Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Most informed people know why the vast majority of colleges went co-ed from the 50's on--it was the right thing to do. Single-sex colleges were set up in the 18th and 19th centuries because women were not considered worthy of higher education; it was assumed that they did not have the intellectual capacity for it. If one accepts that this assumption is no longer valid, then what is the basis for single-sex college education? Women's colleges may have a legitimate rationale--historically and socially; women weren't permitted in male colleges, and there continues to be discrimination against women in society which would legitimize the value of their "choosing" to be educated separately from men.
But what is the value an all-male college? After teaching in one for over thirty years I can see that there are some unique benefits, but also some drawbacks, from the perspective of a faculty member.
One benefit for me is having a diverse all-male group discuss issues of masculinity in an insulated, focused way. One disadvantage is having an all male-group discuss this issue, and any issue, in an insulated way, without the benefit of a variety of female perspectives. But I'm not a student here, so I would like to hear the honest response of students about this issue, especially from seniors. What do you see as the benefits--academically, intellectually, emotionally, socially--of this experience? What are the drawbacks for you? As a student in an advanced gender studies class, what lessons learned from what you've studied help shape you current opinions on this question? What out of classroom experiences shape your opinions? Can you think critically about this question, given that you are still immersed in the college environment? Finally, at this point, would you encourage your son(s) to attend? Why or why not?
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
In Tuesday's Arts section of the New York Times i came across this article entitled,"Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV." The article discusses the recent shift in portrayal of men on new television sitcoms. It focuses on the main characters of the two new shows "Last Man Standing" and "Man Up." I personally have not seen either of the shows, or heard anything about them until this article. However, reading the article does prompt me to think about how men have recently been portrayed compared to past male television figures. I think back to popular television shows in the past with strong, defiant male characters such as "Macgyver," "The Cosby Show," "Home Improvement" and so on. Each of these shows had a male figure who was more or less the center of the household or the storyline in the show, and it often came down to him "saving the day." Obviously in "Home Improvement" Tim was usually fixing one of his mess ups, but none of those were due to his lack of masculinity. A quote in this article that particularly struck me states, "Nowadays men get on their wives' and girlfriends' nerves by not being manly enough." Personally i find this representation of men and masculinity to be a bit over the top and frankly absurd. Yes, the fact that i am a male might factor into this a bit, but the recent rise in feminine achievement and success does not have to mean the masculinity of men take a hit. The way these recent television sitcoms are portraying men as stepping aside the women dominating the scene is only going to hurt both genders in the long run. As was the case with women and their quest to gain equal status as men during the onset of the feminine movement, men are going to be susceptible to the same thing if the pendulum continues to swing in its current direction. There needs to be a happy median found, and if that median is not found soon, and men are continually downcast as weak and effeminate characters, the young boys who are today becoming men in this age will be at a loss, and i feel will suffer tremendously.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
"Shame may be the least understood dimension of men's inner experience—by both men themselves and the people who live with them. In Affliction, Russell Banks's classic novel about the tragedy of masculinity, a ne'er-do-well named Wade Whitehouse plans a special Halloween weekend with his 11-year-old daughter, Jill, who lives with her divorced mother, Lillian. Wade's clumsy efforts to make sure Jill has a good time succeed only in making her feel anxious and out of place, and she winds up pleading with him to take her home. But instead of her distress, what stands out for him is his sense of failure: he's shamed by the fact that she's unhappy."
I accidentally stumbled across this article on "Shame-o-Phobia" while searching for a secondary source for my Affliction paper, and then I became fascinated as I read the author's description of how men's experience of shame controls their lives--and the article's description of men who don't understand their own experience of shame seems like an exact description of Wade. In class, someone proposed that Wade doesn't truly love his daugher Jill, and that this is evidenced by the fact that he's more concerned about his failure as a father. However, the article above seems to suggest to me that the fact Wade is shamed so deeply is evidence of his deep love for Jill.
David Wexler, the author of the article, describes how men build self-esteem, "A metaphor from self-psychology, the broken mirror, is particularly helpful in understanding the dynamics of male shame. This sensitivity to shame—to feeling incompetent, not valuable, unloved, unneeded, unimportant—is often governed by the psychological relationships with mirroring-self objects in our lives. It works like this: the response from others serves as a mirror, reflecting an image that governs our sense of well-being. Sensitivity to mirroring-self objects and broken mirrors isn't gender-specific, but men are more vulnerable to experiencing these mirrors as referenda on their performance and personal value. When the mirror image is negative (or is perceived as negative), the reflection can reactivate a man's narcissistic injury and deliver a blow to his feeling of competence."
