Thursday, March 12, 2015

Gender Isn't Even Real It's A Social Construct

The roles women of the 19th century had to fulfill revolved around the needs and wants of men in their society. They worked hard and were given no credit nor paid for their effort. Their main job was to marry and take care of the family. The world of a woman then was pictured as this:

“The Sphere of Woman”  illustration from Godey's  Lady's Book, March  1850
Found at: http:// whw/workshop/ untitled1.html
It shows her household duties; taking care of the children, teaching them their schoolwork, repairing their toys, keeping everything clean, making family's clothing, and keeping up their appearances. The home is high class, with fancy curtains to keep the feminine efforts hidden from the world. The picture is clearly unrealistic, no siblings get along that well, no mother who did that much work would look that calm, and kids are never that peaceful. These jobs weren't only an aim for women to strive to achieve but expected and enforced by the legal and social laws of the time.

The movement for female equality was started by abolitionists who realized in fighting for the rights of colored men they were fighting for rights that they themselves and other women didn't even have. In an attempt to oppose the ridiculous laws and rules oppressing half the nation's population, the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments was created. It was written to mimic the Declaration of Independance, the familiar wording meant to show the oppression of women and how it stood in contrast to the American ideals of freedom. The lists of grievances and resolutions directly addressed the laws and standards women were held to. It was signed by 68 women and 32 men from the Seneca Falls Convention for women's rights. This push for equality was met with many reactions and opinions from the media. 

Some reacted positively, encouraging female rights, while some mocked the movement, laughing at the idea of women doing things. The reporters for both had no qualms about sharing their opinions, both sides expecting to be correct. One of the most positive responses came from the National Reformer of September 14th, 1848. It points out the unfairness of expecting women to follow laws that they weren't even allowed to vote on. The National Reformer has many articles on the rights of women, all strongly in support of the movement. But as all human rights issues, there were many strongly opposed to the idea of ending oppression. The Oneida Whig had serious issues with females spending all their time voting and getting paid, they begged for an answer to the question, "If our ladies will insist on voting and legislating, where, gentlemen, will be our dinners and our elbows?" They were deeply confused and concerned as to how on Earth they would be fed if women dared to participate in the democracy of America.

Recently there has been much debate on how equal men and women are and whether women are treated differently from men. Many men and women look back on the past and go, "look how terribly females were treated we are 100% equal now!" and really we have come very far since the days of not allowing women to vote or own property. But does society react differently to men than they do to women? The answer is yes. Has there ever been a female president of the United States? No, and while it's easy to blame that on chance and the lack of a good candidate if you look at the reasoning behind not voting for a woman, there is a lot of pure sexism. This real news report was actually 100% serious in reasoning against women being leaders.

"There has got to be some downside to having a woman president, right?"

I mean really this alone could show the way people still believe women aren't as good as men but we'll look at this more thoroughly. In the video Bill O'Reilly states, "There haven't been that many strong women leaders." and this is a true statement, in national parliaments, and other leadership positions women are vastly outnumbered. America is ranked 83rd by equality in government in the UN's Women in Politics statistic map with 18.3% women in the lower/single house and 20% in the upper house/senate. Americans can say what they want about equality but Afghanistan is #41, with an avg of 27.6% women in their government, they are ranked twice as high as America.

What is the problem with having less women in politics? Well we already saw how in the 19th century people were mad because they didn't get to vote for leaders who then made laws they had to follow. The number of people in leadership positions is the amount of representation the group gets when laws that affect them are made. Recently the controversy about abortion has been brought up and leaves mostly men in charge of deciding the legality in a woman's decision about her body.

While women do now get to vote for leaders it's hard to pick female leaders when there are so few to choose from. Women are discouraged from going after leadership roles from the beginning and it just gets harder as they grow up. Female candidates are always attacked in media for the tiniest things and made to look incompetent through every minute detail of their lives.

