Category Archives: Gender Norms

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.

Turquoise

By: Eleni Constantinou

My favorite color is turquoise. I realize this as I allow my feet to dangle off the side of a high cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Paphos, Cyprus, where the goddess Aphrodite was supposedly born out of the seafoam.

My mind flashes back to a few summers ago, when I had my first camp counselor experience at Agios Nikolaos Tis Stegis Camp in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus. I remember seeing my cabin for the first time—a group of twelve middle school aged girls, their faces resembling Cyprus’ long history of colonization. I take a moment to reflect how even though these girls may have Venetian, Assyrian, and/or Phoenician ancestry, we all identify as Greek Cypriots. We are all unique patches of that turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

This moment of reflecting upon the mixing of genotypes in Cyprus is contrasted as my mind reels back at the memory of ninth grade French class. My French teacher would continuously dock points off of my exams because even though I answered correctly, I was somehow not good enough. Growing up in Easton, Massachusetts, I was often the darkest skinned student in my class. Some people thought I was Indian, and others guessed Egyptian. I tried explaining to my French teacher that my favorite color was turquoise, that I was just one example of what a Cypriot looked like. I desperately assured her that my mother was pale with green eyes, that Cyprus was actually a White European country, that my olive skin tone was not a threat. But my dark curls and brown eyes did not fool her prejudice.

I then remember my first camp counselor experience again. Irene stuck out. Her mother was Philippino and her father was Cypriot. Her mother left her at a young age. I remember comforting Irene as she cried herself to sleep every night. Every morning, I assured her that she is loved, and that her nightmares would not come true. When Irene felt inadequate to include herself in the company of her peers, I told and retold Irene why my favorite color is turquoise. We are all drops of life in the Mediterranean Sea. No matter our specific shade of turquoise, we are all made of two hydrogens bonded to one oxygen.

I learned everything I taught Irene from my first-hand experiences. When I was in second grade, a boy named Jacob started pretending to sneeze when he came near me, claiming that he was “allergic to Black people.” I sat there stunned and confused, because prior to this experience, I thought I was White. I wish I knew that in a few more years, I would discover that my favorite color is actually turquoise instead of naïve red.

Before my first camp counselor experience ended, Irene entrusted me with a heavy secret. This young twelve-year-old girl has endured years of bullying for the most ridiculous, blood-boiling reasons. Irene has constantly been told by her fellow classmates that she is dirty, an outsider, someone who was not—and will never be—good enough. A few months prior, Irene attempted to commit suicide, but stopped herself when she realized the substantial physical pain caused by stabbing herself in the hand with a sharp kitchen knife. It was in that moment that she considered the emotional pain her grandmother would have to endure seeing her beloved grandchild dead. I have not talked to Irene since that summer, but I hope she remembers why my favorite color is turquoise.

As my mind focuses back to my present task of writing my honors thesis, I take a more analytical approach to my Cypriot identity and heritage. For centuries, populations have interacted and mixed, creating one Cyprus filled with diversity, yet unity.

The Missing Ballot – Why Asian American Women Don’t Vote

By: Hanna Xue

Image Description: Clara Chan Lee and Emma Tom Leung become 1st Asian American women to register to vote in 1911. Image via Smithsonian APA
Image Description: Clara Chan Lee and Emma Tom Leung become 1st Asian American women to register to vote in 1911. Image via Smithsonian APA

Since gaining the right to vote 100 years ago, American women have become as politically active as, if not more than, their male counterparts. In the last few decades, women’s voter turnout has slowly but surely matched and then exceed the turnout rate for men – women have comprised a majority of the electorate since 1964[1]. This pattern is reflected in the voting habits of all racial groups – Black, White, and Latina women consistently outvote men in their respective groups – except for one – Asian Americans. Asian American women and men have voted at similar rates for the last two decades[2]. At a first glance, this may indicate parity in the political behavior of Asian men and women. One might assume that if they show up to the polls at roughly the same rate, then they likely possess the same resources and attitudes towards political activity. However, a more comprehensive analysis of factors related to voting reveals that this is hardly the case. So why do Asian American women, who comprise half of the fastest growing minority population in the United States, show up to the polls so slowly? Well, the answer may have something to do with a phenomenon called immigrant socialization.

