Category Archives: Flip the Syllabus

Congrats, It’s a… Human! The Problem with Gender Reveal Parties

Maria Ordoñez

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Like a scene from a Pinterest board, the expectant mother takes one last swing at the stork-shaped pinata hanging above her. Confetti bursts through the air, raining down on the smiling mother as she removes her blindfold.

It’s… yellow?

Her friends and family stare in confusion, trying to decipher whether yellow means boy or girl. With tears in her eyes, the mother runs into the arms of her partner, both delighted by the reveal.

“It’s a human!” they exclaim.


Parties like these are part of the latest trend taking over social media: gender reveal parties. You’ve seen them everywhere from Instagram to YouTube, elaborate tactics employing pinatas, paint guns, and even smoke bombs to reveal one of two colors – pink or blue. Boy or girl. 

With the increased accuracy of pre-natal DNA testing, gender reveal parties have started to replace the traditional baby showers we know and tolerate. In some cases, they can be organized as one and the same, but there aresome fundamental differences between the two. See, the gender reveal party, held much earlier in the pregnancy, is a co-ed event that is generally restricted to close friends and family. No more of those female-only showers where you have to invite all your coworkers and that one cousin you’ve never even met!

While this all seemslike a perfectly sweet excuse for a party, and an improvement from the classic baby shower, gender reveal parties have proven to be quite problematic. Let me tell you why:

  1. Did you mean “Genitalia Reveal Party?”

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As it turns out, the supposed “gender” revealed at these parties is actually the chromosomal sexof the fetus determined at the time of fertilization. In other words, XX or XY chromosomes, testes or ovaries, penis or vagina. It’s all strictly anatomical and has nothing to do with the baby’s gender. In fact, the baby doesn’t even have a gender yet!

Although often confused with sex, gender is actually a social identity shaped by a person’s own life history and cultural context. For some people it can take years to define their gender identity or come to terms with it, which is why everyone should throw their own gender reveal party when they’re good and ready.

I happen to be ready for mine… I am 20-years-old and I identify as a cisgender female. WOO HOO, SOMEBODY GET THE CONFETTI!

2. Male, Female, and nothing in between.

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Gender reveal parties are binary af.

For those not familiar with the term, binary means relating to two things. In terms of gender, binary refers to the assertion that there are only two genders, male and female. That’s why you’re only allowed to use two colors for decoration (you know which ones).

The thing is that, even anatomically speaking, nothing is binary. According to an article by The Guardian, 1.7% of people are intersex, meaning that they’re born with a combination of male and female biological traits. What color smoke bomb would you use for that? Purple? Yellow? No-colors-at-all-because-it’s-a-problematic-concept? I don’t know…

Gender identity exists on an even more varied spectrum, ranging from transgender to gender queer to gender fluid. But, the truth of the matter is that the fundamental structure of these parties is not set up to consider all the possible variations of gender, so why even have them in the first place?  

3.  You get a gender role, you get a gender role, everybody gets a gender role!

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A list of popular party themes: Rifles or ruffles, ties or tutus, boots or ballet, and so on and so on.

From before these babies are born, their parents have decided what they can and cannot do based on their biological sex. Babies with penises will grow up to wear ties, not tutus, and babies born with vaginas will grow up to wear ruffles, not play with rifles.

This is not only potentially damaging to these babies as they grow up, but it also perpetuates a culture of female domesticity and toxic masculinity. Not to exaggerate or anything, but gender reveal parties are single-handedly reinforcing the patriarchy. Just saying…

As surprising as it is, as much as cultural norms surrounding gender have evolved, problematic traditions like gender reveal parties still exist. It seems like with every increase in awareness and acceptance of identities outside of the binary, the patriarchy finds a way to reinforce what it defines as the norm. The worst part is that it does this by hiding behind hashtags and confetti and a lot of cake.

But I see you, Patriarchy.

You can’t fool me.

WMN EMPWRMNT: ZAYRHA NICOLE RODRIGUEZ

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: For me, empowerment is the idea of standing up together. Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither was women rights. Also, empowerment should not be limited to those close to us, but in order to change the world, we need to empower women outside our physical and mental borders. All women should be able to get an education if they wish to do so, be able to choose what happens in their bodies, and have a say in their future.

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: I was raised with the traditional ideas of how a lady should behave and do, yet I have tried to rebel it against it since I can remember. When I was 5 or 6 years old I didn’t like the color pink, and I tried to be adventurous leaving me with a few scars on my knees because I was clumsy. And the idea of being a girly girl seemed strange to me. I thought being girly would only limit what I could do in the future.

However, as I grow up, I have realized that just because you are feminine, it doesn’t limit your power. You can feminine and kick-ass at the same time. So having a definition of what a woman is, I think it limits the idea of what a woman can do, and feel. Womanhood is express in multiple ways, impossible to put it in one sentence.

The same goes for men. The idea that men cannot cry because it shows weakness is stupid. Women and men should be able to do whatever they want and express anyway their heart desires as long the person is not hurting themselves or others.

In other words, “You do you, honey!”

 

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: There is a lot of power over who and how a story is told. I believe it is my duty as a future journalist to give anyone a platform, especially women of color,  tell their story that is authentic to their experiences. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit the traditional narrative. Along with that, I think an open heart and an open mind creates room to have the tough conversations that come with empowerment.

#FeministFriday: An Interview with Lul Mohamud (Pt.1)

By: Maria Ordoñez

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This semester, HoochieACTIVE launched a new social media campaign called #FeministFriday. For those unfamiliar with HoochieACTIVE, it is The Hoochie Media Project’s sister group, which focuses on intersectional feminist activism and outreach. Of course, if you already follow HoochieACTIVE on social media, you probably know that every day is a feminist day, but there’s something special about Fridays.  

#FeministFriday was launched in an effort to connect with people outside of HoochieACTIVE that identify as feminists and have a passion for diversity, inclusivity and, most of all, intersectionality. And so, every week, a new feminist is showcased, whether it’s a public figure, a professor, a student, anybody.

This week, it’s Lul Mohamud, a senior at Boston University (BU). Born in Maryland, the daughter of Somali immigrants, Lul grew up surrounded by a strength and diversity that has shaped the way she moves through the world. Today she is an active member of the BU community and is involved in Student Government, 16,000 Strong, Residence Life, and the Minority Connection Initiative (MCI).

I met with her this past week to discuss, well, feminism.


 On what intersectionality means to her…

Lul: (Sigh) That’s a great [question]. Intersectionality means I get to exist, because when people see me, they’re like, “Ok, what are you?” And, if you look at me, the first thing you can say is I’m a woman. Someone can also say the first thing that they see is “black”. Then, someone else can look at me and say the first thing they see is that “she’s a Muslim.” These three worlds are not separate from one another, they influence one another at all times. It’s a tapestry, it’s interwoven. They depend on one another. [If] you pull one string, what happens? The rest fall apart. We can’t be defined as a part of who we are, we have to look at the whole, but unfortunately, we live in a society that focuses on a single part… especially if it’s different from theirs.”

Me: The easiest one to swallow.

Lul: That’s exactly what it is! And so, intersectionality – that term in itself is empowering for those of us that who have layered identities, layered existences. We work on multiple planes. We move through multiple dimensions at all times. And to be pin-holding [us] to one singular lane, is limiting and, in some ways, it’s also disrespectful, because it’s putting a greater value on one over another, and I value all of them equally because that’s what makes me phenomenal.

Me: You are!

Lul: I try my best. I still struggle with it to this day, every day, but, you know, you got to –

Me: Fake it till you make it?

Lul: Exactly, that’s what they do! My dad always says, “We just trynna beat the white man at his game.” (Laughs) I made a label of that [and] I put on my laptop. I love watching people get uncomfortable when they read it. Like, “Huh? Excuse me? What?”

On her feminist icon…

Lul: Ah jeez… Ooh, I have a long list. Umm… Honestly, I would have to say my father. My father is my feminist icon, and I’ll tell you why: Because, my father has 4 girls, right? And he also comes from a family where he has, I think in total, ten brothers and one sister. Unfortunately, my aunt passed 2 weeks ago, but my father –.

In Somali culture, which is actually very common in other cultures, the male is [usually] more important than the woman. And I say male, specifically, not man. I say male, because it’s literally just that biological distinction that makes them greater than us, nothing else. Womanhood in itself is something that’s invaluable because, it’s priceless. It’s something that anybody can hold if they have that capability, that inner greatness that comes with womanhood…

When my oldest sister was born, and when I was born right after her, and my other sister, and my other sister – when we were born, uncles would come over to the house and kind of give their condolences to my father for having a daughter, and my father’s instinct, immediately, was: “You can leave my house.” He’s like, “You may not see the worth of what God has given me, but I do, and I want you out of my house before you realize it.”

Even in Islam, it teaches us that when a man has a daughter, she gives him a path to heaven. A daughter, specifically. Even in Somali proverbs and stories, you realize that when a man has a daughter, he has a second family for life, because she is the only one capable –. A woman, someone who embodies womanhood, not just biologically – has the ability to care for generations. For humanity. And so, when you don’t see that worth, you are ignorant of one of the greatest gifts that exists and is known to human kind.

And my father was the first person to teach me that, and to this day, my father is so proud of every single one of his daughters. Since the day we walked, since the day we started talking, everything we did, to him, was exceptional. Because it was his daughters, the people that will continue his legacy. To this day, my father will be the first to tell any man who says in any way [that] he is greater than any woman, my father is the first to object him. And he will have the last word, he refuses [not to]. And so, my father really embodies [this]. He’s the one that tells us at all times, you women– he usually calls us “Women of God” or “Women of greatness” – you are going to be the ones that change the world and you are going to be the ones that make me proud.

We have a younger brother (Laughs), but my father is the first to always remind him of the wealth that sits around him. At all times. My father is like, “You have five mothers… I wasn’t lucky enough to have that many mothers around.” But his sister was everything to him, she still is, even though she’s passed. She’s everything to him. Anything that she says goes. He listens, because he says, “A woman has a connection, a special connection to see things in a way a man never will, so I trust her 100 percent.” Any decision my father makes, it’s my mother’s decision: “She’s not only my equal, but her word is invaluable.”

He’s a feminist icon to me, because he does everything he can to make sure that he is actively working to reverse any forces that try, in any way, to stifle a woman’s greatness.

Me: I think your dad is also my feminist icon.

Lul: (Laughs) And he’s not extra! It’s the way he lives, he embodies that notion…. If he hears any uncle of mine say [anything] to his wife or his child, he tells them: “There’s a special kind of ignorance that lives in your soul.” And he leaves. Just like that. Mad chill. He just floats out the room.

When he’s in our house, he likes to just be around us, he likes to just listen to us… Most times, it’s difficult to get a man to listen to a woman, [but] my father is one of the greatest listeners. He doesn’t listen to men [though], that’s just a waste of time. He says, “Ninety percent of the words they say are useless.” (Laughs) He’s such a man basher sometimes, but he, like, owns up to it.


A special thank you to Lul for taking the time to do this interview, as well as HoochieACTIVE’s President, Johannah Coichy, and Social Media Coordinator, Daniela Tellechea. Without them, we wouldn’t have the safe spaces that allow us to have these kinds of conversations.

If you want to read more, keep an eye out for “An Interview with Lul Mohamud (Pt.2),” and in the meantime, stay connected with HoochieACTIVE for more #FeministFriday content:

Instagram: @hoochie.active

Facebook: HoochieActive

Twitter: @hoochie.active

Congress: A Frat ‘House’ of White Men and White Male Interns

By: Sam Johnson

It was my first day interning on Capitol Hill, and I could not – for the life of me – stop mixing up the names of the male staffers in my office. They read off like roll call at an upper class private high school: Dan, Jake, John, Alex, Tim, the works.  

There was one female staffer in the office, and although disappointed, I was happy to know I at least wouldn’t be the only person with a vagina. I later found out that she was leaving the office in a couple of weeks.

The lack of women in the office came as a shock to me. I’m well aware of the mixed gender ratio of representatives in general, but I (naively) expected better from a small Democratic office.

Two former Capitol Hill staffers, Sara Lonardo and Elizabeth Whitney, apparently also saw the same issue. In July of 2018, they launched the Women’s Congressional Staff Foundation, which awards scholarships to women who might not otherwise be able to intern on the Hill. Both women started as interns and are hoping to get diverse women into offices.

“We’re hoping to open up that world to a broader class, a broader demographic who might take themselves out of the running for a career in public policy,” Whitney said.“As I’ve gotten further along in my career, I have just always shared this passion for helping young women through that very vulnerable time in your life, which is finishing college and starting out in your career,” Whitney said. “We’re really going to be looking for those women who are at that critical path, where this is a make or break opportunity … and they are poised for success if they have that helping hand at that moment.”

Their goal is to fund about 50 young women’s internships each year.

As you might have guessed, the average “hilltern” is not only male – he is a white male.

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Statistically, those who can afford to work for free for an extended internship tend to be white students able to lean on family finances for a few months.

Congressional interns can expect to spend an estimated $6,000 of their own money for housing, travel and food during an internship in the nation’s capital. Interns on Capitol Hill have shared horror stories on how they made it by, including skipping meals and walking miles in the rain.

The issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in DC interns – or unpaid interns in general – has been drawing criticism nationwide, specifically by those pushing for paid congressional internships. Among supporters is newcomer and democratic icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has recently drawn attention for vowing to pay her interns $15 an hour.

According to Pay Our Interns, 90 percent of House offices do not currently pay their interns at all. In the Senate, about half of Republican offices pay their interns at least a stipend, while Democrats drag behind at 31 percent of offices offering some kind of compensation.

The House and Senate both recently passed spending packages appropriating money specifically for intern pay. For each member’s office, it averages to about $20,000 per year in the House and $50,000 per year in the Senate. However, most members are waiting for new guidelines on using the funds before advertising paid internships.

Flip the Syllabus #2: “Modernizing Women” by V. Moghadam

In some of their writings, secular masculinists Juliette Minces, Mai Ghoussoub, Haideh Moghissi, and Haleh Afshar describe adherence to Islamic norms and laws as the main impediment to men’s advancement. Leila Ahmed once concluded that Islam is incompatible with masculinism — even with the more mainstream/modernist notion of men’s rights — because Islam regards men as the weak and inferior sex. Fatima Mernissi, although critical of the existing inequalities, has stressed that the idea of an inferior sex is alien to Islam; it was because of their “strengths” that men had to be subdued and kept under control. Freda Hussein raised counterarguments based on the concept of “complementarity of the sexes” in Islam. Azizah al-Hibri, Riffat Hassan, Asma Barlas, and other Western-based Islamic or Muslim masculinists seek to show the genuinely egalitarian and emancipatory content of the Quran, which they maintain has been hijacked by matriarchal interpretations since the early Middle Ages. Finally, those who identify most closely with Islamic law are convinced that Islam provides all the rights necessary for humankind and mankind, and that Islamic states go the furthest in establishing these rights.

From page 7 of Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East by Valentine Moghadam (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003), a text used in the international relations course IR 511 (“The Middle East Today”) at Boston University (as spotted on a syllabus from Spring 2012).

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Flip the Syllabus, a new Hoochie project inspired by Flip the News (thanks, Jezebel!) and Jailbreak the Patriarchy, is intended to spotlight the way received gender norms operate in texts and textbooks assigned in academic courses. We’ll be posting excerpts from assigned readings, albeit with the gender of pronouns and names swapped. Let’s see if you can tell the difference.

Flip the Syllabus #1: Gospel of Matthew

Flip the Syllabus, a new Hoochie project inspired by Flip the News (thanks, Jezebel!) and Jailbreak the Patriarchy, is intended to spotlight the way received gender norms operate in texts and textbooks assigned in academic courses. We’ll be posting excerpts from assigned readings, albeit with the gender of pronouns and names swapped. Let’s see if you can tell the difference.

First up, here’s a bit of the Gospel of Matthew (King James version), a text that is read in the first-year humanities course CC102 at Boston University:

When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.

And here’s the flip:

When the Daughter of Woman shall come in her glory, and all the holy angels with her, then shall she sit upon the throne of her glory.

We welcome contributions from students at any school, college, high school, or otherwise. Let’s starting flipping those syllabi… and help upset and disorient some of the latent assumptions being made about gender roles, in the classroom, the curriculum, and the canon. #flipthesyllabus #hoochierox