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Archive for April, 2006

Since feminism began, there have been opponents. Sometimes, those opponents have been women who don't want to upset the balance for fear of retribution, for fear of losing their social position, for fear of not attracting a husband, whatever. Mostly, though, the opponents of feminism are and have been men. Not all men, of course, oppose the ideals of feminism. But most of the opponents of feminism are men.I have talked a lot in previous posts about how socialization is responsible for gender roles, and how that socialization has particularly affected women. However, masculine socialization is just as powerfully directive as feminine socialization. Masculine socialization is not inherently oppressive, the way feminine socialization is, but it is, nevertheless, a powerful force that moulds boys into men who play out patriarchal hierarchies in society. Boys are taught from an early age to act like men, which involves primarily not acting like women. Masculinity is tied to sexuality – both sex, and heterosexuality, in particular. Failure to act in masculine ways de-sexes a man, makes him appear not fully a man. So what does masculinity look like?

First, masculinity is the embodiment of such characteristics as success, independence, aggressiveness, physical strength, emotional strength, and dominance. Second, masculinity is the manifestation of these characteristics through social relationships with other men (relatinoships with women are primarily sexual). Third, masculinity is defined by what it is not: not feminine, not homosexual, not being dependent, not being emotional, not being submissive, not being compliant, not being effeminate, not failing in sexual relationships with women, not failing to not have sexual relationships with men, not failing to have social relationships with men. Also, all masculinities are not created equal: the definitive masculinity is that of white, middle class, able-bodied, heterosexual men. Men who fall outside this narrow category are less masculine – or sometimes are demonized into hypersexual beings, as has happened with black men since the time of slavery. Through this definition, men learn to be sexist, heterosexist/homophobic (the term homophobic denotes a "fear" of homosexuals, and the truth is that heterosexual men are taught not just to fear homosexuals, but to hate them in the same way whites are taught to fear and hate blacks and other ethnic groups), and racist. Masculinity is tied to all these forms of hating others.

Sexism: First, men are taught to hate women, to see women as being for a specific purpose: caring for men and providing men with sex and children. Men are taught that it is "natural" for men and women to be and act a certain way and that those ways are "naturally" consucive to certain types of roles, jobs, etc. Men are taught to view women as objects, property. Since masculinity teaches men not to be like women, any slip from that set of guidelines into feminine behaviour makes a man less masculine, and vulnerable to attack by stronger men who may usurp them and their property, including their woman. So, for fear of this happening, men try to adhere to a flight from femininity as much as possible, and they learn to hate women for embodying the characteristics that they fear. Women represent home, emotion, familial responsibility, dependence on others – the opposite of fun. Men gain masculinity points by putting down women and what they represent… or making a show of that masculine trait, aggressiveness, toward women.

Heterosexism/Homophobia: Second, men are taught to only have sex with women, not with men. This is what women are for, and it undermines one's masculinity to not participate in a heterosexual sexual relationship. Having sex with men is what women do, not men, and so homosexuality is closer to feminine sexuality than to masculine sexuality. On the flip side of this, men are expected to have primarily, if not exclusively, homosocial relationships – that is, social relationships with members of their own gender. Men who are too friendly with women but are not having sex with those women are suspected of being too much like women in other characteristics. Men are constantly evaluating one another's masculine performances, playing off one another's masculinity. The fear is that they will not measure up, and will be revealed as a fraud. And so, men learn to fear other men, fear being unmasculine, fear being perceived as feminine. And feminine men are deemed homosexual.

Racism: Finally, men are taught to fear and hate men of other ethnic backgrounds. I won't got into a long list of examples here; it will suffice to say that white men are taught to find ways in which men of different ethnicities are not masculine enough, and in the effort to gain a piece of the masculinity pie, men of different ethnic backgrounds respond by doing the same thing to all other ethnicities combined with acting in a masculine a way as possible.

Masculinity is primarily about power. Feminists have identified this for centuries, that men are preoccupied with power, that men have the most social and economic and political power, that men exert that power over women. However, most men do not feel powerful! The huge pressures of masculinity prevent men from feeling powerful, and instead make men feel powerless. Men are raised to believe they are entitled to power, but do not feel they have it. They are pressed on all sides by masculinity, sexism, racism, heterosexism/homophobia. They have to live up to these standards, and do not feel free to simply be who they (may) want to be.

No wonder men do not respond well to feminism! First, feminism identifies men as having the balance of power in society, and most men do not feel they have that power. Second, feminism argues for a redistribution of that power, and men want to hang onto whatever power they feel they do have. And when women do make strides that allow them to break away from oppressive gender roles, men are threatened.

So, how can men learn to feel less threatened by feminism? By recognizing that masculinity, like femininity, is socially constructed, and can be socially deconstructed in the same ways that women have been and are deconstructing femininity. By recognizing that being a man does not necessarily mean being sexist, racist, homophobic. Is this realistic? I don't know. Many men do not want to give up the power they have, however small it may be. But, I ask you this: does it have to be a zero-sum equation? Does more power for women necessarily mean less power for men? Can it be seen as a positive, as sharing rather than dominance? More power for women will mean that things will change – but couldn't it just be true that those changes will be good for everyone? I think it can. I think that as more women gain power and independence, they will enter the workforce throughout the world, economies will start to grow, and countries will be pulled out of poverty. Less children will be born, and they will be better cared for, so infant mortality rates will fall, child starvation rates will fall, and education opportunities will rise, which will lead to greater economic prosperity. Health care will be more accessible, and fewer people will die from preventable/treatable illnesses like malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. Empowerment for women is definitely a good thing for men.

