NY grad student shares life-changing experiences of women’s studies

For a nostalgic but real look at the impact of women’s studies programs, read Sarah T. Schwab’s opinion piece, “Room helped to fill a hole in my heart”  in The Buffalo News.

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And now Hulteen

As if Lilly Ledbetter’s case wasn’t enough, the United States Supreme Court has made another ruling poised to discriminate against working women.
A.T.T. Corp. v. Hulteen dealt with pension benefits and whether women should get credit for time off for pregnancy if the leave was taken before the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.
The court found that women could be denied credit for the time they were off work as it related to their pension times.
As Dina Lassow, Senior Counsel for the National Women’s Law Center indicated, “This ruling erects barriers to the equal treatment of women in the workplace and gives a green light to employers to continue penalizing female employees who have borne children.”
And you wonder why there is still a gender gap!

Commentary from Eve Ensler: War on women in Congo

Eve Ensler(CNN) — I write today on behalf of countless V-Day activists worldwide, and in solidarity with my many Congolese sisters and brothers who demand justice and an end to rape and war.

Read more from Eve Ensler on the CNN Web site.

Celebrate Mother’s Day as it was intended

Jodie Evans, the author, co-founder of the grass-roots peace and justice movement CODEPINK and board member of the Women’s Media Center, calls on us to honor Mother’s Day as it was originally intended — by the abolitionist, feminist and pacifist Julia Ward Howe. Read the full article.

The lone male speaks up in the Feminist Theory classroom

Editor’s Note: Author Jason Schweizer is a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

male-feministsIt’s strange to be the only male feminist in a Feminist Theory class. When reading feminist thought (especially second-wave thought), I often find myself defending men’s position.

This is as much the man in me as it is the Libra and perpetual devil’s advocate. But I also find myself asking, why have we excluded men?

I’m a guy. I know guys. I spend most of my time with other guys. And most of the men I know who are my age (24) may not identify as feminists, but their core sets of values are undoubtedly reflective of many core feminist values.

Yea, okay, maybe guys do sexist stuff like talk about how many chicks they banged the other week, but in their hearts, the men I know believe that women and men are emotionally and intellectually equal. Their core feminist values are undermined by a tradition of chauvinism, but the chauvinist façade that many men adopt is simply that — a façade.

Sitting in Feminist Theory class, I can imagine most of my Midwestern guy friends sitting in class and being engaged in the conversation. I can see them agreeing and disagreeing in basically the same places I do. I can see them respectfully and passionately engaged in a meaningful discussion of women’s issues, and bringing real insight to the table.

Men would be enormously helpful as feminism progresses deeper into the 21st century, but feminist thought has consistently failed to reach out to enlightened men who would otherwise be voices for our cause. In some cases, feminist thought has intentionally excluded men.

But it’s time to wage a campaign. Feminism needs more voices! In my opinion, thousands of young men are being raised each year who could and would be voices for the feminist movement, but who never will be because nobody is asking them to overlook the negative stereotypes that have come to be associated with the f-word.

Here’s a short list of things to consider:

  1. Cultural change only occurs in one of two ways: through conflict or through consensus. If we had more men jumping on board with us, consensus would be a lot easier to achieve. More feminist men means more feminist voters.
  2. Men have easier access to wealth, power, and prestige than do women—and feminist men won’t be quite so likely to hoard it.
  3. Feminist men are all-around less dismissive, more respectful, much more likeable and altogether better at life than traditional men.

But men aren’t going to come to a feminist theory class because feminism has come to be conceptualized through stereotypes. As the next generation of feminists, it is our duty to reclaim feminism’s good name. We must reach out to others.

Thousands of young men and young women are waiting to call themselves feminists—they just don’t know it yet. The feminist movement has the opportunity to be so much more powerful than it is. We just need to learn to reach out.

Feminists fight for equality for all, including gays, lesbians

Editor’s Note: This post was written by a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

civil-unionsIs it just me, or is the issue of a civil union between gays and lesbians still an issue for the straights and people who are afraid of change?

I mean, why is it that we cannot come together for once in our lives and stop the fighting? It’s not like we are going to harm anyone or do something terrible after we get the right.

Every type of feminism involves the issue of gay marriage because feminists fight for equality for everyone, not just women. We want everyone to be happy and live as one so we can stop all of the fighting and violence.

It is so true that over the last 30 years our beloved American culture has been extremely motivated to research gender issues as though non-heterosexuality is some type of disease.

It all started in the 1960s, when the various “rights” movements came into full effect. The radicals have supported the efforts of equality the most because they are radical, as is indicated by their name. Together with huge propaganda efforts channeled through the media–to change the norms and values not only of American society, but of the world — all feminist groups have stood together to stop this hatred towards those who love and want to be with the same sex.

At the core of this revolution are a multitude of studies by various groups trying to prove that sexism and homophobia are the cause of most of the problems of women and homosexuals, as well as of our society in general.

The topic of marriage or civil union may be out of the question for now, but it should not be like that. Who are we to judge one another for what we like? We don’t do it to them, so why should it be done to us?

My first steps towards becoming an independent woman

Editor’s Note: This post was written by a graduate student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

sharing-housework1This year I am trying to accomplish something new. I do not usually try to accomplish specific things or make short-term goals for myself. However, it is in my best interests to try to accomplish this task. This task is cooking.

