Archive | January, 2013

What’s in a name?

31 Jan

By Zoe Coyle

We live in a world where political labels are given the utmost importance.  Especially as a college kid in DC, it is nearly impossible to maintain a political discussion with someone without labeling yourself as a democrat or republican, liberal or conservative.  That is why Planned Parenthood’s recent decision to drop the term “pro-choice” from its lexicon (while still remaining pro-choice in action and values) can be both a disheartening as well as a puzzling decision. As a ‘pro-choice’ ‘feminist’, these labels are a valuable part of my political identity, and are inextricable from my personal and moral views as a whole. It’s sad to see a cherished organization shy away from a term that I am proud to hold on to.

However, as a student on a Catholic University, where topics like abortion can be the third-rail in many political debates, I also understand why Planned Parenthood would want to back away from a term that can provoke hostility. While more Americans are pro-life than pro-choice,  six in ten Americans do not want to see Roe v Wade overturned. As Gail Collins argues in her most recent column entitled “The Woes of Roe”, people support abortion rights a lot more when they themselves are not asked to make a legal decision about it; these findings show how labels don’t accurately reflect people’s political views in practice.

There is the fear of course, that a quiet burial of the term “pro-choice” is little more than newspeak in order to make reproductive issues seem more palatable. I am a member of the pro-choice group on my campus, Hoyas for Choice, and we have recently begun to debate whether or not we should remove the term “choice” from our name as well. For our group, the term “choice” can inaccurately describe the work that we do as a group – an umbrella term such as “reproductive justice” or “reproductive health” might not be as catchy, but it is a broader catch-all for students who might be uneasy about abortion but definitely support access to contraceptives on college campuses.  The term pro-choice does not always accurately describe the wide range of reproductive health and justice issues that organizations and activists work towards. A binary label system can very easily restrict and isolate people who can be both intimidated and unsure of how the two labels apply to them.  Furthermore, this division forces people to ‘choose’ a side on issues that are often not seen in black and white. Regardless of labels, an American citizenry that remains loyal to Roe v Wade is certainly something to celebrate.

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Event: Men Can Stop Rape’s Black History Month Film Festival

31 Jan

Event Announcement from Jared Watkins 

Men Can Stop Rape’s Solutions Through Film Black History Month Film Festival is happening this Saturday, February 2nd, in Silver Spring, MD . The Festival is an annual Community Strength Project of the Men of Strength (MOST) Club, a youth development program for middle school and high school young men that teaches them to embrace healthier visions of masculinity that involve social-emotional intelligence, civic engagement, and all that good stuff as opposed to traditional masculinity that values power, emotional disconnect, and violence.

The film festival will be at the AFI theatre in Silver Spring (right outside the Silver Spring metro on the red line) from 2:00 to 6:00 PM on Saturday. We will be showing Byron Hurt’s (best known for Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a film that investigates masculinity and hip hop culture) new film Soul Food Junkies that uses soul food to investigate the darker side of the food industry and the growing food justice movement that has been born in its wake. Byron will be at the festival and will participate in a workshop led by DC middle school and high school students. We will also be showing Janks Morton’s Hoodwinked that investigates the myth that more black men are in prison than in college. There will also be a workshop with Morton after his film is screened. You can find out more about the films and watch trailers here.

Choice is a Jesuit Value

31 Jan

By Morgan McDaniel 

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This picture is of me, standing proudly in the free speech zone of Red Square, holding a piece of paper with a statement that some people might find controversial, disrespectful, or downright heretical.  To me, it is one of many beautiful pockets of truth amid the messy contradictions that are part of our Jesuit Georgetown identity.

Choice is a Jesuit value.  Let me tell you what I mean.

This week, H*yas for Choice launched our “Choice Is . . . ” campaign.  We wanted to show that even though people see abortion as a black-and-white issue, in reality to be pro-choice is to embrace all the shades of gray of human experience.  We want to show that no one’s life fits the same mold, and to be pro-choice is to respect every woman and man’s right to make decisions about their bodies for themselves.  That applies whether the decision is to have sex, to remain abstinent, to use birth control, to get an abortion, or to raise a child.  As Planned Parenthood’s newest campaign puts it, “nobody knows a woman’s specific situation – we’re not in her shoes.”

The reason H*yas for Choice has to use an asterisk instead of an o, and the reason we can only give out condoms in a free speech zone, is that the Vatican finds contraception and abortion morally unacceptable under any circumstances, so our Catholic University is prohibited from giving us access to benefits.  If we look at the history, this prohibition is completely arbitrary, and following it blindly is completely out of step with the Jesuit values I was taught to embrace since my first moment on Georgetown’s campus.  Let’s take a look at three of those Jesuit values, straight from Georgetown’s website for Mission and Ministry:

Cura Personalis

“Cura Personalis suggests individualized attention to the needs of the other, distinct respect for his or her unique circumstances and concerns, and an appropriate appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights.”  I quote this sentence with pride because it has been the foundation of my personal growth and development around service and social justice at Georgetown.  I’ve learned that true service is based in humility and solidarity – that service based in privilege and the assumption that “I know best” is likely to do more harm than good.   It is not for us to judge or presume we know best.  We can only make a positive impact when we truly listen to those we serve.