Immigrant socialization refers to the process by which immigrants learn to reconcile their original cultural identity with the host culture in which they find themselves[3]. Adaptation can be facilitated with increased length of residence and can result in a higher sense of social belonging, which is critical to political participation. A 2018 study by the Journal on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics reports that social belonging precedes political engagement in the sense that an individual must feel integrated into a country before becoming involved in the political system[4]. It should be noted that nearly three quarters of the Asian American population is comprised of immigrants, and Asian Americans are poised to become the largest immigrant community in America by 2055[5]. Thus, immigrant socialization factors affect a majority of the Asian population, and therefore a majority of current or future voters. Moreover, a survey on the identity choices of Asian Americans shows that female Asian Americans are significantly less likely to form a U.S. based identity in comparison to their male counterparts[6]. In other words, Asian American women are more likely than men to self-identify as “Asian” or as part of their specific ethnic group (e.g. Chinese, Indian) than as “Asian American” or “ethnic American” (e.g. Chinese American, Indian American). This subtle preference in word choice could indicate a less salient sense of American identity among Asian American women which, as stated previously, could hamper involvement in the political process. Asian immigrant women may have more trouble forging an American identity than men because, in addition to all of the usual obstacles immigrants face when moving to a new country, women have the additional trouble of confronting sexism. Upon arriving in the United States, many Asian immigrants, regardless of gender, have to adapt to a new linguistic, cultural, and geographic environment to develop that sense of belonging, but unlike Asian immigrant men, women must also navigate a completely new set of sexist and patriarchal oppressions. This unique experience of adaptation means that immigrant Asian women may participate in politics at a completely different rate and with different means than their male counterparts[7]. Even if Asian American women possess the same resources and skills as men, this added layer of gender oppression may make it more difficult for them to adapt an American cultural identity, and therefore participate in politics. This observation holds when ethnicity and education level are accounted for; foreign born Asian women are still less likely to vote than foreign born Asian men that possess an equal level of education[8]. Immigrant socialization is a process that most Asian Americans must go through, but existing systems of oppression create more obstacles for Asian American women to overcome. As a result, their rate of political participation is compromised.

There are a host of other factors that might contribute to the generally low voter turnout rates among Asian American women, however, one cannot deny the impact that poor levels of immigrant socialization have on the group’s voting habits. Existing social, economic, and cultural factors intersect in unique ways to make the process of immigrant socialization, and therefore political participation, even more difficult for Asian women than men. Low voter turnout for Asian American women is not necessarily a result of personal apathy towards politics. Rather, they are the result of systematic barriers to their participation.

[1]“Gender Differences in Voter Turnout,” Center for American Women in Politics, accessed January 9, 2019, http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/resources/genderdiff.pdf.

[2]“Gender Differences,” Center for American Women in Politics, January 9, 2019.

[3]Qingwen Dong, Dean Phillip Gundlach, and John C. Phillips. “The Impact of Bicultural Identity on Immigrant Socialization through Television Viewing in the United States,” Intercultural Communication Studies, 15, no. 2 (2006): 63, https://web.uri.edu/iaics/files/06-Qingwen-Dong-Dean-Phillip-Gundlach-John-C.-Phillips.pdf.

[4]Natalie Masuoka, Hahrie Han, Vivien Leung, and Bang Quan Zheng. “Understanding the Asian American Vote in the 2016 Election,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Politics, 3, no. 1 (2018): 190, doi: 10.1017/rep.2017.34.

[5]Gustavo Lopez, Neil G. Ruiz, and Eileen Patten, “Key facts about Asian Americans,” September 8, 2017.

[6]Pei‐te Lien, M. Margaret Conway, and Janelle Wong. “The Contours and Sources of Ethnic Identity Choices Among Asian Americans,” Social Science Quarterly, 84, no. 2 (2003): 471, doi: 10.1111/1540-6237.8402015.

[7]Nadia E. Brown. “Political Participation of Women of Color: An Intersectional Analysis,” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 35, no. 4 (2014): 317, doi: 10.1080/1554477X.2014.955406.

[8]Christian Dyogi Phillips and Taeku Lee, “Superficial Equality,” 381.

“You:” The Flip Side of the Rom-Com

By: Maria Ordoñez

Warning: The following article contains multiple spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is a charming bookstore manager who reads to kids, saves old books, and keeps his young neighbor out of trouble. He’s practically the perfect guy, except he’s still recovering from his latest heartbreak. Just when he’s about to give up on love for good, a beautiful, young poet named Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) walks into his life. From the moment she picks out his favorite Paula Fox novel, he knows it’s meant to be. And so, embarking on a series of crazy antics, Joe will stop at nothing to get the girl of his dreams. 