I am a stranger to the world of pots, pans, griddles and ovens. I have been living on my own for the last year and a half, and have relied, most of the time, on cold food and frozen dinners.

My parents used to supply me with the frozen dinners, but I am currently not on good terms with my parents, and therefore they have not been giving me frozen dinners any more. So I decided to learn to cook, instead of buying expensive prepackaged frozen dinners.

Therefore, my quest to become a cook/chef started. First off, I had to go grocery shopping. Then I had to learn how to use the oven, and this was difficult to learn since touching and using the oven are two of my phobias. Next I attempted to bake a few different types of food.

Currently, I am taking baby steps and am also trying to use the stove more to cook the food. Also, since I am spending more time in my apartment, it needs to be cleaned more often. Also, I have to do laundry a lot more often.

Doing laundry has been a completely new experience for me, since I only started doing my own laundry very recently. I always used to bring my laundry to my parents’ house,and they had always done my laundry.

But since I am not on good terms with my parents right now, I do not visit home very often. So far, doing my own laundry has not been difficult, whereas cooking has been more of a challenge.

When learning how to cook and do laundry, I started thinking about the role of a stay-at- home wife and/or mother. I thought about all the time and commitment such women put into cleaning, doing laundry and cooking for their families and themselves. I wonder what these women think about their roles and tasks in life and if they are happy and content with always maintaining a clean home and putting food on the table.

Through my own experiences, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed doing laundry and attempting to learn how to cook. As a young woman learning how to accomplish tasks in the “private sphere” of life, I did not feel forced to fulfill the roles of being a woman cook or housecleaner. I felt that I was performing a gender neutral task that a married couple, both the man and woman should be both obligated to do.

After performing these tasks, I do not understand why women have been obligated to perform these tasks, or to work only in the “private sphere” of the home. From my first experiences, I believe that both women and men should learn how to perform these household tasks, and that married couples should split up these tasks equally, based on preference, and/or based on who is simply home more to complete the housework.

I believe that neither a man nor woman should be forced to do the housework or made to feel worthless like a spouse’s maid or servant; yet many couples are forced to take on the housework among themselves, and “traditionally” the wife seems to take on more of the household responsibilities.

I believe that a couple should first discuss who will do which household chores when moving in with one another, instead of the couple just assuming that the woman will take on the “feminine” indoor housework, while the man works outside the home.

The idea that couples can share the housework may send gender neutral messages to a couple’s children. This is important for future generations so they do not depend on gender identity to shape an individual and the individual’s role in society.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with being a woman and doing housework. However, a woman shouldn’t feel obligated to fulfill certain roles during her lifetime, whether it be those of a housewife, a mother, caregiver, or even a career woman.

Abstinence-only sex ed is not the answer

Editor’s Note: Author Megan Ohls is a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

sexedu2From a health standpoint, if we want to stop the spread of AIDS and other STDs, abstinence-only sex education isn’t the answer. Sexually Transmitted Diseases among young people are spreading at alarming rates, and in order to get this under control we need to have comprehensive sex education in our schools.

Recent surveys show that 70 percent of U.S. teens have engaged in oral sex by the time they reach 18, and more than 45 percent have had intercourse at least once. More than 70 percent of young women and 80 percent of young men approve of premarital sex, according to a study published recently in the Review of General Psychology.

These statistics make it obvious that teenagers are having sex and are going to have sex, so as a society we need to make sure they are educated about what they are doing. In my opinion, the result of our failure to educate our young people about sex is ruining our society because we are just letting teen pregnancy happen.

Some people argue that social issues like this need to be left to parents, but I feel that as a society we must provide girls in particular with the education they need to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

An unwanted pregnancy can cause so many girls to fail to continue their education. I myself find it depressing to see how many girls from my high school graduating class aren’t enrolled in college. They key to earning an income that is above the poverty line is education.

Most mothers, and particularly single mothers, will tell you its very hard to raise a kid. Most college students will tell you that juggling the pressures of being in school is hard. Combining both is even more difficult.

I have a hard time seeing why women support abstinence only education. Sarah Palin in particular comes to mind. Her own daughter, Bristol, commented on the issue during a Fox News interview. She told Greta Van Susteren that teaching sexual abstinence to teenagers is “not realistic at all.” Bristol Palin said, “I hope people learn from my story. It’s so much easier if you’re married, have a house and career. It’s not a situation you want to strive for.”

She denied that her mother’s anti-abortion views were the reason she went ahead with the pregnancy. “It was my choice to have the baby,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what my mom’s views are on it. It was my decision.”

I am happy that she decided to keep the kid because it was her choice, and I am pro choice. If I were her, I would be telling my mom that I wanted her to change her stance on women’s rights.

I honestly don’t know what young girls are going to learn from her story. She is right when she says that it is easier if you’re married and have a house and career, which most young girls don’t have.

My personal opinion on solving any problem is simply education. While I’m not saying that abstinence only education is out of the question, my opinion is that if you are going to teach abstinence, you also need to educate girls and boys about using protection.

The main argument people use about teaching both is this idea that “they will be confused.” I say no, they won’t. Stressing the idea of waiting until you are ready is a good idea, but at the same time eventually young people will have sex.