In particular, Wexler says, men who have experienced "toxid doses of shame early in life will do anything to avoid reexperiencing it...A shamed boy [recall Wade's inability to protect his mother from his father's abuse] becomes a hypersensitive man [Wade's sensitivity is evidenced in his quickness to become angry], his radar always finely tuned to the possiblity of humiliation. His reaction to slight's perceived or real and his ever-vigilant attempts to ward them off can become a kind of phobia. Tragically, the very men who are most desparate for affection and approval are the ones who usually can't ask for it: instead, they project blame and rejection and perceive the worst in others."
The quote is particularly telling because it reveals Wade's phobia: Wade sees his father as the ultimate symobl of shame, and so Wade strives as much as possible to avoid comparisons to his father. Every comparison to his father, whether it comes from an external source or from his own thinking, damages and humiliates Wade. He is desparate to be recognized as a good man, but his wife and daughter's unwillingness to give him that affection leads him to see them as vindictive and cruel, and so he perceives the "worst in others"--which inevitably only further damages his relationships and brings him closer to becoming his father. His masculinity proves to be a vicious cycle. I don't have the page number, but I believe that Jill tells his father that he is a bad man, or at least that he used to to be a bad kid somewhere towards the beginning of the book.
Wexler says that when talking to men in therapy, "The idea is to send out the good-men-behaving-badly message. In this way, the man-and, maybe more important, his partner-hears that the problem isn't that he's a bastard with a cold heart and no soul." This idea fits perfectly with Wade. Wade wants recognition and a second chance, and he needs someone to recognize that he is desperate to be a "good man." The problem is that everyone perceives his bouts of anger as simply symptomatic of an especially violent, cruel personality-rather than explosive, emotional outburst as his inability to overcome his overpowering sense of shame by himself.
The article seems to reconcile Wade's inconsistencies and allows us to understand how his violence, shame, and love work together to lead him towards his various actions. However, the article seemed to bring up another possible, and I think, unrelated gender issue.
Wexler gives a few pointers for how to deal with men in therapy, "Offer homework, ation plans, and the rationale for using them, since men's needs and learning styles favor direct, clearcut explanations and instructions. I've found this vaulable with all the men I see." He also mentions how to prepare men for handling relationships outside of class, "If even 10 minutes is too long for a man who can't tolerate the inherent lack of structure in 'feelings-and-relationship' conversations, teach him some very specific relationship-friendly strategies, like 'active listening.'"
Wexler consistently describes how men need "direct, clearcut explanations and instructions" and avoid the "inherent lack of structure" in "feelings-and relationship" conversations. He seems to suggest that men need a rationale and explanation for everything-a strict order through which to understand the world. Could this account for some of Wade's neuroticism towards the end of the novel? Do women not have this problem? Could this be another aspect of male "affliction," a desire or compulsion to "know?"
Thursday, October 6, 2011
During practice yesterday my teammates and I were running on the local golf course discussing life, as we always do, and of course solving all of the worlds problems. On my teammates brought up a recent video from Flotrack, a website dedicated to everything running from all over the world. The video was released by a professional male runner discussing the recent decision by the head governing bodies of running to change the qualifications for World Records. He was up in arms about how they have decided to strip record holder Paula Radcliffe of her Women's Marathon world record time because she did not run in a race that was "only women." She ran the race with a couple male "rabbits" or "pacers" to help her achieve the world record time. This decision was made quite some time ago, but i just heard about yesterday. I was at a loss for words. The only reason they have for doing this is that she was not solely competing against other women. Let's not look over the fact that she creamed all the other women in the race and the fact that when she crossed the finish line her time was still a world record time. Instead the focus remains on the little fact that there were males who happened to be in the same race. As a fellow runner and distance runner at that i was literally upset when i heard this. Distance athletes train years for that single moment of towing the line on race day. If Radcliffe's body was in good enough physical condition to run the time she did, she could have ran it whether or not those men were in the race or not. It is not fare to strip her of her world record for having men in the race. If anything i would think those head governing bodies would encourage more of this, in order to progress their sport further. The article I have posted above is from before the ruling was made, but the issue has been settled and her world record is no longer valid. I find this cruel, to both women althetes and the running community in general. What a way to darken such a bright spot in running today.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Saturday, October 1, 2011
