Final Thoughts

Looking back on the past semester I have been subject to many different topics, some that were right on track with my own thoughts and some that forced me to really think. Overall, I think my ideas and beliefs have not been changed by this women’s studies class, but rather it has encouraged me to do a better job standing up for what I believe in.

A big part of the feminist movement is coming together and utilizing the power of voice to achieve a common goal as I talked about in my previous blog Iron Jawed Angels; I believe that this is a lesson everyone can learn whether or not they are a feminist. Everyone has the power to make a huge difference in the world and the first step is making your voice be heard.

One topic that struck me hard was the topic of sweatshops. I remember learning about sweatshops in elementary school and middle school when we learned about the immigrants coming to America and shortly after the start the Industrial Revolution. I thought with the modernization of America that was the end of the story for sweatshops, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Little did I know that they are happening all around the United States and they span throughout the rest of the world.  In my blog 100 years later, has anything changed? I read two articles on sweatshops, one in New York that happened over 100 years ago, then at a more recent one in Bangladesh last year.  Each one tolled more than 100 deaths due to unsafe working conditions that were known and could have easily been fixed. In a more recent blog, Sweatshops in America, I focused on the United States to see if we still had sweatshops. Sadly the answer is yes, but the only good thing is that they are not necessarily the same as they once were. Maybe, by bringing this issue back into focus, we will be able to make even greater strides to obliterating any sign left of sweatshops.

This class has really made me open my eyes to see the problems of the world and has encouraged me to make a difference. Whether it just results in an inner change or one that makes an impact on the world, it will make a difference! Now get out there and do something, stand up for a cause you believe in. Don’t just sit back and watch the world change, go out and do it yourself.

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Project Girl

Project Girl Performance Collective is a way for girls to find their voice. In 2008, Project Girl was founded by Ashley Marianaccio and Elizabeth Koke. The two decided to start this project after auditioning for a festival that focused on the importance of women’s work in the theater.

The Project Girl website explains this project more in depth. Their mission is to “use theater as a vehicle to empower young women to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders while exploring their own challenging circumstances.” (Girl Be Heard) The program allows girls to actively be a part of the whole process. Girls are allowed to submit their own work, such as written stories or songs, and as a group the girls will turn it into a production.

Currently the Girl Be Heard group consists of over a dozen females. The group holds auditions each year for 12-21 year olds. The girls can audition by preparing “a short written piece about [their] life or anything that shows who [they] are and the issues [they] care about”. Isabella Olaguera, a member since 2011 said, “I hope to inspire others through my work with Girl Be Heard and voice issues that are relevant to girls both nearby and worldwide.” (Girl Be Heard)

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(The Girl Be Heard group)

The next production from this group will take place in June. They will premiere 9mm America, the show “explores America’s culture of violence as it affects ten young women. A documentary theatre piece devised from direct experience with gangs on the streets of East New York to the shooting death of a sibling in Boston, 9mm America is a call to action to demand an end to gun violence.” (Girl Be Heard)

This group helps highlight the importance of coming together to stand up for what you believe in. Chances are there are many people who can benefit from your voice. If you believe in what you do and you stand by it, amazing thing can and will happen. Just look at Ashley and Elizabeth. The two came together with an idea they believed in and now they have a nationally recognized organization that travels all over the country to perform.

In the video above and all over the Girl Be Heard website, and even in their name, you see the main point of this whole thing and what we each should strive for, the opportunity to give a voice to those who don’t have one or to those who cannot be heard.

Source:

Girl Be Heard (n.d.). Retrieved from http://girlbeheard.org/

Field Trip #2: SLENZ Birthing Unit

For the second filed trip for my online class, I decided to visit the SLENZ birthing unit in Second Life. After first entering this site, we had to find the resource pack to help us navigate and understand the destination. The first thing we had to do was explore the five scenes that played out the pregnancy and birthing of Lisa and her baby with the help of her midwife. I chose to focus on scene 5, which takes place after the baby has already been born. The scene focuses on the care of the new mother, making sure she and the baby are comfortable. I think that the most important part of this scenario is making sure everyone is happy and healthy. The mother is without her husband because he is away on business, so I think if I were her I would be very grateful to have a midwife to help make sure everything is going smoothly and that I was being the best mother possible to my newborn.