Popular TV show "Parks and Recreation" (famous for its feminist protagonist Leslie Knope played by real life feminist and comedian Amy Poehler) shows how women are treated during elections and speaks against the discrimination. [Full episode]

The reason women are so harshly criticized? The majority of journalists are men. And most female journalists report on stereotypically "feminine" topics, like health and beauty, while the males report on the big issues.

In fact if you read the full report of The Status of Women in the U. S. Media 2014, pretty much all areas of media are male dominated. Newspapers, magazines, radio, sports journalism, gaming, social media, digital news, and worst of all, television and films.

The lack of female perspective in society makes it easy to avoid women's issues and set standards for women to meet. The amount of females population wise is equal to that of men, yet the power of women is still much lower. Media is how people get their information on everything. Media tells us how to live in the ideal way, it influences a person's opinion on how people should do their hair, wear their clothes, feel about topics, what car to drive, and what is right or wrong. Media is run by white old men and holds complete power over society, what is seen on TV or listed on a top 10 list on a blog is the standard.

The portrayal of women in media is not great. Models are tall, toned, and flawless complete with digital editing to give them that perfect physically-impossible-to-achieve look. Most movie protagonists are boys, who always end up getting the hot girl in the end. The plotline for a female character usually revolves around some boy.

Girls are taught to center their lives around a guy and that the most important thing is to be attractive. 'Do this so guys will like you' 'Don't do that, no one will date you.' Not only are they taught their worth is about their sexuality but it's enforced anyways. Heidi Klum once saved someone from drowning in the ocean and all the headlines focused on was that her bikini top slipped during it. Girls are blamed for tempting men in cases of rape and sexual harassment while the boys in these situations are treated as the victims, the death of a football career and scholarship while the real victim deals with trauma and worse.

The music industry has been called out on its misogynistic themes in rap especially. But its not the only one. There is an extreme lack of any female musicians in rock bands. The top 40s charts are filled with songs about the importance of sex and no one blinks an eye when 8 year olds sing along. The rap scene is famous for it's glorification of violence and sex. In media the ideal man has money, muscles, and multiple girls at his beck and call, they are usually nameless and pretty obviously only there for sex. A guy is more powerful if he's tougher than another guy.

Society has been taught to value men for their 'masculinity'. If a guy is respectful or emotional in any way that seems 'feminine' he's instantly labeled gay and then made fun of. This 1) is really homophobic and heteronormative and 2) builds a negative view on females.

The way men then come to defend their masculinity is through violence and abuse of women, men are supposed to be dominant and so the opposite must be true as well, women must be submissive. In every movie, book, and TV show the hero gets the super attractive girl in the end. Boys are taught that girls are prizes to be won. They are there to award sex for whatever masculine thing a guy does.

Somewhere In America

Girls take in the same media with another message. The ultimate goal is to get the boy and other girls are competition. Girl hate is the result of internalized misogyny. It is the root of phrases like "she's a slut" and the idea of being "not like the other girls". While men are praised for their sexuality women are shamed for it, weird isn't it. The "other girls" are slutty, prudish, petty, stupid, weak, etc. in the eyes of society. The idea of not being like the other girls is stupid and only encourages the harsh critiquing. The movie about high school where the nerd is the heroine because all the other girls are stuck up preps who only care about their hair, yeah that's where this comes from. "She wears short skirts, I wear tee-shirts, she's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers." Okay? You're better than her why? (Taylor Swift has realized she was problematic and apologized don't be mean to her) Girls praise guys and think pictures of them shirtless are hot and once a girl does it she's a slut. Girls destroy each other for being whores, prudes, idiots, nerds, suck ups, fake, etc. when they should be encouraging each other and not valuing a person for how attractive they are to other people.

The girl hate cycle reinforces the problematic ideas that being a stereotypical girl is insulting. Guys don't want to be feminine and now girls don't want to be feminine. Why? Because femininity is seen as a bad thing. The more pink a girl wears in a show, the stupider and more hated a girl is in a show. Femininity is used to show the characters who are mean, stupid, shallow, and afraid of everything. The colors pink and blue are used to symbolize the two genders and usually in media, express the role of the person wearing them.

