Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Shirley Chisholm Day!

In case you forgot November 30th is Shirley Chisholm Day...

Lay Off Michelle Obama: Why White Feminists Need to Lean Back

To expand on Shannon's discussion about Michelle Obama, here is an article that responds to Politico and other white feminists' critiques of her political activity. I'd be interested in discussing some of the points that Britney Cooper brings up in this article, particularly around her definition of "white female privilege" and how it comes into play with criticisms of Michelle Obama and other women of color in politics.

In addition, I think Cooper brings up an excellent point when she talks about Michelle Obama calling herself a "mom-in-chief" and how this title could have very different, very meaningful implications for black women and black families. Here is the quote:

"...I also acknowledge and agree with black feminists like Melissa Harris-Perry and Kirsten West Savali who have talked about the importance of Michelle Obama’s mom-in-chief role in countering persistent narratives about bad, delinquent black mothers. As Savali notes, 'In my feminism, we understand that raising intelligent, confident Black children in a loving family is one of the most revolutionary acts a Black woman can commit in America.'"

Cooper suggests that Michelle Obama's political role is much more complex when race is taken into account, and she argues that some white feminists forget to be mindful of "the historical and contemporary ideas that [Michelle Obama] is being forced to navigate" as a result of her black-womaness. I'm curious as to what you all think of her arguments, considering the articles that Shannon posted as well as our past discussions regarding relationships between white feminists and women of color.

Jessica Peña

Monday, November 25, 2013

No Secret Anymore clip

Here our some snippets from No Secret Anymore, the documentary on Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. They are being interviewed when they are older, but there are great pictures of them from when they were younger. They are an adorable couple and an example of the work that so many women did for their rights in the 1960s-70s. It is interesting to look at how their less radical views of LGBT assimilation into heterosexual mainstream culture are being taken up again and reinforced through current debates surrounding same-sex marriage. How does their relationship set up standards that are similar to heterosexual relationships, in terms of monogamy, whiteness, and class background? How can we appreciate their contributions to the cause of gay rights while grappling with their assertion that the LGBT community should assimilate to heterosexual structures?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Michelle Obama: "feminist nightmare" ??

I read Feministing every day and this morning I saw a post called 'How to be a feminist, according to Politico.' Feministing didn't link to the Politico post, but critiqued it for defining a "real feminist" as a woman who cares about "Big Macho Male Politics", not "womanly" issues like reading to children and taking care of veterans. Reading through the Politico article, the author is criticizing Michelle Obama for focusing on too many domestic issues as First Lady, and not taking on more "serious" policy issues given her impressive qualifications, and Feministing contends in response that the Politico author is relying on discriminatory double standards that ask everything of the First Lady - to be the good feminist, the good mom, the good wife, the good policy advocate - and blast her if she falls short by failing to do it all and do it perfectly. Personally, I'm not a fan of the Politico post. The author repeatedly mentions how Michelle was expected to be a "superwoman" but it "wasn't meant to be." There's no such thing as a superwoman, though! Is it not just an unachievable standard created to keep women in their place by making it impossible for them to reach it...? I can sympathize with the politico author's desire for a more politically active first lady, but I think she was very unfair in her critiques of Michelle Obama.

Either way, I think this discussion makes a really interesting contribution to our discussion of first ladies, maternalism in politics, and public perceptions of women.

Feministing, "How to be a feminist, according to Politico":
Politico, "Leaning Out - how Michelle Obama became a feminist nightmare" :

Also, here's another response to the original Politico article (also from Politico):

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On Allyship

Today, the Claremont Port Side released this opinion piece online about the role of people who identify as "allies" today. Given some of our past class discussions about the roles of allies throughout American history (such as men in the suffrage movement or white activists in the Civil Rights Movement), I thought this was an interesting way to think about the role of allies in movements to break down modern systems of oppression.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

17 Offensive Advertisements

This is just something I stumbled across while on the internet. It's 17 advertisements that would be banned today. While some don't necessarily have to do with our class discussions, many of the ads made me think of When Everything Changed. There are many portrayals of women in the housewife role and that being her sole duty. Furthermore, most of the advertisements belittle women. Looking at the advertisements gave me a moment of, "wow, where would we be today without feminism."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Great Speech About Sexism In American Politics On "Scandal"

While I am wary of calling "Scandal" a realistic portrayal of American politics, there was a fantastic speech made in one of the recent episodes about sexism in politics. A female presidential candidate talked about how people speak "in code" when referring to her in order to reinforce gender based stereotypes. You can access the clip here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hillary Clinton and gender politics discussion in 2016

This is a short clip of a conversation between Anna Holmes, the founder of the website Jezebel, and journalist Nia-Malika Henderson. Holmes expresses her desire for Hillary Clinton to openly talk about gender politics on the 2016 campaign trail. Holmes believes that women across America have been wanting to hear the open, unapologetic discussion of gender politics, and that Hillary would gain popularity among women by discussing it. From inferences from the 2008 campaign, Holmes believes that "when Hillary has felt more able to be herself...her popularity and the fascination with her increase exponentially."Should Hillary run in 2016, it is exciting to think about whether or not she will openly discuss gender politics and feminism as Obama did with race, or if the issue of feminism will be too much of a risk in the male-dominated atmosphere.

