Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stop Workplace Discrimantion Already.

For the past 33 years proponents of a bill– created to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers – have been trying to get it passed in to legislation, but to no avail.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was created to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as gender identification, and instead, push employers to hire and fire based on merit alone. Unlike other bills that ensured inclusion of all races in the working world, H.R. 2015 is struggling. Why?

Because it appears that many people still believe folks CHOOSE not to be heterosexual, and thus, they should be able to adjust themselves if they want to work; as if it is simply a mask that can be taken on or off, depending on the weather, the day of the month, etc. Or that if one identifies as male, but is biologically a woman, or identifies as female, but is biologically male, or anywhere in between, that it should be easy enough to done a dress if one has an “F” on their birth certificate.

The problem, for opponents is that these “choices” are immoral and unnatural – despite mounting scientific and psychosocial evidence – thus workers falling into these identifications should not get special treatment.

Why the hell not?

As it stands, there are only a handful of states that protect workers against this type of discrimination, and once an employee is fired (or not hired at all), they have no federal law protecting them. This is a problem.

Clearly we live in a very categorized world – because we are a society that boasts forward movement and success, we have created a system where labels are placed on people to demoralize, quell their advancement, and to successfully create dichotomies. People are either good or bad; straight or gay; conservative or liberal, woman or man.

But how can we really live in such a boxed in environment. I think many people can relate to times in our lives where we realized, “hey, things are not simply black and white.” Life is constantly a mesh of ideas, and to pretend otherwise is downright ignorant.

I mean, what is it? Are we simply stuck in stereotype madness: A woman has to wear a dress and heels in the workplace so that people know who to go to when they need a baking tip? Or a man has to wear a suit in case a piece of furniture needs to be moved? Are we really that dependant on outside identification?

More, does a man or woman have to be in a heterosexual relationship so that office mates know who to complain to when they get in to a fight with their partner? It appears that people forget the concept of empathy – the idea that believe it or not, humans are capable of reaching beyond their specific lives, and talking, working and hanging out with people who are not exactly like them. How interesting that our country has had a long standing opposition to socialist/Marxist ideas - because that would mean giving up individual characteristics - yet we constantly find ourselves hating people's independence.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ms. Hooks, Telling It How It Is

Some notes from Bell Hooks' handy feminism guide, "Feminism is Everybody:"

- Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.

-In this country, feminists are made, not born, just as demur, mold-fitting women, are.

-The big problem with combating sexism is the FALSE idea that it is all about men-haters. Rather, the truth is that sexism permeates all of us.

- The "enemy within" is the idea of women being "trained" to hate other women. This is because we are meant to first hate ourselves.

-If a woman is anti-choice she cannot be a feminist because that means a woman does not have control of her own body, which, in turn, eliminates rights in other areas of her life.

-Consumerism/capitalism seems to continue the struggle because they have a product to sell: makeup, certain clothes, hair products, baby products, etc. If a woman does not buy she is stuck...

-Says that feminism is "the commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels: sex, race and class, and so on. It is also a commitment to reorganizing U.S. society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion and material desires.

-The feminist movement allows women to see that they have a CHOICE to wear heels, skirts, pants, makeup, etc.

-Unfortunately the media highlights feminists, or women who choose to not conform to the socialized form of clothing and identification, as ugly or frumpy. Magazines plaster their pages with before and after photos, with the “made-up” woman being the beautiful one.

-Some white women believe(d) that their liberation will get them out of their homes and in to the workforce, while minorities (race and class alike) strive towards the ability to have the choice to be in the home, as that avenue would be freedom.

-Lesbian feminists were integral in the classism scope, as they never imagined their lives with a husband. Stepping around the hetero-normatively of our society facilitates seeing situations more clearly.

-U.S. women have to be weary about “liberate” women in other countries, as they may not know what is best for other cultures. By ignoring this, women – in this way – are no better off than their Western male counterparts who persist on ruling women, and other countries.

-The media spins the struggle of women in other countries as worse than the ladies in the U.S., for example wearing the hijab. This pushes women, and men, here in the States to be in a state of ignorant bliss.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thin is still, apparently, in.

When will the body image self-loathing end? I mean, will it? As much as I say that I am comfortable with my body, I still find myself feeling guilty for eating something fattening, or when I miss a day at the gym. As a feminist, I think I surprise myself when I find myself worrying about these stereotypical ideals that women think about. Is it my fault though? For every one person that says it’s cool to look and feel the way one wants, there are 10 magazines and newscasts dedicated to thin-is-in; or how fat Brittany Spears has gotten – which by the way is ridiculous, I mean the woman has a child, and should not HAVE to have a 14-year-old’s body anymore.

In fact, in New York, where the city is going through fashion week, article after article have been published about the clothes, the designers, and of course, what to eat. AM New York, is a free daily that gets distributed all over the city, which is good – because it is free, but bad because more people may read it, and begin to carve out NECESSARY calories, in exchange for a smaller waistline. The “Fashion Week Diet,” article – on Sept. 10, 2007 – listed this as the author’s meal:

Breakfast: Unsweetened coffee, one slice whole-wheat bread with low-fat butter, two low-fat, plain yogurts
Snack: : Unsweetened green tea
Lunch: : Two protein packets, eight ounces mixed vegetables, two cups raspberries
Dinner: : Baked rabbit spread with fromage frais, steamed fennel with lemon

Since when is tea a snack?