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

See, what sounds like a synopsis for the perfect rom-com, is in fact the plot of Lifetime’s latest psychological-thriller series,“You.” The series, which was recently renewed for a second season, has seen a dramatic increase in popularity since being picked up by Netflix in December. With over 15,000 total posts in the last month, one thing is clear – viewers everywhere are hooked on this addictive new drama, and more importantly, they’re hooked on Joe.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, I did say he’s “practically” the perfect guy. Except for the part where I forgot to mention that he’s an obsessive stalker, and that his “crazy antics” include everything from breaking and entering to the occasional murder. And yet, the template of this story feels oddly familiar…

That’s because “You” is everything we’ve seen in every rom-com ever. The only difference is that it depicts what would happen if instead of on a movie screen, these scenarios were playing out in real life. It’s what would happen if the barista from Starbucks actually showed up at your house in the middle of the night to profess his love for you based on a handful of conversations about the weather. “You” portrays this flip side of rom-coms that we need to start talking about.

In its subversive exposé on the dark side of these movies, “You” has multiple moments of self-awareness where the characters reflect on rom-coms as they make morally questionable decisions. And by characters, I’m referring to Joe.

Take, for example, Episode 1 where he spends his first day “with” Beck. After following her everywhere from yoga class to work, he ends up breaking into her apartment, where he hacks into her computer and steals a few personal items. Then, when Beck comes home earlier than expected, Joe finds himself hiding in her shower, thinking to himself:

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This is problematic, mostly because it’s true. I mean, we’ve all seen movies like There’s Something About Mary. The plot of that story involves, not 1, but 6 different guys stalking the same girl. The worst part is that they actually succeed in winning her over. The normalization of this type of behavior onscreen unintentionally sets an example for day-to-day relationships. It makes guys like Joe think, “Well, if it worked for Ben Stiller, then it can work for me.”

That brings us to the scene in Episode 6, where Joe, having followed Beck up to Peach Salinger’s (Shay Mitchell) estate, finds himself in a similar predicament. This time, though, he isn’t trapped in a shower, but rather under a bed, bearing witness to Peach’s latest sexual encounter. Here, he makes a reference to the classic movie When Harry Met Sally, saying:

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Although Harry never does this per se, some would argue that he and Joe have some similar issues with boundaries. I’m not saying that Harry is a murderer, but he doesshow up to Sally’s party uninvited, he doesn’tleave when she asks him to, and he doesn’ttake her “I hate you” as the explicit rejection that it is. It’s like Joe is taking pages straight out of Harry’s playbook, and just taking them one step further.

To top it all off, in the surprising season finale, there’s no doubt that Joe is all about going big or going home. I mean, when Beck finds out what a creep he really is, he literally keeps her prisoner in a glass cage. As if this wasn’t concerning enough, Joe goes on to justify his behavior as an act of true love. He claims:

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You got me again, Joe. It ithe stuff of a million love songs. The Police told us “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you;” Lady Gaga sang “I’ll follow you until you love me;” and even The Beatles said “I’d rather see you dead, than to be with another man.” Everywhere we look, the media is telling us that if love isn’t obsessive, then it isn’t true love.

Of course, most love songs and rom-coms are meant to be entertaining, not to be taken literally. However, the reality is that all media, whether fictional or not, can have an influence on the way people behave in the real world. I’ve met my fair share of “nice” guys who lurk outside the workplace, show up to places uninvited, and think “no” simply means try harder.  

In the era of the #MeToo movement, “You” shows up at the right time to shed some light on the issues of boundaries and the abuse of power. Most of all, though, it leaves us with a lesson for all people of all genders:

Forget what the rom-coms have taught you, you don’t want to end up like Joe.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Force to be Reckoned With

Amid all the horrible things currently tearing apart our nation, we sometimes forget to appreciate everything beautiful in our lives. Let’s take a minute to bask in the glory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, shall we?

Ms. Bader Ginsburg’s parents worked as a furrier and as a garment factory employee in the height of the Great Depression. Her parents emphasized the significance of education, although they themselves have not received university degrees. Unfortunately, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother died from cancer the day before Ruth’s high school graduation. Despite this drawback, Bader Ginsburg completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University. She met her husband, who was a Cornell Law School student, and started a family with him after she completed her undergraduate degree. Soon afterwards, Ruth Bader Ginsburg received her law degree from Harvard Law School. Upon graduating, despite her high qualifications, Bader Ginsburg was constantly faced with inequalities; she would always receive a much lower salary than her male counterparts and felt pressured to hide her pregnancy in fear that she would be fired.