How can men support feminism?

  • Stop objectifying women. Stop seeing women as things over which you have power. Stop seeing women as things over which you have ownership. Stop seeing women as having a specific purpose in relation to you. Stop seeing women as being perpetually sexually available. Stop viewing pornography. Stop raping women. Stop abusing women. Stop making excuses for any objectification of women.
  • Start seeing women as equals. Give women the same respect and consideration you might give a man. Assume that women have goals and dreams and desires exclusive of men, children, and families.
  • Start recognizing your own social, economic, and political power, and the lack of power held by women in relation to men. Recognize that women are oppressed, and that men are, by elimination, their oppressors. Recognize that while it may not be your fault, you participate in that oppression inherently, whether you want to or not, by subscribing to masculinity.
  • Support women's goals, dreams, and desires. Recognize that women will need special protections and assistance in order to pull out of oppression, and support such initiatives. Equality is not the same as equity. Women will need such measures as affirmative action to get a foothold. Don't complain about it. Support it.
  • Stop being threatened by women, and by homosexual men (if you are heterosexual). Their existence doesn't detract from yours. So what if someone confuses you for a homosexual man? Who cares? It isn't important, it doesn't mean you are not a man. It doesn't mean you will never get laid again. It doesn't mean anything. Support gay and lesbian rights. Stop demonizing homosexuals as sexual deviants, monsters, ungodly. Just stop it.
  • If you are heterosexual, encourage your girlfriend/wife to continue her female friendships. Isolating a woman within a romantic relationships and trying to control her movements outside that relationship is very bad. Women need solidarity, we need to organize together, we need to support one another.
  • Don't make your female partner feel as though she should be threatened by other women for your attention/affection. Make sure she feels secure in your relationship.
  • Support your female partner by sharing equally household tasks and childrearing tasks. Relegating women to the private sphere of home restricts her ability to reach her goals and dreams.

That's all I can think of. I hope this look into masculinity has been somewhat enlightening. Feel free to express your experiences with masculinity and femininity.

References:

  1. Michael S. Kimmel, "Masculinity and Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity." (sorry, I don't have the year and publisher info)
  2. Jacquelyn N. Zita, "Heterosexual Anti-Biotics," in Body Talk, 1998, Columbia University Press.

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on war

I'm nearly finished A War Against Truth, the book I'm reading by Paul William Roberts about the Iraq invasion. I have found it fascinating, and I've learned a lot about Iraq as a country: the history, the culture, the intellectual contributions to humanity, the people, the religion, the politics. I've also learned a lot about the american invasion of Iraq. This is one dirty war. It makes me absolutely sick, disgusted completely with Bush, with the beloved bullshit american dream of liberty and democracy and capitalism, with the ignorance of the american people who voted for Bush, with the corruption of the democratic process that allowed Bush to become president, and the vile americans who actually CHOSE this man as their leader, even after it was apparent what he was and what he was doing. How can the american people not be to blame for their leaders, when their leaders are so consistently poor? american society is breeding these men, these leaders, these liars, these murderers, who sit comfortably back and care not whether the death toll includes children, the elderly, the infirm, or even their own people, soldiers sent into hell for black gold.This war has broken all of the Geneva conventions on warfare (especially the protection of civilian populations). This war has made no effort to avoid civilan casualties, including children. These soldiers have concealed their identities to avoid blame and accountability in their actions. The US army is gutless, taking action on a defenseless country, a defenseless people, bombing from the air where they can't be touched and leaving many active bombs on the ground for any child to find like a landmine, committing atrocious acts of desecration and humiliation. This war required no military tactics, no strategy. The only strategy employed was to intimidate the Iraqi population by indiscriminately bombing as many communities as possible. This war has destroyed precious artifacts from the Cradle of Civilization, from which we all came. This war has decimated infrastructures in cities, and now american firms are making huge amounts of money through "rebuilding" efforts. Bush and his friends are nothing but war profiteers. Make no mistake: this war is about oil, nothing else.

The guise of "bringing democracy to the people of Iraq" is so transparent, so ridiculous, so completely illogical it makes the head spin. How can Bush think that forcing american-style democracy on a country is democratic? Did anyone ask the Iraqi people if they wanted the US to intervene on their behalf? If democracy is to be born in Iraq, it should be born as the Iraqi people see fit. Yes, it will be a struggle, and it will involve instability and a big learning curve as Iraq learns how to develop its processes – but isn't that what government for the people, by the people is about? What about the decision of the UN – democratically decided – not to condone or support the US invasion of Iraq? What about Bush's own "election" (more like appointment) to office in 2000 – was that democratic? Bush and democracy are not friends. No sirree.

This war is devestating to me. america seems intent on becoming an empire rather than a state, and global domination is the end goal – economically and militarily. But, heed this warning: all empires fall… and the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Already oil is being traded in Euros rather than US dollars, and this is a big problem for the greenback. Once the value of US currency declines, look out.

I'd like to close up with a quote. It's written by one of the old-time great poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from "Fears in Solitude" (1798).