Why is a guy wearing pink so strange? He's being feminine and that's not right. Boys have their things and girls have to be the opposite. But gender is not an opposing set of characteristics. If a boy is strong it doesn't mean girls are weak, yet that's how it is viewed. If men are supposed to be dominant, women are meant to be submissive. Girls who do traditionally 'masculine' things are told they're faking it for male attention or are gay. The amount of girls who are verbally harassed in video games is sad. And guys are allowed to wear their "nice story babe, go make me a sandwich" and "get back in the kitchen" t shirts with no consequences because it's 'funny'.

Women don't hold many leadership positions in society. It's hard to when everyone tries to hold you back. Men find it insulting to work under a woman and often undermine her achievements to feel dominant again. Girls are told they're bossy when they try to take charge and eventually girls stop trying to, to avoid the judgment they face in those roles. They put in less effort to get a position of power and are then given less positions of power, only further creating inequality in power.

Also, people who say the wage gap isn't real? What is that about? There is literally statistical proof and if it still seems fake here's some guides.

And of course then we're at the hatred of feminism. If a girl dares to call herself a feminist and desires less violence and equal pay she's met with a variety of responses. There's the classic "feminazi" label, because the end of sexism is the same as religious genocide. Theres the rape jokes and threats because if someone is against objectification all they really need is forced sex. The violence threats like "if women want to be equal can I hit a girl?" Which is a serious problem because if your first reaction to equality is that you can be violent towards them that doesn't really make sense; Also, that's kind of one of the issues. Domestic abuse is an extremely widespread problem and part of this equity thing is the END of hitting girls.

The most common response lately is "Men are oppressed too." The problem here is that this minimizes the issues women face and feminism works to fix the problems men have.  "Men get raped too." Is another part of this. The problem there is that you're using that to erase women's abuse. And it's not girls who tell guys "It's not rape because he should enjoy it" It's other guys. Men get raped is a full sentence, once you add "too" you're using it to shut up other victims.

Once a guy was trying to tell me that rape wasn't a problem because it doesn't kill so feminists all just cry over nothing and when I tried to explain to him what male - privilege - is . he told me, that female privilege is being able to pull down your shirt and get out of a parking ticket for being female. Because that solves the problem of objectification....

Fox News recently said Frozen was a bad influence to boys and that there is too much representation of women in Hollywood

Women who speak up against the lack of power they have in society are attacked for being man hating, oppressive, ugly, and usually queer. Because obviously if a girl doesn't like men being in charge she is just too ugly to attract men and instead became a lesbian. This leads to girls defending themselves by saying they are straight and pretty and ends up excluding any girls who are queer or don't fit the standards of beauty.

Beyonce knows a girl can express her sexuality and it says nothing about not respecting herself

Society is not there yet. For more information click on the links throughout the post and read this book on gender and stuff. You can pay with a tweet  for free and get a digital copy it's really cool.
This post didn't even talk about gender queer individuals but sexism is even worse towards them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Nation of Savages

This unit we are examining the causes of the civil war, specifically slavery. Looking at back at America's slavery history it seems like a simple decision to either allow slavery or not, and to us it's a no brainer to not enslave people. But this wasn't the case in the 18th and 19th centuries. As time went on abolishing slavery became a more complex task, by the early 19th century it was economically entrenched in American society.

Slavery had been a part of American society since the country's establishment. It is mentioned in the constitution that slaves can't be freed by escaping to free states and they must be returned to their owners.
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due. (Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3)
In the late 18th Century people believed slavery to be coming to an end, with the ideas of liberty expressed in the French and American revolutions, it seemed slavery was on its way out. However, Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin turned that around drastically. (A video showing how it works) With cotton being cheaper and easier to produce the industry expanded rapidly. But to make more cotton, these huge plantations would require a lot more workers. And the most profitable kind of employment? Slave labor.