She got the recipe from the book, the “Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” in which he notes, “If you attach no importance to weight problems, if not being able to wear new, trendy small-sized clothes does not cause you any regret, this book is not for you.”

Ugh. What a gross thing to say; why is there a “weight problem” just because one can’t fit into “small-sized clothing?” There is something really wrong with this.

And younger girls – who should not be worried about whether or not they can squeeze in to a size zero pant, are picking up on this trend. ABC reported that (brace yourself) EIGHT YEAR OLD GIRLS are “being admitted to the hospital suffering anorexia nervosa. One in 100 adolescent girls develop the disorder.”

Not surprisingly, “Women's attitudes toward their own bodies are worse after looking at thin media images;” while “In young teenage girls, looking at pictures of thin, idealised models is likely to cause lowered satisfaction with their body and a high state of depression. Reading fashion and beauty magazines is associated with wanting to lose weight and initiating diets. A five-year study found that reading dieting advice in magazines was associated with skipping meals, smoking, vomiting and using laxatives in teenage girls.”

Young (and old, alike) say that there is no need for feminism, that all is equal, that we can show our bodies off to the world and be empowered. Really? Vomiting is empowering? Who knew.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Importance of gender-neutral restrooms

So life in NYC is exciting. There are tons of things to do, a variety of people to do things with, and access to culture all around. Yet, close-minded folks still abound.

Friday night a group of us went out for drinks, and found ourselves in a trendy martini bar on the lower west side. Beautiful outfits surrounded me, fancy people talking about fancy things, while sipping their cosmos. Not my usual beer-drinking comfort zone, but it was cool nonetheless. I am open to new things.

My dirty martini was much stronger than anticipated, and I stumbled back to the bathroom, and thus elbowing through a crowd who did not even notice that there were others in the bar.

There were two red doors. Both boasted RESTROOM. Neither was specifically assigned to a gender. I liked that. In a city where millions of people live amongst one another, it is important to have options; to not quickly throw someone in to a blue or pink box based on their biological sex.

The woman waiting in line in front of me apparently did not agree.

Donned in a short, all white dress – with her collar popped just so – she looks at me and asks, “Why can’t they just have a ladies and a men’s room?”

Well maybe, I tell the woman with the valley-girl voice, the bar is trying their best to be progressive; letting folks know that you can be whom you want, when you want…even in the public restrooms.

Thinking I was enlightening the young woman, I began getting excited about sharing more of my (important) knowledge, and passion for breaking gender lines, until she looked at me; wide-eyed.

“Ew. Gross,” she remarked.

And with that she disappeared in to the next door that opened – a tall, drunk man stumbling out before her.

Across America transgender folks are begging and pleading for a change. The Seattle Times reported on two female-to-male mall-goers who were not only kicked out of the shopping plaza for using the “wrong” restroom, they were also marched around the mall by security guards.

In my undergrad, I wrote for my college’s paper, where I reported about how the campus did not offer even one gender neutral restroom for its students, staff, faculty or visitors, even though it boasted about being diverse on the school’s Web site.

There is no federal law that mandates the inclusion of restrooms where all genders can feel safe, so it is up to businesses, schools and cities to implement gender-neutral restrooms themselves.

I contend that the more commonplace these restrooms are, the more likely folks, such as the woman who remarked at the icky-ness of a male or female using the same commode, will ease up the desire to have everything neatly labeled and put in to a box.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Vaginal Rejuvenation Surgery; a bust?

Finally, the gears are a changin’. In a recent report, docs are saying that maybe vaginal rejuvenation is not the best form of cosmetic surgery a woman can opt for.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said “the procedures are not medically necessary and are not guaranteed to be safe as there is little known about their potential complications, such as infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia (pain), adhesions, and scarring.”

Indeed, the surgery, in which the labia is cut, stretched and redefined so that women can feel confident that they have a “normal” looking vagina, is not needed. More, the report talks about the way the procedure can also “amplify” the g-spot.

I have to say that I am weary of a process that magically gives women the ability to have an orgasm. Meaning, it is so much more than this amplification; it is about confidence, self-love. And I am not confident that a surgery will give this to women. Instead, it appears that the more a woman believes that there is a right and a wrong way to look and feel normal, the less likely it is that she will be able to rid her body and mind from the self-loathing ideas that continue to berate our sex/gender.

And while there are always exceptions to the rule – there may be a genetic issue, or other, that gives the process merit – for the most part women are lining up for the surgery because just like the beauty magazines beckoning women and men as they wait to pay for their groceries, the seed of perfection was planted by someone other than the patient herself.

Sure, we are all subject to the wraths of the media, in that it consistently exposes us to a variety of norms, but it is vital – and apparently death-defying – to filter through the messages and ask why. Why am I slicing up my vagina? Who is the end product for? Why am I ok with this?