Boys and girls,
And women, that would groan to see a child
Pull off an insect's wing, all read of war,
The best amusement for our morning meal!
The poor wretch, who has learnt his only prayers
From curses, and who knows scarcely words enough
To ask a blessing from his Heavenly Father,
Becomes a fluent phraseman, absolute
And technical in victories and defeats,
And all our dainty terms for fratricide;
Terms which we trundle smoothly o'er our tongues
Like mere abstractions, empty sounds to which
We join no feeling and attach no form!
As if the soldier died without a wound;
As if the fibres of this godlike frame
Were gored without a pang; as if the wretch,
Who fell in battle, doing bloody deeds,
Passed off to Heaven, translated and not killed;
As though he had no wife to pine for him,
No God to judge him! Therefore, evil days
Are coming on us, O my countrymen!
And what if all-avenging Providence,
Strong and retributive, should make us know
The meaning of our words, force us to feel
The desolation and the agony
Of our fierce doings?

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I watched March of the Penguins yesterday, and I absolutely loved it! I've always had a soft spot for emperor penguins, so it was just so neat to see them in such vivid detail – it made me think I could reach out and touch them! I also watched the documentary the cinematographers made while they were in Antarctica for a year filming the March, and it was fascinating. I liked it just as well as the March actually. The guy who narrated did a wonderful job – his French accent was so beautiful, and his narration was poetic: "Winter spread over the ocean like a blanket;" "The penguins came right up to us – is there an animal left in the world who doesn't fear man?" "We thought they would be comic, but they were truly empiric." I would have been just as happy to listen to his narration of the March as I was to hear Morgan Freeman tell the lovely tale of the world's coldest lovers. And, there's nothing as cute as baby penguins! If you haven't seen it yet, don't wait – you'll be charmed and amazed at the beautiful penguins and their story of survival.

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This Friday, I’m taking a little break from writing. Instead, I’m going to upload a paper I recently submitted to a class in human rights I just completed. I got a good grade on this paper, so I’m comfortable sharing it! It’s a bit long, but I hope it will be interesting for anyone who wishes to read it through. I don’t think it’s too academic; I try to write so that anyone could read one of my papers with no background knowledge at all and understand the points I am raising. I found it interesting to research, and I enjoyed writing it!

BECAUSE WE ARE WOMEN: WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ARE NOT ENOUGH

“Human rights have not been women’s rights – not in theory or in reality, not legally or socially, not domestically or internationally. Rights that human beings have by virtue of being human have not been rights to which women have had access…”

– Catharine A. MacKinnon[1]

Despite the hard work of feminists over the past several hundred years,[2] ours is still a patriarchal society. This paper will look at the status of women worldwide under patriarchal social, economic, and legal systems. I will argue that since women do not have status equal with that of men, special rights ought to be adopted and enforced to support and empower women. As the quote from Catharine MacKinnon reveals above, human rights are not enough: special protections for women are needed in response to the special types of harms to which women are subjected under patriarchy. I will discuss the position that women and men do not have equal status, despite the fact that many countries have legislation that protects the rights of women and forbids discrimination based on gender, using the examples of economic marginalization and gender-specific violence. I will discuss the inherent problems with human rights as based on a libertarian model of autonomy. Finally, I will discuss why women should be afforded special protections, using a framework of relational autonomy and distributive justice.

A Theory of Biology, A Theory Of Socialization
A major contributor to the unequal status of women is biological determinism, the idea that men and women are inherently different due to biological differences between the sexes. Biological essentialism is very popular and is constantly reinforced and supported by science, medicine, and the arts; for example, the mid-1990s best seller, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus[3] pointed out the many ways in which men and women are so different they might as well be from different planets, while ignoring the ways in which men and women are socialized in specific ways that lead to these differences. This framework for looking at the behaviours of men and women informs much of human social life in intricate ways.

Marilyn Frye argues that gender is a social construct built on biological sex, and that gender involves intricate sets of rules that humans are taught through socialization.[4] Frye’s view stands in stark contrast to the popular biological approach under which society operates; on this view, gender has little to do with biology and everything to do with human socialization.

Women and Economic Inequality
The biological approach underlies the traditional division of labour between the sexes that persists in most societies, with women still doing the majority of unpaid care work and domestic labour. Because women are seen as physically inferior, and because women undergo pregnancy and childbirth, women are seen as “natural” candidates for care-giving and poor candidates for work under conditions of strenuous labour or competition. Nirmala Erevelles discusses how the naturalization of care-giving as feminine supports patriarchy, using the example of a voluntary organization in southern India called DOST, which provides residential, educational, and rehabilitation services for poor disabled children.[5] In her example, the care workers are all women, and all have personal backgrounds of poverty and social marginalization; these women believe that care work was “the only option they had that would save them from starvation or sexual exploitation.”[6] The pay (room and board and about $80 per year) is far below the international measure of extreme poverty, set at $1 per day, and the education level of the care-givers is often about the same as the children for whom they provide care. These women are socialized to believe that it is “natural” for them to undertake care work because of their gender, and that other options for work are not open to them.

In the west, businesses have justified paying women less because women have a “natural” liability – women are biologically responsible for gestation. Because women become pregnant and give birth, and require time away from the workplace to do so, and because there is a social expectation that women have children and be the primary care-givers for those children, business sees this as an obstacle to employee productivity. This liability is reason enough to justify lower wages for women than for men. Women are seen as unreliable workers whose attentions are divided between work and family in ways that preclude “normal” workplace performance, where “normal” refers to the performance of men. Ann Cudd argues that the lower economic position of women is a vicious cycle: women are paid less because they are considered unreliable, and because of this, when a married woman becomes pregnant, the decision for her to take parental leave rather than her husband is often made on the basis of her inferior economic status: “if there is a wage gap between men and women… and if they consider only family income in making their decision, it is clear that they will decide that [the woman] should specialize in child-care and [the man] in wage work.”[7] Thus, the myth of women being unreliable workers who deserve lower wages becomes true. Indeed, it is difficult for women to advance their careers under the overwhelming social expectation to have babies and be responsible for their children’s care: for example, in 2003, only eight Fortune 500 companies were headed by female CEOs,[8] and currently, a mere 64 of 308 Members of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons are female.[9] It is important to note that the economic oppression experienced by women happens because they are women.

