Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Getting Press

Congrats to Nikki on getting quoted about her expertise in economics. Who says girls can't do math?


Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjuction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter: Feminist or Foe?

If avoiding spoilers is important to you, why not revisit this post after you've finished HP 7?

So, I've been meaning to share my thoughts about the most recent Harry Potter movie and book. But, at first, I was too busy magically (or madly?) standing in lines at midnight. Then I was too busy reading. So now that I have that bit of mania out of my system, I think I am ready to comment.

Now, many a blogger has "scooped" me on the topic of gender roles in the Harry Potter series. I trust that Google will yield a wide variety of critical perspectives on the books, movies, and franchise. One article I would recommend because it addressed many of my own concerns about gender (and other issues) with HP 7 appeared in the American Prospect. There Dana Goldstein writes:
The position of women in the narrative fits this vision of prescribed social roles and hierarchies. Harry's heroes -- his school headmaster, godfather, and various magical sporting figures -- are all men. His dead mother, the Muggle-born Lily, is portrayed as the source of love and sacrifice in his life, while his late father, James, was daring, brash, and heroic. The books do strike some blows against gender stereotypes, portraying brave female warriors, a number of uncommonly cruel and violent female characters, and, of course, Harry's best friend Hermione, a heroine because of her ability to turn academic acumen into practical magical solutions. But on the whole, Rowling's wizarding society conforms to boringly conventional gender roles. Dads, like the loveable Mr. Weasley (father of red-headed sidekick Ron), go off to work while steadfast moms stay home cooking, cleaning, and rearing large families. Magical education doesn't begin until the age of 11, so witches are also tasked with full-time parenting and educational responsibilities over young children, Rowling clarified for a curious reader at her website.
So, gender hierarchies, and patriarchy in general, did not magically disappear in Rowling's fantasy world. Not so different than other works in the genre, no?

Somehow, it still gets me, though, that a series that I find enchantingly loveable has such mixed messages about gender. And that these messages are reaching so many people - especially the young fans. For example, while I enjoyed the HP 5 movie, I was a bit disturbed to see the visual rendering of the sickly saccharine (poisonous, too) Umbridge character. Decked out in attire that echoes the grandmotherly outfits that Queen Elizabeth II has been so criticized for and accompanied by an eccentric collection of cutesy kitten plates, Umbridge's torture-with-a-smile tyranny of Hogwarts seems like pink-and-purple-color-coordinated "femininity" gone quite awry. Sure, Umbdrige makes an interesting villan, but I just wish that it wasn't her (overly) stereotypical "feminine" traits that made her so memorable. What if a female villan was just...villanous?

And I really do wonder how Hermoine and Ron split up the domestic labor and childrearing tasks in their household...Oh, Hermoine!

Via Feministing


Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjuction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blog Me, Too

I wish I was at the BlogHer Conference...I'm looking forward to lots of live blogging and full blog reports from those of you who are there!


Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjuction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

CNN/YouTube Debates

While I think there is a lot to say about the recent CNN/YouTube debates and that many bloggers have given this event great coverage, I just wanted to highlight Girl with Pen's take on question #22 that was generated by folks at Planned Parenthood.

Because as the song goes, we - candidates and voters - need to talk about sex, baby, talk about you and me and US policy, talk about all the good things (comprehensive sex ed!) and the bad things (global gag order! curtailing reproductive rights!) that we see, let's talk about sex...via the ballot box.

Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjuction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.

Monday, July 16, 2007

YWLI Continued

Check out this great blog created by one of the students who recently completed the Young Women's Leadership Institute at Barnard College. Great stuff!


Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjuction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Barnard's Young Women's Leadership Institute

Future Feminist Leaders

Today I visited Barnard's Young Women's Leadership Institute, a week-long residential program for high school women that focuses on gender, leadership, and their intersection. I attended the student-led conference that culminated this intensive leadership training and was wowed by the amazing projects that these women accomplished - in just one week! It was so energizing to be able to meet these 60 passionate young *feminist* activists. (Really, no one can say that young women just don't care about gender inequality - these powerful young leaderships proved otherwise.)

After hearing about this accomplished group's success, I had a tough act to follow as the keynote speaker at their closing luncheon. As the former, and first, YWLI program coordinator (2003-2005), I had been invited to be...well, to be inspirational. So, I shared my perspective on online social activism and the power of networking via the internet.

But really, I think this awe-inspiring group of young women were much more motivating than I could ever hope to be. Sisterhood is powerful...

Speechifying

In case you are interested, this is the full text - more or less - of the talk that I gave today.

First, I would like to thank you all for having me here today and to congratulate you on your successful completion of the Young Women’s Leadership Institute. I was very impressed by your student-led conference today – it’s a tough act to follow!

As a former program coordinator of the YWLI program, I have seen the program grow from a group of 32 students to, literally, double its initial size. I have had the privilege of attending the student-led conference each year since 2003, and I must confess that each year I am more and more impressed. You are an accomplished group of passionate young women! I have not doubt that you are going to return home after your experience here at Barnard and get to work on some truly great projects.

