Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My "Awwww" Moment

This is a picture from our super-secret meeting at
Krispy Kreme, back when we were plotting - I mean
planning - Operation: Anti-Discrimination . . .
I know I talk a lot about the girls in Real Beauty Revolution (the women's rights club I started at my high school), but I dug something out of my drawer the other day that pretty much had me grinning like an idiot, and I wanted to gloa--- I mean share

A while back we did the time-tested activity where everybody passes a paper around and writes something (nice) about each other. I recognized my paper immediately when I found it, because it's bright, blinding yellow with a precarious grease stain that just decided to show up one day. Nonetheless, reading it over for the nth time made me remember why I love what I do - and who I am.

You see, RBR didn't take off like I wanted it to (we have a steady membership of about eight). But instead of standing up in front of a group of girls I don't know each week, I get to sit at a table with girls I've gotten to know so well in a matter of just a few months. We laugh, and joke, and talk about the "big things," and generally support each other when somebody has a problem or something on their mind. 

It's corny, yes, but because "my girls" are mostly freshman (excluding a few of my Junior friends who managed to sneak in), I've gotten to play the older sister role. And if I had even a tiny, miniscule, microscopic fraction in helping them to become more confident and to realize how smart and strong and beautiful they are . . . that would just make everything I strive for - everything I believe in - worth it, you know?

So! Back to the point, here are a few of the things that were written on my paper. I plan to keep this thing for a hundred years (or more!) just so whenever somebody tells me "Give up!" or "This stuff is a waste of time!" I can whip it out and say "Excuse me, I think these girls would believe otherwise."

P.S. Pay special attention to the last one. *smiles*

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sting Operation Results Part #1: Hollister

Life's Big Question #283: Why don't the models
in clothing ads ever wear any clothes?
Well, as I sit here in the gentle glow of my brother and his girlfriend playing through a stack of new video games (Santa brought me a Chuck Norris t-shirt and feminist literature!*), I would like to wish everybody a very happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or whatever the heck it is that you celebrate. If your family is anything like mine, today should consist of comfy pj's and incessant snacking . . .

Anyway, it's taken me long enough, but I've finally summoned the strength to write about last Saturday's sting operation. I am, however, realizing that if I want to do this thing right it's going to take a lot more than one post.

For those of you who didn't scroll down a few notches to read my last post, the girls from Real Beauty Revolution and I conducted a little sting operation at a nearby mall last Saturday. Each dressed as a different stereotype (see below), we infiltrated several stores (that sounds cooler than "walked into") to see how the workers would react to us. We wanted to see how blatant discrimination is in today's society - be it against sex, physicality, economic status, or otherwise - and while I can't say that we got any 100% conclusive results, it was a very eye-opening and, strangely, empowering experience.

I've decided to go about this one store at a time. I apologize if I'm keeping anybody on the edge of their seat (anybody?) but I've got a lot to say, and I don't want to glaze over anything just to keep a modest word count. So, what better way to introduce Operation: Anti-Discrimination than to recognize the lovely ladies (or better yet, kick-ass chicks) who made it possible:

From Left to Right: Lacee, Carrie, Jenny (eating Lorrie's head),
Lorrie (having her head eaten), Holly, Tia, Saundra, and Tamara.

If you look a bit closer, we're loosely divided into three categories:

  • The Rocker Chicks: Tamara, Saundra, Lacee and I (though I'm not in the picture) were somewhere in the goth-to-rocker spectrum.
  • The Preps: Lorrie and Holly suffered from what one might jokingly refer to as "preppy-princess-itis."
  • The Normies: Tia, Carrie, and Jenny were dressed normally . . . though "normal" easily passed for "grubby" in some of the stores we went into.

In a pre-operation meeting at a nearby Krispy Kreme (that pretty much felt like we were planning a bank robbery), we devised a brilliant plan to enter our targeted stores in three waves. First, two or three girls would enter a store and plant themselves near some workers without being too conspicuous. Next came the stereotype "operative" who was different depending on the store (i.e. the person who would look most out of place). And finally, a second round of "observers" as we called them would meander in to play extra sets of eyes and ears. It was the stereotype operative's job to wreak a little havoc - ask questions, seek help, simply exist - but it was the observers' job to mentally log everything and anything that was going on around them.

In all the weeks it took RBR to plan Operation: Anti-Discrimination, I only had one request:

"I want Hollister."

Meaning, of course, that I wanted to be the stereotype planted in the blasted place because I've heard too many horrific tales of discrimination and abuse not to want to check it out for myself. And going into that skinny paradise as a PLUS-SIZE WOMAN who's been the victim of understocked and sizist stores her entire life (and who also warrants capital letters to contain her fabulosity*), I felt like some kind of crusader for every girl out there who's been told her thighs were too big, her boobs were too small, or . . . well, just think up some misogynist crap that's been fed to you.

*Did I really say "fabulosity"?

If you want to know the truth I was quite happy with my get-up, but only because it was what I wear on a daily basis. Donning a slightly worn Dream Theater cap, Iron Maiden t-shirt (with "Best of the Beast" printed on the back in bold, red letters), old jeans, fuzzy striped socks, messy locks, and a mocking expression, I felt like a warrior geared up to face her demons.
Lorrie was a good partner in crime for
our first stop! I have more pictures of
The Girls to show in future posts :)
I was nervous up to the second we stepped inside the store, which was dimly-lit and smelled as if it had been fumigated with cologne, but thinking back, I don't know why I was so worked up. Maybe because I had never been in there? Because my brother and I have always made "snooty" comments when we pass it in the mall? Because I half-expected the place to look like some "beautiful peoples' nightclub" where I would be the freak attraction? I dunno.

Life Lesson #4,313: the Teenage Girl mind isn't always rational.