Libertarian thought, which emphasizes the individual as the locus of autonomy and decision-making and on which Western legal systems are based, sees the quandary women face as quite simple: a woman may either have a successful career, or she may have a well-nurtured family, but she may not have both. Indeed, the women who do become CEOs of major companies are held up as examples of women who really wanted to be successful, and are used to support libertarian ideals based on reward for hard work. Libertarians would say that women have the choice to become mothers and give up their careers, or the choice not to have children. Unfortunately for women, the choice is not quite this simple. These practices are common despite human rights legislation forbidding the use of gender as a justification for wage disparity.[10]

Because care work is largely unpaid or under-paid, this enforces women’s economic reliance on men through interpersonal relationships under the patriarchal marriage system, or through male-dominated economic contribution to social welfare programs. As a result, “women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty,”[11] a problem that has increased thanks to globalization.

Women and Violence
Women encounter specific forms of violence, such as rape and domestic abuse,[12] and encounter specific health concerns as a result of these. Sexual violence is a main factor contributing to the spread of HIV to women worldwide.[13] One in three women will experience violence in her lifetime, and violence against women has been declared a public health emergency by the Council of Europe: “In a World Bank report, it was estimated that violence against women was as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.”[14] Women’s reproductive freedom is denied throughout the world, including North America: recently, South Dakota’s senate passed a bill banning all abortions that are not deemed medically necessary, even in cases of incest and rape; the bill must still be signed by the state’s governor, a known abortion opponent.[15]

One of the most devastating international problems for women is genocidal rape. In countries torn by war, genocide is gaining momentum as a tool of war. Wiping out the enemy is the chief goal of many wars in this age. From WWII, to the Serbian-Croatian conflict, to Rwanda, and currently the Congo, genocidal war movements have killed millions of people and displaced millions more. War is always a time of terror for the people involved, but for women, the terror is two-fold. Not only are women killed alongside men, but increasingly women are brutalized through rape. Male soldiers rape women in order to breed the unwanted race of people off the face of the earth; the children who are products of these acts of genocide are considered to be a new generation of the aggressors, who have been “ethnically cleansed.”[16]

Catharine MacKinnon writes on the subject of genocidal rape during the Serbian-Croatian conflict of the early 1990s. She says, “In this genocide through war, mass rape is a tool, a tactic, a policy, a plan, a strategy, as well as a practice.”[17] The victims were targeted because they were Muslim or Croatian, but the act of genocidal rape could only be committed because they were women. As MacKinnon points out, genocidal rape is seen as either rape, or genocide, but not both. But it is both: these women are raped for the purpose of genocide. It is rape not as merely spoils of war – it is rape as war, “rape as ethnic expansion through forced reproduction”[18] in which the victims are used as another weapon against their people. During the Bosnian-Serbian conflict, MacKinnon reports, women were imprisoned in concentration camps where they were kept alive only so long as they could be “passed from man to man in order to be raped.”[19]

In areas where it is not possible to terminate a pregnancy, women who are victims of genocidal rape are made into vessels for achieving the goals of their enemies and torturers. They are raped in front of their husbands, children, and families, often multiple times in the hopes of ensuring impregnation. Many cultures see rape as a dishonour to both the woman and her family, and rape victims are often turned out of their homes with no money and nowhere to go. In some cases, they are killed by their own families to save the family from disgrace.[20] If they become pregnant, not only must they carry the fetuses and give birth to the babies, they must then raise the children who are reminders of the brutality they experienced, reminders of the life they once had before their families scorned and abandoned them. These women often contract HIV, which is often passed onto the fetus, and both die young. If medical help is available to the women, it is often concentrated on preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to fetus, and the woman’s own health is abandoned once the child is born.

MacKinnon discusses the added depth to the problem of genocidal rape in the Serbian-Croatian conflict: United Nations troops were reported to have participated in the sexual assault of Croatian women, through rape, prostitution, and the production of pornography. She sees this as a perfect example of the underlying problem this paper is discussing – these men, the UN soldiers, were supposed to be protecting the victims of warfare, including the women who were being sexually abused, and were instead colluding with the aggressors. This illustrates perfectly how women have no protectors against harms inflicted by men because the protectors and the perpetrators are men.

Women and Human Rights
There is no question that women continue to exist under conditions of inequality and inequity. The question that remains is what to do about it. There have already been guidelines established to eliminate gender discrimination: The UN website lists 12 international instruments and treaties on women’s rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the Equal Remuneration Convention. However, these treaties and conferences have not eliminated discrimination against women, because they have not eliminated patriarchy. In fact, the global position of women is so poor that the UN’s Millennium Development Goals[21] specifically include two initiatives directed at women: promoting gender equality and empowering women, and improving maternal health. The other six have much to do with women as well, including improving education for all children, reducing child mortality, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and combating HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. Considering that the UN has committed to advancing women’s empowerment for the past 60 years,[22] the Millennium Goals highlight the disparate state of women worldwide compared to men. The details of “promoting gender equality and empowering women” are “eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015,” [23] while “improving maternal health” has as much to do with delivering healthy babies as with the health of the pregnant woman. While these are admirable goals, they seem to have little to do with improving the situation of women who are living under patriarchy right now. If UN member countries actually took the various international instruments they have ratified seriously (CEDAW is the second most highly ratified convention, with 181 out of 191 States parties[24]), these basic goals would have already been achieved.

A Relational Theory of Distributive Justice
Human rights have been based on a model of individual autonomy and libertarian equality. By this, I mean that humans are conceived as detached, independent individuals rather than members of a complex web of intersecting groups who are influenced by the relationships they have with other people. Libertarian equality is based on the notion that all people have the same inherent value by virtue of being human. The problem is that this has led to the belief that all people are the same, and that all people have the same opportunities if only they exercise their individual autonomy, which is conceived as being a matter of individual free will. This perspective becomes a framework under which women and other oppressed groups are marginalized because of their “inability” to perform to the same standards as the “norm” – the “norm” being those who belong to the class that experiences no oppression, or milder degrees of oppression. So, the problem with human rights is that they put the same value on everyone; while this sounds like the best possible situation, where differences between people don’t matter and everyone is judged based on their personal merit, it leaves out too much. The truth is that human differences DO matter. Everyone is different, and therefore, treating everyone the same, according to the same standards, ignores relations of power and privilege among and between different social groups. When human rights are conceived as one-size-fits-all, they are simply not enough.

Relational autonomy theorists argue that humans are not independent individuals, but develop personal autonomy within the contexts of relationships. On this view, autonomy, so central to the idea of rights, is a set of skills that are nurtured within social contexts, and importantly, oppression is seen as an obstacle to autonomy. Susan Sherwin and Carolyn McLeod write, “Oppression tends to deprive a person of the opportunity to develop some of the very skills that are necessary to exercise autonomy by restricting her opportunity to make meaningful choices and to have the experience of having her choices respected.”[25] This framework is necessary for breaking down the problematic traditional libertarian model of human rights that paints all humans with the same brush, denying the variegations present within human experience. With relational autonomy in mind, we can begin to acknowledge and value the unique experiences and perspectives people from different backgrounds can offer, as well as provide contexts in which people of all backgrounds can develop autonomy skills. Iris Marion Young argues for this approach in acknowledging groups: “A relational understanding of group difference rejects exclusion. Difference no longer implies that groups lie outside one another… Different groups are always similar in some respects, and always potentially share some attributes, experiences and goals.”[26]

Distributive justice looks to redistribute privileges enjoyed by powerful groups to groups with weaker socio-political positions. One model of distributive justice that has been used to eliminate obstacles to equal opportunities experienced by members of marginalized groups is affirmative action. Affirmative action programs provide marginalized groups with employment opportunities equal to those enjoyed for so many years by elite white heterosexual able-bodied males. Young argues that in social movements such as the civil rights movement and feminism, once a group achieves some degree of social recognition and are given formal equality, this does not mean social differences are eliminated.[27] It does not do to simply assimilate socially disadvantaged groups into mainstream society, because “assimilation always implies coming into the game after it is already begun, after the rules and standards have already been set, and having to prove oneself according to those rules and standards… the privileged groups implicitly define the standards according to which all will be measured.”[28] Affirmative action programs are a way of levelling the playing field so that each player has an equal opportunity to succeed.

Conclusion
In conclusion, it is my contention that human rights must be reconceived. Rather than expressing libertarian ideologies around individual freedom and autonomy, human rights should express relationality as a way to develop personal autonomy. Rather than taking a universal approach to equality, human rights should acknowledge the importance of group membership and group difference and support the elimination of conditions that allow the perpetuation of discrimination and injustice, and provide protections for women to compensate for oppressive social forces. These protections should impose a duty on governing bodies to remove barriers to gender equality, as well as stringent requirements that support equal opportunities for women to gain a better economic position in society. Additionally, special protections for women should include severe penalties for states and individuals who commit crimes against women because they are women, such as rape. Finally, human rights protections for women must include measures to reduce oppressive forces, such as always including a gender-based analysis of policies prior to their institution, and measures to increase women’s ability to speak out against injustices without fear of persecution. Until such time as oppressive patriarchal conditions no longer exist, and women no longer suffer harms just because we are women, special protections must be in place to prevent gender discrimination.

[1] MacKinnon, Catharine. “Rape, Genocide, and Women’s Human Rights,” in The Philosophy of Human Rights (Hayden, P., editor). © 2001, St. Paul: Paragon House.

[2] Feminism is generally noted to have begun in the mid-18th century, although feminist writings date back as far as the Enlightenment. Wikipedia, “History of Feminism.” Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_feminism

[3] Gray, John. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: A Practical Guide to Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships. © 1992, New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

[4] Frye, Marilyn. 1983. “Sexism,” The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory, pp 17-40. Trumansburg: The Crossing Press.

[5] Erevelles, Nirmala. 1996. “Disability and the Dialectics of Difference,” Moral Issues in Global Perspective (Koggel, C., editor), pp 403-413. © Peterborough: Broadview Press.

[6] Erevelles, pp 407.

[7] Cudd, Ann. 1994. “Oppression by Choice.” Journal of Social Philosophy 25 (1994): pp 37.

