A Call to Action for OSU Men

This semester I’ve talked a lot about feminism in regard to women’s issues. I’ve briefly touched on how men are impacted by the feminist movement. Today, I’m going to focus on why feminism is important to men and the role of men within the movement.

Many people believe that men cannot be feminists. The word alone seems to be exclusive only to women. This is incorrect. While the experiences and historical oppression of women are the basis behind the feminist movement, essentially as explained over and over before, feminism seeks to put all genders on equal ground. In this essence, men may not be able to know what it’s like to be a woman, but they can sure as hell support the equality of women and men.

Feminism does not seek to overthrow men. It seeks to overturn the patriarchal society that instills that men are inherently better than women and therefore are entitled to better things like better jobs, higher wages, recognition, positions of power, sexual domination, etc. etc. The list could go on. If you think this oppression isn’t real, just think about the fact that women around the world are attacked verbally and physically when they speak out for gender equality.

I was recently verbally assaulted by a young man outside of a bar who was making racist remarks about some of my friends who were international students. I stood up for my friends, who were inside and unable to defend themselves or their nationality. The young man said, “Why are you even talking woman?” Whoa, so a racist and a sexist. Wonderful. I didn’t back down. My boyfriend and the male bar manager, stood up for me and my friends. The young man quickly realized that racism and sexism wasn’t going to fly there. He ended his offensive rhetoric. Thank you support system!

Instead of making a battle out of gender issues, why not recognize that everyone as an individual, regardless of gender, is capable of bringing something unique to the table. Let’s quit judging one another on the basis of gender alone.

A woman goes back to work after having children and she’s judged as a bad mother or an undesirable employee. A man gets upset when his child is sick and he’s judged as weak for not holding it together. A young girl is looked at as “odd” because she doesn’t like playing with Barbies or wearing makeup. A young boy is scolded by his mom for picking up a pink hula hoop because it’s a “girl” color. I actually saw this last situation happen right in front of me at the Stillwater Arts Festival last weekend. Luckily, the man who I assume was the father stepped in and said, “Let him play with whatever hula hoop he wants.” He then proceeded to pick up a bigger pink hula hoop and started hula hooping with the young boy. Kudos sir…kudos.

There were two events on campus last week that specifically looked at how men can make a change in overturning this patriarchal system that hurts BOTH women and men. I hope you were able to attend, or at least that the events caught your attention and caused you to look into the message.

The “Blurred Lines and Axe Body Spray” workshop was hosted by the OSU Student Conduct Office last Wednesday. The workshop sought to examine and challenge the negative portrayal of the treatment of women in the media, whether that involved victim-blaming, violence against women or just an overall acceptance of the type of behavior that encourages rape and entitlement culture.

Last Thursday, the OSU Ethics Center hosted its last event of the 2014-2015 year with its discussion on “Race, Masculinity & Identity” with guest speaker Dr. Elon Dancy from the University of Oklahoma. On a more specific level, this discussion addressed issues black men encounter as they are raised in a society that expects them to live up to certain masculine expectations.

If you weren’t able to make it to any of the events, you could also take a Gender & Women’s Studies course during your time at OSU. If you need some incentive to not think the class is completely a waste of time, many of the courses fulfill the diversity (D), international (I) or social (S) requirements OSU students need before they graduate. I believe, however, students will get much more from these courses than a graduation fulfillment.

I wanted to write about feminism in relation to men because as gender equality activist and self-identified feminist, Jackson Katz (yes Jackson as in a man Jackson), explains in his TED Talks speech, for too long have men been left out of the conversation. Gender issues are perceived as women’s issues, but many people fail to realize that there are a spectrum of gender identifications, and most often the cis-male gender identification often gets left out of these conversations. Interestingly enough, he also points out the white cis-male gets left out of a lot of conversations.

I’m not pointing this out to harp on white straight men. To the contrary, I bring it up to point out that many men don’t even realize they are being left out of the conversation. Maybe some just don’t care. I’m not above admitting that, although I wish it weren’t the case. I think if more men realize the impact they could have by involving themselves in the conversation, what a change it could make. Yes, I know I can stand up for myself when I’m being discriminated against or looked down upon simply because I’m a woman (and this doesn’t just happen from men either), but I appreciate knowing I’m not alone when my male friends are willing to stand up for me and other women as well.

So men of OSU, the next time a situation arises that appears to put down women, stand up and say, “That’s not OK!” I can’t speak for every woman, but I think it’s probably safe to say that most women will appreciate it, even if they don’t see you do it. And I can’t speak for every man, but you might be surprised just how liberating it feels to finally be able to stand up for your girlfriends, sisters, mothers, and wives when they are unable to.

“The Honor Diaries”: A post-evaluation

Honor DiariesOn Wednesday night, Oklahoma State University hosted a free screening of “The Honor Diaries”, a documentary about honor-based violence facing women around the world.