Despite the countless sexist hurdles Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced, she still persisted. Ruth pursued civil procedure and then became a law professor at Rutgers University until she was hired by Columbia University, where she was the first woman to receive tenure. Former President Bill Clinton then appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a Supreme Court Justice, where she continued her passion for advocating. She fiercely fights for women’s rights, and even wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, which argued that women should not be prohibited from joining the Virginia Military Institute.

The moral of the story is, know your female role models. Know what you want in life, and persistently fight for it. Understand female role models’ history, the struggles that they lived through, and appreciate their accomplishments. Internalize their strategies that allowed them to climb to success. After all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not grow up in a wealthy household, but she is now a Supreme Court Justice. Despite the immense amount of personal hurdles and academic hurdles that Bader Ginsburg faced—including when she battled both pancreatic and colon cancer—she never faltered. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has never missed a day of oral arguments, and proudly represents the feminist movement. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my female role model, and I hope she is yours too.

 

Source: https://www.oyez.org/justices/ruth_bader_ginsburg

 

By: Eleni Constantinou

 

The Manspread: The Bane of Working Women

By Sabrina Schnurr

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Manspreading: “the practice in which a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat.”

This behavior – most commonly spotted on public transportation – is often attributed to a man’s “intrinsic need” to assert his authority and subsequently undermine a woman’s space. The prominence of manspreading on transportation in big cities poses a daily struggle for professional women on their way to and from work, and the newly noticed trend has attracted attention all over the internet and new sources.

Spinal neurosurgeon John Sutcliffe explains that the art of manspreading could in fact be a matter of physicality, rather than sheer egotism. Sutcliffe states that the “overall width of the pelvis is relatively greater in females and the angle of the femoral neck is more acute. These factors could play a role in making a position of sitting with the knees close together less comfortable in men.” He also suggests that most men “adopt the more spread posture”to avoid testicular compression from the thigh muscles.

I call bullshit.

While this is biologically true, humans – as an advanced species – have the ability and willpower to exhibit behavior that overcomes historically biological instincts. Men have the brain capacity to notice how much space they are unfairly consuming and to make a rational decision that would equally benefit those around him.

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Spain’s capital has recently taken a stand against manspreading: Madrid’s Municipal Transportation Company (EMT) has installed new signs in all of its vehicles reminding transport users to “maintain civic responsibility and respect the personal space of everyone on board.”  These signs serve as a visible warning that assuming bothersome seating positions is prohibited in the city’s transport system. The move comes after months of campaigning by women in Madrid led by the group Mujeres en Lucha.

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A similar movement has grown in the transportation system of NYC, where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled public service ads that encourage men to occupy only one seat in subway cars. However, whether or not they will pay mind to the new ads is a whole other question. The ads have, of course, received criticism from many subway riders; a 20 year old man recently made comments declaring he’s not going to “cross my legs like ladies do. I’m going to sit how I want to sit … I’d just laugh at the ad and hope that someone graffitis over it.”

While I think that enacting a law to force men to sit courteously seems a bit extreme, it is quite upsetting that it has been deemed necessary. Once again, we are policing behavior with the wrong mindset; is it too much to ask for men to simply take up one seat? This is yet another example of our failure to raise our children to think civilly and merely respect the women around us.

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On the flip side, Mic released a video showing what happens when a woman manspreads on the New York subway; blog editor Elizabeth Plank wanted to see the reactions when a woman spread her legs in the same manner as men in public. Her male coworker, Nick, tagged along. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth attracted notably more glares from the men compared to Nick, who received very little.  While virtually no one noticed Nick’s manspreading, Elizabeth was made to feel uncomfortable and even shamed in her chosen posture. Nick – whose behavior was seen as just something that guys do – had to move only when people directly and repeatedly asked him to, whereas Elizabeth’s behavior was seen as both rude and unladylike.

How do these misogynistic and bigoted standards persist in an “evolved” society? While women continue to make strides in prominent areas through activism, how do we – as a society – go about shaping the minor habits of men that have drastic impacts on the minds of young girls and the women they grow up to be?

For starters, we must remember and defend our right to space. Although it is easier said than done, women need to protect our right to travel to and from work in the same manner as men. And we must recruit men that share in this belief.