by Sharon Olds
I get into bed with it, and spring
the scarab legs of its locks. Inside,
the stacked, shy wealth of his print—
he could not write in script, so the pages
are sturdy with the beamwork of printedness,
WENT TO LOOK AT A CAR, DAD
IN A GOOD MOOD AT DINNER, WENT
TO TRY OUT SOME NEW TENNIS RACQUETS,
LUNCH WITH MOM, life of ease—
except when he spun his father's DeSoto on the
ice, and a young tree whirled up to the
hood, throwing up her arms—until
LOIS. PLAYED TENNIS, WITH LOIS,
LUNCH WITH MOM AND LOIS, LOIS
LIKED THE CAR, DRIVING WITH LOIS,
LONG DRIVE WITH LOIS. And then,
LOIS! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! SHE IS SO
GOOD, SO SWEET, SO GENEROUS, I HAVE
NEVER, WHAT HAVE I EVER DONE
TO DESERVE SUCH A GIRL? Between the dark
legs of the capitals, moonlight, soft
tines of the printed letter gentled
apart, nectar drawn from serif, the
self of the grown boy pouring
out, the heart's charge, the fresh
man kneeling in pine-needle weave,
worshipping her. It was my father
good, it was my father grateful,
it was my father dead, who had left me
these small structures of his young brain—
he wanted me to know him, he wanted
someone to know him.
This poem stood out to me because the focus on the father-daughter relationship seemed refreshing to me. Olds creates an intense bonding experience between daugher and father by having the daughter read about her father in his diary. The fact that the father even has a diary is a unique twist--culture teaches us that moody teenage girls keep diaries full of their crushes, but the fact that the boy who becomes the girl's father keeps a diary subverts this stereotype. I particularly like how the jumpy nature of the boy's writing reflects the emotions of an adolescent boy--he moves quickly from one thing to the next. Though he no longer lives, the daughter is able to find meaning and inspiration in his words--she sees only the positive aspects of him in his diary, as well as his abounding love for Lois, whom we can presume to be her mother. The daughter now has a more concrete image of her father to hold on to, and she will always to some extent hold him as innocent and pure, as he still appears in his diary when he was younger. I think my favorite line describes his pages, which "are sturdy with the beamwork of printedness." She pictures her father and sees his concreteness and stability in his writing itself. In the end, the poem emphasizes the daughter's desire to connect with her father on a deep, emotional level. Reading her father's diary provides her with the intimacy she is unable to get. It's interesting that the "maleness" of his writing is what intrigues and enchants her--it is clear that she envisions her father as an indiviual who is unwaveringly "solid." I think it's also worth pondering whether or not a son would connect with his father in the same manner. What would he be attracted to in reading his father's diary? The speaker also seems to be particularly interested in the romance between her father and Lois, who is presumably her mother. As Reed pointed out, the language becomes suggestively sexual as the girl envisions the "nectar" drawn from between the "dark legs of the capitals," and the girl seems to read the sexuality into her father's "beamwork of printedness." She notes how her father worships Lois, and she admires this, calling her father "grateful" and "good." She connects herself to her father through her parents' relationship--seemingly able to identify with both her father and her mother.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Some women marry houses.
It's another kind of skin; it has a heart,
a mouth, a liver and bowel movements.
The walls are permanent and pink.
See how she sits on her knees all day,
faithfully washing herself down.
Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah
into their fleshy mothers.
A woman is her mother.
That's the main thing.
What immediately struck me about this poem was its connection to The Awakening. Edna very deliberately "divorces" herself from her husband's house, which is clearly a way for her to separate herself from Mr. Pontellier. He associated the house with Edna's duties as a wife—to greet visitors, to care for the children inside, to generally care for. Her decision to "marry" the pigeon house separates herself from this role. This is so distressing to Mr. Pontellier that he makes up this whole "renovation" excuse to prevent anyone from learning of Edna's decision. Of course, the line "men enter by force" denotes forced marital sex, which we may remember from the scene where Leonce prowled back and forth on the porch waiting for Edna to "come in."
Analyzing the poem by itself, I think it's interesting how the title has this dual meaning--"housewife" and also house=wife. While women "marry houses," they also become the house in some sense. Both remain the property of the husband in most cases. The various parts of the house correspond to the organs of a woman's body. The wife on her knees who scrubs the floor of her house is simultaneously "washing herself down." The wife, in this context as property of her husband, is entirely submissive to the wishes of her husband. If he wishes to enter her "by force," he may. She is "on her knees," suggesting both domestic and sexual submission to her gender role.