Should Politicians' Spouses Shape Policy?

I read these articles and thought about some of our previous discussions about the roles of First Ladies in politics. This is a "room for debate" topic in the NY Times regarding spouses' participation in politics and decision-making. It's interesting how some of these writers argue that it's dangerous to mix relationships with politics, while others argue that personal relationships are crucial to politics and decision-making. Here is the page.

Jessica Peña

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Barbara Mikulski’s fight

The longest-serving woman ever in Congress, and the first to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barbara Mikulski brings a style like none before her: cajoling, prodding, empowering her members to get out on the Senate floor and fight...because the stakes are enormous. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

My Grandmother

I wanted to share a little personal anecdote with everyone.

My grandmother, Frances Lear, passed away when I was four years old so I don't have many memories of her. However, as I grew up my parents frequently told me she was an incredible woman who was very involved in the feminist movement. She had a very difficult childhood and was considered to be a tough person sometimes, but I was always told that she was a passionate defender of woman and minorities' rights. To be honest, I really didn't understand what my parents meant by her involvement in the movement. The truth is I never really asked many questions about it. 

Flash forward to this semester. Every single reading we do makes me realize how little I knew about women's history in the United States. I keep thinking about my grandmother and how excited she would be if she knew her grandson was learning about women like Alice Paul and Shirley Chisholm. 
Now that we are reading about the 1960s and onward, I talked to my mom to find out the extent of my grandmother's involvement in the movement. She informed me that her mother was a member of NOW. I did some research on google and Academic Search Premier and actually found an article she wrote for The Nation!!!

Reading the article was a pretty emotional experience. First of all, I felt like I was hearing my grandmother for the first time--discovering who she was, what she believed in, what she sounded like, what her writing style was like. But then I read the content and realized it was SO relevant to what we are discussing in class. From what I can infer, she is expressing disappointment over the results of the 1980 elections. My grandmother shares her opinions on the ERA and discusses the strategies she believes will improve the women's rights movement. Interestingly, she mentions Bella Abzug!! 

I wanted to include one quote from the article that related a lot to what we have been discussing:

"If we cannot find a way to involve blue-collar women, office workers, housewives, minority women and poor women in the movement, feminism will wither and die. If the wealthy women--and their money--cannot be counted on to support the struggle for economic rights for the poor, the movement can offer little hope to the millions of women and children living in poverty."

That quote made me extremely proud to be her grandson! If you have the time, it's a great article to read! You can access it (hopefully) here

Sorry for the self-indulgence in this blog post!! I wanted to share this moment with you all :)! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Disney-fied Female Role Models

Artist David Trumble published a collection of real female role models who made strides in many different areas, including politics, science, civil rights, and women rights and paints them with "one superficial brush" by filtering them "through the Disney princess assembly line." His project is meant to show how ridiculous it is to fit all of girls' role models into one mold and how fake these drawings are compared to real women. He is trying to get people to think about the images we show to children and how damaging and unrealistic they are. Ironically, many people think the "princesses" are fun and cute, and he has started selling copies due to demand. He also renamed the Anne Frank drawing "Diary Princess" instead of the first version "Holocaust Princess" because many people took offense to that and thought that he was valorizing her suffering instead of her writing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shirley Chisholm and the ERA

After watching the film on Shirley Chisholm in class, I found this speech on the ERA she gave in 1970 to the House during her career as a congresswoman. In it Chisholm pushes for the passage of the ERA which she believed would root out codified discrimination, but not necessarily give women immediate benefits. Chisholm states that the ERA would need to be paired with action on the part of Congress and Sate governments to produce effective change. Chisholm also claims that the ERA would be particularly powerful in its ability to change the mindsets of "parents, educators, and employers"and in turn produce more economic benefits for women. She argues against labor legislation because it keeps women in an inferior positions by denying them the ability to work alongside men as equals and under the same laws; "artificial distinctions between persons must be wiped out of the law." It was interesting to see how much the debate had changed when Chisholm gave this speech in the 70s during a very different social climate.

Here's the link to her speech:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hillary Clinton Defends Reproductive Rights as Secretary of State

Here's a great video of Hillary Clinton defending the reproductive rights of women. It's from a committee hearing in 2009, but it made its way to Upworthy recently. It's a short clip, but nonetheless inspiring!  Definitely would make Margaret Sanger proud. Watch it here.