 

Sources:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/manspreading-scientific-explanation-revealed-men-behaviour-public-transport-etiquette-a7862771.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/mandspreading-madrid-spain-ban-public-transport-bus-metro-behaviour-etiquette-a7779041.html

A look at consent in film

By Avery Serven

Introduction:

I think we can all agree that no means no, right? Rape is never okay, and you would never support a movie that promotes that kind of behavior…right? Whether you are aware of it or not, hundreds of films- ranging from 70s sports flicks to movies released as recently as this past summer- depict scenes in which the female protagonist is pressured into kissing, sex, or even a casual dinner date, despite this character having said that she was not interested (usually multiple times). For the purposes of this assignment, I will be looking at heterosexual, cisgender, predominantly white couples in films, as these types of characters happen to appear more frequently in popular films. Although numerous victims of rape are men and/or members of the LGBTQ community, I will focus on female victims shown in American cinema for my argument (National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998).

There appears to be a strong correlation between media consumption and the behavior of the viewers, especially with young people. This correlation shows that exposure to problematic behavior in movies can normalize that behavior for viewers. Some say that society looks to and mirrors the media, while others say that the opposite is true. Either way, toxic masculine behavior has become the norm both on and offscreen in our culture, which perpetuates a cycle of sexual violence and misconduct. This is all evidence as to why filmmakers need to do a better job of depicting consent and relationships in movies. The rampant problem of sexual assault and harassment in our society can only begin to be fixed when the media starts depicting healthy relationships, which it needs to start doing.

Films:

SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984):

sixteen candles

In a scene from this John Hughes cult classic, high school students Jake and Ted discuss Jake’s girlfriend, who is passed out at a party (Filucci, 2018). Throughout the conversation, they use degrading language, referring to girls as “bitches” and “pieces of ass.” Jake says: “Shit, I got Caroline in the bedroom right now passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” Jake then offers up Caroline to Ted, telling him he can take her home (YouTube, 2008). At first Ted says he is not personally interested in taking the unconscious Caroline home, but it later becomes clear that they do end up having sex (neither of them remembers it). At the end of the film, they kiss. In this situation it is clear that Caroline is not consenting to anything with either of the boys, regardless of whether or not one of them is her boyfriend, as she is incapacitated and unable to give consent. Jake, however, seems to think that he can auction his girlfriend off to Ted, telling him that he can take her as long as he makes sure he doesn’t “leave her in some parking lot somewhere” (Filucci, 2018). This is obviously problematic for a lot of reasons, but most importantly, Caroline falls for Ted at the end. This is sending the message that his sexual assault was not only okay, but also made her fall for him. What the hell, John Hughes?

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980): 

the empire strikes back

In one of the most famous scenes from the ever popular Star Wars franchise, Princess Leia and Han Solo kiss on their spaceship. Prior to the kiss, Leia is trying to fix a control panel, while Han continues to try to help her even though she has stated that she does not want help. He tells her she could “be a little nicer” and claims that sometimes she must  “think [he] is alright.” He then starts massaging her hand, to which she asks him to stop repeatedly. He says that she likes him because he is a scoundrel. When she replies to tell him that she likes nice men, which he is not, he interrupts her and kisses her while she is backed up against a wall (YouTube, 2015). Han does all of this despite the fact that Leia has told him multiple times up until then that she is not interested. During this exchange, Leia looks nervous and on edge. After this whole ordeal, she falls for him and they stay together (Wong, 2016). This interaction begs viewers to take a closer look at the characters in this franchise as a whole. Han Solo is a role model, the hero that young boys look up to. Princess Leia is supposed to be a feminist symbol of a strong female character, but a quick google search of ‘Han Leia rape’ results in countless fanfictions depicting Leia as a sex slave to be used at Han’s disposal. The fact that one of the most world-renowned film franchises condones this kind of aggression and “playing hard to get” ideology is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

THE NOTEBOOK (2004):

the notebook

In a scene from the hit romance film The Notebook, Noah, played by Ryan Gosling, asks Allie, played by Rachel McAdams, out in a pretty unconventional way. She is on a date with someone else when he jumps onto her cart, only to be met with her screaming at him to “get off [her].” He does not listen, and instead tells Allie he would like to take her out. He gets out and hangs from a spindle and asks if she will go out with him, to which she replies no. Noah asks her why and she says “I don’t know, because I don’t want to.” He tells her she leaves him no other choice and drops an arm. He asks her again, saying he won’t get down until she agrees. She hurriedly agrees, and he says “don’t do me any favors.” Noah proceeds to make her say, multiple times, that she truly wants to go out with him. He then responds by saying “alright, alright, we’ll go out” (YouTube, 2008). This kind of coercion and persistence, disguised by a popular romance movie as “charming and desirable,” is an issue that many women have to deal with daily. Even other media outlets normalize this kind of behavior, like a Seventeen article that claims that Noah “wooed Allie on the ferris wheel” (Devoe, 2016). No one should ever feel forced to go on a date with someone they don’t want to, even if that person is Ryan Gosling!