I think the idea of role playing childbirth scared me a bit at first. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this birthing unit. After exploring the site a little bit I think this was a helpful site, but I also believe that child birth is one of those cases where nothing, other than the real thing, will ever compare.

I was a bit surprised by the setup of the birthing room. In my mind I pictured a room similar to that of a hospital room, but this was nothing like that. When I first entered the room, I was met by a sitting area and a bathroom, and then down a little hallway I came to the main room. In the main room there is a huge tub and a big, comfy bed. In the other corners of the room are a large L shaped couch and a smaller sitting area. I think that the seating areas are something you would probably find in US maternity hospitals. Along the far wall are sliding doors that lead out to a large patio surrounded by a garden, then water just beyond that. I would expect this kind of setting much more from a vacation resort. The room had a very relaxed feel and as a result I would think it would make the whole process a bit easier. I think the only thing that would be a little worrisome to me if I were an expecting mother, would be the seeming lack of medical technology. The room has all the basic necessities, I would just be a little worried that if something major would go wrong, I might not have the immediate attention I would need.birthing room_001

While exploring I found a few green boxes that when clicked on would provide information. The one I found most interesting was the one located in the garden outside the birthing room. The garden was said to make the women feel safe and uninhibited. I personally would not have thought of this aspect, but it makes perfect sense. It would provide a calming surrounding amidst the emotions and eventfulness that takes place inside. This is something that I wouldn’t expect to find in your typical maternity hospital, especially in the US.

In one of the corners of the room there is a large bathtub. The bathtub is used to help with labor and some may opt to have a water birth. I think because it is so big, there are some dangers, but as long as its use is being monitored I don’t see any major concerns. In one of the other corners there is a rope, which is said to help “increase efficiency of labor and to rotate the baby into optimal positions for birth.”

I don’t find the birthing center particularly welcoming to fathers, but there is quite a bit of space and lots of seating areas which makes it much more welcoming than a typical hospital room would feel. I think there is just a major focus on the woman, as there should be when she is in labor, and I think by default that just makes it less welcoming for the father.

This was a very different experience. The site was obviously well thought out and very informational. I think it is definitely a place to explore in Second Life: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Kowhai/145/117/32.

Sweatshops in America

Are there still sweatshops in America? Sadly, the answer is yes.

In Breinigsville, Pennsylvania Amazon.com has a major packing and shipping facility. The warehouse is a very important part of Amazon.com’s business because the warehouse “is located within a days drive from a third of the U.S. and Canadian population. It is how Amazon.com can deliver goods so quickly to a huge chunk of the country.” (Tabea, 2012) The warehouse is great for the company, but not so much for its workers. In the summer the temperature of the warehouse soars over 110 degrees. One of the employees quit and describe conditions of “blistering heat, fellow employees passing out, and, to add insult to dangerous heat rash, poor treatment from management.”(Tabea, 2012) The whole time Amazon.com knew of the awful conditions, but instead of trying to fix it, “they arranged to have an ambulance sit outside to treat anyone who fell ill.” (Tabea, 2012)

In New York City, Alexander Wang, fashion designer, was hit with a hefty lawsuit of $50 million. Wenyu Lu used to sew clothes for Alexander Wang, but after working “25 hours continuously without break or overtime pay in an unventilated, windowless part of Wang’s New York City design firm, he was ultimately fired after voicing his complaints to management and filing for worker’s compensation.” (Leake, 2011) In the article, the author makes a very good point, saying that even though clothes have a “Made in the USA” tag; people shouldn’t assume that the workers behind it are working under any better conditions than workers somewhere else.

