Pinky Promise

My college is rather progressive. We are a small liberal arts institution with a  focus on the individual. We specialize in collaborative knowledge through social exchange .  We have a feminist club and a Choice USA branch. We are diverse and, as a whole, more on the liberal end of the spectrum. I love my college and I couldn’t dream of being anywhere else.

But no matter how progressive we seem we have a Pinky Promise branch on campus. This means there is an organization where young girls pledge to be good christian women and in the name of  God  promise their fathers they will remain virgins until marriage.

But that was me paraphrasing. What does Pinky Promise say they are? According to their website:

Pinky Promise is…

A promise to honor God with your body and your life. To refuse to give your body to anyone that hasn’t paid the price for you called marriage. It’s a promise to stay pure before God in EVERY single way. It’s a promise that says, I won’t test the boundaries in my relationship to see how far I can push it sexually–but instead–I want God to have my heart.
 
It’s a promise to God that you will honor your marriage convenant. It’s saying that I promise not to step outside of my marriage, cheat on my spouse and that I’ll work through every issue.
Thanks for joining Pinky Promise. Find a group or start a group in your area, and lets encourage each other and build a bond between sisters in Christ.

On the surface it seems to be teaching good values: value yourself, don’t cheat, love God. Yet, I don’t know where to begin.  The program seems to be teaching abstinence only sex education focused around the purity myth. According to this, you can love and value yourself, but only on the basis of your virginity.  This extends not only to how you view your own self worth, but how your family views you (as you are making a promise to your father-or other male relative) and worst of all how God sees you. Tying this organization into religion is what stuns me. I do not believe religion is an evil and even if I did this would not be the place to insert my own religious views. I bring religion into this dialogue because  in this instance religion is being used as a means of control to oppress women.

The religious aspect of virginity is all part of a power game by the male dominated religious leaders who read and interpret religious texts through an oppressive lens and then let their interpretations trickle down to those of their faith as the word of God.

At its core though, the Pinky Promise movement is just another way to deny women the right to own their sexuality. For a woman, sex is for making babies not for pleasure. For men it is just the opposite. Which brings me to the point that Pinky Promise is not against sex: if they were they would have both men and women pledge to be chaste. Instead this is just for women. Women having sex is apparently a scary thing. It is, according to such abstinence only pledges, the woman’s role to keep both her own desires under control (because she obviously has a lower sex drive than a man-not in fact true) and control the man’s desires as well. From this flawed logic, it is her fault if she has sex, or is raped because it is her worth on the line and her responsibility to keep herself  pure until marriage. Why this purity matters and why virginity is being used as a test of morality is never explained.

In addition, the entire organization only accounts for straight Christian girls. What about bisexuals? lesbians? If the logic is that women must be pure until marriage, what about those who can’t legally get married and where sex is considered to be something different than male-female intercourse? What about asexuals? By these ideas are we just eternally moral or is there a point where we become to old to stay the chaste virgin? What about Jews? Muslims? Buddhists? Hindus? Are we not all women and therefore all under this umbrella of purity?

There are too many unanswered questions. In addition Pinky Promise has a limited scope and is not fostering communication with God as they claim. They are instead communicating with the patriarchy to keep women uninformed about their sexuality and using the principles of Christianity to enforce this control.

I have written to Pinky Promise but they have not gotten back to me. I will write again. I’ll talk to the organization’s leaders on campus and open up a dialogue. I only ask that you speak out as well. Be informed and be proud of your sexuality. Women are not less sexual than men, no matter what lies we are told to keep us quiet and chaste.

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Where are the women in math/science?

Every now and then I’ll have a conversation where the topic flows into women throughout history. The conversations can become frustrating because according to some, if women were in fact equal by nature then history should reflect their accomplishments. The oppressions of the patriarchy are always dismissed as a minor obstacle that the truly great women of history should have been able to overcome. The specifics of the conversation generally go something like this:

Man (it’s usually a man; I am not trying to be stereotypical): If women were really just as good as men we would hear more about women in those fields through history. If women are just as good why don’t we hear more about women scientists and mathematicians?

Me: Those fields are historically dominated by men because men were the ones to have education in math and science. Or education at all.

Man: But there are always the cases where a woman is a genius. Why don’t we hear about those women?

