Monday, April 26, 2010


Perhaps you heard about this piece of juvenile humor that quickly became an international media issue. By dressing immodestly, whatever that means for each individual, people are drawing attention to the oppression of women and responding to the ridiculous claims of Iranian senior cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi that "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

I don't think it is anything new to blame promiscuity for social problems, but to blame immodest women for a natural phenomenon crosses way too many lines to be ignored. Blogger Jen McCreight proposed a experiment wherein women would dress immodestly to see if there was an upsurge in tectonic movement. I do not see this as a science experiment, but as a social display that the constant scapegoating of women and in turn the shaming of their choices is unacceptable.

This is not oppressive to women despite the likely ogling that will occur because no woman is being pressured to wear anything she would not already wear, but is making a choice to participate in social critique. While I wish something more radical and structural was being done to combat these ludicrous claims, if a woman is standing up for choice, that is a feminist action. While there are certainly different feminisms and not all women will choose to participate, there should be no "slut-shaming" because that is just as oppressive as blaming women for earthquakes or blaming them for crime.

Women have a right to dress how they choose to without outrageous judgment.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sad Day for Arizona

Arizona has long rested in my mind as utopia - a state with blissfully dry heat, majestic cacti, howling coyotes, juicy citrus, and the cavernous and breath-taking Grand Canyon. Arizona can bathe you in warm sun, or you can drive into the mountains near Flagstaff and it can immerse you in chilly mountain air. Arizona has it all - temperature on both sides of the spectrum, silly birds that run around, orange trees in the backyard, and gorgeous scenery. Sure there is a serious lack of grass, but you can get used to a gravel lawn; you can even paint your gravel green and you have your own field!

Yesterday Governor Brewer signed a ridiculous immigration bill which will allow for blatant racial profiling. I am really hoping Obama acts on his negative opinion of the bill and uses some of his executive power to reverse it, because there is no way this bill can act without racism.

The bill orders immigrant to carry their papers at all times and allows police to request papers when someone looks like an illegal immigrant. What exactly does an illegal immigrant look like? What is the largest immigrant population in Arizona?

The US has some odd obsession with policing its borders, but goes haywire over keeping undocumented Latinos out. This bill will not be able to resist racial profiling because the immigrants they are concerned about are the Spanish-speaking Mexicans who make it past the border police. Therefore, any individual who looks Latino or speaks Spanish, or more importantly "broken English" will be suspected and thus asked for documentation. How is that not racial profiling? How does that not go against civil rights?

Thousands of students are protesting the passing of this bill and I applaud them for standing up against this atrocity, and hope that the criticism of this bill will be echoed by other states.

The US has a history of choosing an immigration population it wants to limit whether that be Chinese (1882-1943) , Eastern Europeans, or East Asians. The US privileges Western European immigrants as the "founders" of America, and by limiting immigration to certain population perpetuates the idea that certain races, ethnicities, and nations are inherently inferior.

Furthermore, the US benefits from undocumented workers and thrives on the cheap, exploitable labor. Corporations can exploit an undocumented worker to a higher extent than a citizen. Immigrants do not take jobs from Americans because they take the jobs no American wants; they work in food services, care work, domestic labor, and janitorial services. The do the crappy jobs Americans don't want, and they do it for cheaper because there are not proper protective services set up because their mere presence in this country has be criminalized.

This bill reveals antiquated ideologies of race and immigration. It goes against American civil rights by encouraging racial profiling. Arizona has passed the most stringent anti-immigration law throughout the United States and by doing so has created a hostile and racist environment under the guise of "protecting the people." The claim that illegal immigrants are causing traffic incidents and harming the natural-born citizens of America is as ridiculous as the claim that immodestly dressed women are causing and uproar in earthquakes. (I wish I could get into that as well, but I only allow myself so many tangents) People need a scapegoat but their suggestions are getting more and more absurd. Immigration is not the problem people make it out to be and does not deserve perpetuating racism.

Evidently, Arizona is not the paradise I always imagined it to be.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Right to Choose

So I've decided to finally dive into that controversial mess that surrounds abortion because I am running into the issue everywhere, and am considering applying for an internship dealing with reproductive choice. We'll see what happens with that seeing as I hate committing to things and prefer to put off big life decisions much to the chagrin of myself and my parents. Anyway, here's my two cents; this is truly one of those things I could argue about for hours but I will do my best to keep this concise.