In one of my previous blogs, 100 years later, has anything changed?, I focused on two sweatshops, one in Manhattan and one in Bangladesh. The one in Manhattan occurred over 100 years ago and the more recent one in Bangladesh. Although, I knew that working conditions in America are not perfect, I didn’t expect them to be as primitive as they are. After all this time it is surprising to me that there are still this many issues with working in America today. Thankfully in the examples I used of the sweatshops today, there were no documented deaths and overall they seem safer than many examples of the past, but that does not mean they are acceptable.

Sweatshops are a reality in America today. They are not as obvious today, because we typically do not see mass casualties or anything of that magnitude. It is important that things continue to improve for America’s workforce and that even the little things do not go unnoticed.

Sources:

Tabea, K. (2012, March 29).Ethical Style: There Are Still Sweatshops in America. Retrieved from http://www.good.is/posts/ethical-style-there-are-still-sweatshops-in-america

Leake, T. (2011, October 11). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taylor-leake/sweatshops-in-america_b_983977.html

The Death of Birth and Invisible Work

Death of Birth

According to Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist, we are experiencing the “death of birth.” Shiva compared biotechnology to the Green Revolution saying, “Biotechnology is working on precisely the same linear path. The Green Revolution was about selling more chemicals. Biotechnology is also about selling more chemicals. You can make this out by looking at the two dominant applications of the technology to the commercialization of crops.” (Barsamian, 2002) The “death of birth” is being caused by all the supposed improvements that are being brought to farming, such as globalization and hybrid seed, when in fact; many are only contributing to more problems in Shiva’s eyes.

The changes in the way farming is working is bringing impoverishment upon the farmers to the point where they are committing suicide. In a specific example Shiva mentions, she discusses when she began to hear about farmers committing suicide. In Andhra Pradesh, the farmers began to “shift from staples and ecological agriculture done with no purchased inputs to cash crops like cotton, which overtook 99 percent of these regions since globalization started to change [their] agriculture.” (Barsamian, 2002) Now the farmers have to use expensive hybrid seeds and extreme amounts of pesticides over their traditional methods. The farmers and communities in India are losing power to stronger countries and corporations who are creating agricultural monopolies.

Although, as Shiva pointed out, there are some issues with globalization, for many people it has been good. We are able to produce foods at higher rates and create new and more adaptable crops, among other things, but it is important to look at the whole picture, not just the here and now, because these advancements could easily get out of control.

Invisible Work

According to Marilyn Waring, an activist and politician, women are often invisible workers. One of Waring’s major examples comes from women doing dungwork. In many parts of the world dung is used as “fertilizer, a primary source of cooking fuel and is also used as a building material and plaster.” (Waring, 1997)

An excerpt from Waring’s article explains an example of the invisible work of women.

“Making dung cakes to be used as fuel appears to me to be an entire manufacturing process, with clear inputs and outputs of an economic nature. In mining or gas extraction, for example, paid workers harvest the primary resource. Machines transport it to processing plants. The raw material is refined, the product manufactured. It is sold, then consumed. The traditional economic model is followed: workers process raw materials for the market. This counts. But when dung, the “non-product,” is carried as a “service” by “housewives,” to sustain land, dwellings, and households, then, according to the economic model, nothing happens. There is no economic activity. But dungwork is only women’s work, so it is a safe assumption that in the official definitions of productive work it will be invisible.”

Waring goes to point out that in some countries drying dung and turning it into sellable products is considered work and is marketed, but when a women does the same thing it is not. The processes used are similar, the products are similar, and the use is similar, but from an economic standpoint they are two very different entities.

To Waring and myself this is very puzzling. The work of women such as the ones described above is essential to these communities. Without their input their lives would not be the same, but instead of being classified as workers, they are unemployed and therefore not a part of our economy. By doing this we are leaving out a very real, very important section that should not continue to go invisible.