I had watched the documentary before on Netflix prior to the screening at OSU. As someone who frequently reads and checks out articles and films about women’s rights, it caught my eye one Sunday afternoon and my boyfriend and I sat down to watch it. We had heard about and read a little bit on the subject, but by no means were he and I experts.

We were surprised at how pervasive the practice of honor-based violence against women is in areas of the country you’d least expect. Honor-based violence includes, but is not limited to, practices such as:

In Canada and the United Kingdom, to where larger populations of Middle Eastern, Asian and African families immigrate, these practices are actually more common than you’d think. Even in the United States, these cases are on the rise. Perhaps living in Oklahoma where we are less culturally diverse than other states, we don’t hear about these cases often, but they are happening.

Many people don’t understand the history behind this gender-based violence, and one of the criticisms of the film is that is seems to perpetuate that the honor-based violence and killings are a result of the Islam religion. While it is true that these practices can and do take place in Muslim communities, Islam itself does not promote violence against women, or anyone for that matter.

Honor killings and violence also take place in countries such as India where Hinduism is the predominant religion. FGM takes place in many African countries where there is no dominant religious influence. Clearly, honor-based violence is not just an “Islam” problem.

honorkillingprotestInstead, the practices seem to be deep-rooted in a cultural (not religious) environment of patriarchy. Although many women and men around the world have begun to stand up to these long-standing practices of violence, there are still many women who do not speak out against a practice that has become “tradition.” In fact, a root cause of this silence stems from a systemic history of gender inequality within those societies. Simply put, some societies really don’t know any other way of life and family members face fear of punishment if they deviate from the family’s wishes.

How do we end these practices of honor-based violence against women? I believe one of of the most effective ways to achieve this is through education of the problem. People need to be educated on the facts (not stereotypes), on the benefits of gender equality (both men and women), and on a larger scale (because “out of sight, out of mind” is a real thing). But there are other ways activists can work to end honor-based violence against women. I hope by writing this blog, I’ve at least shed some light on an issue that while uncomfortable for some to talk about, needs to be addressed as a conservative estimate of 5,000 women die annually from honor killings alone and more than 130 million girls and women today have been affected by FGM.

Denim Day: No excuse for rape

Denim Day 2-01You might have seen a flier around campus advertising for Denim Day at OSU tomorrow.

You might have even pieced together that it has something to do with prevention of sexual assault. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Oh, this is just some new thing OSU created as part of the 1 is 2 Many campaign or the online sexual assault training students are now required to complete.”

Well, you would be partially right. The OSU Student Conduct Office, which oversees the 1 is 2 Many campaign at OSU, is the office that is in charge of promoting Denim Day at OSU. However, this event has been around for almost two decades and, is in fact, an international movement arising from a real-life event.

In 1992, an 18 year-old-girl in Italy was raped by her driving instructor. Six years later, his conviction was overturned because the Italian Supreme Court said that her jeans were too tight, and she would have had to helped the driver get them off therefore indicating consent. The next day, women of the Italian Parliament wore jeans in protest and soon the case was receiving international attention and protest. In 2008, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the “denim defense” as a valid defense for rape.

The reason this movement is important is that it seeks to end the culture of victim-blaming (aka rape culture) through the absurdity of the “denim defense.” Flimsy reasons such as, “She was asking for it” and “She was dressed slutty” and “She shouldn’t have been drinking” are just excuses to not spend the time and energy to actually address the root cause of many sexual assault cases, in that perpetrators are usually driven by a sense of entitlement, societal expectations of masculinity, or just flat out ignorance as to what sexual assault is and why it is WRONG!

Students Speaks Out Against Rape on Denim Day

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and OSU will be holding Denim Day on April 14 instead of the national day of recognition this year on April 29. The purpose behind the movement can and should be promoted more than one day a year. Wings of Hope will be on campus to offer information about its services, many of which provide help to survivors of sexual assault. So wear your denim tomorrow to campus for Denim Day at OSU and feel free to share your support on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtags #Okstate, #DenimDay or #DenimDayOSU.

Oh, final note…you don’t have to wear denim to support the cause. Having conversations with your friends and family about the issue surprisingly works just as well!

Women in the Workplace: Turning Issues into Opportunities

Turn on any news outlet these days and you’re sure to find discussions going on about the gender pay gap that still exists in the United States.

Take a variety of intro level sociology, political science, or business classes and you’re sure to hear the term “glass ceiling” come up as well.

These are two common points of discussion that come up when talking about the issues women face in the workforce, but several other factors have been brought up lately that haven’t received as much media attention in the past couple of decades.

Women in the Workplace PanelThese factors among others will be discussed at a “Women in the Workplace” panel hosted today at 5 p.m. in 114 Classroom Building by the Women’s Programming Advisory Council and Minority Women’s Association of OSU.

Let’s get down to some stereotypes that are underlying causes as to why women and minorities are held back in the workplace (so minority women are dealt a doubly bad deck of cards when it comes to career advancement).