I find the reference to Jonah to be interesting. I'm familiar with the story but I've never thought of reading it in a symbolically sexual way. Sexton makes a connection between sex and childbirth, as men through sex are drawn back into the place, the person, they came from. This brings Sexton to her final conclusion that women are their mothers--that the ordeal of childbirth is much like that sex, suggesting some kind of violation. But how exactly was Jonah "drawn back," as in returning, into the "fleshy mother," or the whale? I though it just swallowed him whole and then spat him out. Perhaps men are like Jonah in reverse, first coming in through sex and then leaving through birth.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
She in whose lipservice
I passed my time,
whose name I knew, but not her face,
came upon me where I lay in Lie Castle!
Flung me across the room, and
room after room (hitting the wall, re-
bounding—to the last
sticky wall—wrenching away from it
pulled hair out!)
till I lay
outside the outer walls!
There in cold air
lying still where her hand had thrown me,
I tasted the mud that splattered my lips:
the seeds of a forest were in it,
asleep and growing! I tasted
The silence was answering my silence,
a forest was pushing itself
out of sleep between my submerged fingers.
I bit on a seed and it spoke on my tongue
of day that shone already among the stars
in the water-mirror of low ground,
and a wind rising ruffled the lights:
she passed near me in returning from the encounter,
she who plucked me from the close rooms,
without whom nothing
flowers, fruits, sleeps in season,
without whom nothing
speaks in its own tongue, but returns
lie for lie!
The second stanza, however, suggests a process, a struggle to accept this removal, as the goddess "flung me across the room (hitting the wall, re-/bounding- to the last/ sticky wall- wrenching away from it/ pulled hair out!)/ till I lay / outside the outer walls." This physical battle reminds me of the push and pull of Edna Pontellier's often painful growth into an individual throughout "The Awakening." The process of liberation for Edna, as for the woman in this poem, was not simple, quick, and pleasant, as we typically envision an awakening. Nor does the protagonist in either awaken to a world that is uniformly bright and happy. Instead, there is pain in the act itself of becoming awake, and once the woman is awake, the reality she beholds is not necessarily all cheery. She finds herself "There in the cold air/ lying still where her hand had thrown me," and she tastes "the mud which splattered my lips." Reality for this enlightened woman is gritty and unpleasant, but it is genuine and tangible.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Women Gather
by Nikki Giovanni
The women gather
because it is not unusual
to seek comfort in our hours of stress
a man must be buried
It is not unusual
that the old bury the young
though it is an abomination
It is not strange
that the unwise and the ungentle
carry the banner of humaneness
though it is a castration of the spirit
It no longer shatters the intellect
that those who make war
call themselves diplomats
we are no longer surprised that the
unfaithful pray loudest every sunday
in every church and sometimes
in rooms facing east
though it is a sin and a shame
So how do we judge a man
most of us love from our need to love
not because we find someone deserving
most of us forgive
because we have trespassed
not because we are magnanimous
most of us comfort
because we need comforting
our ancient rituals demand that
we give what we hope to receive
And how do we judge a man
we learn to greet when meeting
to cry when parting
and to soften our words at times of stress
the women gather with cloth and ointment
their busy hands bowing to laws that decree
willows shall stand swaying but unbroken
against even the determined wind of death
we judge a man by his dreams,
not alone his deeds
we judge a man by his intent,
not alone his shortcomings
we judge a man because it is not unusual
to know him through those who love him
the women gather strangers
to each other because
they have loved a man
it is not unusual to sift through ashes
and find an unburnt picture.
I chose this poem because Nikki Giovanni is one of my favorite poets, and to me this is one of her most interesting poems. In this poem she speaks of things that are not unexpected, although you think they would be. She conveys this message with the image of a group of women gathering in the time of sorrow. Not only do her words help to convey this message but the form of the poem does as well. One thing is that when you think of poetry, you suually expect there to be a rhyme scheme, hwoever, in this poem there is no rhyme scheme, but yet it is not strange that there isn't one. In addition to this, she starts the poem of with a pattern of how her stanzas flow. The first four stanzas folloe the patter of there being four lines in one stanza, and then three in the next. In the fifth stanza when she says "we are no longer surprised" the reader is surprised because in this stanza there are five lines, which does not follow the patttern of the first four stanzas.
