Informal Feminism











{December 6, 2011}   Theory of a Deadman Hates Women

So I took a little break from the blog, not on purpose but things get hectic sometimes. The new women’s group keeps me pretty busy outside of work but I have something I need to write about. A certain song has been brought to my attention since it has been getting fairly regular airplay from what I understand. This song is called “The Bitch Came Back” by Theory of a Deadman. I find this song to be highly offensive and women hating at its core. This song speaks about women generally and is horribly derogatory to them.

            I’m going to start by showing you just a few of the lyrics in this song that got my feminist radar up:

            I like her so much better when she is down on her knees

            Cause when she’s in my face that’s when I’m stating to see

           

The Trouble with Girls is that they are all the same

            Forget the diamonds and pearls they just want a ring

           

            The trouble with girls is never enough

            Love to complain and they never shut up

 

            It ain’t a joke when I say I wanna throw you out

            I really mean it, I really mean it

 

These lyrics comprise the main section in each verse. When I first heard this song my first gut reaction was how can this be acceptable in a society. To produce music that is so angry towards women. That is blatantly misogynistic at its heart. This is a pop music band which means that they get a lot of radio play and are a staple of teenage culture. To produce this song is to teach a whole new generation of teenagers what it means to be a woman. Male teenagers will instil this as another reason that they are allowed to treat women as less because they want nothing more in life then to entrap a man. As well it reflects sexually exploitative values in the lyrics “I like her so much better when she’s down on her knees” once again reinforcing the idea that women are nothing more then sexual objects. Female teenagers are being presented with the idea that women are worthless and are something to be thrown away, they have no value and deserve to be treated like garbage.

            We are being presented with an image of women as nothing, worthless and desiring only to get the attention of men. These images are detrimental to the many women who are out working hard to make changes in this world. These are women who are strong and have intent in this world beyond the male sphere. When this song was presented to me I was asked the question: but don’t they have free speech? To this I answered everyone has free speech but that is not the issue at the heart of this song. This song gets more airplay then most of the talented female musicians who are out there producing empowering music for women that teaches us that they last thing we need to rely on is men. The radio airways are unfairly weighted to this kind of music that is harmful to women and teaches hatred set to a catchy beat.

            The final point that really made got my feminist ire going was that this song was actually written for the band by a woman. When I was doing my research about the song I learned that the songwriter is a woman named Kora DioGaudri. This proves how deep patriarchal values go in our society. When we have women producing music that promotes hate towards other women we are in need of a serious societal overhaul. It again shows how much women are taught to hate other women and have no respect for each other. This songwriter is quite a well established and respected person in the music industry but to get there she is writing songs that bash women, give me Ani DiFranco any day.