Abortion is one of the most frequently tossed around womens' issues because pregnancy belongs solely to women. I have battled with this issue over the years because there can be no denying that a life hangs in the balance. However, pro-life groups focus solely on this life that has not yet matured to a viable age, and their only concern is for the life of this fetus over everything else. Nobody is pro-abortion; nobody is out there asking all pregnant women to kill their fetuses to improve the world. What I am for however, is a woman's right to control her own body. A woman has every right to decide whether she wants to devote her body to a fetus for 9 months, and then possibly to a child for the rest of her life. A baby is a huge responsibility and not every woman is prepared to handle that - she has a right to make that decision.

Encouraging adoption over abortion does not eliminate the fact that this woman is going to be greatly affected for the next 9 months of her life, and it is her decision whether or not she wants her life to change. There has been a debate on my favorite Feministing blog lately over the "Abortion Changes You" ads in NY which elicited a blogger's critique of Feministing over their support for abortion out of convenience. The women at Feministing replied the same way I do - why shouldn't women get abortions out of convenience?! Isn't it a woman's right to choose her education and career options and to prioritize her life goals? Shouldn't that mean she can decide when and if she wants to have a child? It is not necessarily a question of whose life is worth more, but whether she wants to compromise her life for a fetus she does not want. A woman has a right to her own chance at self-improvement instead of falling into a dead-end job because instead of going to college she has to take care of a baby.

At my university in the fall there was a huge anti-choice display in the mall area comparing abortion to the genocide of the Jews in WWII with graphic pictures of fetuses and concentration camps. This was an outrage. I do not know what groups were in charge of this display, but it was offensive to Holocaust (and indeed any genocide) survivors and their families, women who had abortions, and people like myself who realized their assertion was unfounded and disgusting. Genocide, as defined by the genocide convention after WWII, is defined as the purposeful extermination of a portion of a population based on ethnicity, race, religion, etc. The definition has its complexities, but in no interpretation can abortion be seen as genocide. So not only was I offended by the grotesque images I was subjected to, but also by their false assumptions.

If you want to argue abortion is murder, I can accept that. However, murder is truly not the issue at hand, the issue in question is a woman's control of her own body. Nobody can regulate the rest of her bodily functions or what she choose to put in or take out of her body. A woman can crash diet, she can get plastic surgery, she can choose to live off of McDonald's, she can use tampons, she can give blood, she can take vitamins, she can use birth control, she can take fertility treatments. If nothing else about her body is regulated and fought over, why can she not decide to have a baby or not without being vilified and condemned? A woman has the right to be able to choose what to do with her body, and she has the right to legal and safe abortions. Pathologizing abortion will only force it underground where more blood will be shed, so even the "value of life" argument falls short.

While there are valid points to the pro-life faction, there is a difference between being pro-life, and being anti-choice. Thinking about ending the life of an individual, even of a partially developed fetus, makes me queasy. I do not support violence or murder; I am pro-life. When it comes to abortion however, I am pro-choice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nom nom nom

I wanted to supplement my earlier post about my move towards organic/sustainable grocery shopping. My first few days have left me very well-fed and satisfied. I have made panini caprese, and egg salad sandwiches in an effort to use up my delicious sourdough bread before it goes stale, and both meals were absolutely fabulous. I fear I may have too vehemently condemned the prevalence of boxed/frozen food in American society, because it is not the fault of the consumers, but of the larger corporations that run our society that our groceries have made this shift.

Realistically, most people have busy lives. I know in my own family between kids school, sports and activities, college, work, church, homework etc, there was very little time left for us to spend together at all, let alone to make and eat dinner together. Having more commitments means more needs to happen in spare time, or that you need to be more efficient to create more spare time at all. This is a capitalist concept in that you are trying to produce surplus; you want to get more out of what you put in. Under that principle, it takes less time to make a meal from a box that from scratch, so if you want to save time you should cook the prepackaged meal.