 

Sources:

Barsamian, D. (2002). Monocultures of the Mind, and interview with Vandana Shiva. Retrieved from https://carmen.osu.edu/d2l/lms/content/viewer/view.d2l?tId=5291506&ou=10770258

Waring, M. (1997). The invisibility of women’s work; the economics of local and global “bullshit.” Retrieved from https://carmen.osu.edu/d2l/lms/content/viewer/view.d2l?tId=5291506&ou=10770258

Environmental Racism

Recently the environment has become a hot topic in our society. There has been a huge push to go green coming from celebrities, the media, etc. Many people think they are fairly knowledgeable about the environment, as I had thought, but I had never heard about environmental racism before.

If you are anything like me, you may be wondering yourself what is environmental racism? Environmental racism is “the process whereby environmental decisions, actions, and policies result in racial discrimination or the creation of racial advantages. It arises from the interaction of three factors: (1) prejudicial belief and behavior, (2) the personal and institutional power to enact policies and actions that reflect one’s own prejudices, and (3) privilege, unfair advantages over others and the ability to promote one’s group over another.” (Taylor, 2011)

In the 80s environmental campaigns began popping up as people of color pushed to “prevent the poisoning of farm workers with pesticides; lead poisoning in inner-city children; the sting of noxious facilities-landfills.” (Taylor, 2011) These campaigns prompted some research and it was discovered that “people of color were more likely to live close to hazardous waste sites and facilities than whites.” (Taylor, 2011)

To get a better understanding of environmental racism, I did some research on specific examples. After looking at nationwide ones, I narrowed into Ohio. East Liverpool, Ohio, is a town above the Ohio River, and “is home to the highest cancer rate in Ohio.” Waste Technologies Industries, is a large toxic waste incinerator, whose smokestacks sit at the same level as homes and businesses in the area. The toxins emitted are known to be cancer causing and yet the company is 100% legal. The people living in the direct vicinity are “near the poverty line and few can afford to move.” (Earth Day Coalition, 2011)Image

It is scary to think that even being fully aware of the health issues, a company would be allowed to continue. The people of East Liverpool had no say in the matter and their children and themselves are having to grow up in conditions that anyone in their right mind would chose not to, but because of their financial conditions they cannot leave. Just because they have a lower income should not mean that we can let their lives be so obviously harmed.

Our country has made tremendous advancements over the last few decades, bettering the lives of our nations people should be at the forefront, the minority groups should not be targets of environmental racism just because it seems like an easier solution.

Sources:

Earth Day Coalition. (2011). Environmental justice. Retrieved from http://www.earthdaycoalition.org/content/environmental-justice

Taylor, D. (2011). Environmental racism. Retrieved from http://www.pollutionissues.com/Ec-Fi/Environmental-Racism.html

Gates Takes Stance on Contraceptives that Opposes Religion

In Melinda Gates’ video interview on contraception, she explains the position she is taking and why she believes it is an important issue. Melinda Gates’ goal in pushing for education and availability of contraception is because, as she said, “I believe in not letting women die, I believe in not letting babies die, and to me that’s more important than arguing about what method of contraception [is right].” Gates, a practicing Catholic, says she struggled with this part of her faith, whether to hold on to the value of natural contraception or, as she said, to “keep women alive.” Although I agree with this position, that the important thing is the protection of life, as is central to the Catholic teaching, I disagree with her in some of the major points she presents.

To begin, Gates points out the Catholic teaching of contraception as the use of natural family planning, but then she goes to say that the main focus is to get modern contraceptives to women because “we know those have the most impact.” However, as is obvious, the most impactful form of contraception is abstinence, as the Catholic Church teaches and should not be overlooked just because of modern advances.

Although, part of me agrees that the use of contraceptives should be something women are informed about and should have the choice in how to best keep them safe, I also believe that it is important to make sure they are aware of all sides of the argument. A major portion of Melinda Gates’ argument is that modern contraceptives are safer than the traditional ones; however, I do not believe that this is the case. As we see in commercials all the time, modern contraceptives are hardly side effect free. Some women have been known to have terrible complications due to the use of contraceptives and we even know that they are not always 100% effective. The reason Melinda is targeting many of these women is because they are Catholic and believe in the teachings of the Church, including natural family planning. I think for these women the best idea is not to come in and teach them about modern contraceptives, but rather focus on what natural family planning is and the most effective way for them to stay true to what they believe. I also believe that this is not solely a female issue. In Gates’ interview, males in the Catholic Church are brought into question. Gates thinks the women should have the choice to make the decision, but family is a very important part of the Catholic Church and having a child is part of being a family, so I believe that male’s opinions in this case are indeed warranted.