One of my favorite lines and probably one of the most powerful lines in the poem is "it is not unusual to sift through ashes and find an unburnt picture." I say this because it conveys the message of the whole poem and it is a striking image. Things may not always be what we expect them to be because of how they appear. We can find beautiful things in the most ugly places.
My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -
And now We roam in Sovereign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him -
The Mountains straight reply -
And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -
And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head -
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -
To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -
Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without--the power to die--
This is going to sound absurd, beyond absurd, but I truly enjoy writing to some relaxing, thought provoking music. Tonight I decided upon my Beatles play list. Naturally, I began with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," but that's not where the absurdity begins... When my thoughts really began to move towards a reading for this poem was when "Happiness is a Warm Gun" came on.
The song is a counter perspective, as I read it, to "My Life had Stood." The song's perspective, although the gun being a female, just as in the poem, is sung from a man's viewpoint. It's uncanny the resemblance between the two: I digress...
I picked this poem because I truly enjoyed the first lines of the poem, but my favorite stanza is:
And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -
The slave position in which Dickinson places herself in a position of a slave. Her power is purely derived from the man's touch, his ability to "pull her trigger." Obviously sexual, the gun is a classic phallic symbol, and placing the woman as the gun, Dickinson becomes a toy of sexual desire: she is not of her own sexuality, but entirely his. Just after she fires, kills the doe, a female deer, she gives him pleasure, but the "cordial light" speaks to lack of pleasure that she experiences.
Dickinson's use of dashes is absolutely brilliant, I think. The dashes don't let the sentences end, but also allow complete thoughts to come through. Much like the oppression Kate Chopin experienced for voicing her full thoughts on sexual expression, Dickinson is displaying those thoughts, but holding back as if to remain appropriate on some level. The dashes, the nearly stream-of-consciousness style show there is more to be written, said, and she's left thoughts from her poem. She has power, but not without man's approval to use it.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?--
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
This poem is thick, and deals with a very heavy issue that mothers must deal with. I picked this poem because it covers all of the emotions of the emotions that a mother feels when raising her children, yet the women in this poem has not experienced those feelings completely as she has opted to have an abortion. Brooks brings all of those struggles encountered in being a mother to life through the eyes of this mother who has opted to have an abortion yet still experiences these motherly feelings "faintly." A line that particularly stuck out to me was, "Though why should I whine, / Whine that the crime was other than mine?--" From this line I took Brooks making a statement that is often made when the topic of abortion comes about. The female is commonly frowned upon when the decision to have an abortion is made, and the male half of the relationship is commonly forgotten about. However, as the old cliche goes, "it takes two to tango." Therefore, this crime of abortion is not solely hers, and the all the responsibility that goes into taking care of a child and the decision to abort the child cannot be solely thrown on the mother. Within the poem itself, Brooks does a great job of using caesura within the body of her poem to put emphasis on those feelings that are felt between a mother and a child. It highlights those feelings that are being lost by the mothers choosing to have an abortion and all the people that the abortion has a long term affect on. Brooks also employs the art of enjambment also. This again adds to her emphasis on particular messages and the take away meaning of her poem. It continues the ideas from one line to the next and continually from the poem itself on into real life where such experiences really occur. Overall this poem was very intriguing and full of emotion that is not experienced by everyone on a daily basis.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I think just about everything in this article is fascinating from a gender perspective. The URL pretty much tells you the gist of the story--a male womenswear model is forced to starve himself in order to maintain his figure. I loved his quote: "Let's be honest. You can't eat much if you want to do this." Obviously Andrej is forced to conform to the societal-imposed standard of thinness=beauty. The strange thing is that one typically thinks of that standard as patriarchical in nature, but here we have a man that's forced to conform to it--and as a result Kate Moss calls him "beautiful"! She's not the only one that thinks he does a good job of it. Not only does he make a good living looking like a woman, but Barnes and Noble actually censored a topless image of him! This of course brings up a whole range of issues. B&N said they did it because they were afraid that someone might think he's a woman.
I can imagine a conversation going something like:
Concerned Parent: "I can't believe they let my kids see this! That's a half-naked woman! This is terrible!"