But, even though I’m sure some of your are counting down the minutes until you get home – to homecooked meals, to your own bed, to SLEEP – or maybe you are anxiously awaiting the start of your next summer adventure – I just want to take this opportunity to reinforce the *awesomeness* of what you have accomplished in your short time here at Barnard.

When you arrived in New York one week ago, you might not have been exactly sure what you were getting in to. And when Anna explained your jam-packed schedule, I am sure that some of wondered about what you had gotten yourself into. But, just six days later, you have done so much! And you have done it all with style – from surviving subway adventures, to challenging yourself in workshops, to negotiating locking yourself or your roommate out of your room, to putting on an entire leadership conference. Wow. Just one week!

It is always so amazing to me. To see what each YWLI class has accomplished – what they have succeeded in doing, in such a short time, together, as a community. Because even though many of you arrived in New York knowing none of your fellow participants, because even though you came from diverse backgrounds and various regions, because even though you may not share the same experiences or ideals – you have still managed to form this powerful network. I mean, your bond as a group is palpable in this very room. You are an accomplished community – you have a powerful network *that gets things done*.

And, when you leave tomorrow, I hope that you will hold onto the power of this network. I know that you have created a directory of this year’s participants – it is so great because I am sure that it will be an invaluable resource for all of you. But, because I recently completed my M.A. thesis on how social activism can be successful online – I was looking specifically at feminist activists and blogging – because of my background in online social activism, I want to encourage you to utilize the *free* tools that the world wide web offers you to keep in touch and to support each other with your unique skills.

[Just an aside…When I was first preparing to talk with you today, I prepared a handout with all of this information. You have it, or will. But then I realized that I was preparing a workshop. And, at this point in your week, I think probably the last thing that you should be doing is attending another workshop. Now do not get me wrong – the activities you participated in this week were awesome – but right now, you should be celebrating and taking a well-deserved break after all of your hard work. So, feel free to use that handout as a resource guide. But also, feel free not to read it until after you have gotten some rest.]

But, getting to some of the highlights from that handout…because they are important.

As your presentations illustrated today, the internet provides a lot of great tools for accomplishing activist initiatives. And many of these tools are free and easy to use. From social networking platforms, like Facebook, to new media forms, like blogs, the internet allows you to spread information quickly – nearly instantaneously – and to connect with individuals around the world. In this room, you have a strong network of women. Once you leave this room, you will still have a strong network of women – and you will be able to use internet technology to reinforce this network, and to grow it.

I just want to give you one example. In fall 2006, two young women from New York City started a blog, HollabackNYC, because they wanted to do something about gender-based street harassment. Not only did their efforts get major media attention and a special initiative led by the NYPD to decrease the harassment of women in the subway system, they also started a movement that has spread across the United States, to Canada, to Japan. Hollaback blogs now exist for so many major cities and even entire regions. And this huge Hollaback network has teamed up with other networks, like the one that focuses on the similar phenomenon of “eve teasing” in India. Two young women. One blog. Approximately seven months. An international movement! It is impressive.

Now. Just imagine what you will be able to accomplish, with the energy in this room and the strong connections that you have made this week, half a year from now. Because you have the tools, the passion, the connections, the support – you have each other. And starting a Google group to keep in touch or creating a Facebook cause to raise money for an issue that is important to you – these virtual resources can only expand your potential.

One note, though, before I send you all off to cyberspace. As many of you know, the internet is not a digital utopia. While the internet offers so many great opportunities, it still carries many of the problems that exist offline. So, just like women are disproportionately targeted in street harassment in the “real” world, women also disproportionately face virtual violence. And just like stereotypes about girls doing math exist, so do stereotypes about women and technology. But, I think, as more young women like you assert your presence online, this will start to change. Because you are going to make these changes in online culture.

That does not mean, however, that when you blog that you will not encounter a troll who really wants to put you in your place. Or that you will be protected from getting creepy emails about why you should not be advocating for your beliefs online – because someone thinks you have the wrong opinion, or that you should not be voicing that opinion in public, or because you are, well, a woman with opinions.

But, I do not want you to be discouraged. Online harassment is meant to discourage you. And all of you are strong, intelligent, beautiful Barnard women. You should be encouraged! Because you are going to do amazing things. And the resources that the internet provides should *help* you get those things done.

Personally, when I start to feel depressed about sexism or other cyber-isms that I encounter online, I think back to the speech that I heard at my Barnard graduation. At the 2005 commencement, Anna Quindlen spoke about her experiences working as a journalist; she said,

People write all the time to my places of employment with the suggestion that someone should have put a stop to my declarations long ago. They have dismissive words for a woman who does the job I do. Opinionated – a word used only for women, usually meaning having strong opinions when one ought not to have them. Bossy – taking charge, but without benefit of a Y chromosome. Feisty. Ooh, it makes my skin crawl. It's a word that suggests the petite who argue, perhaps in very high voices.