From this interview, I would have to say that the position Melinda Gates is taking is not just one that involves women, but brings in religion, especially pertaining to the Catholic Church. She is not just trying to raise awareness of the benefits of contraceptives in the modern world; to me it seems as if she is trying to change the minds of a group very faithful to their religion, which somewhat troubles me as she says she is also a strong believer. I think her stance should be education rather than setting a quota for the number of women she will bring contraceptives to.

 

 

 

Source:

Hooda, S. (2012). Melinda Gates Disagrees with Vatican on Contraception at London Family Planning Summit (video). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/melinda-gates-disagrees-with-vatican_n_1665160.html

La Leche League and Feminist Views on Breastfeeding

Jacqueline H. Wolf wrote the article What Feminists Can Do for Breastfeeding and What Breastfeeding Can Do for Feminists to discuss breastfeeding and the different views of it. In a portion of her article she focuses her attention on the La Leche League (LLL). The La Leche League is, “an educational organization espousing ‘mothering through breastfeeding’ [that] began in a Chicago suburb in 1956.” Wolf argues that the source of friction between the La Leche League and feminist critiques is the, “prominence of LLL in the breastfeeding world has made some feminists wary about taking a stance.” The La Leche League quickly grew in membership and “overshadowed other organizations to become the face of breastfeeding promotion in the United States.”

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Even though a great portion of American mothers also worked outside of the home the LLL was able to grow rapidly. The LLL’s advice to women was considered radical in the 1950s as they pushed for separation from doctors to bring mothers and babies together, which preceded feminist ideas by two decades. And by the time feminists began to push for changes in women’s medicine, the LLL was “rebuffing feminist aspirations by urging mothers to stay home with children.”

Although, I do think that conflict between two prominent groups can have negative effects on the topic at hand, I think that concerning the low rate of breastfeeding today this conflict is not the leading cause. Rather than the conflict between La Leche League and feminists, I think the leading cause of the low rate of breastfeeding today is due to the lack of knowledge in our country. As Wolf pointed out earlier in her article, many doctors are very unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding and that translates on to mothers. Often times new mothers heavily lie on information presented to them by the person they consider the medical expert and if that medical expert is not relaying on enough information because they themselves are not fully informed on the topic of breastfeeding then they do not take the personal responsibility to figure it out for themselves. I think another major factor of the low rates is the fast paced society we live in. With the cost of living continuing to rise many women need to work to afford their lifestyle so that makes breastfeeding difficult once the women return to work. Finally, I think a major impact is how simple it is for women to just feed their babies using a formula rather than taking the time to breastfeed. Formula is readily available, quick and easy, and you don’t need the mother to do it.

If women were able to get the complete information on the benefits of breastfeeding, I believe that the rates would greatly increase and we would not see the same conflict between the two groups.

 

Sources:

Wolf, Jacqueline H. (2006). What feminists can do for breastfeeding and what breastfeeding can do for feminists. Journal of Women in Culture & Society. University of Chicago. PDF.

Parkes, K. (2012, June 4). La leche league international. Retrieved from http://www.llli.org/

Domestic Violence

“Imagine you are an Ohio woman with three children who is living in a dangerously violent household. You don’t have a job. You don’t have family living close. What are your options?”

Personally, this is a really hard scenario for me to imagine, but sadly it is a reality for far too many people.

If I were in this situation, I think it would be really hard to leave because I would be worried about the safety of myself and more importantly my children, as there is a great risk of  he violence following us. However, I think that the most important step we could take would be to get as far away as possible and as quickly as possible, because if we stayed there would be no chance of getting away from the violence. As soon as I realized that the household was violent, I would begin planning to leave. I would pack up necessities, but not make it obvious so we could make a quick and unnoticed getaway. One day when the man is out, preferably when I know it will be a while before he comes back, I will pack up the kids and get as far away as possible.

