Poor Ben Affleck and that Hack Jennifer Garner

I’m sure it’s tough for Ben Affleck to play Batman in the upcoming flick, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As a 40-something actor, he had to overcome a lot. His hair is now streaked with grey. Shouldn’t he dye it? He probably has a shirtless scene. I hope he doesn’t have any of that baby weight left.

That’s ridiculous, right?

Yeah, it is, and women face this kind of objectification all the time. The worst part: people don’t even realize they’re doing it.

For example, this morning on local radio, the DJs were chatting about upcoming films. One opening this weekend is the new Jennifer Garner film, Miracles from Heaven.

Female DJ: “Do you think Jennifer Garner is America’s next sweetheart?”

Male DJ: “Yeah, I think so. Everyone feels sorry for her after the whole Ben Affleck thing.”

Never mind her talent, or the projects she starred in before Affleck was her beau or her awards…

Jennifer Garner Awards

It must be because people feel sorry for her.

How do we cut down on this type of crap? First, we need to recognize we have biases. We need to understand our personal biases and then we can start to work on changing them. Test yourself for bias. Even if you don’t think you have one, we all do.

CDC: Rape and Domestic Violence are Women’s Problems

Thanks to this new handy infographic from the Center for Disease Control released as part of their Vital Signs report, women now know that drinking can put women at risk of sexually transmitted diseased, unplanned pregnancy, and violence.

I could make some funny jokes here about the stupidity of it all, but I’m not. This is serious. All too often throughout history has the responsibility for sexual protection, domestic violence, and rape been placed upon women.

Women should have the right to not be abused or assaulted regardless of our actions, attire, age, etc.

I really thought we were making progress with women’s rights considering the recent changes to women’s health care coverage and the focus on sexual assault on campus.

I guess not.

Thanks, CDC. You’ve now proven idiocracy is real.

 

Book Review: We Should All Be Feminists

Reading for pleasure is a cherished pastime for the Ph.D. student, so I have taken to consuming short works and collections of essays. These I can read in the coveted hour I might find each week or easily pick back up if my read is interrupted.

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My latest book I read was We Should All Be FeministsChimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes from her experiences in Nigeria as a woman in a culture that does not view women as capable or equal to men. Her insight into typical social situations in which sexism rears its ugly head provides affirmation for those who might be feeling the same frustrations as well as awareness for those who might not yet see the inequalities in such interactions.

The author calls to all people regardless of gender to be feminists as feminism is not just for the rights of one gender, but rather equal rights. She also points out why human rights is not a appropriate term for feminism.

Beyond being a strong supporter of equal rights, she is a brilliant writer. Check out her other works as well, which very likely might be at your local library.

Gender matters more than health

I used to subscribe to Women’s Health and really enjoyed the magazine. There were sections for health, fitness updates, and new gadgets for those of us who are workout nuts.

Over the years, the magazine went through some changes, but the most significant shift happened about 3 years ago. All of a sudden, the pages were filled with more celeb gossip, dating advice, and fashion and makeup tips. I canceled my subscription. If I wanted that stuff, I’d subscribe to Cosmo (Cosmopolitan).*

But I don’t.

I want information about staying healthy.

At least the Women’s Health’s website stayed decent with articles about new workouts and videos showing exercises with step-by-step demonstrations.

This brings me to last night. I was wanting to find some new exercise inspiration. I like to mix it up a bit so my body doesn’t get complacent and so I don’t get bored. Makes sense, right? So I go to Women’s Health’s website.

Oh. My. God.

My intended short visit to the site to find some new exercises to take to the gym in the morning turned into a diatribe.

What had they done? Where was the fitness? Was it not important enough to make the top nav?

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Oh, it gets better. The editors decided that women’s health includes such topics as:Kardashians make you healthyScreen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.58.54 AM

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Then you get a pop up:

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Is that all it’s about? A bikini body. Orly?

Ok, so what about the boys? Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.58.46 AMSeriously? Seriously.

Now, what did Rodale decide Men’s Health’s site should have?