[8] Jones, Del. 2003. “2003: Year of the Woman Among the ‘Fortune’ 500?” USA Today website, Dec 30, 2003. Accessed March 29, 2006 at http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2003-12-30-womenceos_x.htm

[9]Parliament of Canada website, “Women in the House of Commons.” Accessed March 29, 2006 at http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/house/WomenHofCidx.asp?Language=E&Hist=N

[10] Canadian Human Rights Act, Section 11. Accessed March 29, 2006 at http://lois.justice.gc.ca/en/H-6/243963.html#rid-244002

[11] United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) website, “Reducing Women’s Poverty and Exclusion.” Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/women_poverty_economics/at_a_glance.php

[12] Certainly men can also be victims of domestic abuse and rape, but the overwhelming majority of these crimes are female.

[13] UNIFEM website, “Halting the Spread of HIV/AIDS.” Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/hiv_aids/at_a_glance.php

[14] UNIFEM website, “Facts and Figures on VAW [Violence Against Women].” Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/violence_against_women/facts_figures.php

[15] Nieves, Evelyn. “S.D Bill Takes Aim At ‘Roe,’” Washington Post, February 23, 2006, pp A01. Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/22/AR2006022202424.html

[16] MacKinnon, pp 536.

[17] MacKinnon, pp 531.

[18] MacKinnon, 536.

[19] MacKinnon, pp 536.

[20] Wikipedia, “Honour Killings.” Accessed March 31, 2006 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_killing

[21] United Nations website, “Millennium Development Goals.” Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/#

[22] United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women website, “The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: 60 Years of Work for Equality, Development, and Peace.” Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/CSW60YRS/index.htm

[23] United Nations website, “Millennium Development Goals.” Accessed March 27, 2006 at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/#

[24] Lewis, Stephen. 2005. Race Against Time, pp 113. © Stephen Lewis Associates Ltd. And the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc.

[25] Sherwin, Susan and McLeod, Carolyn. “Relational Autonomy, Self-Trust, and Health Care,” Relational Autonomy: Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self (MacKenzie, C. and Stoljar, N., editors), pp 262. © 2000, New York: Oxford University Press.

[26] Young, Iris Marion. “Social Movements and the Politics of Difference,” Moral Issues in Global Perspective (Koggel, C., editor), pp 178. © 1999, Peterborough: Broadview Press.

[27] Young, pp 173.

[28] Young, pp 173.

*please note: this paper may not be used in full or in part in any form without the express permission of the author*

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links and random musings

Hi all,just thought I'd take a few minutes to update my links on the sidebar. I've added an archive for Feminism Friday, in case you missed any 😉 – and an archive for some old favourites that got me (and sometimes others) worked up. Since my classes are soon to change, I listed some links for my summer curriculum. I also added a couple links under the addictions/distractions/guilty pleasures section. Time wasting is the name of the game when you're a student who specializes in procrastination!

In other news, I'm starting to get marks back, and I'm glad about that, it takes a lot of pressure off. I hate passing something in and then having to wait and wait for a grade – yuck! So far, I might just hang onto my dean's list status…

I've got a pretty ambitious lineup for summer courses, including one that is just two weeks long and will mean I'll have to take those two weeks off of work. I'll have to think about it, but it's not until August – it's called Empowerment, Gender and Development, and I think it would be really interesting. I'm hoping it might give some practical strategies for implementing feminist theory in development work. I'll also be taking Beginner's French at that time, which I'm kind of thinking will be a breeze, so the work load shouldn't be too crazy. I'm a bit more worried about May, I'm taking Ethics in the mornings and Gender and Work in the evenings, plus working in the afternoons. I'll be completely burnt out by the end, but we'll see if I can handle the reading assignments. I may drop the evening class and take it in the fall instead.

Other random thoughts:

  • I am totally full of chocolate. Easter is a killer! I'm going to end up diabetic, I just know it.
  • My cat is becoming really aggressive with grooming her head. I'm starting to get a bit worried – each day, there's a new little spot she's rubbed raw. She won't let me put Polysporin on her noggin to help it heal – she just washes it off. (I did this today, and she washed her little head with her paw for about 45 minutes getting it all off. That can't be good for her to ingest.) Any suggestions?
  • I went shopping the other day and got all kinds of cute new skirts for the spring. And, I even bought self-tanner for my shockingly white legs (every 3 or 4 years, my whiteness bothers me and I long for honey-coloured skin). Now if only the sun would come out…
  • I need a new coat for the spring. Ask my best friend, I've been complaining about it for weeks now. I guess I'll have to go shopping tomorrow night. Hmph.
  • Alias returns tonight!!! I'm pretty excited, but I found out there's only 6 more shows left. I'm really pissed off/sad that the show is ending. But who to complain to?
  • So… the birth of the quiet Cruise baby yesterday… oops, I meant the quiet birth of the Cruise baby… I keep singing "Surrey with a Fringe on Top" over and over in my mind… and I'm not even going to dignify the STUPID nickname the press has given the baby. WHY does my consciousness have to be so invaded with these WEIRDOS?
  • Ironic that Brooke Shields also had her baby yesterday… I wonder what advice she might have for Katie should she develop PPD – 'cause diet and exercise doesn't cut it!
  • Could Brad Pitt REALLY be the 100th UNsexiest Man of the year? Poor personal hygiene? Can it be true? Maybe Jenn was the one who did the walking…

There, my celebrity gossip is done for now. Whoo! Every now and then, these things catch my eye and I've just gotta let it out!

see y'all later – ALIAS will be on soon!