ROCKY (1976):

 rocky

Rocky, a film about an underdog boxer who trains to take on the world heavyweight champion, has a very problematic kiss scene between the two main characters, Adrian and Rocky. Adrian is at Rocky’s house and she tells him she wants to contact her brother because he might be worried. Rocky does not let her, and instead yells to her brother out the window. After that, Adrian repeatedly says she does not belong here (meaning Rocky’s home), and he tells her it’s okay. She then goes on to explain that she does not know him well enough, and that she has never been alone in a man’s apartment. She repeats that she is uncomfortable and tries to leave, but Rocky blocks the door and corners her. He then takes off her glasses and hat even though she has been silent since he cornered her. He says that he wants to kiss her, but that she does not have to kiss him back if she doesn’t want to. He starts kissing her on the neck and even though she is clearly uncomfortable, she eventually kisses him back (YouTube, 2017). This attitude of “knowing what she wants better than she does” is portrayed quite often in movies, as well as everyday life. Even though Adrian never explicitly says that she does not want to kiss or have sex with him, she does say that she shouldn’t be there, that she is uncomfortable, and that she wants to leave. Additionally, the nonverbal cues in this scene are pretty clear from the start. Awesome message for a Best Picture winner, right?

Studies:

As previously seen, many popular films have clear examples of sexual harassment, coercion, assault, and violence. Whether it be a comedic, romance, or sports film, the message is clear- keep trying until you get her to agree, regardless of how she feels about it. That’s what women see as romantic. Many viewers can probably look at this and say “Ok, but I see these messages in movies and am able to take them with a grain of salt.” However, research on our absorption of the media shows differently.

Based on research from the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, the mass media consumes a very high proportion of our free time. In 2014, they found that people spend, on average, 25 hours per week consuming media. This includes watching TV and movies, as well as reading magazines and newspapers (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

According to more research done for the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, young people are the most impressionable with the media (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). This is interesting when compared to statistics about the main perpetrators of sexual violence from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Stats from 2015 state that 25% of perpetrators are ages 21-29, while 9% are 18-20, and 15% are 17 or younger. Almost half of the total number of perpetrators are 29 or under (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 2013). I personally do not think this correlation is coincidental, as young people are more prone to the media’s messages, as well as sexual violence.

The International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention also found that “induced fear and phobias” can result from media consumption. Additionally, the media (video games in particular) can create a blurred line between reality and fantasy, as well as confusion between positive and negative role models (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). After all, how are we supposed to feel after the male hero that we have been rooting for the whole time rapes the love interest?

They also looked at exposure to media and violence. The conclusion was that “visiting hate and satanic sites are associated with significantly elevated odds of violent behavior perpetration” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Additionally, they found that “exposure to media violence does not affect all children in the same way” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). However, there was enough evidence to conclude that violent media viewing correlated with the numbing of “emotional response” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). In a shocking discovery, fMRI studies showed that “exposure to TV violence activates brain regions that regulate emotion, arousal and…episodic memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Also, extensive viewing was found to lead to viewers storing a “large number of aggressive scripts…that end up influencing behavior” in “long-term memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Over time, there is a “lower emotional impact” due to media violence exposure (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

One official conclusion of the study was the following: “We…found that media is playing both constructive as well as destructive roles; on one hand it has lots of advantages, but on the other hand it has lots of disadvantages and at the end it’s up to the individual and society to decide which ones to use” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

Sexual Assault Statistics:

On Campus-

On college campuses rape and assault are extremely heightened issues; many women on college campuses regularly feel unsafe. According to RAINN, “among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation” (Association of American Universities (AAU), 2015).