I thought you’d never ask.Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.05.04 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.04.59 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.04.47 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.04.41 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.04.30 AM   On the main page, was there celeb info? New hair products? Ads asking if they wanted a bikini body?

Nope.

None of the above.

How unfortunate that a perfectly good health related periodical for women was bastardized by mainstream media and pop culture. I hope it circles back to cover fitness, women’s issues, and girl power that it once promoted. Now it just serves to join all the other fluff mags that perpetuate the female stereotype.

*It should be noted that Michele Promaulayko took over as editor-in-chief in 2008. Previously, she was executive editor for Cosmopolitan.

People who are sniping your life

I am a nice person, perky and upbeat, and have a wonderful work ethic. I’ll always lend a hand and genuinely ask my co-workers how they are doing. I don’t gossip. I love hearing about their research. I even lend a confidential ear to problems they’re facing.

Still, I get sniped. Now I am not talking about to the death, but the little jabs or swipes that just wear you down. Make you second guess yourself. Micro aggressions that maybe even ruin your day.

What is with the abrasiveness some women harbor toward other women? I know on some level the behavior takes us back to our cave-dwelling alter egos. But now we drive cars and sip lattes.

This judgement doesn’t just apply to women in the workplace. It happens everywhere! Anyone ever be mommy-judged?

Yeah. It’s brutal.

Now how about this? Ever been at work plugging along doing well and  suddenly you’re white knighted. Sadly, this happens to the best of us. White knighting can be helpful sometimes when men stand up for women who are being wrongfully attacked or addressed (wolf-whistles, anyone?).

Sometimes though, white knighting can be quite a downer. Take this for an example:

You and your other committee members are having a meeting. One of the male members tells other [female] members he has reached out to a particular leader about the topic and cleared the way for the [women] to progress. He has essentially done the jobs for the members…without being asked. He then suggests the [women] members get experience doing certain tasks as it is easy and they will have to do it eventually.

How about this one?

You are an educated person with 10+ years experience in your field, and you receive a lengthy email from the white knight about how you can improve your resume and prospects by being involved in various areas. He has already reached out to those area leaders to make a connection for you.

Traditionally women have been raised to be seen and not heard, and certainly to not “rock the boat” especially with men.

So, what can you do about all of the above? Lots! Here are a few of my favorites:

Stand up for yourself
Now, I’m not going to lie. This one can take practice. No, you don’t want to come across as crass or abrasive, but being assertive is good. Speak up and say, “It really makes me feel X when people do X. I hope you can see what I mean.” If this behavior still continues, take it further: “I feel X when you do X. We are each in control of our behavior and reactions, and I think as your Y you would like me to be honest with you so we can have a better Z relationship.”

Make it a party
Have others who experience the same behavior from the same person? Get them in on the party! Be open with them, using some of the statements above. Tell them how this behavior makes you feel and saying how you cant imagine it makes them feel good either. Some women are still stuck in the cycle of societal norms for women and won’t speak up. By getting them to see the light, likely they won’t accept the behavior anymore either.

Speak with authority
Cut out the language from your vocabulary that is tentative.  No maybes. No I thinks. No perhaps. You will be surprised at the difference.

Bodies matter
No, not your pants size! I’m talking about how you place your body. Body language has a lot to do with perceptions. Be small and you’ll be viewed as small. Lean into someone’s space, you’ll be seen as more authoritative. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on it.

Give credit where credit is due
Ready for another surprise? You will look more competent and intelligent when you support other’s ideas and acknowledge their contribution to a project.

Don’t ignore it
Please do not let silence be your agreement. Sometimes the offender assumes everyone is in agreement or everything is just fine when no one says otherwise.

Be yourself
Only you know what is right and feels good to you. Do not let someone’s perceived power affect you as a person. Do not allow them to diminish you.

Want to read more?

Intolerance of Sexy Peers – Sharma Vaillancourt

Why are Women So ‘Bitchy’ to Each Other?

4 Judging Habits that Need to Stop – Scary Mommy

Understanding and Overcoming the White Knight Syndrome

Speaking while Female

Could ‘Free the Nipple’ be working against equality?