Anyway, I slithered into Hollister with my new friend Lorrie in tow (our established "preppy" stereotype). Our million-dollar idea was to act like we were trying to find a shirt for her mom. Now I know what you're thinking: a prep and a rocker joining forces? But I knew finding a shirt for me, a plus-size girl in an old Iron Maiden shirt, would be a stretch. And besides, stereotypes suck.

"So, Lorrie, you're looking for a shirt for your mom?"

"Yeah, she likes blue."

"What size?"

"Probably XL."

"Don't you mean 2XL?" Wink.

"Oh, yeah!"

*Hypnotic voice* I am a young, attractive,
white female. You want to be me . . . and
even though you'll never come close, Hollister
clothes might help. A bit. *Demon voice*
We searched for a tag that didn't say XS, S, or even M, but (unsurprisingly) came up empty-handed. Holding up those shirts that were purportedly medium made me feel either (a) that I was a size XXXXXXL by Hollister standards, or (b) that I had cast some wacky spell and everything was shrinking around me. The shirts were so small.

"I dunno Lorrie, I've never been in this store before" I said in my best acting voice, yet remaining entirely truthful, "they must have a plus-size section in the back somewhere."

By this time - with secret agents planted all around me, falling from the rafters even - I worked up the gumption to trot over to the counter to a wide-eyed, perfectly trimmed employee. She had pale skin (shock?) and curly brown hair, but I made a mental note that she probably still fit Hollister's "beautiful employee" requirement.

"Hi, we're trying to find a shirt for her mom . . . but I noticed the sizes only go up to Large."

"Yes . . . our largest size in women's clothing is 11."

Mock disappointment.

"Will you be getting a plus size section any time soon?" I asked, chuckling a bit and trying to seem personable. "It just seems funny to only go up to size 11 when the average person can't fit into that."

Blink, blink. I guess whatever the heck I said didn't compute. The girl looked at me - my senior by only a few years - and said she "wouldn't know the answer to that."

I thanked her for her time and left, muttering disappointments about the store to Lorrie as I shook my head like a reproving grandmother. I hadn't felt overtly discriminated, but one of the observers, Jenny, noticed that the oh-so-lively store clerk "grimaced" as I was walking away. When I asked Jenny what that meant she said "It was a why-would-you-ask-that sort of look."

Now, is that enough for me to convict Hollister of any sort of crime?

*Sigh* No. And I was so ready to sue any sucker who looked at me funny.

But that was only the beginning of the epically-titled Operation: Anti-Discrimination. We also went into Hot Topic, Torrid, Gamestop, Macy's, Nordstrom, Abercrombie - and I even stood up to annoying, holier-than-thou idiots at Spencers when I called one of their sexist shirts into question.

More about that later! So stay tuned!

*Santa, being the wily fellow he is, brought me The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti! I mentioned the book in an earlier post but haven't had a chance to read it until now. It's pretty freaking amazing, considering I lapped up the first 80 pages in about twenty minutes. It's all about the ridiculosity of a juxtaposition women face each and every day: pressures to be sexy on one side (think: pornography, 15-year-old sex icons, padded bras for children), and pure on the other (think: crazy idiots who blame sex education for promiscuity and measure womens' worth by their hymens).

It just amazes me that people could be so closed-minded about sexuality, propagate an archetype in which girls (i.e. pretty, young, white girls) are only worth something if they're virgins, and find a way to blame feminism for virtually everything.

My eyes have been bulging like crazy reading the book, and I'll look up and begin to rant - but then I realize it's only my brother and his girlfriend there, and they don't appreciate a good fem-rant . . . *pouts*

P.S. If anybody's looking to get me an early Christmas present for next year, the next "Valenti gem" on my list is He's a Stud, She's a Slut: And 49 Other Double-Standards Every Woman Should Know!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

P!nk & Operation: Anti-Discrimination

Well, I have to say that Operation: Anti-Discrimination yesterday was (for the most part) a success! But I've got a lot to say about what happened, so while I'm taking my sweet time on that check out these videos. I can't believe I just discovered P!nk, considering a friend of mine has been hounding me to check out her stuff for ages. Regardless of whether or not you like this type of music (I'll admit, it's a bit outside of my comfort zone), you have to admit the underlying messages are just awesome.

P.S. Rosie the Riveter FTW!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do video games cause children to behave violently?

*Shoots zombie in the face* Teeheehee...
Since the time video games were invented - even before graphics were what they are today, showing magical lands, spaceships and yes, I'll admit, blood and gore in crystalline quality - concerned parents have pegged violent behavior in children as a direct correlation to the types of video games they play. If Jimmy is acting out in class the immediate question isn't "how did his parents raise him?" but "what sort of influences is he getting at home? Is he playing violent video games?"

These days parents are quick to penalize games that contain violence and gore, but they almost never want to accept that if a child's morals are already in tact, it doesn't matter if they're blowing up a zombie with a 12-foot bazooka. By the time a child is able to hold and maneuver a video game controller, he or she should without a doubt be able to discern what's truth and what's fiction, what's right and what's wrong. I implore the nation to stop using violent games as a scapegoat for bad parenting, and start bringing up children with enough moral fiber to know the difference between violence on a TV screen, and violence in real life.

Whenever I hear a parent or news anchor go on a tirade about video games being a major factor that drives children to behave violently, I get personally offended. My older brother and I have been playing games like Resident Evil for years (i.e. your objective is to survive a zombie-ridden world using as much artillery as possible), but we're still fine, upstanding citizens. That being said, I know firsthand that aggressive games do not have a negative affect on all children. There may be a case here and there of a child lashing out and replicating something he or she saw in a video game, but children can mimic violence from any source: movies, television, websites, real life. Violence is everywhere, and while it's extremely unfortunate that our society is so desensitized to it, violence isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

Oh Leon, when will you ever learn...
Should we lock our kids away in a dark, dank basement with nothing but a few chunks of bread and a stack of Mr. Rogers tapes? Or should we teach them the difference between right and wrong - the difference between what's acceptable in the realm of videogames, and what's acceptable in real life - before they get into the Big Bad World so they can make good choices for themselves?