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In the United States-

The fact that college campuses are a hotbed for sexual assault does not mean that it doesn’t occur everywhere in our country. According to RAINN, “on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States” (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2015). Additionally, “94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during the two weeks following the rape” (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992, p. 455-475). As seen in the graphic below, many victims are under the age of 30 (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders, 1997).

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Conclusion:

Through a look at violence against women and the supposed ‘blurred lines’ of consent in film, we can conclude that there are countless examples of movies normalizing this kind of behavior. The attitude of not giving up until a woman gives in, which is prevalent in many films, endorses coercion and even assault. Movies promote the idea that women are “asking for it” and don’t want men to wait for consent, because that’s attractive. This idea is often perpetuated by male filmmakers, having men who view the films thinking that’s what women want. The promotion of this attitude about consent in the mass media has a direct impact on viewers, who consume harmful messages and act based on the norms that these films perpetuate.

From these statistics and studies, we can conclude that the general public, especially young people, consume a large amount of media on a regular basis and are easily influenced by it. Violent media can also numb emotional response in viewers. Young men and boys view violent or aggressive sexual behavior in film and the behavior becomes normalized, which would explain the prevalence of this behavior in our everyday lives, especially among young people. Most of the perpetrators of sexual violence are young (under 30), while the victims are often also young people; this makes sense considering these are the people most susceptible to the media.

 Hope for the Future:

Luckily, the media landscape does appear to be changing. In the classic film Thelma and Louise, there is a scene in which JD wants to have sex with Thelma but she does not want to. He stops and respects her wishes. In another popular movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat is very drunk in one scene and tries to kiss Patrick, but he does not let her as he does not want to take advantage of her in her state (Vallabhjee, 2016). Although we have a long way to go, some films do treat consent the right way and show a positive depiction of sexual behavior. Additionally, with the #MeToo movement and all of the attention on sexual assault and harassment, it should become easier for viewers to recognize this kind of behavior in films. I personally believe the landscape is changing drastically, and I have hope for the future of the media.
For More Information on the Topic:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): rainn.org, 800-656-HOPE
  • Common Sense Media: commonsensemedia.org
  • Teach Consent: teachconsent.org
  • The Anti-Violence Project: antiviolenceproject.org

Why I Am a Feminist

Benedict_cumberbatch_is_a_feminist_and_you_should_be_too-e1463075272796

by Priest Gooding

Last night, I was at a café with friends; at some point during our otherwise innocuous conversations, the differences between men and women were brought up, After I gave my opinion (which certainly was not unexpected by those who have heard me discuss the issue before), one of my friends looked at me and said with a tone of surprise and disgust: “You’re a feminist?” Continue reading Why I Am a Feminist

In search for the undivided whole.

by Inès Ouedraogo

For my first blog post I wanted to discuss a topic that is taboo in the US culture and even more so in an academic context: pornography. As a PhD student focusing on porn studies I wanted this post to be read as an invitation for a dialogue on the way porn, especially online porn, affects, moves, inspires or confuses people. I will save here the polemical and never-ending debate on pro and anti-porn feminists. My stance is to discuss topics that are taboo specifically because of that, challenge myself and not approach them with a bias.
For today’s entry I thought of combining porn and relationships and how the former affects the latter and vice-versa. Thinking of current day relationships and porn consumption, there are many ways these two interact. Two possibilities are as follows: for some, porn is an opportunity to let go of frustrations and stress and focus on one’s bodily pleasure without being judged. For others, porn can be a way of coping with loneliness and self-experiment.
What follows is a short story that a very close friend of mine shared with me and that raises a number of questions about the dissatisfaction of relationships with men and pornography.

My Relationship with Porn

At least once a month my mother asks me when I am going to give her grandchildren, but she doesn’t understand modern relationships. I go on dates, but half of the time the men are on their phones. I can bring them home and do what people do when they go home together, we can maybe even call that a relationship, but that’s not what my mother wants from me. I am just as close to porn as I am to those men. Porn doesn’t ask me how my day was, and neither do those men. Porn doesn’t call me before they go to sleep— the last man I saw didn’t call me at any time of the day. My mother has this idea of a relationship that I’m not sure exists anymore. Maybe it does. Maybe if I couldn’t satisfy myself through porn I’d be able to “make it work” with men that I’m seeing. What I’m cheating on these men with pornography before I even meet them— hedging my bets. I’m unwilling or unable to stake my satisfaction on one person, so I get a little satisfaction here and a little there. But it doesn’t add up. Maybe four quarters don’t make a whole. Maybe I need one, undivided whole.