Could inviting women to fight for equality harm equality? I think so. Especially if it suggests women fight for their rights to be able to go topless by going topless.

I know the ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign is about the principle of owning our bodies; I, however, am with Alyssa Milano. There are other women’s issues we need to tackle first: breastfeeding rights, maternity leave, sexual assault, wage equality, and reinforced gender stereotypes to name a few.

From the wikipedia page on the ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign:

Conversely, most states in the US note either explicitly or implicitly that any kind of exposure of the female areola is an act of indecent exposure and therefore a criminal offense. Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Washington are the only states whose laws expressly differentiate breast-feeding mothers from performances of “public lewdness.”

Only about 1/6 of states in the U.S. even differentiate between breastfeeding and other displays of the breasts. Online services frequently delete pictures and videos of women breastfeeding, yet allow other graphic, arguably inappropriate images and videos.

Honestly, friends, we have some work to do and I’m not sure how running around topless will help.

The Cloak of Invisibility Allows Gender-Based Violence

You can be an asshole on the Internet, but why?

On Monday I began listening to Invisibilia’s most recent episode, Our Computers, Ourselves and finished it yesterday afternoon.

The second half of the show strongly resonated in my mind. As the story goes, this commuter train rider was tired of rude commuters so he started a Twitter account where he’d post pictures of the infractions in attempt to shame rude people on the train. His crowd shaming efforts soon turned shameful. Not only did he post pictures of rude behavior, but he began being rude himself – the worst was posting a picture of a woman with terrible acne scarring and making a snide remark. When word about this Twitter account got out, his followers skyrocketed.

I’m sure there are other situations like this. Person is a jerk. People are fascinated by the tragedy. Jerk gets an audience.

Why are we as society so fascinated with the negative?

Why is it ok to say these things on the Internet?

The Internet is full of trolls. (See: This American Life “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS”) I theorize the troll to person ratio is 4:1. They will troll on anyone for any unconceivable reason. Even worse than the trolls are completely heinous dungeon dwellers. These individuals find it completely acceptable to threaten women, often with vicious, violent acts.

Gender-based violence is nothing new. There are still people in society who will say such comments or threats to a woman’s face, but the cloak of invisibility people feel the Internet provides seems to turn down the volume on the super-ego and unleash the unbridled id.

Unfortunately it seems to take a rally cry, hash tagging and a bunch of blogging to hold social media venues accountable for reacting to gender-based violence. For now, most offenses still receive boiler plate responses that include phrases like:

Just like when we are interacting in a public space we may overhear conversations that are offensive…

This same platform chirped further about how users can find such content “frustrating”. Yes, being told to “go get raped” or “get raped with a broken bottle” is totally frustrating, just like this rush hour traffic.

It is never ok to suggest or threaten violence against anyone. This plague of gender-based violence is open for everyone to see and affect. The best cure for a bully is an ally. Stand up and be an ally against gender-based violence. Don’t give the assholes an audience, report their heinous behavior, and their soapbox will cave in.

Expectations of Me

The topic of women has always been rather interesting to me and been at the front of my brain recently with topics such as sexual assault on college campuses, Gamer Gate, and harassment of women in tech frequently flickering across the media.

There are certain issues women run into more than our male counterparts while being us. Women often juggle and are judged. Our male counterparts who juggle are commended. What a terrible disservice to both genders.

Women are often told to “lean in” – I implore you. Tell me to “lean in”.

Try it.

This disgusts me how frequently I hear women telling other women to “lean in” or saying that they “leaned in”.

Women are not children’s punching bags. We don’t lean one way and remove ourselves from another direction of our lives. We are also not gyroscopes tilting involuntarily with the birth of a child, pursuit of a new career, illness, going back to school, etc. We grow in knowledge, interests and depth.

I am frequently baffled by the interpretations of others (women, men, media) of what women should do, be, are doing, etc. I was listening to TLDR this morning, catching up on some of my podcasts, and listened to “Episode 45”. I then listened to “Episode 46”. Please listen to these. Also see Quiet, Ladies. @wadhwa is speaking now for more explanation.