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that this language so closely echoes Planned Parenthood’s talking points – that we must respect each woman’s knowledge and understanding of her own situation, and respect her needs and priorities.

Faith and Justice

“This commitment links the authentic following of the Gospel of Jesus with an obligation to address the social realities of poverty, oppression, and injustice.”  This is an important point.  People who oppose contraception and abortion rush right past living breathing women in need to worry about justice for the unborn or unconceived.  I want to talk about justice for the women themselves , women who are part of our community.

Poverty and oppression are inextricably linked to a woman’s ability to control when she has children and how many she has.  Without being able to control her own reproduction, a woman cannot control her own income, ensure access to education, or have any job security.  Studies on this issue tend to focus on women in developing countries, but this is still true for women in the US and is absolutely true for many women at Georgetown.  We should especially consider the high rate of rape and sexual assault in the US and yes, right here on campus, even though people don’t like to talk about it.  One in four women will be sexually assaulted or raped over the course of her four years at college, and blocking access to contraception or abortion is perpetuating an injustice.

Community in Diversity

“Approximately 52 percent of our student body are women,” says Mission and Ministry.  That’s 52 percent of the student body who will face choices that the male authorities of the Catholic Church will never have to face.  How can Georgetown value diversity if it expects all students to conform to the same behaviors, same ideas, and same morality system?  To value diversity is to seek out and incorporate different perspectives, to learn from each other, and to understand and accept that different people have different needs and different contexts.

That extends to the ways that gender intersects with other identities and factors that make us diverse – race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status.  All of these things affect us differently and make our situations and choices that much more complicated.  If we want to respect and value the diversity of our community, we must abandon judgment in favor of compassion for everyone’s unique circumstances.

We’ve heard people say that H*yas for Choice is anti-religion, anti-Catholic, anti-Georgetown.  That’s not it at all.  Dig a little deeper under the doctrine and you’ll see what I mean.  When we say we are pro-choice, we mean we hold distinct respect for each person’s unique circumstances and concerns, and an appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights.  We mean we feel and obligation to address the social realities of poverty, oppression, and injustice.  We mean we value the diverse needs, contexts, and choices of every member of our community.

Choice is a Jesuit value.  Pass it on.

Violence Against Women Act

30 Jan

by Mary Toscano 

The Violence against Women Act (VAWA) supports programs that provide lifesaving support services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. However, some politicians oppose its reauthorization. Why? The Act protects immigrant and gay survivors of domestic violence. Believe it or not, VAWA is controversial.

Alyssa Peterson and I launched the “DC Students 4 VAWA Campaign” because we’re frustrated. We’re angry that some politicians consider politics more important than human lives. Domestic violence affects both Republican and Democratic survivors every day. Domestic violence is not controversial, and all survivors deserve protection and support. Period.

In the past few weeks, students from various backgrounds have joined our campaign.  We are a group of DC students who have an intense personal interest in reauthorizing VAWA. We come from a variety of backgrounds–we are men, women, feminists, gay rights supporters, immigrant rights supporters, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, friends or family of survivors, and certified domestic violence advocates. We are united because we recognize that domestic violence is a serious problem that requires serious actions on our campuses and in this country.

Through the DC Students 4 VAWA Campaign, we hope to raise awareness about domestic violence and tell our congressional representatives and universities that we care about stopping domestic violence and supporting survivors. If you, too, believe that domestic violence requires serious action, please see www.dcstudents4vawa.com and sign our petition, which will be sent to colleges in Washington, DC and congressional representatives.

Thank you for your support,

Mary Toscano

The Friendzone is a Sexist Myth

30 Jan

by Erin Riordan

The Friendzone isn’t real. The idea that every “Nice Guy” is owed sex or a romantic relationship by his female friends is ridiculous. And if you think that’s not what Friendzoning is about, it absolutely is.

The movie Just Friends perhaps explains friendzoning best with the line, “See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.”

Or Urban Dictionary with, “When you are expected to support a girl you really like while she searches for a smarter, richer, or more handsome boyfriend. There is little you can do to get out without feeling like a dick. All in all, one of the meanest things girls do, whether they mean it or not.”

To some degree, the assumption of every guy claiming to be “friendzoned” is that if they indicate an interest in one of their friends, she is in some way obligated to return the interest, and reward it with a relationship or sex. This assumption is problematic for a whole host of reasons, but most in that it ignores choice. Everyone has the right to say “Yes” or “No” to someone’s romantic or sexual interest. There is no obligation to return interest, and if a person rejects you, it does not make them an awful person. Especially when that person is your friend.

