If Babies Are Feminine, So Is Shitting Your Pants

pottytraining

I have eight nieces and nephews on my partner’s side of the family. I love each of them so much. They range in age from four months to fourteen. They each have their own marvelous personalities, and they each do things that drive their parents crazy. All of them are being raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and all of them experience some of the strictest gender policing I have ever witnessed. Last Sunday I was sitting with the newest addition, watching her wriggle and flail while Grandma told me that the little miss just had a “blow out” so severe that it went everywhere.

Less than five minutes later she looked at me and said, “Isn’t she just so feminine?” 

My niece is just hitting the age where she can start eating rice cereal. She just learned to hold her own head up. She can’t even see color completely!

I’m going out on a limb here to say that nothing she does is inherently gendered. She is just trying not to die and form attachments to her parents.

Here’s the thing, gender is socially constructed. It starts with gender reveal parties, baby clothes, and keeps going until the day we die. I challenge you to think of the things baby girls do. I challenge you to challenge your family. Baby girls do the following as far as I’m aware: they vomit on themselves, poop their pants, spit all over, and fart with reckless abandon. Just to name a few. List those things and ask:

Are those things feminine?

I’m not saying they’re masculine or feminine. I think they’re just natural occurrences, but if we’re talking about normative gender ideology, shitting your pants isn’t feminine. So tell me, how is that four-month-old feminine?

 

Why Hunger is a Feminist Issue

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[Ed. Note: This is a guest post from Natalie Blanton.]

Literal food for thought:

Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria & tuberculosis combined. FAO

Nearly 1 in 6 people, across the world, suffer from lack of proper food.

1 in 8 Americans receive food stamps.

Hunger is a real threat to human security, sustainability, livelihood, and generations to come. It is something that many of us take for granted. We worry more about what is on our plate as opposed to the deep concern of where the next meal may come from.

It is because of this, that hunger is a feminist issue. It is the recognition that all humans, no matter where they come from, deserve to have access to food and life-sustaining nutrients in order to survive–a most basic need, a human right. Hunger has direct ties to the feminization of poverty–the women of the world are bearing the burden of lack of resources.

Feminization of poverty describes a phenomenon in which women represent disproportionate percentages of the world’s poor. UNIFEM describes it as “the burden of poverty borne by women.”

If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million. 

Next Tuesday, November 18th from 6-8 PM is the 14th Annual Hunger Banquet at the University of Utah [Student Union – Saltair Room]. This event is put on by the University Service Coalition in partnership with the Alumni Association, Real Food Rising and the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots project. This community event is bound to be a vital conversation in combatting local hunger. Entrance is $5 or 3 cans of non-perishable foods.

The speakers for the evening, addressing Utah-specific hunger issues–are two incredible women from our community:

Sara Crowder works as the Youth Program Coordinator for Real Food Rising, a youth farm project and program of Utahns Against Hunger.  She manages job-readiness programs for youth on the farm and hires and trains college students to mentor and lead teens through work on the farm during the spring, summer and fall.  Real Food Rising grows organic produce on a 1.5 urban farm in west Salt Lake and donates 75% of what they grow to food pantries.  This year they’ve grown 14,000 lbs. Utahns Against Hunger creates the political and public will to end hunger in Utah. Real Food Rising helps alleviate hunger in Utah while transforming the lives of young people through sustainable agriculture.

Grace Henley is the New Roots Program Manager for the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City. Her connection to agriculture began at a young age, growing up gardening, raising chickens, and learning about sustainability from her parents. During her college years at the University of Vermont Grace found herself hungry for cross-cultural experiences, and fascinated by food production and food systems. She stumbled upon the refugee agriculture program New Farms for New Americans, and quickly discovered her passion for the work. Grace joined the IRC in Salt Lake City’s New Roots program when it was just getting started in 2010 and has had the privilege of helping to build the program from the ground up. As the program manager she get’s to do a little of everything, including writing grants, developing curriculum, working directly with farmers, and especially supporting the farm training program as it grows.