Most fascinating is the hack that finds fame in riding on the coattails of women.

Challenging the -isms

The -isms are never easy to talk about. They can be hurtful and embody so much history. Recently with the Ferguson event exposing continued racism in the region, St. Louis County issuing marriage licenses to all individuals, and attacks on women and feminism in various forms, Chris and I wanted to be sure to provide Kari with as much information as possible – and on an 8 year-old appropriate scale regarding feminism, heterosexism, and racism.

Over the past few months, feminism has been firmly on my mind with Senator McCaskill’s investigation into campus sexual assault (and frankly, every one could guess campuses were not honestly reporting incidents) and Gamergate.

More applicable to Kari right now is the topic of Gamergate. She loves video games, and has since a young age. She is certainly not going to ever give up games. She also loved going to PAX in 2013.

Will this change to more inclusive gaming continue, or will there be a divide? Is there a place for women in tech that will not have to be hard fought and never truly won?

Let’s start with a quote from Anita Sarkeesian:

One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women when they talk about their experiences.

Why is it when women report assault or harassment the first thought is skepticism?

Threats to women in tech are not new. Take the 2007 discussion prompted by the threats to Kathy Sierra. She is not the first and will not be the last woman to take a hiatus from the Internet and popular culture due to harassment and death threats. Why is this behavior ok? It’s not, but it is accepted. Why?

Going back to Gamergate, this disagreement about what gamers should be erupted into a division between those for women’s rights and those against. After nearly a month of heated debate, right after Kori was born in September, Chris stopped talking to his good friend of 15 years.  This hurt him terribly. No, not because of the loss so much, but because something so integral to him was ignored. Feminism is such an important part of who my husband is to disavow that part of him is to overlook so much of what makes him amazing. It’s part of his identity. Being married to such a strong, smart woman (uh-hum) and raising 2 daughters, women’s rights are very important to him. However, women’s rights would be equally as important to him if he were raising 2 sons as he would want to make sure they were just in the world.

On a sidenote: I am so proud he was on the list of users Gamergaters Twitter blacklisted. He’s just too equality and social justice for them. I think he’s rather proud of that too.

So many people in the industry are just like Chris. They are standing up for equal rights and uniting against the harassment of women. But there are the others too. There is no reason why anyone should be permitted to threaten another person or diminish their person.

This morning I made the comment that I am glad we are not going to PAX in the next couple years. Chris said he would love to go and challenge the issues. I guess I just think that part of my world is sacred. Video games are my immersive experience and I don’t want the neckbeards to pervade that too.

Interestingly enough, still many people do not think the issues of feminism are valid. Some comment that feminism was created by ugly, angry women and that women should enjoy sexually-charged attention. That particular individual was commenting on the video below.

Unfortunately, the “hello” in this video was not simply a chipper greeting. This is a challenge many women face on the daily: unsolicited sexual advances. Respond, you’re into them. Don’t respond, and you’re a bitch.

My favorite encounter to date (2003):
Guy: Girl, you got kids?
J: No.
Guy: You want some?
J: Not with you.
Guy: Damn, girl. Ain’t nobody gonna marry your bitch ass.

Where was this conversation? Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Another argument many have tried is that women are inviting these advances because of where they go, what they wear, or by not doing more to stop the advances – see comments here (I know, don’t ever read the comments, but what do I do? I read the comments.)

Women should not have to be mindful of their attire, career choice, opinions, etc. to avoid sexual harassment, death threats or other exploitation. Women should receive support and action when situations like these are reported.

I want my girls to feel more like a Samus than a Peach and be embraced by the world for being so.

I’ll leave you with Computer Engineer Barbie, which still has Kari laughing.

K: Hey mom, I still remember that story about that Barbie who needed help doing tech things.
J: Yeah?
K: It was pretty dumb. The guys needing to help her. (she laughs)
J: Yeah, you don’t need anyone to write your code for you, do you?
K: Nope.