Me: We do, they’re just not talked about as often as their male counterparts because the fields are incredibly sexist and gendered. Women are not naturally worse at math and science.

Man: But they are, otherwise we would hear about more of them.

By this point I don’t know what else to say. it’s enough that the conversation is working from the starting point that women are not equal, but it continues to degrade women by talking about ‘special cases’ where a woman is a genius. Apparently only geniuses are good with math and science. Women in male dominated fields are barely talked about because women’s history is designated to one month of the year and that’s good enough. The patriarchy considers women to be another minority to be designated to second class status. This might be a news flash to some people, but women are half the population and have talents just as widespread and immense as men.

To paraphrase a quote from Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, women are given ‘trifling employments’ and therefore are ‘triflers’. This was true in 1792 when the text was written and it is true today as well. Girls are raised to play house and  play with dolls, while boys are building lego cities. Is it surprising then that more men are architects and engineers? That more men have developed the critical thinking skills of math or science? Historically speaking, when women were not allowed a proper education outside of the home and family life, is it surprising that women scientists and mathematicians were a rarity?

My room mate is a math major. I know tons of brilliant women majoring in the hard science. They are not exceptions to the rule that men dominate in math and science because that rule does not exist.

What do you say in a conversation where the opposing party is so set in his or her ways? I’ve had this conversation with my brother before and it is perhaps the most frustrating topic to dig into. If you have any incite into how to handle these sexist discussions or would like to share your own stories about how ‘men are logical’ and women are ’emotional’ I would love to hear from you.

 

I am…

Being a feminist is about more than wanting equality and is more than a self-proclaimed title. In order to love your sex and believe in a world where sexism does not exist, you must first love yourself.

This writing exercise was described to me as an ‘I Am Poem’, but that sounds rather intimidating. You do not need to be a writer in order to use words to express who you and why you love yourself. For anyone who is not a writer this is not about being perfect with words, and poetic need not apply to what you say. Talk onto the page if it makes you more comfortable.

When I did this with a group we were given ten minutes and in those ten minutes I took the time to free-write. Free writing means the uncensored flow of ideas from your mind to the page. Today, take ten minutes and tell yourself who you are without judging and without censorship. It only starts with two words and ten minutes to start, but what you learn may last a lifetime.

Love yourself, love your sex and be proud to be a feminist.

I am

a paradox, an illusion, a hope, stable, loving, fictional, real, a superhero, a fighter, a feminist, wonderful, dreaming and praying and wondering why I believe and what I believe in, a Jew, a woman, abstract and that’s okay, the pages upon which I write, the pen, the ink, my mind, my consciousness. I am thoughtful and engaged, or disengaged and that’s okay too. I am loved, loving and again to love and come back to love as a first principle though love isn’t grounded in science and fact and neither am I, a rambler, a truth seeker, passionate, more than can be seen or experienced, more than my words, my body, my mind I am more, forever and always more and more than I can comprehend. I am a free writer, a word user and word maker-uper, a child, an adult, blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

With such wondrous people in my life, I am blessed.

Even Suicide is Sexist

I’ve been away at a Leadership Conference for the past few days so I have not had the chance to write as much as I would have wanted, but while at the Conference I learned a lot of interesting facts about how far sexism is ingrained in the world.

I also learned how sexism can skew the reasoning behind data.

Part of the Conference was a series of lectures. One of which, QPR (question, persuade, refer) dealt with suicide prevention.

 

A lot of data was talked about with what groups were most likely to complete suicide and a lot of statistics came up about the differences between male and female suicides. The most up to date information is the  data of 2009 (there is no up to date data for 2012 or even 2011 for the United States) but the information we were given at the Conference was from 2007. The data listed below is  from the conference.

  • Men are 4x more likely to complete suicide than women
  • women are 2-3x more likely to attempt suicide than men
  • women are more likely to attempt due to relationship problems are more likely to use less violent means of death (pills and poisonings)
  • men are more likely to use more violent means (hangings and firearms)

The leaders of the workshop asked us to insert our opinions as to why this data is so. It’s unfortunate but the information seems to be supporting classic stereotypes that women are the weaker of the species, have less conviction in the actions, and do not have testosterone so they are naturally less violent and aggressive. This is only surface level analysis and can barely be considered analysis at all.

