropology and Studio Art double major
Elizabeth Chenevey, English major, Women’s Studies minor
Alex Davenport, Justice Studies major, Communication Studies minor
Mitch Hobza, English major, Women’s Studies minor
Emily Meyers, History major, Women’s Studies minor
Katie O’Connell, International Affairs major, Women’s Studies minor

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So it is Thursday of GayMU week, and today is the Day of Silence.  More info can be found here, it is an effort involving students aimed to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.  People have entered into conversations about what good silence does, what can it draw attention to, and in response I want to offer this:

Friday night: a woman who graduated a year ago is coming to visit, she was, in many ways, my mentor.  Our walk to the Blue Nile is fun, we’re just happy to hang out together, to grab some drinks and to listen to some cool bands.  After the show, we talk to my housemates.  Where are we going to go?  What should we do?  We just want to hang out a little longer.

We decide to go to a house show, so we have to walk a little down 42.  It’s a little past 10 pm, and both of us have walked down this road several times; we could almost walk to the house in our sleep.  We had never had a problem.

When we were about a block from the show  a car drove by:
“Get some!”
and we were sprayed with a water gun.

We were stunned.  What was in that water gun?

After we figured out that we had been sprayed with water we continued to walk to the house.  As the drops of water  dried our conversation was more stunted than before, there were more furtive glances whenever a car rolled by.

As we were listening to the music I tried to not think, but couldn’t really help it.  How did three people have different reactions to us?  We’re gay, straight & hooking up, and people who deserve to be sprayed with water?  It doesn’t make sense.

My night wasn’t ruined, but it definitely was not as enjoyable as I had hoped it would be.   As I continued to think about what had happened the thought that kept reoccurring was that it didn’t make sense.  But that’s the thing about street harassment is that it doesn’t make sense.

I’m still not sure how it would have been good to respond.  I am never sure about how to respond to harassment; either when I am being harassed, or when I witness it happening.    It’s easy to respond with a quick flick of the finger, or a counter yell, but it is also easy to put my head down and not say anything at all.

And that is the point.  Too often nothing gets said, people are denied a voice; and harassment is allowed to continue.

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Today was the first day of GayMU week (a week put on by Madison Equality–JMU’s LGBTQA student group).  It is a week designed to bring awareness to issues important to the queer community and help start a dialogue around queer issues on JMU’s campus.  In honor of GayMU week I want to reblog a post from my friends over at Shout Out! JMU.

Happy GayMU Week!

As the title implies, the above is an Irish advertisement depicting a group of teens standing up for their gay classmate while he’s being bullied. The 4-minute advert does a spectacular job emphasizing the power people wield when they ban together to fight a similar cause.

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It has been…over two months since I last blogged, and I swear I have a good explanation, really!  I’ve been in the middle of my senior thesis, which has actually been going quite well; but has also wreaked havoc on things like blogging.  All of that to say, though, I am back!

Today I wanted to talk about an event the JMU Republicans put on called “The Failures of Feminism.”  You can read about the event at The Breeze‘s website, here, and actually, please do, because what I’ll be saying is in direct response to that article.

Okay!  So, first, let me say that I am sure Kate Obenshain is someone who I could talk to at a cocktail party, or an art opening, or some other place where I could engage in small talk.
This painting is a really neat critique of the utopian ideal.
I agree, you know, it’s probably commenting on how feminism is currently ruining society!
So maybe not…But really I am sure I could talk to her; but I absolutely hate her politics.

So, a lot about what Obenshain said made me mad, but I wanted to focus on one thing specifically:

What do you think nice Christian girls feel getting onto campus and seeing the LGBT-whatever banner?” Obenshain asked. “These girls need support.”

Really, Mrs. Obenshain?  Christian girls need support?  I would agree with her if she was criticizing the patriarchal pressure inherent in hook-up culture, but according to her that is the Feminists fault.  No, Christian girls need support because of the LGBT-whatever banner.”

First, it is not LGBT-whatever.  It can be LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQQA, LGBTQIQA; the acronym can be many things but it all stands for people who have been represed because of their sexual orientations and/or gender and/or sex identities.  And a lot of the time that oppression has occurred at the hands of Christians.

Second, and less of a rant, JMU has 24 Christian organizations on campus, and 2 organizations aimed directly towards the Queer community (their are about 6 feminist organizations, including those 2).    So, I would say, there is plenty of support for young women who are Christians on JMU’s campus.  Many of the Christian organizations, if not all, have something like a women’s Bible study where Christian women are both encouraged and trained as leaders.  All of that to say, Obenshain’s claim just doesn’t hold water.  Christian women are getting support, and to suggest that the spectre of queer people (supported by 2 organizations) would somehow necessitate Christian women getting more support is simply preposterous.  AND (this is a huge and by the way) Obenshain assumes that young women who are Christians will not also be queer, so we are left to assume that by “Christian” she means: “neo-Conservative, Right Wing, Socially Conservative, heterosexual women.”  Those are a lot of qualifiers.

Finally, I just want to end with a final point.  Obenshain has a lot to thank feminism for.  Why is she able to be taken seriously as a political figure?  Why is she allowed to vote?  To appear on TV as a credible commentator?  To speak in the public sphere?  The answer is feminism.

Yes feminism does have failures, at times organizations have neglected certain groups, have fed into systems of oppression, maybe certain feminists could even be said to have hurt the cause of Women’s Liberation.  But the attitude in which this critique was offered, and the blatant patriarchy which was embraced is, to be kind, not helpful; but sadly not something I am particularly surprised at.

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