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Now that school's out for a couple weeks, I'm looking forward to doing some reading. I have a couple of books waiting in the wings – I always have more books to read than time to read them – so I am trying to get through a few before school begins again in May. So far, I've finally finished Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I really liked it – it was meticulously researched, and gave a fascinating look into the lives of geisha during the 30s and 40s. Although it was sort of a love story, and the whole deal about treating women like objects was bothersome, I think it's probably pretty accurate. The movie was beautiful, but a bit different in places, of course. The book cried to have a movie made about it, the visual imagery was so beautiful.

Now I'm reading a non-fiction book called A War Against Truth by Paul William Roberts, a Canadian journalist who covered the Middle East for many years, and even interviewed Saddam Hussein himself. The book is a combination of history, politics, and memoir, and I can't stop reading it. So much about Iraq I didn't know. I'll tell you more about it when I'm done, if I'm not too overwhelmed!Next on the agenda is to finish The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. This book discusses the ways in which women are enslaved to the beauty industry. I've discussed it before, but I'll likely have some new insights by the time I'm finished. This book was a gift from my best friend for Christmas!

I hope I'll have more time when these books are finished. I also have on my list The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs, Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, and The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama. And I'd love to have time enough to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, it's one of my favourite stories but I've never read it, and my dad gave me an old paperback copy not long ago.

I'm way too ambitious, I know. I love to read, but I'm really not all that fast, which is why I always have books waiting in the wings. I've always had the problem of my eyes being bigger than my stomach, and I guess it works with books, too!

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Since this is Good Friday, I think I'll write today about women in the christian bible. I'd like to write about women and other religions another time, but I have to do a bit more research on a couple of religions to make sure I've got my stuff straight. I know christianity, since I was raised on it, so I'll start with that.

well, if we start at the beginning, we start at Genesis. After god created the heavens and the earth and all that was in it, he decided there should be a keeper of the earth, so he created humans. It is believed that there are five authors of the old testament of the bible, because throughout, you can see differing styles of writing/storytelling. In Genesis, there are two different accounts of the creation story, written by two different authors. One tells the story of Adam being created first, then Eve being created out of one of Adam's ribs. The other says man and woman were created together. It is the first account that is more well-known, and has been used for centuries to relegate women to the status of "sexond sex" (a term coined by the brilliant feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir). Once Adam and Eve were around, they were told not to eat the fruit from one tree in Eden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then one day, as the story goes, a serpent slithered along and began chatting with Eve, and convinced her that the fruit from this tree would make her and Adam like gods and she really should try it and give some to Adam, because god was just being selfish. So, she did. and then it all went downhill. They began to feel shame, and tried to hide themselves from god, who knew something was up and asked Adam what happened. Adam told god that "the woman you gave to be with me gave me the fruit and I ate." This statement is dual-purpose: it established Eve's purpose for existence as relational to Adam, and it blamed Eve fully for The Fall – human kind's fall from the good graces of god into a life of sin and the fate of death, responsible for death and suffering.This story, by the way, is not new. Remember Pandora, who opened that fateful box and unleashed pain, suffering, and disease onto the earth, and then was blamed forever for all the world's problems? and the Blackfoot Indians tell of Feather-woman, who dug up the Great Turnip and unleashed all kinds of bad problems, and was cast out of Sky-Country as a result. And then there's the hebrew legend of Lilith, who was the first woman and Adam's first wife. She refused to make love the way Adam wanted, in the traditional missionary style, man on top. She demanded to be treated as Adam's equal, and of course he refused, and Lilith left. As the story goes, she spoke the unspeakable name of god, and was turned into a demon. She was then depicted as a demon who came out at night to drink the blood of infants and women during pregnancy, becoming the first vampire. Woman being blamed for bad stuff isn't unique to christianity, and it certainly doesn't stop with Eve. Let's look a bit further…

Next we have Sarah, the wife of Abraham. The pharoah of Egypt wanted Sarah for himself, because she was so beautiful. (objectifying women began a long time ago.) So Abraham convinced Sarah to pretend she was his sister in order to save his own life, and she was taken as a concubine to the Pharoah. (Nice way to treat your wife.) Later on, they got back together, and Sarah, who was "barren", told Abraham to take her Egyptian slave Hagar as a concubine so he could have an heir. Any child of Hagar's would be considered Sarah's anyway. (See the trading of women here for the purpose of making male heirs?) So Abraham did this, and Hagar became pregnant. Here the story gets interesting – Sarah becomes jealous of Hagar, and Hagar runs away to avoid mistreatment by Sarah (of course she would be jealous of the woman who could fulfill the female purpose better than she could), returning only when god tells her that her son will father many. She has her son, Ishmael, and later on Sarah, who is past the point of childbearing, miraculously has a child, Isaac. God makes Abraham promise to circumcise all the male children of his tribe through Sarah. Sarah gets jealous again, and forces Hagar and Ishmael out of town. Isaac becomes the father of Esau and Jacob, and the Jewish people trace their lineage through him, while the Arab people trace their lineage through Ishmael – both sons of Abraham. (Abraham plasy an important part in Islam as well.)