This website shows the increase of cotton production, slavery, and export value between 1790 and 1860
The growth in slave population was mostly in the South, as the cotton industry moved South West the slaves followed; drifting further from the North. The cotton industry boomed in the south bringing in huge amounts of profit using their slave labor. However, while the cotton industry was located in the South, the North also benefited from the rise in production. They used the cotton in textile mills so instead of shipping in or paying more for their resources, the plentiful source of cheap cotton made their industry more profitable too.

This racially based system of slavery was unsurprisingly problematic in creating a white superiority complex that has continued to be an issue to this day. The general mentality of the American population grew so warped from years of validated mistreatment towards black people and social prejudice. George Fitzhugh, a sociologist from North Carolina in the mid 1800s wrote:
The Negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world. ... The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. ... [The free laborer] is more of a slave than the Negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life begin when its labors end. He has no liberty, and not a single right. . .. Free laborers have not a thousandth part of the rights and liberties of the Negro slaves. Indeed, they have not a single liberty, unless it be the right or liberty to die.
The whole thing is absurd. It completely disregards every aspect of slavery and even goes so far as to make slave owners the victim in this situation. Escaped slave, Frederick Douglass, was a bit more accurate in his accusation of oppression,

Morality of Slavery Documents

He calls out white Americans on their hypocritical celebration of freedom, they celebrate liberty while enslaving a huge amount of the country's population. When he says the people of the United States are guilty of the most shocking and bloody practices in the world, he refers to their ignorance of humanity but also how terrible the slavery system was here.

Over the course of a few days we watched a movie in class, Prince Among Slaves, in which Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, an African prince, is taken from his homeland to be sold into American slavery. He himself owned slaves back in Futa Jallon but the two systems of slavery were very different. In Africa they didn't buy and sell slaves as property; they enslaved war prisoners they had captured. These slaves worked separately from their owners, rarely seeing them. They were allowed to own property and by the 3rd generation, they were pretty much freed. Any children born of a free father and enslaved mother were born free.

As Abdulrahman learned, slavery in Mississippi was much worse. Slaves there had been randomly kidnapped and were bought and sold as if they were animals rather than humans. They worked closely with their owners, constantly under supervision and they were ruled by fear. It was impossible to get out of American slavery, your future family would be born into it and any child conceived by a free parent and slave was also raised a slave. Both cultures had slaves work different kinds of jobs, not just field work. And both enslaved outsiders; Non-muslims were the enslaved because of their religion in Futa Jallon and black people were enslaved in America for their race. Neither allowed slaves to travel without permission.

In America, Abdulrahman's noble status earned him nothing but a sarcastic nickname of "Prince". His education was also not respected, even though he was fluent in multiple languages. He was broken of his pride and forced into submission to his owners. The Americans saw him as nothing more than property. When sold at auction he was examined like an animal, checked for any noticable illnesses or disabilities. The system of slavery in America ignored every human characteristic of the enslaved humans and treated them as animals for no reason other than their race.

Monday, March 2, 2015

procrastiNATION: The US Government Avoiding Big Issues

During the 19th century American politicians discussed, argued over, and made laws regarding the issue of slavery in the country. All their debates however, focused on resolving a short term issue in a way that just made everyone happy enough for the time being. The actual large topic of slavery in America was avoided as much as possible to push off the large decisions that would inevitably cause extreme controversy and massive upset. Through these years of politics the debate over slavery was the elephant in the room so to speak. Everyone knew it was there but no one wanted to talk about it so instead they dealt with little problems that came along as a result and didn't bring up the large issue. To look at how the United States did deal with the smaller concerns and how they all fit together, our class examined eight events predating the civil war and whether the result was in support of or against slavery.