Why are men more likely to complete suicide than women? They are less likely to talk about their feelings for one thing, being raised in a sexist society where men can never be feminine, and another is that if they use more violent means then of course they are more likely to succeed. How often do you shoot a bullet through your head and live?

Which makes the next question why are men more likely to use such violence? The answer is that it’s more culturally acceptable. When violence makes you a man of course it is going to impact every decision you make, even the decision to kill yourself. In addition, who is more likely to own a gun or know how to tie a noose, a man or a woman? A man of course. Men have the means to kill themselves in such a way and women do not. There is nothing biological about it.

The same goes for why more women attempt but do not complete suicide. When they do not have access to the aggressive means of men how can it be expected that pills will always finish the job? Also, of course if a woman does not complete then she has attempted, which explains why the attempts are so high for women. As for women killing themselves over relationships this is just as rooted in culture as everything else. Women are taught to value themselves based on their relationships whether with friends or with spouse and to place so much stock in their ability to maintain these relationships. When things go awry and those connections are all a woman is taught to value about herself what else does she have? According to data, not enough to live for.

There is nothing biology that makes women inferior to men. Women are equal. Society is not.

This blog is dedicated to anyone who has ever overcome suicide, or known someone who has killed themselves.

The Men of Dragon Ball Z

*note, I am back in college and no longer have access to my copies of the manga, any references to the series will be paraphrased quotations and is no longer a direct quote from the text. If I miss anything or you feel I taken too much license on the information I provide feel free to talk to me about it.

I’ve been getting a lot of comments by UnderwolfYamcha on my blog Women in Dragon Ball Z and I wanted to more fully address some of the issues that came up.

The comment thread began with an explanation that Akira Toriyama treats his male characters poorly as well as his female characters. My first point is that yes, this is true. Akira Toriyama is constantly playing up stereotypes of both genders, but in the Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z Universe, you earn respect of both fans and the characters in the show by being the toughest and the strongest. Each character’s worth is hinged upon their ability to hold their own in a fight. If you cannot compete with that arc’s big bad then your character is shafted to a more minor role. It’s very convenient that the stereotype for men is to be a tough, strong badass.

While there are exceptions, which I’ll get into later, these are the stereotypes Akira Toriyama presses. There are too many male characters to go person by person like I did for the women of DBZ, but in Toriyama’s series men are the epitome of typical masculinity. They are incredibly muscled (which is fine as the show is so action based and requires them to be so) and they do not show serious emotions other than anger. If they do then the audience knows something is serious. The male characters don’t cry very often. I can count the number of times a male character cries on one hand: Vegeta cries when Frieza kills him, Trunks cries when the androids kill Gohan in The History of Trunks movie, and Gohan cries when Piccolo dies and when Goku sacrifices himself to destroy Cell.  It is rare for someone to cry; it is not manly. Goku doesn’t cry when he realizes Vegeta and Nappa killed Yamcha, Tien, Piccolo, and Chiaotzu; he gets angry. Vegeta doesn’t cry when Cell kills his son Trunks; he gets angry. Unless the character is young, as in the case of both Gohan and Trunks, or the situation is incredibly serious, the more acceptable response is anger.

This becomes a problem because although the series is so deeply rooted in action scenes, almost all of the plot arcs are character based. It is severely limiting to the characters when the emotional responses are kept within a neat box of what’s acceptable for men. I do understand that this is Japanese culture and the cultural norms are bound to be different, but no matter what culture it comes from sexism is still sexism. Boys should not be exposed to the idea that men can only solve problems through violence. This is the first way Akira Toriyama treats his male leads poorly: he doesn’t let them be fully developed and provides a poor image for young boys.

But there are a few characters who do not fit into this masculine stereotype: the male characters who are played as sleazy cads (Master Roshi, Oolong, and occasionally Krillin).

