Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

Does anyone know much about Elizabeth Fox-Genovese? "The evolution of an antifeminist," an article about Fox-Genovese by Cathy Young (editor of Reason magazine) appeared in the Boston Globe earlier in January, bringing to light several of Fox-Genovese's contributions to debates encircling feminism. Fox-Genovese "evolved from a left-wing Marxist feminist into a deeply conservative Catholic anti feminist," first challenging feminism to buck its individualist roots (which cater to middle-class white women) in order to help protect those whose "self-reliance is circumscribed by motherhood" (the antithesis of independence?), but later migrating to a traditionalist Catholocism and distinctly defined gender roles.

The Last Abortion Clinic: With states across the U.S. passing regulations limiting access to abortion, does Roe v. Wade still matter? A PBS Frontline Documentary
I just started watching this, but I have a feeling it is going to be a wake-up call for pro-choice activism, especially for young adult women.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Women as 'breadwinners'

In the context of America's classic "mother, father, and 2.2 kids" household, we've grown accustomed to single-earner families where the breadwinner is a man and dual-income families where both a father and mother work. So why haven't we come to terms with single-earner families in which the woman is the breadwinner and the man a stay-at-home dad? M.P. Dunleavy wrote of the phenomenon in A Breadwinner Rethinks Gender Roles on Sunday:
The patterns that seem 'normal' when the husband is the breadwinner don’t hold up when women earn most or even all of the income.
Barbara Risman, a professor at University of Illinois-Chicago, says in the article that women don't receive the same "identity benefit" from being a breadwinner that men do—financial power hasn't given women the balance that they are looking for. I think that the idea of identity has a real relevance here, especially with Dunleavy's reference to "renegotiat[ing] expectations"—but I'm not sure where to go with it. Any thoughts?

Monday, January 29, 2007


Sex trafficking around the world

This article, from (credit Shiva for the heads up), chronicles the horrifying nature of Cambodia's sex trade. International organizations estimate that between 50,000 and 100,000 women in Cambodia are sex workers, forced into the industry by dire poverty. The CNN article writes about a young girl, Srey, sold into the sex industry at the age of 5 (it is estimated that 30% of Cambodia's sex workers are under 18), and subsequently 'rescued' by anti-sex trade activists. Somaly Mam, the woman who rescued Srey, has been working tirelessly against Cambodia's sex trade ever since she escaped it herself. Scary stuff - and global activism in need of our support.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Are we ready for a female president?

That question has been the topic of many conversations lately. In the past, I've been guilty of the pessimistic "this country won't elect a woman," but lately I've been wondering if that attitude is the only thing keeping us down. Sure, I don't trust a lot of the men (and, perhaps equally, a lot of the women) in our country to consider a woman as a viable choice for president, but to what extent does that lack of confidence create an environment where nobody believes a woman can be president? I've started rethinking my response to the "Who do you think will get the nomination in '08?" question, attempting to work in the subtle assumption that it could be Hillary just as easily as it could be anyone else. This article (from the Connecticut Post) made me start rethinking my answer to the '08 question, especially when I read this quote from a 17-year old CT girl, which left me feeling a little sad about young women and the perception we must be giving them about 21st century politics:
Emily LaDona is sure there will one day be a female president. She just thinks that day is a long way off. "I think it's going to happen eventually," said LaDona, 17, of Waterbury, who works at the Lafayette Deli in Bridgeport. "But I think the world isn't ready yet."
Perhaps its time to be more optimistic.

Friday, January 26, 2007


A few headlines for today...gender stereotypes

Implicit stereotypes and gender identification may affect female math performance, say researchers at the University of Michigan. According to this study of college-age calculus students, even women who believe that they have equal competency to men in math can be hindered by a perception of femininity that discludes math and science.

More on gender stereotyping in the sciences: Women in Computing at IU, a women's student group at the School of Informatics at Indiana University helps "de-mystify and de-geekify" computer science for K-12 girls and minorities in order to break down the classic awkward white male computer nerd stereotype that has overwhelmed the field.

Pretty cool: Yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thomas Friedman asked Princess Lolwah Al-Faisal, the most prominent princess in Saurdi Arabia's royal family, what she would do if she were queen for a day. Al-Faisal responded that first, she'd let women drive—according to the article, even though many jobs in Saudi Arabia have been opened up to women, their inability to drive hinders their ability to work or get to school. Unless they have enough money for a male driver or can rely on a male relative, they are out of luck—i.e., the ban especially hurts poor women. Al-Faisal's comment was a rare departure from the normally united front of the royal family; she has not agitated for 'driving rights before.' Apparently the argument by conservatives in the country is that if women are allowed to drive, moral corruption will rise because they will begin interacting "with men who are not relatives in places such as gas stations."

Women in Nigeria buck traditional gender roles by working as mechanics

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Beyond "We think men and women should be equal"...

It seems that a lot of people struggle with defining feminism and whether it matters if a person identifies as a feminist or not. On one hand, its impossible to separate feminist issues from issues of race, social class, globalization, poverty, etc.—feminism can be embedded in each and every one of those. At TFA last night, Liz (one of our co-chairs) articulated feminism as "equality of choice, not equality of identity," which I think is an important designation. As a female feminist, I'm not seeking to be a man, or even to do what a man does—but rather to have the option to do so. More importantly, perhaps, I as a feminist activist, I am obligated to use my own social capital to seek those opportunities for other women who don't have the same resources as me.

Back to feminism being embedded in almost any issue: ostensibly, you can agitate for universal healthcare without proclaiming yourself a feminist--but why would you? Truly, the act of designating yourself as a feminist requires little more than a commitment to the equality of choice; yet why does is remain such a loaded word? Does it matter that people have skewed perceptions of the feminist movement in the United States? I touched on this in an earlier post, and Anna asked whether it matters if we need to be calling ourselves feminist in order to realize feminist goals. I think that we do; by articulating the premise of "equality of gender choice" (perhaps a less loaded way to describe feminism, but one I'm not particularly fond of) we justify other activism, as well as recognizing the major hurdles women around the world face, and the gendered nature of almost everything in society today, whether it be politics, arts, discourse, or sexuality.

Perhaps it seems obvious, but I considered for the first time yesterday that one obstacle to men identifying as feminist is the belief that "feminist" reforms and activism benefit only women--or worse, that what benefits women must thus be detrimental to men. How do you convince all genders that "women's issues" are "people's issues"? Lately in my Gender Issues in World Politics Class, we have been talking about the defection of men from the U.S. Democratic party over the past 40 years, and hypothesizing that it could be a result of the Democrats' focus on the civil rights and women's movements. The majority of those who have left the Democratic party are southern white men; why is this? Until we started discussing our ideas of the reasons behind their defection, it never occurred to me that you could see something which benefits women as inherently being detrimental to men. Certainly, I had considered the difficulty of convincing men that they should care about women's issues, but I didn't realize that perhaps we are starting even further back than I thought.

Some news links for today:
Separating genders in public schools in Wisconsin
Arkansas rallying to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Changing sizes, changing pressures?

In the news of the slightly weird or possibly very interesting and noteworthy (depending on how you look at it), the Spanish government recently made an agreement with several fashion designers to establish uniform sizing across brands. Aiming to promote a healthier body image for women, the Spanish Ministry of Health has created regulations banning stores from featuring clothes smaller than a U.S. size 8 in their window displays, and hopes that the uniform sizing will help alleviate the pressure women feel to lose weight to fit into clothing:
"The Health Ministry's program aims to end a situation in which a woman who buys a size 40 [European sizing] dress from one designer may not fit in a size 40 garment from another designer. The ministry said the differences sometimes lead women to feel compelled to lose weight."
While I admire their innovative approach to altering the norms for women and clothing, the level of government intervention kinda freaks me out. It will be interesting to see if any other countries follow suit, especially with the four recent anorexia-related deaths of Brazillian models.

P.S.: Tufts Feminist Alliance meeting TONIGHT in the Women's Center at 9pm! Come join us.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

This conference is pretty cool--it brings together experts on various countries to discuss issues of women living in different parts of the world. Countries report on their recent progress in accordance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and others have a chance to respond to the reports. The dialogue allows experts to point out continuing problems and suggest new approaches to solving what are often historically entrenched disparities in the treatment of men and women. It's especially interesting because it seems to be a textbook academic approach (conference with a bunch of experts) with very realistic, tangible effects.

I read the report on Namibia, whose challenges include keeping women's issues at the forefront of public interest (ah! we can sympathize with that), rectifying contradictions between customary/traditional and common law, and increasing the rate of reports for violence committed against women.

There are also reports on Kazakhstan, Poland, Vietnam, India and Nicaragua.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Welcome back on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade!

TFA is back and ready for a new year and a new semester. The blog will be updated daily from now on (!) so be sure to keep checking here for new posts, and feel free to add your own comments.

While we're celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the day also serves to remind us of the major shortfalls of women's health care in the United States, as well as the complex politics and misinformation surrounding abortion rights. The New York Times Magazine published an article yesterday about anti-choicers who claim that abortions lead to struggles with depression, drug abuse, and other psychological problems—even though no scientific research exists to support the claim. Peer-reviewed studies have consistently demonstrated that whether a woman gives birth or has an abortion, she faces the same likelihood of future depression or drug abuse.
The article follows Rhonda Arias, one of these post-abortion syndrome crusaders, as she 'helps' women in prisons deal with their depression, which Arias credits to emotional fallout from past abortions. It interests me that Arias has targeted imprisoned women; my guess is that these women receive little other emotional support outside of her pseudoscience abortion counseling services, and it scares me that people like Arias are able to take advantage of a vulnerable population to crusade for their own unfounded ideas about women's health. Arias' program encourages women "to think about whether they were pressured into ending their pregnancies and to connect this with other experiences of feeling powerless." It's a cruel irony that Arias has found some of the most powerless women—female prisoners—and further removed their ability to receive accurate information and help dealing with their emotions.
This quote sums up how I feel about these so-called 'counselors':
"Abortion-recovery counselors like Arias could focus on why women don’t have the material or social support they need to continue pregnancies they might not want to end. They could call for improving the circumstances of women’s lives in order to reduce the number of abortions. Instead they are working to change laws to restrict and ban abortion."

The article also brings to light a seemingly frightening failure of the abortion-rights movement to advocate for post-abortion psychological care for women. Because we are eager to assure women that abortion-related depression is uncommon and rare, some women do not receive the health care they need after an abortion. It appears that more agitation is needed in this arena to open access to counseling without making it mandatory or infringing on a woman's right to a safe, legal abortion.
The article, by Emily Bazelon (a senior editor at Slate) is worth a read, if only to reinvigorate you to keep fighting for women's rights. Happy Roe v. Wade day!