I understand that rejection sucks. It hurts and it’s shitty when someone you like, want to have a relationship with, want to have sex with, etc. doesn’t return that interest. However, no one is obligated to be interested in you or want those things with you. While sex may very well be a human need, it is not something anyone has a right to, and thus we are not “owed” it.

Underlying the promulgation of friendzoning is the idea that a female friend who rejects her guy friend’s advances is a bad person, and is a bad person in part because she sees her friend as just that-a friend. As a brilliant person on the Internet wrote, “Friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.” This line wonderfully highlights the inherent sexism in friendzoning. That women should in any way be obligated to reciprocate sexual or romantic interest completely undermines the notion of women as autonomous people with the right to make their own decisions, and especially the right to make their own decisions about romantic relationships and sex.

No person is ever obligated to return romantic interest. That we penalize and antagonize women who reject men interested in them is sexist, and, to beat a dead horse, stands against the idea that women are equal.

If a guy determines he is interested in a woman, there are a few obvious courses of action. If he has just met her, he can indicate his interest in her. At that point, it is the woman’s choice to either return his interest or to reject him. If a guy doesn’t realize his interest in a woman until they are already friends, he can tell her how he feels. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is to react to rejection by that friend by calling her a slut or a bitch and complaining about how he is just a “nice guy” unfairly trapped in the friendzone.

The now-defunct tumblr, niceguysofOKCupid, documented this phenomenon of men behaving badly after being rejected by a female friend. (Note: I do take issue with many of the privacy implications of this tumblr, however, it provides ample evidence of the “Nice Guy” phenomenon and thus I’m referencing it). Profile after profile showed self-described “nice guys” ranting about “bitch women who always talk about wanting a nice guy and then go for the asshole.” Many news sites collected highlights from this tumblr showing men proclaim, “[I am] a really really nice guy” and then answer questions like ‘Would you ever film a sexual encounter without your partner knowing?’ with, “I’m not sure.” Hint: If you’re not sure whether or not you would film a sexual encounter without your partner’s consent, you’re not a nice guy, you’re an ASSHOLE.

Another disturbing example is the man who describes himself as, “a scientist, a philosopher, an engineer, storyteller, but above all else what I truly am is a gentleman,” and answers the question ‘Do you feel there are any circumstances in which a person is obligated to have sex with you?’ with a “Yes.” The number of men featured on niceguysofOKCupid who answer that question in the affirmative is astoundingly high, and something I find deeply disturbing and upsetting. There are NO CIRCUMSTANCES under which a person is obligated to have sex. That is what consent is all about. Everyone has the right to say “Yes” or “No” to any sexual encounter, and everyone has the right to give, or not give, consent and to have that decision be respected. When consent is violated then a person has been sexually assaulted or raped. No man who disrespects consent or the idea of consent is a gentleman or “Nice Guy.”

This sort of answer happens again and again with these so-called “Nice Guys” claiming to be friendzoned. One friendzoned gentleman (his description, not mine) answers the question, ‘Someone is drunkenly flirting with you. You know that with a sober mind this person would never engage in casual sex, but now it seems that they’re willing. What do you do?’ with “Take advantage of the situation.” Taking advantage of someone who is drunk and unable to give consent is sexual assault, end of story. The number of friendzoned men who fundamentally misunderstand sex, consent, and choice is ridiculous, and highlights the fact that friendzoning is based on the idea that men are owed sex and women are the people who have to give it to them.

Beyond that, friendzoning suggests that all women are good for is sex. When a man laments the three years he wasted as a friend of a woman, only to be romantically rejected at the end of it all, he invalidates the idea that this woman might have any other worth beyond sex.  The reward of being someone’s friend is not sex, it is friendship. If you are actually this person’s friend then their friendship is a really awesome reward.

As friendzoning gets an increasing amount of attention the dialogue around friendzoning has begun to change. The voices that recognize that women are people worthy of friendship and worthy of having their choices respected are beginning to dominate the conversation, and are delegitimizing the friendzoning phenomenon. Hopefully with this dialogue shift we can see the death of the “Nice Guy,” and focus instead on the men in our lives who are truly awesome people worthy of friendship, and if both parties desire, more.