  

So, both Master Roshi and Oolong are clearly established from the start of Dragon Ball as being sleazy and  not particularly upset by the notion. Master Roshi is infatuated with Bulma’s breasts, going so far as to call her Goku’s boingy friend when he meets Chi-Chi and notices Chi-Chi is not nearly as  developed as Bulma.  This is, of course, in addition to reading porn magazines, teaching Goku and Krillin to read through bodice ripper books, and attempting to molest Bulma or sexually harassing her on multiple occasions. Master Roshi only agrees to accept Krillin as another disciple when the two of them bond over porn Krillin brings as a present. To be fair to Krillin, this is minor in his character arc but as it is also one of the first introductions of him in the series it needs to be taken into account of how he is portrayed.

Oolong has similar circumstance to Master Roshi where once he is revealed in his true form (he’s a shape shifter) the audience learns how he was expelled from shape shifting school for stealing the female teacher’s panties. He goes on to save the Dragon Ball crew by wishing for “a hot girl’s panties” and interrupting Emperor Pilaf’s wish to rule the world. Although the accidental hero, Toriyama uses Oolong as another tool to portray Bulma as a sex object. Goku makes a deal with Master Roshi that in exchange for Master Roshi’s help Master Roshi will be able to squeeze Bulma’s breasts. When Bulma learns of this she convinces Oolong to shapeshift into her. Oolong does so and tells Master Roshi he can do a ‘Puff Puff’ instead of squeezing her breasts. Between Master Roshi and Oolong there is no respect for the female characters and the two of them are another poor portrayal of men. Instead of being unemotional and masculine they are dishonorable and it is played for laughs. In this way they are both sexist against men, who in this sense are being portrayed as sexist pigs, and against women because the issues of molestation are never taken into account.

The common thread between these characters are that they are not always honorable (with Krillin as the exception when he gets older) and they therefore cannot be truly masculine. The true stereotype of masculinity is that not only are the men strong but they are also chivalrous (Vegeta being the only one to continually break this trope). It’s no accident that the characters who are portrayed as being less than the ideal of masculinity are an old man, a pig, and (occasionally) the short man. As a side note, as Krillin’s character develops and he grows up, his perverted side is never mentioned and so he becomes more and more like the chivalrous hero of Goku.

The men of Dragon Ball Z are therefore limited on two fronts: either hyper-masculine and unable to express emotions, or sleazy womanizers who are shown to be unmasculine because they are not chivalrous. Both are harmful stereotypes for boys and the only alternative is the characters who do not fit into these two types. Unfortunately they are largely ignored (Yamcha, Tien, Chiaotzu, etc) because they are not characters designed to be in the stagnant DBZ world where strength is the quality that matters. The human characters, except Krillin, lose their importance when they can no longer compete with the main heroes. This is similar to how women lose their importance if they lose their beauty by stereotypical standards.

For all that I love DBZ the portraits of the male protagonists are not progressive and only further distance the ideals that men and women should strive for. By highlighting such different and and harmful ideals for the two sexes DBZ and Toriyama promotes a sexist society.

As a note, this is an overview of the male characters. There are far too many to include in this post. If you would like to request a specific character post please let me know and I would be happy to oblige.

You’re an Ugly Feminist so…

It’s no secret that the stereotype of the feminist is an ugly  man-hating lesbian. Because of this cruel imagery girls don’t want to be feminists. It’s not attractive and, as we all know, a girl’s only purpose in life is to attract men.

My brother believes whole heartedly in this stereotype. Months ago, before I was even remotely interested in feminism my brother showed me a video of RamZPaul on youtube discussing (and I use this term lightly) what feminists think of Legos. While I am hesitant to recommend his video to anyone, as it is extremely misogynistic, homophobic, racist, you name it, his video proves a point about why feminism is still needed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TrUNNKPC4E

Mr. RamZPaul’s point in a nutshell, is that feminists wanted the Lego corporation to make Legos for girls and that when the Lego company obliged, the feminists called sexism. RamZPaul’s response to the feminists speaks for itself.