Jacob, son of Isaac, finds a woman he thinks is very beautiful, but he cannot afford to buy her (!!!!), so he agrees to work for his uncle, Rachel's father, for 7 years to pay for her. Whent he time comes, uncle substitutes his eldest daughter, Leah, and veils her to disguise her identity (presumably she was not as beautiful as Rachel). Jacob still wants to marry Rachel, so he agrees to work for 7 more years to pay for her. Leah bears him 4 sons, and Rachel gets jealous because she is "barren" and offers her slave to Jacob (remember, these kids will be considered hers), who bears him 2 sons. Leah can't seem to conceive anymore, so offers her slave to Jacob, and he fathers 2 more sons, after which Leah gets pregnant again and has 2 sons and 1 daughter. Rachel's infertility is cured and she has 2 sons, but dies giving birth to the second. This story definitely makes it clear that women's purpose is to have children, and preferably sons, and that if they can't, they become very jealous and competitive.

The one daughter, Dinah, has a nasty fate. She is raped. The father of the rapist feels terrible, and offers to have the rapist marry Dinah, and that all the men in the town should be circumcised – displaying their allegiance to Jacob's god, and further allowing intermarriages between the two tribes. Jacob agrees to this – of course, Dinah has no choice but to marry her rapist. Her brothers, however, see things differently and they pillage the city in retribution for their sister's rape. Finally, some sense in the biblical men – not that they do a good thing in pillaging the city, but that they see their sister's rape as a very bad thing!

Much later on, in the book of Judges, we encounter a woman who is NEVER mentioned in bible classes. Her name is Deborah, and she is described as a prophetess, a warrior, and a judge (tribal leader). She forms a massive army and draws up a battle plan against the nasty Canaanites and leads them to battle. The story of Deborah is told in a nice poem, Song of Deborah. How come we don't ever hear about this wonderful female role model?

Judges also tells the story of Samson and Delilah, a much juicier story about a wicked, deceitful, beautiful and seductive woman and a heroicly strong man (think Hercules). Samson has a pact to devote his life to god's service, and in return he is given great strength. The sign of his ongoing pact is that he will not cut his hair. So, Delilah, who has been bribed to find out the secret of Samson's strength, seduces him to find out the secret, and once she does, she has his hair cut in his sleep. Samson loses his strength and is captured, blinded and put to work. Once Samson's hair grows back his strength returns, and he pulls down the temple, killing all inside, including himself (I thought suicide was a bad thing?). Delilah is almost as bad as Jezebel, the queen who makes the worship of Baal commonplace, and which unleashed drought and famine on her people as punishmnet from god. Jezebel did other scheming things, such as arrange for the deaht of a neighbour whose vineyard her husband, king Ahab, wanted. She was cursed by Elijah, prophet of god, to a death involving being eaten by dogs. yikes. No wonder this story is told more widely than that of Deborah – it's way more exciting, and the woman gets her due in the end, proving that women should just be good and keep their mouths shut.

There are two books of the bible named after women. One is Esther, the other is Ruth. Ruth is the great-grandmother to King David, of David and Goliath fame. She gets to take this role because she seduces a man at the behest of her mother-in-law after her husband has died. She is seen as virtuous because of her loyalty to her mother-in-law after the deaht of her own husband. Esther is a Hebrew girl married to the king, and after the king has decrees that all Jewish people in Persia should be killed, she reveals her true identity as a Jew and convinces the king not to go through with it, thus saving all the Jews in the area from certain death. The king decides that Jews should take ervenge on their enemies. Esther's triumph is celebrated in the Jewish festival Purim. So, why don't we hear much about these women?

In the New Testament, there are two women of prominence, but not so much that they had a book named after her: Mary, mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdelene, a figure who is ridiculously controversial. Mary mother of Jesus was impregnated by the holy spirit while she was still a virgin and gave birth to Jesus, son of god (the Virgin Birth, not to be confused with the Immaculate Conception, which holds that Mary was herself conceived without "Original Sin", the taint of sin passed down from human to human that all began with Eve and her fruit. The Immaculate Conception has no biblical reference.). Some christian teachings, again without biblical reference, held that Mary was always a virgin, never having sex with her husband, Joseph, despite the many biblical references to Jesus' brothers and sisters. That was about the extent of her importance in the bible – sorry all you Catholics out there – although she was present at the crucifixion. Poor Mary – used as a vessel to give birth to the all-important Jesus.Mary Magdelene is, as they say, cloaked in controversy. She is said to be an adulterous prostitute, a wanton woman. She has also been construed as lover and wife of Jesus – lately this story has evolved into mother of Jesus' children. Why not, I say – it was very odd at that time in Israel that a man of Jesus' age not be married. In any case, these stories about Mary M are unsubstantiaed. She was described in Luke only as one of seven women whom Jesus healed by casting out demons, and after this, she was a devoted follower of Jesus – not one of the 12 blessed disciples, but a follower. After all, a woman couldn't be a disciple! Mary did, nevertheless, have a special place in Jesus' inner circle, as she was one who tended his body after the crucifixion and to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection.

Notably, there are many stories in the bible about Jesus speaking to and helping women, even treating women as equal to men. This was very much against the role of women in Jewish society at the time, so Jesus was pretty progressive in this regard. Women were not allowed to go to school, were only allowed to enter the temples to a certain point, were not allowed to participate in religious services, had to cover their heads and shut their mouths in the temple, and were sold into marriage at the age of 13 or so. These traditional roles have relaxed in most religions over the years, but the traditional teachings about women that informed many of the roles women have played symbolically and realistically in the christian churches have had their impact on society and the way women are portrayed even today.

Picture taken from Christian Answers.net

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