Friday, August 15, 2014

What We've Been Reading- 8/15

             As we all know “selfies” are a big part of social media and pop culture, and many people see them as narcissistic way to get people to tell them how good they look or as a way for people to judge one another. However, in an article written by Time they examine how women are now turning selfies into a “new kind of empowerment.” For example, Teenage singer Lorde recently posted a selfie in bed with acne-cream on her face and many other celebrities are posting pictures of themselves making silly faces where they are emphasizing their own imperfections. The author, Jessica Bennett, also posted a list of nine ways that selfies are empowering women, including “Selfies Push Back Against Traditional Beauty Norms” and “Selfies Give Girls Control.” A recent survey by Dove found 63% of women believe social media, over print, film, or music, have the biggest impact on the definition of beauty. Bennett says that because teenage girls and young women use social media more than men, women  and girls now have more control over the way beauty is defined in our culture. Selfies, Bennett says “force us to see ourselves.. to celebrate what we look like- flaws and all.”

Jessica Valenti at The Guardian wrote about a subject not many women are eager to publicly talk about: feminine hygiene. Even though every woman goes through “that time of the month”, getting your period has such a stigma around it; women often don’t feel comfortable talking about their period (even saying the word out loud is awkward!). But why is this?
Valentin reports: “Gloria Steinem wrote that if men got periods, they ‘would brag about how long and how much’: that boys would talk about their menstruation as the beginning of their manhood, that there would be ‘gifts, religious ceremonies’ and sanitary supplies would be ‘federally funded and free’.”
The social stigma that menstrual periods are dirty and should not be discussed makes it difficult for women who cannot afford the necessary products, like tampons and pads, to get access to them. Food stamps do not cover tampons and pads, forcing some low income women to sell their food stamps in order to buy feminine hygiene products, which the federal government considers “luxuries”. Women in jail also find it difficult to get access to these products as well, even though there are many women in jail, who all get their periods once a month.
Furthermore, the stigma affects young women who are uneducated about feminine hygiene to get informed. Sanitation products are necessary for girls to participate in school, but when they do not have access to affordable products, they must miss school for a week, every month. The UN and Human Rights Watch have “linked menstrual hygiene to human rights”. UNICEF believes 10% of African girls miss school due to lack of access and knowledge of sanitary products. Several charities have begun initiatives to provide products in third world countries, though so long as there is this social stigma regarding menstrual periods, these initiatives will be far and few between.
Like Steinem wrote, if men had their periods, it would be a subject that no boy would feel ashamed bringing up, sanitary products would not be nearly as expensive, and every boy would educated about their menstrual period. For women, the opposite is true. We need to change the talk regarding sanitary products; why shouldn’t female sanitary products be free? Half the population needs access to them every month. The fact that they are not covered for low income people, heavily taxed, and not available to those in jail, is unnerving. Valenti sums up the situation well: “the high cost of a product that half the population needs multiple times a day, every month for approximately 30 years, is simply, well, bullshit.”

Sexist, Misogynistic Tweet by the “Progressive” Bill Maher- Emily Schacter
Short but sweet: Amanda Marcotte, writer at Slate Magazine, wrote a brief but extremely important article pointing out a sexist tweet written by supposedly progressive political commentator. The tweet, as shown below, makes fun of and belittles domestic violence.

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First of all, comparing Hamas to a “crazy woman” is a very inappropriate simile that only makes Maher look bad. In a society where women are described as “crazy” for practically any statement or action driven by the least bit of emotion or passion, the comparison is preposterous.
Marcotte notes that “he’s also trading on the tired stereotype of women as irrational children
who need to be brought in line by more stable men.” Exactly right.

The second part of his tweet appropriates domestic violence, as he says that one “must” slap a woman if she will not cooperate or back down. Marcotte points out that “the “who’s trying to kill u” part of the tweet [is] a nice bit of ass-covering that turns domestic violence into self-defense.” He turns the situation around so that the blame is on the woman, per usual. His phrasing therefore insinuates that violence will always be the default when dealing with “crazy” women. This situation is reflective of very real domestic violence that occurs within the United States: One in
every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime; An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year; and 85% of domestic violence victims are women (NCADV). His ignorance is truly disturbing.
Maher’s tweet is also reflective of an underlying misogynistic attitude and sexist belief system in countless men. What is surprising to me is that it’s coming from a supposedly very progressive political commentator. While he may claim to be progressive, and may even be/sound progressive in some ways, this sexist tweet shows something quite different. Even
the most “progressive” or “liberal” people will still continue to use hurtful, demeaning stereotypes to describe women, and even more seriously, joke about violence against women.
For more information:
Statistics on Domestic Violence: