Category Archives: Gender Essentialism

The Thing About Male Lyft Drivers

By: Maria Ordoñez

source: Mercury Insurance Group
source: Mercury Insurance Group

The thing about male Lyft drivers is that I’m trapped in their car.

I’m acutely aware of it the second I close the door behind me. It’s like a palpable transfer of power that happens when I entrust my safety to a stranger. It’s a transfer that I consent to when the bus doesn’t show up on time, when I’m late for work, or when I don’t want to walk home alone in the middle of the night. However, this power is often abused by male Lyft drivers who see my vulnerable position as an opportunity to say things like:

“How old are you?”

“Is this where you live?”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“I would love to take you out sometime.”

“You should give me your phone number.”

“You are so [insert unwanted compliment here].”

“You have such nice [insert body part here].”

I receive comments like these more often than I ever should, but I never say anything about them, because if I reported every time a male Lyft driver made me feel uncomfortable or objectified, I’d never have time for anything else. That is, until a few days ago:

I had gotten out of class late and had fifteen minutes to get to my job across campus. My job was a 30-minute walk away and the bus was 47 minutes away. And so, I decided to order a Lyft.

From the moment I got into the car, my Lyft driver began complimenting my appearance. It started with my eyes and how special they were. Then, it continued with how “hot” I was making his car. After that, he asked me questions, like how old I am, where I live, and if I smoke weed.

At this point, I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable, praying that no other passenger get added to my shared ride, if only to get out of his car as soon as possible. He then offered to take me back to his place to smoke weed with him, saying how bad he could “fuck me up.” I nervously laughed off the offer as we arrived at my destination. I was relieved to get out, until I noticed his car lingering at my drop-off. I left as quickly as possible, questioning what made him think any part of his behavior was ok.

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So, tell me, Lyft driver, how exactly did you expect this to play out?

Did you expect me to forget about the paying job I was on my way to and go home with you instead?

Has that worked for you before?

Has that worked for anybody?

Ever?

Because all I know is that it’s been days since I felt trapped in your car, and I’m still angry.  

I’m angry at you for having the power to make me feel unsafe.

I’m angry at myself for not speaking up in the moment.

And I’m angry at Lyft for not doing enough to put an end to this kind of behavior.

You see, that day, as soon as I got home, I reported this Lyft driver for his inappropriate behavior. The next day, I received a generic email from a Lyft representative apologizing for the incident. The email went on and on about how much they value my safety and comfort, but in the end, the only thing they had to show for it, was a promise that I would never be paired with the same driver again.

And that’s the problem.

The lack of action taken by companies, like Lyft, is what perpetuates cultures of sexual harassment. Lyft drivers know that there are no real consequences to their actions and that they are at liberty to continue treating young, female passengers like potential conquests instead of customers.

Any Lyft driver, male or otherwise, who takes advantage of the unbalanced power dynamic between a driver and a passenger, should not be paired with anyone at all.

When I use shared ride services, like Lyft, I deserve to feel safe and respected every second of the way – whether I’m going to class in the middle of the day or to my dorm room in the middle of the night.  

And that is the thing about male Lyft drivers.

But, most of all, that is the thing about Lyft.

source: Twitter @AnnaGillcrist
source: Twitter @AnnaGillcrist

What We Can Learn from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

By: Avery Serven

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The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a film trope that most of us are familiar with. If not, here’s a quick definition coined by Nathan Rabin: “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition.” Some of the best examples are seen in the lead female characters from films like Elizabethtown, Garden State, Paper Towns, Almost Famous, and (500) Days of Summer.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl continues to be a character created by white, heterosexual male writers to satisfy a trope that they deemed absent from film. A character trope that, I might add, was designed to satisfy these writers’ own pipe dreams of a girl who could fill their emotional voids. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists for the purpose of bringing the brooding cynical “sad boy” male character out of his sheltered world so he can embrace all that life has to offer. She is often white, slim, beautiful, and, of course, quirky; the kind of girl that these heterosexual male characters might call a “cool girl.” She probably has dyed hair, crazy piercings, or listens to The Smiths (see Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer).

I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. For women, even a mention of the word “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” will probably elicit some eye rolling. Although she is “not like other girls,” she still only serves one purpose–to change the male lead’s cynical way of living. This ideology is dangerous, because even though the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is just a character on a screen, she represents the larger societal notion that women must complete men. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl does not seem to have any real goals of her own. Instead, her only goal throughout the film is to completely alter the male character by the time the credits role.

I will give the Manic Pixie Dream Girl some credit, though. Many of the female characters that have been placed into this category by film scholars have interesting personalities. They might like unconventional music, wear eccentric clothing, or think about life through a different lens. While these traits often serve as the only basis for the male character to fall in love with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, I believe that these girls break the mold by creating three-dimensional female characters, who do not fit the standard “Sexpot” or “Brainless Beauty” tropes that most female characters fall under. Unfortunately, while the Manic Pixie Dream Girl definitely doesn’t fit the stereotypes that other female characters often adhere to, her unique outlook on life is usually exploited by the male character for his own needs.

 Additionally, although many Manic Pixie Dream Girls only seem to care about their boyfriend’s dreams, many of the girls initially have dreams of their own. While these dreams are rarely fulfilled, the fact that they exist in the first place signifies hope for a change in the future of female film characters.

I believe we can learn a lot from Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Yes, these characters often perpetuate the notion that women, with their spunky attitudes and quirky demeanors, are supposed to help men achieve their goals. And yes, even though they have complex personalities and dreams, they often channel all of their energy into helping the men in their life. However, if in Hollywood writers continue to create three-dimensional female characters and allow them to be passionate about achieving their own dreams, the romance genre could be completely transformed. 

Sources

https://film.avclub.com/the-bataan-death-march-of-whimsy-case-file-1-elizabet-1798210595

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

Seriously, it’s NOT about the nail.

This video is a pretty accurate representation of how many people explain the differences between men and women in society and why relationships fail.

Interpersonal communication can often be simplified into three different types, depending on one’s goal. There are task oriented, relationship oriented, and image oriented. Often communication between two people will be a combination of the three goals. Research has shown that the cause for miscommunications in a romantic heterosexual relationship is frequently a result of men and women having different goals. While men typically communicate in a task-oriented manner, women are more likely to communicate in a relationship-oriented manner.

In the Youtube video, “It’s not about the nail”, the couple demonstrates an occurrence of miscommunication where the male is seeing the woman as posing a task that she wants him to provide a solution for. He is viewing her communication as task oriented, when it is instead relationship oriented. As a result the woman becomes upset, the man does not understand what he is doing wrong, and nothing is solved.

Jason Headley portrays the subject in a light, humorous way: “Understand this and you’ll save your relationship”. The about section reads:

“Don’t try to fix it. I just need you to listen.” Every man has heard these words. And they are the law of the land. No matter what.”

The video reinforces the stereotype of women acting one way, and men acting the other. It sends the message that women are crazy, and men just accept this if they want t0 keep their relationship. At the end of the video, the man is still not listening, only nodding and agreeing with her so she’ll be happy.

I’d previously had a teacher send me this video and explain how accurate he found it to be about relationships. The teacher was aware that I was involved with this blog and thought I would be interested in it. I was glad the teacher had linked me to this video, but couldn’t stand the video itself. I proceeded to discuss the video for a good two hours with the teacher where I tried to explain why this video is such a poor example, however even after discussing it in extreme detail I don’t believe I made much headway.

The issue with videos like this one is that it stresses gender essentialism. The issue with the communication between this couple can not be reduced to the stereotype that all men think this one way and that all women think this other way. Miscommunication is clearly occurring in this conversation as a result of neither party understanding the goal and mindset behind the other’s comments, but should not solely be explained because one is a man and one is a woman.

I personally have had frequent conversations very similar to this one, where neither person could understand where the other was coming from. This miscommunication has occurred with men and women of a variety of ages. In some of the cases I’ve been the one saying “remove the nail” and in others I’ve been the one saying “don’t try to fix it, I just need you to listen”.

Dear Society,
Stop trying to reduce people to one gender role. Let people communicate how they want to. Maybe instead of simplifying someone into their gender category, you should focus on what they are trying to say.

Isn’t it about time?

It’s not about the nail, but it’s also not about gender and if you go with either mindset there’s never going to be successful communication.

Pope Francis Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers

His Holiness spoke out against the role of women in the Church shifting from one of “service” to one of “servitude”, as reported on Globalpost. For this, we commend the Holy Father.

However, in elaborating his point, the Supreme Pastor (a man of many names – seriously, check them out here) went on to make some points which are worth questioning:

The “sort of emancipation” that allows women to enter traditionally male domains may rob them of “the very femininity that characterizes them”.

Whatever cultural and social changes have occurred or may occur, “the fact remains that it is the woman who conceives, carries and brings into the world the children of men,” the pontiff said.

While his aim was to highlight the importance of women in society, this may not quite be the right approach, because:

  • His claims are essentialist. ‘Essentialism‘ means believing that a woman is somehow truly, deep in her core, identifiable as a woman; being a woman is not simply the result of different attributes and behavior. (as described in this other Hoochie post).

The debates over essentialism rage on. Whether the Pope’s viewpoint is supported by evidence is one question; yet another is whether we should criticize the Church for its views… are the women in question not there of their own will?

I don’t know what is right – but it’s worth asking the question.

What do you think – how do feminist ideas fit in with the Catholic Church?