Blaming violent video games for a child's misbehavior is the sorriest excuse for bad parenting I've ever heard. A person is not going to go out, beat up a stranger, steal his car and commence to wreak havoc simply because they saw it in a video game. If a person is being physically or verbally abusive it's because they have some underlying problems that have never been dealt with properly.

They say that our parents are our first teachers, and that's absolutely true. We may change as we start experiencing the world and accepting new people into our lives, but our morals - set in stone by our parents - almost never change. If we were taught to be compassionate and respectful, guess what? That's what we're going to be. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, if we're brought up watching Mom and Dad duke it out every night and thinking that's okay, we're going to have some serious problems. If parents are at all confident in the caliber to which they raised their children, they won't have to blame video games for petty reasons.

Saying that graphic video games cause violence in all children is the same as saying all elderly people drive like slugs, or that all blondes have to take their shoes off in order to count to twenty. It's a ridiculous stereotype.

Regardless of what has been found in labs or through critical analysis, scientists will never be able to say for sure that video games heighten aggression in all children, so we need to stop calling parents into question when they allow their kids to play these types of games. As long as they've instilled certain values into their children - like kindness, respect, and good judgment - it shouldn't matter. By the same token, if parents have such a problem with M-rated games I propose a radical, ground-breaking solution: keep them out of your house! Don't let your precious angels play them if you think they'll corrupt their character!

But please, don't go around blaming video games for our country's problems. Because honestly? Parents who waste time playing the blame-game instead of nurturing their children are the real menace to society.

After some thought, I'd like to add that the "degree" of violence in video games is another issue entirely. For example, I play games where the extent of the violence is knocking the head off a zombie with a chainsaw. Some games, however, take it to the next level by torturing humans. I've don't usually play games like that. They make me uncomfortable, and I'd be a bit wary allowing my kids to play something so graphic. I guess what I'm saying is, my original argument makes it sound as though I'm advocating violence, but that's not quite it. Parents have a right to choose what their kids should and should not be exposed to, but if their children misbehave they shouldn't blame video games alone. Get what I'm sayin'?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Two Cents on "True Beauty"

You always hear people talk about "true beauty" like it's this untouchable, imaginary thing we keep locked up inside. I think this picture (taken at one of our Real Beauty Revolution meetings) proves that theory wrong.

True beauty is tangible, robust, uninhibited, and real.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Am an Emotional Creature (Ain't That the Truth)

A couple of weeks ago I checked out Eve Ensler's I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, and dang was it good. I was starting to think I would never be able to read a full book again (because it's been so long and I'm really impatient), but this book was good enough to keep me hooked for a solid two hours - the time it takes to read it from cover to cover.

"Dear Emotional Creature:

I believe in you. I believe in your authenticity, your wildness. I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt . . . I love your restlessness and your hunger. You possess the energy that, if unleashed, could transform, inspire and heal the world."

The book isn't a novel per se, but a collection of facts, fictional letters, lists, poems and short stories meant to draw attention to issues girls around the world have experienced: child labor, bullying, genital mutilation, teenage pregnancy, and human trafficking, to name a few. At some points I was on the verge of tears because I just kept thinking "here I am worrying about a test I have Friday, and girls around the world are experiencing this?" but I actually came away from the book extremely empowered, and I'm recommending it to all of my friends (including you)!

Here's the official summary of the book from its website, V-Girls:

In this daring, provocative, and insightful book, bestselling author and internationally acclaimed playwright Eve Ensler writes fictional monologues and stories inspired by girls around the globe. Moving through a world of topics and emotions, these voices are fierce, alive, tender, complicated, imaginative, and smart. Girls today often find themselves in a struggle between remaining strong and true to themselves and conforming to society’s expectations in an attempt to please. They are taught not to be too intense, too passionate, too smart, too caring, too open. They are encouraged to shut down their instincts, their outrage, their desires and their dreams, to be polite, to obey the rules. I Am an Emotional Creature is a celebration of the authentic voice inside every girl and an inspiring call to action for girls everywhere to speak up, follow their dreams, and become the women they were always meant to be.

Among the girls Ensler creates are an American who struggles with peer pressure in a suburban high school; an anorexic blogging as she eats less and less; a Masai girl from Kenya unwilling to endure female genital mutilation; a Bulgarian sex slave, no more than fifteen, a Chinese factory worker making Barbies; an Iranian student who is tricked into a nose job; a pregnant girl trying to decide if she should keep her baby.

Through rants, poetry, questions, and facts, we come to understand the universality of girls everywhere: their resiliency, their wildness, their pain, their fears, their secrets, and their triumphs. I Am an Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, an act of empowerment for girls, and an illumination for parents and for us all.

I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls will be a vehicle to empower girls and inspire activism. Through the newly created V-Girls program, young girls can participate in the V-Day movement, in the same way The Vagina Monologues has built a movement on college campuses and in communities around the world. The goal of V-Girls will be to engage young women in our “empowerment philanthropy” model, igniting their activism.

V-Day believes that girls are the future of our movement. Women are the primary resource of our planet. It is imperative to educate and nurture future activists so we can see our vision of a world free from violence against women and girls come true.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Random Thoughts for a Friday Afternoon: Abortion, Diets, and Krispy Kreme Donuts

There have only been about two days in the past few weeks where I actually got some free time, so while I regret not writing for a while, I don't blame myself. After all, it's hard to write anything interesting (let alone coherent) when your eyes are about to fall out of your head from exhaustion. But anyway, you know when you get into one of those crazy "thinking" moods? I've been like that a lot lately, just thinking, thinking, thinking. Here are my random thoughts for a Friday afternoon:

Abortion. I realized the other day in an epiphany-kind-of-way what being pro-choice is really about. People make pro-choicers out to be inhuman baby-killers (and I'll admit, I would never want that stereotype on my head), but it's a lie. When a woman has an abortion it's not as if she just bops out of the clinic whistling "Singing In the Rain." Having an abortion would tear anybody up inside.

Pro-choicers don't celebrate the act of ending a baby's life, but they do respect women enough to allow them to make their own decisions about their own bodies. That's what we're celebrating: the fact that we are intelligent creatures capable of intelligent, rational thoughts. Why should I let some governor in [insert state here] dictate what I can and cannot do with my body?

I'm not sure if the statistic "77% of anti-abortion leaders are men. 100% of them will never be pregnant" is true, but if it is, dang. How can they make decisions about something they will never, ever experience for themselves?

Maybe if we did more to make abortions unnecessary in this country - like amp up sex education in schools; make contraception more accessible to at-risk couples; and make it easier for single, pregnant women to receive report (financial and emotional) - women wouldn't have to suffer so much.

Overall? Being pro-choice doesn't mean that you're anti-life.

Diets. I haven't really blogged about my weight loss struggles before, but I'm horrified to admit that I've gained back nearly three-fourths of the weight I spent nearly a year losing. I let stress and school get the better of me, and used that as a (lame) excuse to drown my sorrows in Oreos and cheesy enchiladas. Well, I hopped back on the weight loss bandwagon two days ago, and I'm feeling a load better. I'm approaching things differently this time, and believe it or not it's all because of what I read in a random Yahoo! article.

The article said that when women try to lose weight, we're way too hard on ourselves. Instead of "Oh wow, I lost a pound!" we tend to say "Aww man, I only lost a pound?"

Well, no more.

I'm going to start celebrating little successes. If I get it in my head that this is a short-term "diet," I'm going to crash and burn. It's way less pressure to think of this as a lifestyle change, something I can stick to from now on. I'm going to make good choices and drink lots of water, of course, but if we're having pizza one night - dammit, I'm having pizza.

If you want to get healthy and start tracking your food, check out Sign up to use one of its features called The Daily Plate - it's great!

For an A&F clothing ad,
something invariably seems
to be missing.
Operation: Anti-Discrimination. Okay, this doesn't have a ton to do with Krispy Kreme donuts (though my group and I will be enjoying them on the day of our "operation"). What is this "operation," you say? On December 18th the girls from Real Beauty Revolution and I will be going under-cover at a nearby mall as different stereotypes to see how people treat us. I'm completely stoked because I'll finally be facing my demon: Hollister.

Whenever my brother and I walk past Hollister we plug our noses and make "snooty" comments. I absolutely abhor the store.

As an overweight woman I'm really interested to see how they react to me, if at all. I'm going to wear sweatpants, a sweatshirt of some sort (I've got a lovely one with my brother's face on it!), a cheap-looking bag, and no makeup. I might pretend that I've never been in the store before, and innocently ask if they have my size...

A part of me hopes we won't experience discrimination in any of the stores we target, but a larger part - a biased, immature part - wants to bust some suckers.

Am I biased against stores that routinely judge and treat customers like crap (i.e. Hollister, A&F, Nordstrom)? Yes.

But that'll make the results that much more interesting when I post them on the 18th!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Okay, beer companies, enough is enough . . .

I must begin by saying that this is one of the most horrific ads I've seen in my entire life, and I spend a great deal of time searching for sexist and otherwise degrading ads to show at my women's rights club Real Beauty Revolution. The purpose of this ad, made clear by the (tiny) bottle in the lower right-hand corner, is to sell Coopers Beer. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that beer will always sell, regardless of whether or not it's heavily advertised, so this ad causes one to wonder how the Coopers Beer company can get away with printing something so blatantly disrespectful towards women. Most notably: overweight women.

If you haven't quite grasped the ad's concept (as it took me a minute to understand the first time I laid eyes on it), the miniscule caption in the lower corner reads: "Only 29% alcohol." In the bulk of the ad we see a woman, but not really; she's more of a hybrid, a ridiculous photo-shopped illusion of a woman. Her head is that of a young blonde (no doubt the representation of "beauty" here) and the rest is the body of a larger woman. Get it? 29% alcohol, 29% "hot chick"? This can also be read as: "when the women in your life aren't attractive enough, just take a swig of Coopers Beer and you'll be seeing [insert Hollywood actress here] in no time!

Another ridiculous ad for
Coopers Beer. The message
here?"Some women are so
unattractive, only balloon-ish
breasts would save them."
This ad is clearly aimed at men, as I don't know what woman could stand looking at it for more than five seconds without puking. Whoever created this ad obviously has no regard for the plight many women go through about their bodies, and is exploiting a barbaric stereotype that bigger women are "ugly" to get a cheap laugh. I hope you don't think biases are clouding my judgment when I say whoever created this ad is immature, malicious, and downright cruel.

Ads that aim to sell a product are usually predictable: their main message (argument) is to sell their product, and everything else is subtle, subliminal, or an afterthought. This ad, however, seems to be flip-flopped in that it's prominent, in-your-face message is "fat women are unattractive." Only after the audience gathers that fact do they realize the ad is for beer (the product is shoved into a lowly corner, after all). This is in incredibly bad taste, and just one of countless reminders that women are stigmatized each and every day for the way they look. It's bad enough that women are subjected to constant criticism from diet pill companies and late-night ads for exercise equipment like the Ab Circle Pro ("Not only will your Ab Circle Pro help you Lose Your Love Handles, it will help you workout and slim down your buns, hips, and thighs, too!"), but when this same sense of body-shaming is carried over to unrelated products like beer - it makes me wonder when people will finally step up and say enough is enough.

 If you'd like to unleash your rage on the Coopers Beer company, you can find their contact information here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Interview With Selena Torrado, Leader of a High School Feminist Club

A few weeks ago I met Selena Torrado, a teen living in New York who started her own high school feminist club called Femtastic! I was ecstatic to see that someone shared my passion for reaching out to teens about the "important" stuff; the point of this post is to say to you, Teenage Girls of the World, if your school doesn't already have a club that deals with women's rights, equality, feminism, etc. - IT NEEDS ONE. And if you think starting a club is too hard, Selena and I will attest that it's totally doable, and totally worth it. Check out my interview with Selena about her club Femtastic!, and see if it doesn't inspire you to start a feminist club of your own!

Danielle: What's your club called, and when/why did you decide to start it?

Selena: My club is called Femtastic. I decided to start it after becoming interested in feminism and exploring it on my own for a couple years. When I started high school I started reading books such as Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti, Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy, and Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin. The ideas that these authors presented about gender identity and societal influence made extremely clear sense to me, especially after all of the confusion and mixed messages about gender roles in middle school. Reading these books was really empowering, in that they provided me with a context to view my evolving sexuality and status as a woman. As I found out about feminist blogs and forums such as Feministing and Bitch Magazine, it dawned on me that there is a whole feminist community out there that I really wanted to be involved in. The most accessible way for me to become involved was to create a feminist community in my school, where I spend the most time anyway. I started talking to my friend Zoloo, who is also interested in feminism and gender issues, and the club grew from there.

D: What has your club accomplished so far, and what do you have planned for the future?

S: So far, my club has started our Portrayal of Men and Women in the Media unit. We have discussed messages about gender roles that music videos, tv shows, and advertisements portray. We identified the impact these messages have on our personal lives, and reached the conclusion that the youth needs to be more directly involved in media development, so that the diversity of our thoughts, feelings and experiences are accurately portrayed. We are working on figuring out a concrete way that youth involvement can be implemented by entertainment firms such as MTV, VH1 and Disney Channel.

For the future, we plan to cover many more topics such as, but not limited to, Global Feminism, Teen Sexuality, Reproductive Rights, Prevalence of Pornography in Teen Culture, and the Importance of Comprehensive Sex Education. Our next unit will probably be Global Feminism. Our primary activity during this unit will be to team up with the Girl Up Campaign, a UN organization that works to mobilize American teens to raise money for programs that help combat issues such as Child Prostitution, Early Marraige, and Lack of Education, all of which are issues that girls in developing nations face. We plan to put on a fair which would inform people about the campaign and the issues it tackles. We hope to bring in Cornell professors to speak about some of these issues. All proceeds from this event will go to the Girl Up campaign.

In addition to this, we also plan on developing some kind of middle school outreach. We have all agreed as a club that middle school is the time when many girls question and are bombarded with opinions about how they should act and what they should believe as women. We hope to talk to and support middle school aged girls and boys during this period of huge change and confusion.

D: What's the key to attracting (and maintaining) members?

S: I think that the key to attracting members is to advertise throughout your school. I created a bulletin board in a major hallway, passed out fliers, and made announcements on our school TV. Make sure that the student body is aware of the clubs existence. Also, it is important to be prepared to describe exactly what your club is about, what you hope to achieve, and what some of the activities will be, because there is a lot of confusion regarding the word “feminism” that you will need to clear up.

As for retaining members, that is something I am still learning, as my club is relatively new. I try to really involve the club members in discussions and make them feel like their opinion matters. Beyond that, I will learn as I go along.

D: What advice do you have for other high school students who'd like to start a feminism/women's rights club, but don't know where to start?

S: My advice to students who want to start a feminist club is to reach out to your community. I have gotten so much support from my local university (Cornell), Planned Parenthood, and school. I was actually shocked by how supportive, helpful, and excited most people were about the club. The majority of opportunities have come from groups and individuals in the community. For example, our local Planned Parenthood invited us to their yearly celebration, where we got to hear Michelle Goldberg, journalist and author of The Means Of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, speak. The Cornell Women’s Resource Center has been really helpful and offered us access to their speakers and events, as well as a way to apply for co-sponsorship for our own events. Basically, seek out people and organizations in your community who you think would support you, and don’t be afraid to ask for favors and advice.

D: Why do you think girls are sometimes reluctant to call themselves feminists? Is there anything we, as teens, can do about this?S: I think that girls are reluctant to call themselves feminists because there are so many negative connotations surrounding that word. I think that for most people the word “feminist” evokes an angry, man bashing, bitter female who complains about the “patriarchy” but does not have much to back up her complaints. One way to combat this is through education. This image of a feminist is an ignorant one, and the way to combat ignorance is with information. If you identify as a feminist and have knowledge of specific feminist beliefs, ideals, and progress, don’t be afraid to share it with others. Feminist theory and ideology applies to almost every moral, scientific, economic, global, and interpersonal topic there is, so there are plenty of chances to bring up feminist ideas both in class and in personal discussions.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finally, A Post About Gloria Steinem

Ask any feminist born during or after the tumultuous 60's and 70's who their hero is, and the answer will come back a resounding Gloria Steinem

Gloria Marie Steinem was born on March 25, 1934, and is widely regarded as the poster-child for the modern Women's Liberation Movement. As one of the many women inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame - along with Abigail Adams, Betty Friedan, Ella Fitzgerald, and my personal favorite, Susan B. Anthony - Steinem is a renowned journalist and political activist who has devoted her life to bringing humanitarian issues into the public scope.

After my life-altering decision to call myself a feminist, it felt almost automatic that I should look up to Gloria Steinem, the woman whose name graces every reputable feminist book and blog at least ten or fifteen times. It wasn't until after I started researching her life and accomplishments, however, that I felt my admiration snow-balling; with every new triumph for feminists (and humanitarians in general), I thought yes, this is my idol.

Interestingly enough, Steinem did not come from a feminist family, or even one that was particularly conscious of women's rights or societal issues. How, then, did she go on to become an animal rights activist, civil rights ambassador, political commentator, and “the face of feminism"?

When Steinem was just a few years old, her mother had a debilitating nervous breakdown that hurled her into a world of delusions. The woman couldn't hold a job - let alone take care of herself for any length of time - so her husband ended up divorcing her. While Steinem has made it clear that she doesn't blame her father for leaving, years of being forced to care for her mother opened her eyes to many of the injustices women faced and still face, such as constrictive gender stereotypes and horrifically low wages.

Since her unintentional "aha" moment all those decades ago, Steinem has become an irrefutable force with a list of achievements ten miles long. She co-founded Ms. Magazine, the first magazine written exclusively by women, for women. She campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, and many other laws that would seek to destroy gender discrimination. She's appeared in every major magazine from Newsweek, to Time, to People, to Parade, and has been a major contributing factor in introducing the feminist agenda to a larger audience. She was arrested in 1984 for protesting apartheid in South Africa (which, like our nation’s own bought of racial segregation in the early-to-mid 1900's, is the forced separation of people based on ancestry), and has worked closely with countless organizations such as the Women's Media Center, Equality Now, Choice USA, the National Women's Political Caucus, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and First Peoples Worldwide.

When did she find time to breathe, I wonder?

To think that one woman - no, one person - accomplished all this is just mind-boggling. For a split second it makes me think "and what have YOU accomplished, Danielle?" but then I realize I still have another seventy or eighty years (keep your fingers crossed!) to follow in Steinem's footsteps. She is such an inspiration: it's one thing to be a loud, proud feminist nowadays when there are hundreds of thousands of women to back you up, but it was something entirely different to be a progressive (some would say "radical") feminist in an era when the woman's place was undisputedly in the home. I admire Steinem for her courage to stand up when few others did, for her ambition to take on the world without letting sexist stereotypes or expectations deter her, and for the fact that, even now, she doesn't give a flying fig about what people think of her.

When one thinks of our nation’s earliest pioneers of women's rights, they may think of the iconic Sister Suffragette made famous in the 1964 film Mary Poppins: prim, proper, middle-aged, white. While the suffragettes of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s did do unbelievable things for our country, Steinem took women's liberation a step further by grabbing feminist stereotypes by the horns. She chose to study politics in lieu of marriage and raising a family, showing that women are capable of making it on their own. She was one of the first people to tackle traditionally taboo subjects such as domestic violence, abortion, and genital mutilation, and gained a cult following for her insightful journalist pieces on said topics. She even used humor to deny (and perhaps stun) those who believed feminists are all stuffy, hairy hags who sit around drinking tea and thinking up what to complain about next. “Gloria Steinem” and “Women’s Liberation” are almost synonymous; Steinem is a pioneer, role model, and modern-day Superwoman.

If I’ve learned anything from Gloria Steinem, it’s simply to accept yourself for who you are. I mean, after claiming the feminist label a million thoughts ran through my mind: what will people think of me? What will my friends say, or my parents? Will people look at me differently in the future? Will they understand? It was almost as if my entire success as a feminist was dependent on how others viewed me. Isn’t that messed up? But after reading about Steinem and her amazing history, I knew she never cared about what people thought about her. Whether they worshipped her, mocked her, exalted her, or despised her, it had absolutely nothing to do with who she was as a person. So, in a way, Gloria Steinem has helped me to accept myself for who I am, and simply be.

Works Cited

"Gloria Steinem Biography." A&E Television Networks. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

"GLORIA STEINEM." Web. 28 Sept. 2010.

"Gloria Steinem." The Women's Conference - Empowerment, Inspiration and Education for Women - The Home for Architects of Change. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

"The Official Website of Author and Activist Gloria Steinem - Groups." The Official Website of Author and Activist Gloria Steinem. Gloria Steinem. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

"Women of the Hall." National Women's Hall of Fame. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Jewish? And feminist? Did I hear you right?"

No, I'm not Jewish. But a good friend of mine is, and when I posed the question "can feminism and religion truly coexist?" she was the first person to step up to the plate.

I consider myself a Unitarian Universalist, humanitarian, secular humanist - whatever you want to call it - so I know next to nothing about the inner mechanations of the major world religions. I wanted to write about feminism and Christianity, feminism and Islam, feminism and Buddhism (and so on), but it would be pretty hypocritical/stupid of me to try to write when I'm not "on the inside," if that makes sense.

Here to speak on behalf of Judaism is my good friend Talia, authoress of a blog cleverly titled Star of Davida. Talia describes herself as "A loudmouth, opinionated teenage Femidox (feminist Orthodox) Jew with a love of unadulterated Judaism, a fascination with her people's historical women, and way too much time on her hands," so you can bet her blog is worth checking out!

Here's what she said in response to my question:

"In June, someone asked me what my summer plans were. 'Well, I’m going to work on my Jewish feminist blog Star of Davida,' I replied. The person I was talking to looked confused. I could tell he was holding back from saying, 'Jewish? And feminist? Did I hear you right?'

It’s a reaction I’ve gotten from quite a few people; no one seems to be able to comprehend an Orthodox Jewwho’s also a feminist. I find it kind sad that Judaism, a religion that is so feminist, has been labeled as a patriarchal, sexist religion when it’s really not. The Torah, the central holy book of Judaism, continually affirms women’s equality.

When the Jews were given the Torah, God said to Moses, “So shall you say to the House of Jacob and the Children of Israel” (Exodus 19:3). The term “Children of Israel” is how the Bible refers to the Jewish nation, so commentators question the seemingly-extra “House of Jacob.” Most explain that “House of Jacob” refers to the women, while “Children of Israel” refers to the men. The commentators (who lived in medieval communities not famed for being pro-feminist) next question why it puts the women before the men.
At Creation, God created Adam and told him not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. God then created Eve, but did not tell her to abstain from the Tree directly, leaving it to Adam to pass on the message. The snake was then able to convince Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, Eve convinced Adam, and the two were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Seeing how it didn’t work out so well when God didn’t command womankind, God made up for it and commanded the women first at the giving of the Torah. It worked this time: when Moses didn’t come down from Mount Sinai on the expected date and the Jews created the Golden Calf as his replacement, the women didn’t participate.

This is one example of many in Judaism that shows that neither men nor women should have supremacy. Having ovaries does not make someone less of a person, and Judaism is fully aware of the fact. God wants equality for all people, of any gender, race, or religion."

Well, what's your opinion? Can feminism and religion truly coexist? Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, athiest, agnostic, or a Unitarian like me, send me your answers! I'd love to hear from you and publish your thoughts in an upcoming post, along with your name, blog, and anything else you'd like to promote. Check out the submission rules here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pat Robertson's NOPE (Parody of Obama's HOPE)

Here's a little piece I whipped up for my AP Language and Composition class. We're studying parodies . . . but I was totally serious when I made this. *laughs* Pat Robertson is my nemesis, and I kid you not, that's exactly what I said during my presentation! My teacher really appreciated that.

Here are some lovely videos of Pat Robertson, well, just bein' himself!

Pat Robertson Being Himself
Pat Robertson . . ."Blessing in Disguise"
Falwell and Robertson . . . After 9/11

Make sure you watch the last one. Ol' Patty is talking with a guy who claims feminism is "an alternative lifestyle," and that we (and "the abortionists") caused God to punish us with the 9/11 attacks.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm Back (Kind Of . . . )

Hey everybody! It's been a while since my last post, so I thought I owed you all an explanation. I've been back at school for about a month now, and boy, it doesn't get any easier, does it? My routine has basically been waking up 6:00, going to school, getting home at around 5:30, taking a nap, doing homework until the wee hours of the morning, crashing, and then starting the cycle all over again. In short, I haven't had much time to relax, let alone write.

Though I don't think I'll be cranking out epics anytime soon, I thought up a pretty ingenious plan. To make school a little more bearable, I've been bringing my passions (i.e. read the rest of this blog) into the classroom. A week or two ago we had to write an article as if we were a "muckraker" back in the late 1800's exposing a dire issue; I wrote about women's rights. In my Interpersonal Relationships class we had to do a presentation on "someone we admire"; I did mine on Gloria Steinem. Even today we were assigned to write a satirical piece on a current societal issue; my topic is abortion. I figure: when given a choice, I'll relate my schoolwork to the issues that I actually care about, and then I can just post 'em up on here! Genius, pure genius . . .

On an unrelated note, I'm extremely excited for Real Beauty Revolution this year. For those of you who don't know, I started at club called Real Beauty Revolution at my high school, and it's for anyone who's interested in gender equality, body image, media stereotypes, relationships, self-esteem . . . you know, the juicy stuff. Though I've been having a heckuva time getting the word out, I think the club has had a good start. We only had about ten people at our first meeting (half of which were my friends, so they don't really count!), but it was really intense. We did some of the activities from If You Really Knew Me and saw that, wow, we're all dealing with crap in our lives. We talked about how people at school never stop to get to know the real us - that we're always stuck in a reputation, an image - but we're so much more than that. The first meeting saw a lot of tears, but I think that's so important in getting people to realize RBR is a safe place to talk, and vent, and most importantly, encourage one another.

We had our second meeting yesterday and I am ecstatic to report that we had almost twenty people attend! Our discussion topic for the day was "true beauty," so we looked at ridiculous ads that try to tell us how we "should" look. Bigger breasts. Plastic surgery. Virtually no fat cells. It's exhausting to be a women sometimes when we're tirelessly bombarded with these messages, but we don't have to let them control us.
Next, we wrote our fears and insecurities on balloons and stomped on 'em . . . it was really fun and loud. I only hoped the administrators didn't come running into the breezeway thinking shots were being fired *smiles*

Anyway, that's my life right now. School, homework, Real Beauty Revolution. I'll try to write some original pieces in the near future when I actually get some free time, but for right now you'll have to settle for recycled History and English assignments!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Souls Speak Out" Against Domestic Violence

Sexual and domestic violence is all-too-real for many women across the United States (and the world), though most of us can't even fathom what must go through a woman's mind as she is being abused and left to deal with the lingering emotional trauma, or in some cases, (undeserved) guilt. If you've been affected by domestic violence and/or sexual abuse and would like to share your story, or read stories from other survivors, check out SoulSpeakOut:

"SoulSpeakOut is a space for survivors of all ages, genders, sexualities, cultural identities, nationalities, and abilities who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, incest, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment or any other violation of one’s body or sense of self to connect, validate and empower each other. Either anonymously or by name, survivors are encouraged to submit stories, testimonies, poetry or artwork concerning their experiences."

Women know that when we talk, we're not always looking for a solution. Sometimes we talk so we can heal, and so others will listen, and that's enough.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Interview on "Feminists For Choice"

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed on Feminists For Choice, a site that puts a spotlight on young activists to see what inspires them. Check out this excerpt:

"Feminist Conversations is a weekly column where we talk to feminists from around the country to find out what Feminism means to them, and what types of activism they’re up to in their neck of the woods. Today we’re talking to Danielle Burch, founder of a new blog called Experimentations of a Teenage Feminist. Danielle is a teenager, humanist, Unitarian, progressive rock lover, compulsive doodler, worry-wart, and rice cake junkie. Here’s what Danielle said when I caught up with her.