Pro-Slavery outcomes are on the bottom of the timeline
Anti-Slavery outcomes are above the line

 In 1820 the Missouri Compromise was agreed upon to keep the number of slave states equal to the number of free states so each side would have an equal number of representatives to vote on issues. In the compromise Missouri was established as a slave state and Maine, a free one. Slavery creeping North freaked out Northerners and so it was decided that any state above the 36 degree latitude line would have to be free, except Missouri. But then with the gold rush to California, the golden territory's population had grown so it could officially be the golden state. The inhabitants of California wanted to be a free state, which would again threaten the balance of slave/free states. Other issues were also surfacing at the same time; new land won from Mexico was yet to be declared slave or free, Texas was having border disputes, and the capital city was the largest slave port in North America.  The compromise of 1850 had 5 parts to it to best appease all parties without fully prohibiting or encouraging slavery. To make Northerners happy Washington DC outlawed the sale/purchase of slaves in the city. While owning slaves was still legal there it put a limit on slavery and was progress towards freedom. Also, California was admitted as a free state since the poor workers who moved there for work couldn't afford slaves and didn't want to compete against slave labor.

In favor of slavery three more parts of the compromise were created. Texas gave up the land in question in exchange for $10M, even without the Mexican land it remained the largest slave state in the union. As for the other land acquired in the war New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah were declared territories and slavery was not mentioned either way until decided upon by the inhabitants upon request for statehood. It was a very vague and unhelpful rule, erring on the side of slavery supporters since all they needed to do was fill up the areas with people who were pro-slavery. But the worst component was the Fugitive Slave Act. It required that all citizens had to assist in the recovery of escaped slaves and then denied the slaves the right to a jury trial. A slave that had escaped to a free state and lived there for years would be tracked down and dragged back to slavery, or even a free black person, without a jury trial it was easy to just say someone was enslaved and legally own them.
The compromise of 1850's five parts were designed to each smooth over a problem caused by the sectional freedom throughout the United States while continuing to keep slavery a fragmentary system in the growing nation.

Map of free/slave states after the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act

To further complicate the issue of slavery, the Kansas-Nebraska Act defined the midwestern territories of Kansas and Nebraska and left them up to inhabitant vote to decide free or slave state. The possibility of slavery in the two territories overturned the Missouri Compromise line of freedom, but didn't concern Northerners too much since they thought the land wouldn't be good for cotton production. By now the land in the middle of America was mainly undeclared on its laws towards slavery and would remain impartial until the territory applied to become an official state. Then, the people living there would simply vote on the matter, majority rule.

Well owning people as property was a highly controversial issue and thus, unsurprisingly, the race to fill states with advocates for each side turned violent with the gruesome events of Bleeding Kansas.
The territory was open to be either slave or free; each side only needed to populate enough to win the vote. Each group swarmed the area and 2 separate capitals were set up. The anti slavery capital was burned down and John brown gathered a small army and brutally murdered pro slavery families in retaliation.

The last example of American politicians trying to deal with things short term instead of fixing the cause is the Dred Scott Decision. It started when Dred Scott tried to legally gain freedom through the court system of America. He claimed he and his wife were free because they were owned in states where slavery was illegal. This was a bad decision for him, the justice system doesn't care about a slave's technicalities, and it backfired badly. The results of this trial were not good and it was decided that slaves, because they are not citizens, were denied the right to sue in court;
"...they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States."
enslaved people could not win freedom simply by living in a free territory or state; the Missouri Compromise was ruled unconstitutional and all territories were opened to slavery. In the ruling the court is careful to focus on the fact that each state sets its own laws and the federal courts do not have jurisdiction in any slave matters since the laws vary between states. Each government pushes the responsibility of making decisions about the big problem of slavery onto other people. The national government makes it the states' individual problem and then the states leave it to whatever the people vote for. Each government only steps in to smooth over small issues that arise and don't acknowledge the cause of them. Eventually the built up tension must be dealt with and it is once the civil war breaks out.