All monetary donations/entrance fees go directly to the speaker’s organizations. Canned good donations go directly to the new Student Food Pantry on campus at the U of U through a partnership with the Utah Food Bank.

Join us, in solidarity, in the fight against hunger and the feminization of poverty.

Weekly Feminist Happenings November 18th-24th

Realwomenrun

Tuesday, November 18th

14th Annual Hunger Banquet: Sara Crowder of Real Food Rising of UtahGrace Henley of New Roots of IRC. Monetary donations go directly to speakers’ respective organizations. Food donations go to the new Student Food Pantry initiative on campus through the Utah Food Bank [in conjunction with U of U Alumni Association]. Join us, in solidarity against hunger. Details: 6-8 PM, Union Saltair Room.Vegan and Gluten-free Soup Dinner for $5 or 3 cans of non-perishable goods.

Wednesday, November 19th

Real Women Run Fall Networking Social: If you’ve ever thought about running for office, working on a campaign, serving on a public board or commission, or if you know a woman who should be involved, Real Women Run is a great place to meet and mingle with women who have run or worked on campaigns while learning the essentials for a successful bid for office. Details: From 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Log Haven (6451 E Millcreek Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, Utah 84109). The event is free, but requires an RSVP. 

Thursday, November 20th

Brooke Williams and Terry Tempest Williams: Discussion of “The Story of My Heart: As Rediscovered by Brooke Williams and Terry Tempest Williams.” Details: This is a ticketed event. General admission seating is $5 and proceeds benefit the University of Utah’s Environmental Humanities Graduate Program. Starts at 7 p.m. at Rowland Hall St. Mark’s Larimer Center Theatre (820 S. 1000 East, Salt Lake City).

Hope After Suicide: One Woman’s Journey from Darkness to Light: Wendy Parmley, RN and author of the autobiographical book “Hope After Suicide: One Woman’s Journey from Darkness to Light,” will present a message directed to those touched by suicide and designed to increase community awareness of and involvement in suicide prevention. This event is held in conjunction with International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. in the Orem Public Library (58 N. State St., Orem).

Red Party–AIDS Foundation Fundraiser: Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City, the adjacent Bambara restaurant and the Utah AIDS Foundation will co-host the Red Party to help raise funds for the Utah AIDS Foundation. Open to both hotel guests and the public, packages start at a $40 minimum donation and all proceeds benefit Utah AIDS Foundation. RSVPs can be made by calling Cathryn at Utah AIDS Foundation at 801-487-2323 or emailing Catherine.Sant@UtahAIDS.org.

Monday, November 24th

How Happiness Thinks: Jewish Perspectives On Positive Psychology: The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute will present “How Happiness Thinks: Jewish Perspectives on Positive Psychology,” a six-session course, Nov. 3-Dec. 8, 2014. Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah will conduct the course. Call 801-467-7777 or visit www.myJLI.com for registration and other course-related information. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at Chabad Lubavitch of Utah (1760 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City).

Tell us about your event here, and it will be included in next week’s Weekly Feminist Happenings!

5 Assumptions About Being Single

[Ed. Note: This is a guest post from Carli Darlene Trujillo. Carli is a student at Westminster College studying communication and sociology. She is a proud member of the Westminster College Feminist Club and loves alternative music, veganism studies, and most things old-fashioned.]

Photo Courtesy of Cassady Zane Photography

Photo Courtesy of Cassady Zane Photography

“You’re single?” she asked.

“Yeah, and happy to be!” I replied.

“Aw, that’s too bad. I thought you were dating that one guy, not anymore?

Why are you single? You’re so pretty!” she demanded.

Sometimes, sexism and homophobia can be subtle, and sometimes they can come out in the most unexpected of situations. In case it isn’t obvious, I will list just a few of the factors in this exchange that immediately struck me as wrong.