I bring this misogyny up for three reasons. My brilliant friend introduced me to a wonderful feminist youtube channel feminist frequency and Feminist Frequency also tackled the Legos and  feminists debate.  When I found this 2 part video series explaining how Lego markets specifically to boys and how this is not only sexist advertising, but greatly inhibits both young boys and girls, I remembered the video my brother had shown me. Though I had never agreed with RamZPaul to start with, I now understood RamZPaul had it entirely wrong. Feminists did not ask Lego to make Legos for girls; they asked that girls be included in the Lego play experience. No where did anyone ask for Lego Friends  or a pink and purple pastel world separate from the ‘real’ boy’s Legos.

image

So, my second reason for including RamZPaul’s video is that I attempted to show my brother the Feminist Frequency video in return and he would not even watch far enough to hear her argument. According to my brother, not only is RamZPaul correct but that the woman of Feminist Frequency is a feminist and therefore her points are automatically wrong. He claimed to already know her arguments before she voiced them and told me flat out our discussion was not worth having because  he wouldn’t debate something he knew to be true. He left the room after he called the woman an ugly feminist. He did not need to listen to her and he did not need to listen to me either.

It is not just strangers on youtube who have these opinions. It might be people you know or are close to. Which brings me to my third reason for talking about RamZPaul: the more the word is spread that people do in fact act upon and perpetuate sexist ideologies the more men and women will know feminism is still necessary. If a woman can be dismissed for voicing her opinions on what affects female childhood development and and have her words twisted into what RamZPaul claims to be the truth then feminism is necessary. When a woman’s argument is invalid because she is ugly and she is only ugly because she is a feminist then more and more women need to become aware of the issues that affect them. Sexism is not always blatant and that is what makes it so real and so scary.

Clan of the Cave Bear: Ayla the Feminist

When I was a freshman in high school I knew nothing about feminism. I didn’t care to know and by no means was I reading books with strong female characters to give me a sense of how awesome women could be. No, most of what I read was either bad teen fiction or male-centered stories.  Then my mother suggested I read Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear.

The book is historical fiction set in pre-history and focuses on the evolution of the modern human species and the period where Neanderthals were living alongside Cro-Magnon Man before the Neanderthals went extinct. Ayla is a Cro-Magnum girl separated from her people at the age of five due to an earthquake. This same earthquake leveled the cave where one Neanderthal population, the Clan of the Cave Bear, had been living. Forced to leave their home the Clan travels looking for a new cave and comes across a nearly dead Ayla lying in their path. Ayla is adopted into the Clan’s sexist culture always aware that she is different in both looks and understanding from her Clan mates. As the story unfolds, it looks into Ayla’s role in contributing to the evolution of the modern human race.

Without realizing it at the time, I fell in love with a feminist character. When I first considered the idea that Ayla was perhaps a feminist, I thought about how difficult it must have been for Auel to write this character. How can you write feminism thousands and thousands of years before feminism was even a word and language was still in its crudest of stages? But then I realized, it must have actually be easy to write Ayla because she is a feminist simply by being a woman struggling for her rights and equality in a society that thrives off subjugating women.

Unfortunately, there are very few female characters in fiction I like, but Ayla is one of them. As a reader, you watch her grow up and see her understandings of sexism and how it affects her. The Clan is a misogynist society, where women exist to serve men, give birth, and gather food. Children are told stories about the power of womanhood that comes with the power to bring new life into the world and how this power has to be kept from the women lest they become omnipotent. In this way, Auel uses the sexist notion that women exist to make babies and turns it on its head to be the powerful force that it is. Hearing these stories, it is no wonder that Ayla is a feminist.

Women are not allowed to touch weapons, but Ayla masters the use of a sling. Women are not allowed to disobey men, but Ayla goes against both the male leader and his son, who is the antagonist of the story. I don’t want to give too much away because it is a phenomenal book, but Auel makes another perfect move by creating a balance where there are the deplorable sexist male characters and yet other male characters are righteous, upstanding moral leaders you can respect no matter your sex. The book is not meant to cater only to women and never perpetuates stereotypes of either hardcore feminists or chauvinistic men. Everything that is done is done with the purpose to prove a point about culture.

The book is the first of a series (though the first stands entirely on its own) and does contain pretty graphic sex and a graphic rape scene. I was not prepared for this when I read the book at age 14 and I bring it up because although I skipped over these when I first read the books, in later books when Ayla has sex because she wants it, sex isn’t treated as evil and heinous. Ayla’s sexuality is her own and her pleasure is nothing to scorn at.

If you get a chance, read the book. I have never found a more compelling, subtle, female character. I have never found another female character who inspires me as much as Ayla does. Pass along this feminist in fiction for a greater understanding of the complexity of women characters.