This week I attended, along with a few girls from my women’s group, a documentary that was being hosted by Girls Inc of Durham. Girls Inc is a fantastic female oriented community group that focuses on ways to empower young women. Their motto is “inspiring girls to be strong, smart, and bold”. They held an event at the Regent Theatre, which is downtown Oshawa, where they screened Miss Representation. This is a film that explores the way that women are portrayed in popular media and how those images are harmful to real women.
In the film it overviewed several different issues about representation of women in media. One issue was the way that women in politics are dissected. Women in politics are often first discussed in terms of their appearance. They are questioned about plastic surgery and critizied for looking too old or too young. They are critiqued in a way that male politicians do not have to face. As a result, they are also taken less seriously by their almost entirely male collegues. In terms of television there are very few shows that feature a strong female politician and the ones that do tend to get cancelled quickly. The way that female politicians get dissected in the media helps to negatively affected women because it shows women of power being critiqued because of appearance instead of platform. By undermining strong women who are out campaigning it creates a hostile environment for those other young women who are thinking about following this path because they see women trying to affect change being belittled. This is only one way that media helps to create a harmful image of women.
The film also discusses how demeaning the image of women in film, television and advertising can be. All of these areas represent a certain image of women. The ideal woman is tall, but not taller then the males, beautiful, thin, big breasts, and between the ages of 16-30. What is not mentioned is the way that these women are being fixed before they can go on television. They are slathered with make-up and then digitally fixed if not 100% perfect. In paper advertisements it is even worse they are easily photo shopped to look a certain way. They can elongate the neck, thin the cheeks, and remove any unsightly blemishes so that you no longer look even remotely like yourself. Female journalists are bouncing out of their small shirts instead of being taken seriously. These are women who are supposed to be in a position of authority but they are turned into objects because of their appearance. Women who choose not to follow this certain image of beauty are publicly criticized and dissected. Rachael Maddow a well known political pundit was constantly bombarded because of her sexuality, lesbian, and her appearance which doesn’t buy into stereotypes of women instead of being discussed in terms of merit. But it is not only the way that women are presented that is the issue but also they way that they are perceived to act.
Women in film and television are often portrayed as having to fight the other women for the leading male character. One of the best cases of this is reality television, in almost every reality television show there has been a large fight between two of the female characters. This way of viewing women leads them to be distrustful of one another and works to keep women from being comfortable sharing with each other. Which translates into real life, most if not all of the women I know have told me that they have felt that rivalry at some point or another. Women also often take a backseat to the male characters actions, in most action films the females are seen as the prize to collect. In the few films where women are seen as having an active role they are doing it in a way that is attractive to the male gaze. It always caught me when I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer how she could fight in those short skirts and heels. Xena: Warrior Princess is another classic example of the female lead being strong but the clothing choice impractical. When Women are central characters in other films or television show they are usually romantic and once again based around the plot line of a female seeking a male. There are very few films that have women with agency driving a plotline that does not involve finding a man.
The one point that I felt got a little shafted when it came to speaking in detail with this film was the way that these images affect young men. While they mentioned that they do affect men by showing them that women are objects and they this thought process leads to a rape culture because women are seen as less then human. I felt they could have gone a little deeper with how men experience this phenomena and what their perception of the images are. Many of the men and young boys in the film discussed how masculinity came along with certain ideas about women. They also talked about the pressure to be considered masculine, one example is how you have to be unwilling to show emotion if you are to be good at being a man. I think these issues could have been explored more because it is very important to understand that negative images of women and ubermasculine images of men have huge impacts on what young boys learn about gender and how they are supposed to act.
The way that these negative images of women in society affect young girls was clear in this film. Girls are subjected to higher rates of depression, the majority of news articles about women are focused on how they are victimized, and the majority of women in North America are struggling with body issues. This is because women are constantly faced with images that show how we are not good enough or do not match the standard image of women, an image that is the farthest thing from reality going. This article is a very brief overview of some ideas presented in this film but I strongly encourage that you find a way to watch it because it will help broaden the ways that we view women’s oppression. The film again is called Miss Representation. I think that Girls Inc had a fantastic turn out for the film as well, which means that people are willing to learn and understand more about how powerful a tool media is in its ability to shape our perceptions. We need to provide our children with the tools to be critically aware of the images that they see in the media and fight to make changes in the way that women are represented in popular media and their treatment as a result of this image.



Remember when Halloween was meant to be a holiday that you used to dress up and scare people?  I went shopping for a costume today with my boyfriend and a good friend because we are going to be attending the zombie walk next Saturday. At first we thought that we might buy costumes and just douse them in blood. However, when we approached the female section of the costume shops it was clear that the majority of the female costumes would not work for our purposes. The reason: they were far too short and revealing to be of any use when we are going to be spending the afternoon outside in Canada.

It became apparent that Halloween costumes are another tool with which to objectify women. All of the adult female costumes are low cut and designed to be sexy over scary. We looked at the female versions of Freddy Kruger and Jason both of these costumes were low cut mini-dresses that we so short if you bent over the whole universe would get a good shot of your underwear. They also conform to a certain body type, most of the costumes only come in small to large, and extra-large is available if you’re lucky. I am a size 14 which is supposed to fit into their large or extra-large category but every time I have tried on one of these costumes I have been unable to fit into it or it has been skin tight. I always feel uncomfortable in them and I know that being smooshed into the outfit is terribly unflattering. So my personal experience with these costumes has always been negative.

The other problematic area with these costumes is the young girl’s version of the costumes, which are often very similar to the adult costumes. They have an extra inch or two, maybe, in the skirt and the tops are not cut in a super low vee but the sexy style of the costumes is still the same. These girls are being taught from a young age that their Halloween costumes are meant to be attractive instead of scary or fun. We also saw sections for teens/tween’s in which the female costumes had found a medium between child and adult. In these versions the skirts were similar lengths to the adult, which were mostly very small, and the tops had begun to dip into a deep vee but there was a white or black band that covered the cleavage of the young woman. So these costumes again give young girls the idea that they are meant to be objects. Their costumes are designed to be pleasing to the male gaze.