All three are apologetic terms. I'm so sorry I have strong opinions. I'm so sorry I take the lead. I'm so sorry I refuse to take no for an answer.

I say to you today: No apologies. Graduating from Barnard means never having to say you're sorry. At least not for being strong, and strong-minded.


You are all strong, intelligent, beautiful Barnard women. No apologies necessary. And you are a strong, passionate, supportive community. So, when you are getting things done, online or offline, and someone tries to discourage you (if they do) – I know that you will be able to rely on the strength of your network. This network, right here. And you will all succeed in accumulating even more impressive accomplishments…which I look forward to hearing about, online.

Thank you. And congratulations!

And, if we could, a big round of applause for [A.S.] and all of her hard work [as the current YWLI program coordinator]!


And, yes, I am available for speaking engagements. ; )


Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjuction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion...is Feminist

As someone in the midst of the agony that is job searching and career planning, this NYTimes article really hit home for me in terms of its message about self-promotion or, more accurately, good marketing of oneself. Because of socialized modesty and other sticky gender constructs, many women struggle to develop the brag-vado needed to successfully market themselves and to network effectively (theWoodhull Insitute for Ethical Leadership provides great trainings on developing these skills). But, to succeed in the current brand-heavy business world, you *must* self-promote - there's no shame in it, or the success it brings.

Go forth, and shamelessly self-promote. All the feminists are doing it...

Big thanks to E.W. for this link, and for all of her inspiring advice. At 19, she cold called her way into an internship. An amazing lady and great example!

And I must share her mentor-y inspiration for today as a final thought:
My only real advice is that in the end, everyone should follow their heart. I just believe that most people get tripped up either by not following their heart because of what they "think" they should be doing with life, or they are lost in terms of how to execute the path of the heart. But you know what? That's the point...that's what life is about. Figuring out how to nativate the world, make mistakes and learn along the way. It took me a long time to figure that out and still trying to follow through



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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

30 Years of NWSA

2007 National Women's Studies Association Conference, St. Charles, IL

I recently attended the NWSA conference that was hosted in St. Charles, Illinois from June 28 - July 1, 2007. Because I was working at the conference as a NWSA staffer**, I did not have so many opportunities to check out all of the cool panels, workshops, and presentations that were going on. I did manage, however, to sneak away to a few sessions, which I have provided snapshots of here.

Overall, I found this gathering of feminist intellectuals and social justice oriented academics to be energizing. So much great scholarship! So many great people! It really makes one want to get to work...

(And, yes, there was indeed a feminist dance party. Don't you wish you had been there?)

Sandra Cisneros, Key Note Speaker

Sandra Cisneros spoke at the opening session of the NWSA conference and her moving and lyrical speech certainly was an amazing kick-off for the 30th anniversary meeting. While paying homage to Gloria Anzaldua, poetically making political points, and sharing poignant personal experiences, Sandra reflected on the need to find balance in one's life and the negative effects that depression, especially depression brought on by social and economic hardships, can have, and has had, on many women's careers. I found one piece of advice especially helpful in its simplicity: When you are in a rut or are stressed out and overwhelmed, sit down and do a project that you can finish in one sitting. Whether you make a home-cooked meal or do a small art project kindergarten-style, your ability to accomplish something concrete and creative in one session will leave you feeling more centered and ready to take on the rest of your to-do list. (She said it much more eloquently, of course.)

I'm looking forward to seeing the "unpublishable" poem that she shared in print one day!

Girls Working It

Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work, provided a provocative performance about her polemic on choice feminism and the so-called opt-out revolution. I was impressed by Linda's ability to embody the provocative tone of her book; her performative speaking style sparked much debate about the work/life (im)balance many women face when deciding how to mesh motherhood and career and her training as a trial lawyer was evident. (An enthralling and entertaining paper session at an academic conference? Not so common!)

While I may not entirely agree with Linda's conclusions (I think my views might be more in line with those of Jessica Valenti in terms of building a feminist sisterhood), she is certainly succeeding in starting to get people talking about this important issue. Which, I think, is her main goal - and a laudable one.

Blogging Women's Studies

Jessica Valenti of Feministing and Courtney Martin led a packed paper session about how blogs can be incorporated into the women's studies classroom. While highlighting the importance of incorporating technology into the classroom to appeal to today's tech savvy students, Jessica and Courtney gave great tips on ways to utilize existing online resources, such as Facebook, to quickly and easily go web 2.0 without adding an extra burden to the tenure-striving teacher.

During this session, there was also an informative discussion about the benefits and risks of opening one's classroom to the world on the web. (I plan to follow up on the points that were raised about privacy, security, and safe space in a future post.)

Intergenerational Dialogues

Deborah Siegel participated in a book signing in the exhibit hall for her new book, Sisterhood, Interrupted. Deborah's appearance was tre appropriate given how the theme of intergenerational takes on feminism - riding different waves if you will - seemed to dominate many conversations at the conference.

**Please note that while I attended the NWSA conference as a member of the NWSA staff, this blog post reflects my personal views and does not in any way represent the official position of NWSA.**


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