This was marketed towards us, make no mistake. There are corporations behind everything suggesting the best choices to make. Corporations decide that prepackaged meals are cheaper than individual ingredients and they enjoy the profits. So although there is certainly consumer choice involved in the matter, there is a reason so many people choose to eat out of a box. I maintain most of those foods will not taste as good as homemade ones, but sometimes we have to compromise - time and price for quality.

I do not condemn people for not making a move towards ethical shopping because I realize in our capitalist society we want more bang for our buck. Maybe your bottom line is that you can get more food at Cub than the co-op for the same amount of money. You would not be alone; Americans are raised to be good, patriotic, capitalists after all. My point is there is a trade-off by making that choice (because it is a choice) and each person has to weigh their own concerns.

I have come to the conclusion that buying ethically and making my own food from scratch is more valuable. I have free time in my evenings and enjoy spending some time cooking - although my cat would prefer I spend it brushing him and he makes that very clear. My roommate made me a beautiful apron that I can wear while cooking; it may make me miss her while she flits around Europe but it's nice to think about her all the same. I hope to nurture this skill of cooking because it is one I have not paid much attention to, and I am all about learning new things! I enjoy my homemade cooking better; I have so many things in my pantry that I never feel like eating because they just aren't very good! I cannot wait to go home tonight to make some delicious mushroom and swiss quesadillas!

I will continue to critique the system and the status quo it enforces. The way food is marketed is classist and not everyone can afford to make the ethical choice. To make a true change however, there needs to be a demand by the public, and for that to happen, the people who can afford it have to make a change. If we demand ethical foods, they will be supplied and made more available. This can be seen in the growing number of vegan/vegetarian restaurants and co-ops in general. There is a growing demand for these foods and the market is responding.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Heteronormative Dichotomy

As I sit here at work too tired to concentrate on reading my French novel, I feel the need to instead write about my issues with the binary view of sexuality our society maintains as a whole. I have a whole list of issues that feminists bring up regularly that I hope to write my views on eventually, and this is one of those simply because most people have never thought about sex in a different way. Unfortunately because so many of these issues interact it is such a challenge to me to remain focused, so bear with me...

Mary Hawkesworth, a gender theorist, writes of five assumptions, which I include to show that what I am saying and thinking is backed up by the research and conclusions of others.
1. There are two and only two genders
2. Gender is invariant
3. Genitals are the essential signs of gender
4. The male/female dichotomy is natural
5. Being masculine/feminine is natural and not a matter of choice

These assumptions make up much of heteronormative thought. Heteronormativity refers to the general assumption that certain traits or choices fall a certain way because of one's biological sex. By this I mean an individual born with female genitalia is classified as a female, and is expected to be feminine and be attracted to men. This assumes that sex will match gender and sexuality, and that there is simply a right way for these three to interact. Not only is there a right way to connect the dots, but there are only two choices - male is to female as masculine is to feminine.

Sex is not gender. Sex is biological; gender is a social construct. Nothing exists that is inherently feminine, but society makes it so. There is no reason for girls to like pink and play with Barbies and for boys to like blue and play with Tonka trucks but we raise children that way. We reduce sex to equal gender and we reduce these categories to a dichotomous relationship. Instead of accepting infants are born with a variety of genitalia, people expect only two choices labeling those who differ as inter-sex or hermaphroditic. When a child is born whose outsides do not conform to one of two choices, some parents opt for gender-reassignment surgery and simply choose a sex for their child. While I am not sure on the medical rules for this currently and can only assert it has happened in the past. If I had some of my notes from random classes I could give some stats on the prevalence of inter-sex individuals, but alas, you will have to take my word for it that the number is higher than you (or I - not trying to sit on a high horse here) would guess.

How barbaric to perform surgery on your newborn simply because their organs don't match what you want them to. This is the problem of a binary view of sex - it does not allow for variation. Besides that, the relationship between sex and gender is naturalized. Gender is not natural, it is performed. Children learn to act the way they are "supposed to" based on simple social cues and they learn early on how to be a good girl or a good boy.

That is gender. The performance of certain traits that are for some reason or another associated with the sex of the body.