We found out when talking to one of the store clerks who was helping us that most of the costumes that are now produced are produced by the lingerie companies which explains why they are so seductive looking instead of fun or scary. To me Halloween is a day where I can dress up as the most fun thing I can think of and not be myself for the night. It should not just be about finding another way to dress for men’s pleasure and gaze. I think that by mass producing costumes that objectify women it is another way that we are being taught the ‘right’ way to act. That way being that we should always be deferring our comfort level for the pleasure of the men surrounding us, we are meant to be looked at in a way that reproduces the idea that women are only meant for sex. As well if you do not fit into this certain body shape then you will have a better chance in the men’s section because the female costumes are only for a certain type, so they are not even remotely inclusive of female body structure. So, I am opting out of our mass produced Halloween costumes and am making my own from old clothes that will keep me warm and covered and scary when I am out shambling the streets next Saturday dressed as a zombie.



{September 25, 2011}   Following My Passion

I have feeling kind of in a rut lately. Life has caught up with me and I feel I have been constantly stuck doing things to get by instead of things that help satisfy my passions in life. It has caused me to think about passion and how important making time to fulfill our passions can be. With me I have found myself over the last year falling into the role of doing things always to get by and claiming I am to tired to work at my passion after I get done with my day. It has created a state in which I am not giving to a very important part of my being.

I think a common mistake about pursuing your passions is that it is going to come naturally to you and it will be easy because you want to be doing it. This is not true; for most of us if we have something we love to do we have to work hard at it. It can be hard to do it after a long shift at work and we can easily find excuses to not do it. I have been responsible for falling into this category lately and I find it is taking a toll on my soul because I am not fulfilling a very important part of it. My passion lies in women’s issues and in finding ways to help other women learn about the role feminism plays in their lives.

During my university career I was able to center my education on my passion and as a result found it pretty easy to incorporate women’s issues and feminism into my daily life. When I was in class I was learning, when I was outside of class I was having enlightening discussions with friends or writing and independently learning about women’s issues. I lived and breathed feminist theory; it was easy then to know that I was doing what I was meant to be doing in life. When I left university I lost a lot of that community connection that kept me in touch with my passion and as a result began to fall into a rut.

In my rut I found myself going to work and coming home to watch television. At my job I find many interesting things to learn but because of my line of work it didn’t keep me in touch with my passion which is women’s issues. I have learned tons of amazing things about natural health and as a result have begun to live a healthier life then before but there was still a part of me that was not getting addressed, one of the most important parts I would say. It was after a few months of being in this rut that I came up with this blog.

When I started the blog I knew it would be a great way for me to keep in touch with my feminism and have a medium in which to express all my thoughts on the issues. It has done that for me and, though I have been a little lax this summer, I try to keep up every week so that my passion can get addressed and I have an outlet. However, even with the blog I have recently found it is not enough. I want to find a way to use my degree and my knowledge and I want to create a community of women in which to share it with. I have started that community already with a great group of women who are as excited about women’s issues as I am but it is time to move that group to a more public space and group of women.

This Friday night September 30th myself, along with my current group of women, are going to be officially starting a women’s group open to the community at large. It is time that I created a space in which myself and other women feel comfortable coming and discussing issues that relate to our lives and experiences. It is time that women in the Oshawa area had a space where they have a voice. Also, I think the passion that has been niggling the back of my mind will be ceased with this group because I will have a way to be a part of a strong female community again.

Feminism is my passion and that part of my being that keeps me driven. By not acknowledging it I have been doing myself a disservice and I think that this is the same with all people. We need to be able to find our passion and work out an outlet for it.

 

So if you are in the Oshawa area on Friday night please feel free to stop by the Garden Grove, 11 Taunton rd. (simcoe and taunton) at 8pm and we have some open honest discussion about women’s lives and experiences.