B&N Worker: "Actually that person is biologically male"
Concerned Parent: "Oh, then that's fine"
There's also an interesting comment in the story about women in his line of work don't like him all that much--because he's too good of a competitor! Besides these larger issues of what society thinks, however, I also thought it was really interesting how Andrej himself thinks about his unique gender-bending role. He is biologically male, and his body is "normal" in that respect. He creates his image through a combination of cosmetics and a strict dietary/exercise regimen. For him, gender is understandably a very fluid concept. He describes how can feel like one and then the other. Interestingly, he doesn't argue that gender is arbitrary or some kind of "spectrum" on which he falls near the middle. He sees it still it as a binary, just one which he may cross over at any time. Yet, at the very end of the article, he says, "I don't want to be a girl, but I like to dress like one." Thus, although Andrej may at times "feel" like a woman, he still clings to his personal identity as a man.
You might also find this link interesting, where FHM listed Andrej as the 98th sexiest "women" in the world...oops!: http://www.fhm.com/upgrade/fhm-andrej-pejic-apology-81335
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I found this interesting article on the Huffington Post. Basically, it summarizes a study that suggests "girls may prefer to study language, arts and humanities over math and science...[because] they believe, often on an unconscious level, that demonstrating ability in these stereotypically-male areas makes them less attractive to men. The study attempted to prove this by showing how women who had recently viewed romantic images or overheard romantic conversation rated their interest in math lower than women who had not recently viewed romantic images or overheard romantic conversation. On the other hand, men's ratings of their interest in math-related fields remained consistent despite seeing romantic images or hearing romantic conversation.
If the study's conclusion that women avoid math and science because they believe it makes them seem less attractive is correct, it proves that the construction of our gender roles wields an incredible amount of power. And it also makes one question in what ways seeing romantic images would effect men? In what other ways does our gender construction unconsciously affect our thinking and actions?
Also, what happens to a woman who reads about this study? Can she be "awakened" in the same sense that Edna is awakened? Does having a growing conscious and awareness of one's unconscious gender construction allow one to change his/her behavior? Or are we inevitably stuck in our genders, no matter how much information we possess?
Sunday, September 18, 2011
I heard a story on NPR this weekend that reported the medium income for men adjusted for inflation is lower than it was in the 70's. The reasons offered for this decline is that manufacturing jobs are exported overseas leaving us a surplus of blue collar workers. Therefore factories do not have to raise wages to attract workers. The other reason given is that the medium wage earners have the same education that people did forty years ago, a high school degree. Women's median wages have been rising, and they are graduating college at much higher rates than men. I wonder about the reason behind the discrepancy between the education of men and women. Why are women graduating from college more than men? I think it has something to do with different ways that males and females learn. From my experience, it is easier to get female children to sit down and focus while male children are more likely to be rowdy and rambunctious. I think this tendency has a major ripple effect in our education system. Male children do not focus as well as female children in first grade, so they fall behind in reading, which leads them to fall behind in middle school, which leads them to fall behind in high school and leaves them unprepared for college. Maybe there is a more effective way to teach male children in grade school that could lead to higher college graduation rates.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The question likely won't be answered soon, and it seems fairly futile for English majors to debate the effects of hormones on the body. However, Gray makes one final point in his commentary that seems extremely relevant to our class. The study points out that "male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men." The article also notes that males with higher testosterone are actually more likely to become fathers, clearly distinguishing that males with lower testosterone are not more likely to become fathers." Dr. Gray expounds on these two points in his commentary to suggest that the experiments serves as "a nice case study of the relevance of evolution to everyday human life." Gray describes how male evolutionary theory ultimate posits that "constraint[s] on male reproductive success [tend] to be reproductive access to females." The article explains how testosterone then functions as a "trade-off, with high testosterone helping secure a mate" but "reduced" testosterone working "better for sustaining family life." Gray describes how humans take it for granted that fathers care about their families, whereas parternal care is actually "a defining
feature of our species" that is lacking in the primate species most closely related to us.
In other words, the gist of his article is that testosterone functions as an evolutionary tool that help males acquire mates. However, after marriage and childbirth, testosterone rates plummet in order to help males maintain a stable family life and care for the children. This knowledge seems to radically undermine our concept of masculinity--testosterone-fuled maleness is not the end of masculinity, but simply the vehicle towards a more androgynous role in a family relationship. Is testosterone a now obsolete, unnecessary byproduct of evolution, like stress? What does it mean to be male if the end goal of maleness is a more androgynous role? I don't know the answers, but the experiment's results certainly seems to suggest that males are biologically engineered towards child-rearing.