Genderqueer individuals are not all that visible in the community, and I'm in Minneapolis. Get out to the suburbs or rural areas and that presence is further repressed. Regardless of sexuality, if one identifies with a gender that does not "match" their body, they inevitably run into all sorts of issues, for example, whether to check male or female on forms or which bathroom to go in. These simple daily functions become a stressful and complicated because of society's narrow view of sex and gender.

There has been a "five sex" system proposed by some, which is separated as male, female, homosexual male, homosexual female, and bisexual. This is not much better than a binary system. What is up with our need to label everything?! Why can't people just be who they want to be without fear of teasing? No more taunting of the "tomboy" or the "effeminate" boy... If gender were less policed by society and there was more freedom allowed, people could find their niche easily instead of waiting for the "right role model" to show them who they want to become. What is so wrong about a girl not wanting to wear dresses or a boy wanting to play house? I see no problem and I wish there was a way to get over the need for a label, and thus a way to move away from narrow views of gender.

Unfortunately humans have an obsession with the dichotomy: Good vs Evil, God vs Devil, Love vs Hate, Master vs Servant, Male vs Female.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Just Add Water

So yesterday I was able to do my grocery shopping at one of the nearby co-ops and it was a wonderful experience, and I truly could have wandered around for hours looking at the bulk spices, nuts, granola etc, but my companions were not equally intrigued. But really, I bought bulk soy sauce and balsamic vinegar! Who knew you could do that?! But I grabbed a little tub, filled it with as much as I wanted, and paid by the pound. I paid $.18 for the amount of sage I wanted instead of buying a whole bottle. This was just amazing to me.

While I have long been interested by the idea of sustainable and organic grocery shopping, I have never made the effort to go somewhere besides the Cub/Rainbow/Target market, but my Gender Labor Politics class pushed me to try. For one I can get extra credit by doing a cost analysis of my grocery bill, but also a discussion about food politics made me really think about food and why I eat what I do.

We have reached a point where we expect to buy whatever groceries we want whenever we want it, therefore we want produce out of season. This means extraneous measures are being taken around the world to make sure someone is producing corn for January and and for July (switched seasons). More and more food is being genetically modified so some people can make a bigger profit. Animals are caged up so tightly they cannot move and pumped full of antibiotics to combat the diseases they get from standing in their own feces, and people put up with it because it's cheaper.

There's a sense of false consciousness prevailing over our culture concerning food. We need food so there's no way to strike against it like the garment workers of Forever 21, so we distance ourselves from the process. We refuse to think about slaughterhouses and chemically "enhanced" meat and vegetables. We ignore that corn grown by farmers can no longer be eaten because it is hard and disgusting, but has to be processed into corn syrup and fed to livestock. We keep asking for food that is bigger and better than it is naturally supposed to be, so the producers make it happen.

On top of eating chemically and genetically modified foods, we exist off of
preservatives. Instead of mashing delicious russet potatoes we buy a box of Four-Cheese Mashed Potatoes, just add water! How lazy do we have to be that we now subsist off "just add water" groceries? Instead of making a healthy meal we pop something in the microwave - something that is full of preservatives and who knows what else so that all we have to do is nuke for 30 seconds. Then it comes out and it doesn't even look good but you eat it anyway and really just end up dissatisfied all around, so it's not like eating frozen food wins any points there. Sure it's fast, but it's gross.

Most of the ingredients and processes behind the food we eat is completely hidden from our view. Look at a granola bar and try to find out where those oats came from. It is impossible. At a certain point you cannot trace your food back any farther and you are asked to trust the company they are getting it safely and ethically. You are asked to trust that a certain amount of insects in your peanut butter is ineffectual. You are asked to trust that "Free Range" chickens are actually allowed to walk around when that is nowhere near the truth. Food politics are all about a separation between the producer and the consumer, but not only a separation - indeed there is a big black curtain keeping the two apart so that the latter know nothing about the truths of the former.

The problem lies of course, in the cost of eating organically and ethically. That choice is more expensive because in order to produce more ethically, most has to be spent. It costs more to keep a few chickens in a pen they can walk around in than to cram a whole bunch of chickens in that same space, and that cost is transferred to the consumer. This choice is an easy one to make until cost is factored in. Theoretically everyone prefers the more ethical choice, but practically not everyone wants to spend the extra money. I paid $3.49 for eggs which I could get for around $1.39 at Target, yet because I went in with a list for my planned recipes for the week, I still spent less that I normally do.