{September 11, 2011}   A Brief History of Grace O’Malley

I have started re-watching Xena: Warrior Princess this week, as all the episodes came on Netflix. It has been a blast down memory lane since I remember watching all the episodes on my Nana and Papa’s living room floor as a kid. The show is phenomenal in terms of recognition of female strength. What it has brought to mind are the strong women who have lived throughout history and made significant impacts in their time. So this week I would like to highlight one of these women and talk about Grace O’Malley.

Grace O’Malley was a pirate in the late sixteenth century, her life ran the same timeline as Queen Elizabeth 1st. Grace was born and lived in Ireland her whole life. She was born to a man who had a strong hold in Irish trade and was a seaman himself. She was constantly trying to get to sea and become a sailor but was discouraged because she was a female. Legend has it that when Grace was a young teenager she wished to accompany her father on one of his ships but was told she could not accompany him because her hair was too long. The legend goes that she cut off all her hair and dressed as a boy to pressure her father to take her with him. This was one of her first encounters with the sea but far from her last. She went on many trading missions with her father and learned the ways of the sailor because of her persistence spirit.

She was married to a man named Donal O’Flaherty at sixteen, to whom she had three children. In this relationship she established herself as a leader among his men by proving herself in battle beside them. She was eventually given charge over the O’Flaherty fleet of ships and used them for various mission of both trade and piracy. It was through these ships she was able to help grow the O’Flaherty wealth. Donal died in battle after nineteen years of marriage to Grace. Grace was left to live off of his family which did not sit well with her. It was not long before she left to return to her family home with a fair amount of the O’Flaherty men at her side. It is through this that we can see what a fair and great leader she was because these men followed her willingly to the next chapter of her life.

Once she returned home she became head of her clan and grew her own fleet of ships and land holdings. She was married once more in her life to a man named Richard Burke; this marriage was more to strengthen her hold on the west coast of Ireland. The story of her a Burke goes that Grace married him for one year so that both parties could fortify against the English because they had strongholds in the same area Clew Bay, which Grace held most of the area. After one year it is said that she moved her men into his castle and said the words “I release you” and kept the castle because she was in it at the time. On record Burke and Grace were married for seventeen years but no one can say if they actually remained married that whole time or just for that first year. The marriage’s original goal was to gain the castle and fortify Clew Bay for her clan.

Grace had one final child. The legend goes with this child she had him at sea and after she had given birth on the ship it was attacked by pirates. Grace supposedly got up from her bed, grabbed a pistol, and went to fight at her men’s side. If this is true then it is proof of her strength as a leader and one who knows her role to fight side by side with her men regardless of circumstance.

In the late 1500’s Grace traveled to meet Queen Elizabeth after the arrest of her brother and son. She came to ask that the English queen released them and was surprised when she received an audience. She struck a deal with the Elizabeth that she would release her family if Grace stopped encouraging Irish rebellion. It was the one and only meeting between two powerful and influential women of the time both leaders in their own right, though it is said their there still exists correspondence between them. Once Grace returned to Ireland however she was subjected to constant harassment by Sir Richard Bingham, one of the English men trying to help conquer Ireland. He saw her as a threat and had her arrested and almost executed at one point. It was then that Grace broke her promise to stop encouraging the Irish rebellion and took part in it again.

Grace O’Malley was known to be sailing until as late as 1601 and there are even tales that her death took place aboard one of her ships in 1603, she died the same year as Queen Elizabeth. In her time Grace proved over and over again that she was one of the best leaders in Ireland at the time. She received loyalty and built a safe home for her clan. She was unafraid to go into battle or sail the seas. She also raised a family alongside becoming a great leader. She is an extraordinary woman because she lived in a time when it was unheard of for a woman to be the head of clan. She also crossed all the lines between woman’s and men’s work of the time.



I watched a very interesting documentary the other day called The Business of Being Born. This film was about the process of women giving birth in North America. This documentary highlighted some of the differences between hospital birth and home birth. It talked in depth about the medicalization of the birthing industry in North America, where women are taught not to trust their bodies. It became clear in this documentary that women are no longer recognized as the authority on giving birth.

It was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that the power shifted from midwives to doctors. More and more births began to take place at the hospital and less and less at home. Midwives were made to seem under qualified by medical standards, despite years of training and shared knowledge. The reality is that doctors were not trained in giving birth and many were put in the position of assisting a birth without ever having any training in process of giving birth. This lead to barbaric practices such as strapping women to gurneys, blinding them during the birthing process, and using excessive quantities of drugs without knowledge of the side effects. By the 1950’s the majority of births were taking place in hospitals and those who sought out midwives were seen as crazy. Women were trained to believe that they did not know their own bodies and not to trust what it was telling them.