So what are your options? First, you have to decide how you want to break away from the violence, and for me I would choose to leave the situation entirely behind. Next, where would you go from there? You could take legal action, find a job, try to make your way back to family, or find a women’s shelter.

I think the first thing I would do after I have left would be to contact my family, parents, siblings, or close relatives that might be able to help,  and make them aware of the situation. Since I don’t have a job, the next step would be quite difficult. I can’t just carry on my life with my children as normal because we wouldn’t have an income or a designated ‘home’. Ultimately this time would be very difficulty. We would be starting over with basically nothing, but there is no way I should be in a violent relationship and not a chance that I want my children to be stuck in that situation. So I would start looking for jobs, anything I could do to make our lives as comfortable as possible. I think it would be very important for me to have some support, I would talk to family regularly and possible even get some counseling to help deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with this trauma. It is fairly easy to get some form of counseling, but finding one that fits well with your family is the bigger challenge. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a great place to get started.

This situation is extremely difficult, but it is extremely important to get away from the violence, it should not be tolerated at all. Money should not keep you in a violent relationship, but as always it is a factor, so you should try to plan ahead by saving money whenever you can and finding a job.

Above all, it is important to not put up with domestic violence. When in doubt ask someone you really trust for help, you will be surprised how willing people are to help.

Tough Guys

“Tough Guise” is a documentary focusing on how society has shaped males. The focus is on the violence in masculinity and how we have come to see that as the social norm.

The title, “Tough Guise,” is a play on words, as the main focus is on the male stigma of being a tough guy. Guise is an appearance or front put on, basically a disguise.

Jackson Katz goes on to explain the effects of the constructed violent masculinity as the social norm.  “85% of murders are committed by men. 90% of violent physical assaults are done by men. 95% of domestic violence is attributed to males.” The trauma of this violence is not only felt by women, but also men.  School shootings are typically done by males and as Jackson Katz points out, it is not just violence that the crimes should be attributed to, but rather violent masculinity. He points out that many of the shooters didn’t feel “masculine” enough on their own, so to prove that they were just as masculine they resorted to gun violence, which is often times portrayed as another sign of masculinity in media. Movies and television shows teach us that power and control merit respect and that the ability to scare people

In the past few decades images of males and figurines have grown in size drastically. If you look at Star Wars figurines from the 1970s and compare them to ones from the 1990s you would notice a big difference. Similar to the Star Wars ones, GI Joe’s biceps have grown from 12.2” in 1964 to 26.8” in 1998. In thirty four years his biceps grew 14.6”, more than doubling in size. To translate that into reality, Mark McGwire, who is someone we would consider to be physically strong, has only 20” biceps. If you look at the image below, you can see that his biceps are huge, now just imagine adding 6.8” to his circumference and you can see how deceiving the figurines and images are to males. They think that they need to match up to the way “real men” are portrayed in our society, when in actuality it is not even real.

 

Mark McGwire

Not only has the image of males changes, but the imagery of guns have grown with it. If you go through time and look at movies, etc. you will see that guns started off small in entertainment and have grown to the “normal” extreme as seen in movies such as The Terminator where not only is Arnold Schwarzenegger toting a gun in each had, but they are massive. And now, not only are the guns doing the killing, but Schwarzenegger’s body has become a killing machine too.

It is impossible to say that this does not impact our society, especially our vulnerable youth who are pushed more and more to fall into our “social norms.” We, as a society, should not be condoning this violent masculinity, but rather encouraging individuality and welcoming the differences.

TruetotheBlue (2012). Mark McGwire Close to Becoming Dodgers Hitting Coach, Retrieved from http://truetotheblue81.blogspot.com/2012/11/mark-mcgwire-close-to-becoming-dodgers.html.

Jackson, K (1999). Tough Guise. Retrieved from http://drm.osu.edu/media.