 

 

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My Kind of Feminism

29 Jan

By Nicole Chenelle

The more I learn, the more I become a feminist. The more I engage in the world, the more I see the necessity of feminism. The more I grow, the more I see individuals as either feminists or supporters of the patriarchy, either directly or indirectly – ignorance can no longer be respected as a viable third option. I am a feminist in the same way that I am not racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, ageist, classist, and any other ideology which aims to divide human beings on the basis of irrelevant qualities. I will no longer shy away from the identity of feminism simply because it has a negative connotation. The fact that the term “feminist” has a negative connotation is proof of its necessity! For too long, I have qualified my feminism by saying,“But not the crazy kind!” and I feel ashamed of my former self. Radical feminists were radical because they were angry, justifiably so. When I identify myself as a feminist now, inside, I am itching for someone to taunt me, to provoke me, to give me a reason to defend my choice of identity. I am ready to rant about feminism at any time; I am like a spring that is always loaded. Today, I am tempted to qualify my feminism by adding, “Yes, the crazy kind” because that anger is there. That anger is there every time someone makes a rape joke, comments on a female authority figure’s appearance, uses a derogatory term which has no male equivalent, defends the anti-choice position, or implies the double standard that exists around male and female sexual activity. I live with this rage, burning underneath my fingertips, ready to be deployed at anytime. This is my feminism.

My definition of feminism has evolved as I have evolved. When I was younger, I would defend feminism to my friends and peers by saying, “No, feminism doesn’t mean you hate men, it means you support gender equality!” While I still believe that statement is true, that is not all that feminism is. Today, I see feminism as an intellectual standpoint, as well as a political movement, that seeks to achieve justice for women and eliminate gender inequality. Feminism also accepts the reality of the patriarchy. Recognizing the existence of the patriarchy is crucial to this definition. I have met many people who call themselves feminists, believing in gender equality, yet see this fight as largely finished. When I bring up the patriarchal structure of society, these people ridicule me, laugh at me, dismiss this idea as ridiculous. While these people may call themselves feminists, they do so only because they see it as an anachronistic identity, in the same way one would call themselves “abolitionists” or “suffragists.” Those battles have been fought and won. These individuals support the idea of gender equality, yet see that goal as essentially achieved. Feminists are continuously fighting for gender equality, continuously fighting to dismantle the oppressive nature of the patriarchy. The identity of feminism is an active one.

We Still Need Feminism

28 Jan

by Clara Gustafson

I believe that Caitlin Moran said it best in her book How To Be a Woman when she contended that despite the gains of the women’s movement in the last half-century, “we still need the word feminism.” There isn’t a better term to describe what women have been fighting for since the moment we stepped out of the kitchen: equality of opportunity, the ability to choose what to do—no matter what that is. Granted, there were glass ceilings at least nine feet thick in many places in our society preventing women from participating in any way. That’s why many women of the preceding generations had to take up the word feminism with fervor, together to punch through eight and a half feet of glass ceiling. Those women had to do it all so that today we have the greater ability to choose. However, doing it all is impossible and their fight for equality probably affected many friendships and areas of those women’s lives. The men have never had to do it all. There is no reason that my great-great aunts, great aunts, and aunts should have been expected to do all of this, but they were and together it looked like they succeeded.

This mirage of the miracle woman, the woman who needs no man or even a friend, is just that—a mirage. This idea, at least in my lifetime, was made popular by Anne Marie Slaughter in her much talked-about article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” in the Atlantic Magazine. I think it has taken a generation and will take a few more for women to realize that now, with only a half a foot left to destroy, the idea is not for women to run everything everywhere. The idea is for men, women, gender-nonconformists, and everyone to have the ability to choose. Choose parenthood, choose to not have kids, choose to work full-time, choose to stay at home, choose to work part-time and stay at home part-time…. the list of options is endless. The ability to choose any of the endless options is still not available to many women in our nation. This is why we still need the word feminism. Every person who wants the ability to choose their future, and not be paid less for doing the same job as others in your field because of who you are, should identify as a feminist.

Personally, it has taken me, a 22-year-old white girl from crunchy Portland, OR, all my life to really embrace and own the fact that I am a feminist and have always been a feminist. For me the word feminism connoted aggressive and obvious actions to advance all things female. Growing up my mom stayed at home and we played sports and were encouraged to push the limits and become the best at everything. The problem for me with feminism, or what I perceived to be feminism, were comments about women who didn’t work, or who got four year degrees and then decided to stay at home to raise kids. My mother is the hardest-working woman I know. “Staying at home” is no picnic, and on top of raising us kids my mother has volunteered for everything under the sun that needs an extra pair of hands. In college I have never really studied the word “feminism” or taken any Women’s and Gender Studies classes. However, as I have been exposed to more of the world and read more broadly I have found that the comments of my past were not comments from true feminists. A true feminist celebrates a person’s, especially a woman’s, ability to choose how they want to live out their life. Putting down my mother only alienated me from the cause of feminism. We need to embrace the ability to choose different ways of life, even if a particular way wouldn’t make you happy. It’s not about you, necessarily. It’s about the other person. It’s about every person and their ability to make a decision for their own life entirely independent of anyone else.