In most other developed countries midwives are taking care of the majority of births with high rates of success and lower rates of issues taking place during the birth. These women see themselves as being a helpmate to their clients, trusting that these women’s bodies know how to birth a child. They are highly trained and skilled in what to do in case of emergency and always have a transportation plan in place, in case something goes so wrong they need to get to a hospital. Midwives tend to have high rates of success with the birthing process because of this acceptance of a women’s body. They are working with the natural process not trying to work against or around it. In a hospital there are high rates of induction because there is a time line of how long your birth is supposed to go on for.

In a hospital there is a higher chance of c-section, in North America the rates are almost half of all hospital births end in c-section. This is because they seem to be asking for complications. They have problems often because of the drugs that they use for induction of the birthing process. They also almost always position a woman lying of her back with her legs in the air, which is a really good position for the doctor but it actually helps to make the pelvis smaller for the woman. This means that it is harder for the child to pass through the birth canal. In the documentary they interviewed several OB-GYN’s and often they were of the opinion that women should have a birth at home or with a midwife if they seemed at low risk of complications. The scary thing about the c-section ratio is that it is major surgery that is underplayed to the female population, to the point that women are now volunteering to have them done. They can have large side effects because it is such a major surgery. The midwife’s interviewed in the film did not have to perform a c-section until their 187th birth in their practice and the second c-section was at the 317th, this shows how skewed the c-section statistics are in North America.

The portrayals of the women giving birth in this film were interesting. Most of the portrayals of women in birth I have seen are ones that highlight the pain and struggle of birth. In the women in this film while they were going through the pain of childbirth and it is a hard process but they seem calmer because they have the opportunities to do what makes them comfortable. Many of the women are shown walking around and then giving birth in a squatting position, which is a more natural birthing position. Most of them even help guide their child out of them. Once done they have instant bonding because of the oxytocin that is released in their brains and not clouded by the drugs they pump into you in the more recent incarnations of child birth. These women seemed to take strength from having their child at home and when it was done they got the highest natural high you can get when their brain was flooded with love hormones. It was nice to see a version of childbirth where the women weren’t afraid of what was happening to them.

It was interesting to see the contrast between hospital birth and home birth. One comes across as being a place where a woman’s instincts are no longer trusted; the other seems to be giving women a chance to access knowledge from other women and to trust their own bodies to do what it is designed to do. The hospitalization of childbirth can be seen as another way to strip women of power over their own body. Women are no longer trusted to know how to birth a child and are instead instilled with fear about the process. It alienates us from our own bodies and gives control to a male dominated industry.



{August 7, 2011}   My Choice About Children

I had a good friend of mine up this weekend. I was in Women’s Studies with me and we share a lot of the same views on life. Whenever we get together we have interesting conversations about a variety of topics. This weekend during the course of the discussions we talked about our mutual view that we do not wish to have children. I am going to clarify for you immediately, I like children and I have a few in my life that rank high on the important scale including my partner’s eight year old son and one of good friend’s daughter who is a year and a half. These are children who I have no problem being a part of life or taking a role in their lives. However, I do not wish to have my own children.

When I make this statement I usually receive a sideways glance or the comment ‘you will one day’ or ‘give it time’. It is these comments that drive me crazy because to these people there is no doubt that I will have children one day. I know my own opinion on the issue and it’s been the same since I was a young teenager, I do not want to have my own biological children and it is not something that I have doubts on in my own mind. As a stated before I like children and I think I am pretty good with them, they seem to like me back. When people see me with babies they lament my choice to not have children with the echoing phrase “but your so good with them, how could you not want your own”. The fact that I enjoy playing with the children in my life does not mean that I am destined to be a mom myself.

A woman who states that she does not want children is often looked down upon, as if we are not good enough as women to be able to maintain a family as well as the other parts of our lives. We are opting out of what many people feel to be a huge and fulfilling part of their lives; this opting out gives people the perception that we are selfish and destined to be spinsters. I have spent a lot of time taking about how we need to give our mothers more respect because they work so hard for us. Women who choose not be mothers don’t really get much acknowledgement. We are seen as less womanly because we choose not to participate in that motherly role. Men who decide not to have children do not face the same stigma as women because they are not seen as taking an active role in their children’s life by society already.