  1. The fact that I felt as though I had to mention that I am happy along with being single, mainly in response to the follow-up assumption that because I am single, I am unhappy.
  2. The response of pity on me that I am a single woman, as if my relationship status is a direct causation for my happiness.
  3. The assumption that I am a straight woman, and that because I have dated men in the past, that my sexuality can’t be fluid.
  4. The reduction of my entire being to my appearance and citing that as the reason why she was surprised that I am single.
  5. Finally, the assumption that my future romantic interests, which she restricted to men, are only interested in my appearance and are incapable of appreciating my entire being.

I wish I could say that I am surprised by this exchange, but unfortunately, this type of conversation has become commonplace in my young adult life. I have pondered the reasons and motives behind this woman asking me these questions, and I immediately think of the phenomenon that is well-known within the feminist community that states that women are expected to aspire to marriage. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a prominent author, eloquently states:

“Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.”

Although I am unsure that the woman I was talking to was at all aware of her comments, or that she holds the attitude that I should generally aspire to marriage, I do think her comments are worth noting because of the societal implications behind them.

Keeping this in mind, I would like to pose a couple of questions to my fellow feminists:

How do we change society’s language and attitude around being single, no matter your sex or gender?

How can we reclaim what it means to be single and work to eliminate the negative associations and assumptions regarding relationship statuses?

Personally, I don’t have the answers to these somewhat overwhelming questions of social justice. I do, however, have a good idea of where to start. I believe that awareness is the first step. You can increase your awareness by paying attention and unmasking the conversations you have, as well as the ones you overhear, to unveil the motives, assumptions, and stereotypes behind our language.

The second step would be to focus on your own words and actions. As Ghandi  simply puts it:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Cracker and the N-Word Are Not Equivalent

speak peace

*Trigger warning: this post discusses racialized violence*

Imagine that there is a small child with $1000 cash in their pocket. An adult walks up and says, “I’ll give you this pen for all of that money. It’s a great deal.” The pen is nothing special. It’s a five cent ballpoint pen, but they tell the child it’s magic, and that it’s worth $1000. After a little convincing, the skeptical child hands over the pen and the adult takes the money.

That is inherently unethical because of a power differential. It’s wrong on so many levels, and we all know it.

Now imagine the reverse: an adult with $1000, and a child trying to convince them of a pen’s magic powers. The adult would keep their money, and the situation would end. It would be funny instead of unethical because of the power differential.

Now, I’m about to parlay that little story into a discussion about epithets, which seems a bit bizarre, but a couple of weeks ago I watched as my brilliant graduate school teacher, Liz Owens, a Woman of Color, activist, and fierce dog mama used this example to answer the question, “Why is it okay for someone to call me ‘cracker’ but it’s not okay to use the ‘N word?'”

Liz calmly explained to the student that there’s a huge difference due to systemic and institutional inequality, and she talked about the historical significance of racial slurs and their relevance in contemporary experience. When it didn’t quite seem like it was setting in (in my opinion) she used the example about the child with the pen. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it worked for our discussion.

Here’s the thing: it’s not nice to call someone a “cracker,” but that’s all it is, it’s not nice. The word “cracker” wasn’t screamed at white ancestors as slave owners ripped them away from their families only to be beaten, raped, and murdered. It isn’t used today while white people experience disproportionate violence at the hands of police and other citizens.

Racial slurs against People of Color, especially Black people, are used in all of the contexts mentioned above. That is the last word some people hear as they experience violence against their bodies. The word itself is emotional violence. It’s a violence Black folks usually experience for the first time as a child, prompting questions to guardians about why they were called such a name.

Calling a white person a cracker isn’t violence. It’s not using your power differential to swindle someone out of their dignity, it’s as harmless as a child trying to sell an adult a magic pen.

[Ed. Note: Liz gave permission for me to publish my interpretation of this discussion.]