When did you start your blog, and what was your inspiration?

I started Experimentations of a Teenage Feminist back in June. School had just ended, giving me plenty of time to tackle the 10-foot-high stack of feminist books I’d checked out from the library (but had been too busy to read), and I honestly felt like I was on top of the world. I like to call this my “aha!” period. I felt so good about my new discovery – a philosophy that encompassed the beliefs I’ve had since childhood – that I was bursting with an energy that desperately needed an outlet. My blog allows me to vent, rant, muse, gush, and decompress, and it was literally my “coming out” as a writer and feminist. In one fell swoop I went from a girl who cringed at the thought of letting people read her English papers (let alone her personal thoughts), to someone who was shouting “Hello World!” from the rooftops. It was absolutely liberating.

When did you first call yourself a feminist, and what influenced that decision?

Though I’ve always been a stickler for women’s rights (human rights, actually), it took me years to discover feminism. But now that I have, I’m turning into the strong, compassionate, courageous person I’ve always aspired to be – and I’m loving every minute of it!

I’m the typical “I’ve-always-been-a-feminist-I-just-didn’t-know-it” case. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been disgusted by discrimination – racism, classism, homophobia – but sexism hits especially close to home. Once I started becoming aware of the stigmas and stereotypes women face on a daily basis – most notably sexist crap in the media – I was shocked and appalled, but didn’t know what to do about it. About four months ago I started researching activist groups online, and I’m so glad that I did. It only took about two seconds after reading the definitions for “feminist” that popped up on Google to decide my place in life . . ."


Check out the full-length article to find out what feminism means to me, why I don't think more teenagers are calling themselves the "f-word," and which famous feminist I'd meet if I had the chance!

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'd Like To "Juice" Jose Canseco's Head

Hey everybody, I'd just like to make a disclaimer that because I'm back in school, I won't be able to post as frequently as I'd like to. (But don't blame me, blame the two hours of Calculus homework we're getting each night!) Anyway, here's my response to another article by Maureen Dowd called Where's the Road Beef?:

In this article by Maureen Dowd, we’re given a glimpse into the world of major league baseball via Jose Canseco’s Juiced, where behind the glitz, glam, and bobble-heads, America’s boys of summer are using terms like slump buster and road beef to describe women. What is a slump buster, you ask? “It could mean [a woman who is] big, or ugly, or a combination of both,” says Canseco, and it’s how some of our beloved hard-hitters are coping with a bad season. As former Chicago Cubs first baseman Mark Grace put it, they’ll find “the fattest, gnarliest chick” possible and (to put it lightly) use them.

I use toilet paper. I didn’t know it was acceptable to use human beings.

Dowd’s article isn’t exclusively about Canseco and friends; in the grand scheme of things it’s about archaic standards of beauty, and the stigmas overweight women face each and every day. As she points out, “TV is full of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ pairings, with fat, lazy husbands and foxy, impressive wives.” But do we ever acknowledge relationships between slender guys and larger women? No. We live in a society where women are judged by their looks and men for the size of their wallets, and heaven forbid we reveal the face of “real” women who don’t have money to shell out for liposuction, implants, or Botox - and who wouldn’t want those things, anyway.

This article hits home because I can relate to it. I’m sure a lot of women and young girls can relate to it. Feeling like an outcast, feeling like your worth is determined by your body . . . it’s an unfortunate, unavoidable reality. And even if Dowd doesn’t call us to do anything to change the mentalities of locker rooms everywhere, her last line deserves an Emmy: “One thing is for sure, though. Guys who look at fat women as ‘slump busters’ are fatheads.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fbomb, Smart Girls, and Ruby the Feminist

Gosh, I can't even remember what it was like before Fbomb waltzed into my life. If you've been living under a rock (kidding, of course), Fbomb is one of the most well-known (and kick-ass) sites for young feminist writers to vent their frustrations, debate, and ultimately validate each other's women-can-do-anything attitudes. Heck, it feels pretty good to know teen feminists aren't a dying breed!

Anyway, I was making my daily rounds when I came across a link posted for a site called Smart Girls at the Party; I had to check it out.

Lo and behold, Smart Girls at the Party is great! Sure, it feels like it's aimed more at the 6-to-12 demographic than at disgruntled teens surfing the Web at 2:00 in the morning, but thumbing through the videos - all about young girls and their endeavors as engineers, gardeners, something called a "yogini" - I just felt good. The site is all about recognizing girls who "change the world by being themselves," and come on, how could that not make you feel warm and fuzzy inside?

But what really touched me - more than the cutesy site design or learning that Amy Poehler is a feminist(!) - was this video about a seven-and-three-quarters-year-old girl named Ruby.

Not only is Ruby a singer, dancer, actress, skateboarder (and future president, I'm assuming), she is a serious advocate for women's rights and self-proclaimed feminist, wrote a book in kindergarten that asserts if boys can do it, so can I, and has even met the legendary Gloria Steinem.

It sounds kind of stupid, but I envy Ruby - not only for her unfailing optimism and the fact she found convictions at such a young age - but for her innocence. Ruby thinks feminism is the greatest thing in the world, she has the fundamental belief that girls and boys are equal, she's armored against all the idiotic feminist stereotypes out there - and if she's not, she doesn't seem to care about them. I'll admit, sometimes I wonder "what will so-and-so think of me now that they know I'm a feminist?" But seeing this video, I want to be more like Ruby and stop freaking doubting myself.
Watch the video, 'kay? It'll make you feel good.

If you decide to join Smart Girls at the Party, look me up! Here's the link to my profile!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...