I think it is hard to be a woman who declares that they do not wish to have children because now there is an instant stigma. My decision is not something that I have a desire to put a maybe on, as in maybe I will have children one day, just to make people feel more comfortable. I do not want to be perceived as a bad, lonely, selfish person because of this decision but I am. People instantly do not think I have struggles of my own or that my issues are not as serious because I don’t have or want children. I have known a lot of women who have had children and talk about their fulfillment because of it but I choose to find my fulfillment in different ways. I would also like to state that this is not a choice that I make because I want to drink and party and I do not intend to seem selfish because of this decision. In fact I drink very little and my version of a party is a nice night by the fire with friends. I am just a woman who has chosen a path that doesn’t include having my own biological babies and I wish to not be judged because of that choice.



{July 31, 2011}   The Women of Mad Men

So I have just rounded out a Mad Men addiction, for the past month I have watched all four seasons. As I watched it I found myself shuddering at various and frequent casual remarks of sexism and racism, at the same time though I watched the female characters evolve and challenge these ideas throughout the series. It is interesting to watch the female characters in the show as they are examples of strong independent women. Each of the main women in this show is forced to confront issues of gender on a regular basis. I am going to talk a little bit about three of these characters: Betty Draper, Joan Harris, and Peggy Olson. **warning: Mad Men Spoilers to follow**

Betty Draper is the first wife of Don Draper, The lead male character. Throughout her marriage with Don there are repeated instances of cheating and lying that Betty has to deal with. She is also facing bored housewife syndrome; she is trapped with two, later three, children whom she doesn’t seem thrilled to be raising. In the first season she is sent to see a Male Psychiatrist, who spends his time listening to her and then reporting the information he hears back to her husband. Betty is constantly represented as unhappy. She clearly feels trapped by her children and is subject to constant humiliating because of her husbands frequent affairs. However, Betty does take control of her life when she demands a divorce from Don, which is a bold move for a woman in the sixties. Even after her divorce she remains relatively unhappy and her relationship with her daughter becomes fraught with tension do to her lack of communication. She is a good example of how many women feel as if they have to marry, have children, and be the perfect housewife when secretly they desire the complete opposite. I feel that while Betty is a character that is portrayed negatively often she is also one that deserves understanding because of her circumstances. She had little other choice then to become a housewife, as well her divorce from Don is one that needs to be commended because of its courage from a woman. Also her divorce put out what a woman of the time faced when she requested a divorce, which was the possibility of losing all financial security and even her children.

Joan Harris is another strong female character in the show. She plays the head secretary in the office. Throughout the series she is subjected to constant harassment by the males in the office. At the beginning of the show you think her goal is to find a husband but you quickly realize that she is a working girl at heart. She does a job that is above standard in hopes of being recognized for her efforts. At one point on the show she is given the task of helping the media department and does an outstanding job only to be replaced by a male when the job was proven useful. She is portrayed at different times as strong and weak. When she is in the office she is strong and commanding, eventually getting a management position within the new company. While she is respected by the partners of the firm, you see her constantly battling the minor male characters, such as the copywriters. She does speak her mind and stand up for herself well in these situations but the constant harassment she faces as a female in a male dominated industry is apparent and something that speaks to workplaces even now. Her weaker moments are the hands of her male partners. She is at one point raped by the man who becomes her husband. She is also portrayed as vulnerable in private but never in public. It is revealed that Joan has had two previous abortions and is shamed by a doctor when seeking a third. Her character is one of the stronger females because she is portrayed as being able to handle herself and often does so without the help of the men.