  1. Women are expected to have kids and quit their jobs.In the past decade, more women are waiting to get married AND to have kids, with many choosing not to have kids at all. Of course, with that choice comes the inevitable, “When do you plan on having kids?” or “Don’t you want kids?” questions. It’s a double-edged sword for women who driven with their careers because many people still believe the highest priority should be popping out babies before our “biological clock” runs out of batteries.
  2. Women are expected to be their child’s primary caregiver.All I’m going to say on this one is men can be equally as awesome, if not better, than women at caring for a child. Many men actually enjoy being the caregiver but are often looked at strangely for not wanting to be the “breadwinner” of the family. Apparently when women are providing the primary income of a family it threatens the masculinity of a man who truly enjoys being with and caring for his children. This stereotype, however, is also starting to change.
  3. Women are judged more harshly when voicing their opinions.“Bossy”, “aggressive”, “bitch”…these are all words describing women who voice their opinions in a workplace environment. Men, when voicing their opinions, are described as “leaders”, “assertive” and “direct.” Unfair much? Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling Lean In seeks to change the way we perceive assertive women in the workplace through education and a little bit of help with the “Ban Bossy” campaign. If you would be proud of your mother, daughter, girlfriend, friend, sister, etc. for accomplishing a major achievement at work, how would you feel if you knew she was being called a “bitch” for it?
  4. Women are expected to have good “soft skills.”Because of the misconception that women are meant to be caregivers, they are also often attributed to being good at compromise (not negotiating), communication (not strategy), and mediation (not problem solving). Similar to the word choices used to describe assertive women, we are often guilty of describing the same set of skills in a “feminine” manner when a woman possesses them and in a more career-friendly “masculine” manner when men possess them.
  5. Women are still seen as secondary to their husbands.We’ve come a long way in perceiving men and women as equal human beings, yet internally there is still exists much conflict for women who are equal (or better) than their husbands with their careers. A study found that women who make equal to or more income than their husbands tend to overcompensate with housework “in order to appease the blow to their husband’s ego.” Women shouldn’t feel guilty about their hard-earned success, and men shouldn’t make them feel that way either. In the words of Tom Haverford, take that extra money, hire someone (who maybe needs the extra income to begin with) to take care of some of those household/caregiver duties and “Treat yo’ self” every once in a while.
  6. Women are perceived as naturally weaker than their male coworkers.This goes back to the “soft skills” stereotype from earlier, however, women who are career-driven tend to have a higher work ethic and commit more time to working hard to earn their success. This leads to a lot of men being displaced from jobs they historically were “entitled” to have available to them. As more women prove that they’ve got the chops to do as good or better of a job than their male counterparts, this argument is becoming less valid, but still exists as men feel edged out of the traditionally male-dominated workforce.
  7. Women are judged more on their looks than men.I’ll say this…damn high heels. But seriously, women are expected to look a certain way, have an endless number of outfits, wear their hair a certain style, wear makeup, and present themselves outwardly in ways men don’t have to worry about. The media tend to worry about this more for high-profile women, and focus little on their actual qualifications and accomplishments. Yet, there’s also a fine line women must tiptoe in order to be attractive but not “too sexy” at the workplace. With this, I’ll leave on the note of ultimately, be in charge of defining yourself. With more than 7 billion people in the world right now, who’s got time to worry about what everyone else thinks about you?

Broaden your horizons and support women and LGBTQI+ artists!

Throughout your college career, you’re supposed to stay focused on your academics and make straight A’s, but then as you walk to and from class, you’re probably bombarded to sign up for classes you don’t need, to join student organizations or a fraternity/sorority, to go out and be social, and to attend events on campus. It can be overwhelming!

But there is evidence that shows that trying new things can have positive mental and physical health benefits, so it might be good to try one of these new classes, clubs, or events every once in a while.

PRISM-01Well lucky for you, the Women’s Programming Advisory Council (WPAC) is hosting a FREE arts event today from 6:30-9 p.m. in the Browsing Room of the OSU library (2nd floor). PRISM Fest is a way to showcase women and LGBTQI+ artists who may not be recognized as often in the art world.

PRISM Fest is also a great way for you to expand your horizons. There will be a variety of artists, both visual and performance, at the event. This include painters, henna artists, poets, singers, photographers and sketch artists.

Been in a funk lately? Come have a personalized poem created by local poet Shaun Perkins of ROMPoetry. She creates poems on the spot that are as unique are you are!

Want to experience international art? Come get a henna tattoo design and learn about the tradition from a henna artists.

Need to bring some new life into your home? Browse the tables of many artists who will be selling their pieces. Maybe you’ll find a painting or drawing that you’ll be proud to show off in your living room and you’ll feel good knowing you supported a local artist!

Who knows? By trying something new, you might find a new hobby, passion, or group of friends. Or it might just make you want to come back to PRISM Fest next fall.

poemswithluke
Shaun Perkins, of ROMPoetry, at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.