Food from a box that just requires some added water and a couple minutes in the microwave may be cheaper, but I know where my groceries came from - 42% was grownlocally, and I know there are no hidden "ingredients." While I may not be able to promise I will stop eating anything from a box or a can, this feels like such a positive decision I plan to make every effort to eat organically and ethically. It is the easy choice.

As a poor college student I want to make the ethical move, and I think I can make it work for my budget. Shopping for ingredients requires more planning; I cannot just walk down the aisle and grab a few boxes for my meals that week, but have to know ahead of time what I need which means less spending on food I will not actually eat. Plus the food I can make with these delicious ingredients is so much tastier than Mac 'n Cheese or Lean Cuisine. How could I possibly make any other decision? They always say the first step is the hardest, and most of the time that first step is just deciding to make a change.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

People Person

As I get closer and closer to my trip to France, and as I look at the pictures all my friends are posting, abroad or not, I realize more and more that there is a right and wrong way to take pictures. Normally, I do not consider
myself much of a people person. I do not like meeting lots of people at once, I do not like talking in a group, and I am very shy and quiet until I feel comfortable to actually be me. I need to be alone a lot. I would prefer to sit at home with my cat and a book than go to a loud crazy party with a few of my friends. I love my friends and I love spending time with them, but when it comes to making new friends I take a while.

That being said, when I take pictures I take pictures of people. Ten years from now, I will not care about that lion at the zoo, or that flower in a field, or that weird statue. This past weekend I found some pictures I took at horse camp years and years ago (I still had my glasses that took up my whole face, that's how old these are) as I was going through drawers of old things; I had to choose between those to be saved, those to be donated, and those that deserved to be thrown away long ago, yet were kept because of my former packrat identity. The pictures I kept showed me with people from camp, and the horse I spent the week with (because clearly Cheyenne was more person than random object or animal). I threw pictures of the other animals, sure deer and rabbits are cool; pictures of hills and trees, because those aren't everywhere; and pictures of the rooms and bunk beds, for one camp bunk bed is really the same as the rest.

For me, pictures are about moments in time, represent a way to recall the happiness of that moment as a way to relive all those wonderful feelings. They show my friends and the way we spend our time. You do not need to go on a trip to take pictures because there are joyful moments every day, and a few that are lucky enough to get captured on film.

There is no joy in a bunk bed; without the rest of the film I would have no idea where that bunk bed was from. A picture of myself and other campers on the other hand, while I no longer remember most of their names and wish I had labeled them, brings up memories of those ugly shirts, singing churchy campy songs, buying candy and playing foosball in the common area (this camp was where I played my epic 30-8 game against two people), and playing capture the flag around the ranch. These girls became close friends for this week spent away from our families as we all searched for a way to fit into a new environment.

I learned quickly that pictures of animals, , and landscapes do not interest me after developing the random disposable cameras throughout my youth. 10 years later I may not care about that lion on a rock, but I will care about that trip to the zoo; if there is a picture with my sister and a lion, that picture has some redeeming qualities. While I make some exceptions for artistic photography, I think those pictures should be kept separate from the rest because they serve entirely different purposes, and I will not take those pictures.

Pictures are about capturing a moment, not about capturing an object, so I take pictures of people. I take pictures of people and moments in time so I can look back and remember that ridiculous game night, that delectable dinner, and that relaxing vacation. Pictures allow you to re-experience moments and recall things that are insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but looking back you remember having the time of your life. Picking the pictures for this post made for easy choices, because I know what times I like to remember, and
know which pictures epitomize those days. Now I am just sitting here smiling thinking about the car ride to Thanksgiving, the Christmas spent with the boyfriend's family, Sister Day, the cabin trip, Stooge Week, Prom, winter break, freshmen year with the SAD lamp, and Padelford. Each picture has a story, not only of itself, but of the entire day and experience. Pictures capture a moment and make for wonderful memories, and in memories, people are what matter.