Peggy Olson is the last female I want to talk about. She begins the show as a secretary to Don Draper. She quickly finds a way to move up and becomes a copywriter. She is one of the most ambitious women on the show. She is fights her way into the boys club of copywriting and maintains an excellent career as a result of knowing how to sell products to women. She has her struggles as well, she is shown giving birth to a child she wasn’t aware of and giving that child up for adoption. She does this in order to save her career and it is a good example of the kind of sacrifices a woman had to make in order to maintain a career. She also faces harassment at every turn because of her gender; she has to constantly prove herself over and over again to the male characters in the show. This is true of Don especially. While most of the team think she is his favourite, and she is to a degree, it also means that he pushes her constantly and refuses to give her a break. It is also clear in one episode that Peggy feels underappreciated because Don wins a Cleo for work that she did a large part of and he refuses to acknowledge anyone but himself. Peggy also begins to show strong feminist leanings by the end of the forth season when she points out that women are lacking the many of the same freedoms as many other minorities at this point in history and that she had to fight hard to get to the position she was in.

It is interesting to watch the female characters in Mad Men because they all highlight various issues that women faced then and in some cases still face now. The female characters in this show are fully developed and a good example of how women were treating at this time. It also shows the effects that these strict female stereotypes take out on women; Betty Draper finding being a housewife cloistering, for example. So while I found the causal sexism and racism of the show unnerving at times, watching the women stand up for themselves and climb up through the corporate ladder was satisfying.



So back to business this week and the business of this week is Ani DiFranco. For those of you who are not familiar with her she is a folk artist with a definite feminist slant. She has been creating music since the early 1990’s and has shaped an impressive career from it. She was offered to be part of a major music label at the beginning of her career but turned it down to create her own studio where she could produce the music that she wanted to create and give other women the opportunity to create the same. I don’t want to write her biography here though; my intentions are to talk about how I have found this woman’s music to be a great influence in my life.

Do you have a favourite artist? An artist that you could listen to on repeat for the rest of your life without wishing to become deaf? Well for me that artist is Ani DiFranco. The music that she produces is something that I am contented to listen to endlessly. There is a quality about her music that is hard to find in the mass music labels. She writes, sings, and plays her own music. I had heard about her in high school and I remember thinking how she was someone who I should pursue listening to but I let her name slip from my mind. When I was in my second year of university I broke up with my boyfriend and was in a funk, it was not a happy parting of ways, and my best friend brought me music that she thought would help me: Ani DiFranco. It was then that I fell in love with her music. I remember listening to her music over and over and feeling stronger as a result of it. I was just beginning my women’s studies degree and I had found a woman who was singing about what it was like to be a woman; the good and the bad, the strong and the weak sides to us. I instantly related to the lyrics being presented to me. Listening to a woman sing about not needing men was an empowering moment and it was with her songs and an amazing set of friends around me that I got over my ex and realized was a douche he actually was.

It was after that I listened to her other music and also found a woman not afraid to sing about abortion and not being ashamed of her body. Singing about how tough she can be and yet how fragile at the same time. It was something that I think more women need to hear. Often we take on others at the expense of ourselves as women. While we love these people and would do anything for them, it is also important to have someone tell women that it is o.k. to be thinking of themselves as well. Our wellbeing is something that is important to our emotional health to know that we deserve to appreciated for all we do as women. She also tackle the issues of body and growing up as a young woman in our society, which can feel like a hard place when you don’t look like the model on the billboard. She writes music that tells women that they are beautiful as they are. Her music also has many different dimensions and is something that reflects the developments in her own life.

I remember when her most recent album, Red Letter Year, was released; I was in my second year of women’s studies and overheard some of my classmates discussing the album. They didn’t seem to think it was as good because there was a lot of music that talked about her love for her daughter. They seemed to be saying that becoming a mother had softened her and her music was a reflection of this. I would disagree that it was a bad thing to incorporate that love. I think that Red Letter Year is one of the best Ani albums produced. She does have more of a focus towards love, as a result of her daughter but it just shows her versatility. She produces amazing music and uses the experiences in her life to do it. If she continued to produce the same music every album, she wouldn’t be someone these women would listen to. I think that is the short-sightedness of people when it comes to music they always expect the same thing even when the artist experiences change. To me bringing that into her music makes her a better artist. It is also music that women can relate to because many women are going to become mothers. One of the most important things I have learned as a feminist is that we fight for women to have choices. If that choice is to become a mother then it should be appreciated because our ability to be mother is something powerful. Becoming a mother shouldn’t have an impact on how good of a feminist you are. It isn’t a competition; we are fighting for equality and against oppression. To judge other women for their decisions is a terrible approach to being a feminist. In Ani’s case I would say that becoming a mother made her produce an amazing album.

 

Twelve Ani Songs to listen to:

1. Gravel

2. Not a Pretty Girl

3. Evolve

4. Blood in the Boardroom

5. The Atom

6. Superhero

7. God’s Country

8. Make Me Stay

9. 32 Flavours

10. What If No One’s Watching

11. Smiling Underneath

12. Lost Woman Song



My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding was a mini-series that aired first in Britain and subsequently in Canada on TLC. This mini-series was depicting the real lives of U.K. gypsy’s. It was very interesting to watch but the gender roles they showed were startling, especially since they were based in a developed country. The lives of these gypsy women are run by men; they have no real say in their own existence. The show itself focused around the gypsy weddings because they are some of the most elaborate ceremonies to be found and they are the one day in these women’s lives that they have for themselves. When I watched this show I found myself shocked at how the women were being treated and the level of acceptance in the community of this treatment.

The beginning of the gypsy woman’s life is spent planning her wedding, which will happen between ages 14-22 generally. If the women are in their 20’s when they get married they are beginning to be thought of as an old maid. They are generally pulled from school around these ages and taught how to take care of the house and any other children in the family because their role in life is going to be that of a housewife, most of them don’t seem to get any choice in the matter. The weddings that the gypsy community plan are quite extravagant and usually based off a Disney wedding theme. These days are extremely important to these women because it is their one chance for a day that’s about them and the rest of their lives are going to be dedicated to cleaning up after their family.

The outfits that they show the women, throughout the whole show are quite revealing but the sexual restrictions are also quite tough. While these girls are taught that they should reveal their bodies to attract men, they are taught at the same time that they are not supposed to have sexual relations with anyone but your husband and only that on your wedding day. If women are found with men before they are married then they are shunned and basically get called whores. The courting ritual for these gypsy women is quite violent, a violence that often seems to spread to their married lives, their courting ritual is called grabbing. Grabbing is where a man/boy takes a woman/girl outside to claim a kiss dragging her along reluctantly, the girl is supposed to reject the first few kisses and with each rejection the boy gets a little rougher physically. This courting ritual is demeaning and painful to the women and trains them early as to who is boss in their relationship. The men are physically hurtful to prove their dominance over women in this community, this is what keeps the women in line and helps to train them that they are supposed to accept this violence as part of their lives. Overall it was very disturbing to watch these young girls be physically forced to do something they did not want to so.

While this show spent a lot of time showing the gypsy women happily planning their weddings their marriages were a different story. Most of the girls were never away from their family and got homesick quickly. After their marriage none of them seemed to be happy but to have accepted the role of wife who also has little say in their husband’s life while he has complete control over theirs. In the gypsy community woman are not allowed to drink before marriage but men/boys are allowed to drink from the time they are children. After marriage if the woman wants to drink it is only at the approval of her husband that she is allowed. She must ask her husband for permission to do anything and if she wants to go out to the bar she is usually accompanied by him and going in his time frame. These women have no say in their own lives most of them never work and are pulled from schools early. They are trained to think that a male dominated relationship is what is supposed to happen in their lives and that domestic abuse is a normal part of a relationship. In one of the couples depicted the girl has been working for five years, unusual for a gypsy woman, when it came time for her to get married she gave up her job, her freedom,  and her own income source to tend to a trailer for her and her husband. When the crew went to interview her after the wedding to see how she was settling into married life, she seemed severally depressed with it and clearly missed having her freedom.

When most of these women spoke they spoke with a voice that was not their own because they have no voice of their own. They made statements that were centered on the men in their lives and how much they are meant to please them. They have little to no identity outside of their relationships. Every young woman interviewed in this mini-series stressed waiting to get married until later because it strips them of the little freedom that they are allowed in their lives. Each woman that was interviewed after her marriage was unhappy; this shows me that these women are craving something more though they may not even know it. They are taught that being a wife and mother is all they are going to be good at in life and given no value outside of that. This community claims it to be a cultural choice but the women prove to me that it is something that needs to change; these women need an existence and voice outside of their husbands. There was only one or two women that seemed content and they were from the older generation. Every young woman in this mini-series seemed unhappy and wishing for something different in life then just getting the chance to be a housewife at an extremely young age.



et cetera
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