Oh, and here are the links:
I’m not going to write about The Awakening; I think that will be written about and deconstructed plenty over the next few class discussions. Beating a going-to-be dead horse isn’t particularly my style, but music is. I listen to an inordinate amount of music from all different genres and eras. From indie bands to mainstream pop, I’ve very nearly covered the lot, or so I like to think. However, as three in the morning rolled around last Saturday night, a fellow Wally and I began to discuss the merits of the guitar players of history. Being naïve as he often can be, he instantly, unchangingly, and whole-heartedly supported the great-but-not-greatest Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. (This will get to gender bias, I promise.) At first, I couldn’t help but agree, then the bands and guitarists flooded my head. What about Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and Santana for god’s sake! There were too many, Duane Allman, Slash… so many. My head was spinning, and he reverently supported the wonderful Mr. Page. However, at about this point, I peered down at my phone to see I received a text from my dear friend “Katy.” It was that one name that sparked the question, “Danny, do you know any female guitarists?” He said, “Jimmy Page…” I knew he wouldn’t be any help at this point. But I began to think. Female artists, singers, littered my head, Janis, Ella, Patti, Aretha, and Joan were the names that scrolled across my head as if in a marquee, but not one was a guitarist. Moving into modern times, how many well-known female guitarists are there? Hell, how many female musicians are well known for much more than a spectacular voice? I know great female musicians are out there: Daru Oda, who plays with Norah Jones, is one of them, but why, I ask, is the female contingency of the music industry relegated to the voice while the men can explore a diverse set of instruments from banjo to bass, organ to piano? Not detracting from amazing vocal talents of late and lively female singers, but where are my guitar girls: where are my girls splitting strings on a bass or breaking sticks on a drum set?
Why was that section so difficult? Kate Chopin. One of the four reading sections was on Kate Chopin's development as a feminist writer. It included details about specific feminist genres, but generally avoided complex terminology (I can't be any more specific than that--LSAC copyright stuff and all). However, a huge number of people struggled with it. When I was in the bathroom during break, most of the comments I heard from the others were in some way related to Chopin--"Did you understand that one about 'chop-in'"? Or "How about that feminist article?" I also talked with a few girls about the test (in general terms, LSAC people who have googled this blog, general terms only) and none of them talked about the Kate Chopin article. They talked about the geological, heavy-laden with scientific terminology article.
So is this an example of a lack of bi-textuality? Are men simply less receptive to feminist ideas simply because they're men? I must admit, even though I did really well on the section (English major after all) I missed more questions on the Chopin piece than on the other three combined. But is there a flipside? What about the women who struggled with the more objective geology piece? Does that kind of article express 'masculine' characteristics? Certainly, in schools besides Wabash anyway, men tend to take more science and math courses, and women are more represented in literature courses. So, may it be true that the reason the men struggled with the Chopin article was because of its specific topic of literature--not feminism? I'm honestly not sure. I'm just really glad that Chopin threw everybody else off. Thank you Kate Chopin!
Also, for the other people in the class that took the LSAT this June (I think there are at least 2, maybe more), what do you guys think? Was the article that hard? Of course everybody else can feel free to express answers to any of these questions.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I would agree with Felski on her comments as long as they remain in reference to past stories; however, I feel recent history suggests something different. Consider the examples both Felski and Scott bring up: Cinderella, Snow White, and the like. These are stories written long ago, before any of us were much more than a thought. And yes, they certainly reflect the patriarchal dominance in literature. But i can't help but think of the numerous stories (in this case movies but I feel movies still count) in my generation's life that seem to counter Felski's point. To name a few: Pan's Labryinth and Suckerpunch. In these two stories the protagonists are female characters that actively subvert the stereotypes of passivity and patience that Felski mentions. In Pan's Labryinth the girl is actively adventuring through a myriad of challenges to realize her place in life, her destiny-and it is not the traditional 'get married and live happily ever-after. In Sckerpunch the protagonist(s) are all female characters that display both masculine and feminine traits-actively subverting some traditional roles (yes, these women are taking names) while openly empowering others-namely sexuality.
So I suppose my point is similair to something I said in class last Thursday...that the literary world needs time. If one looks at the progression of literature, the emergence of non-traditional feminie presence is on the rise. Currently, we are stuck in an awkward time period where those changes are taking place. However, it would seem obvious that great strides are being taken but naturally there is an imbalance at this point. But again, time will bring about the advancement and change that Felski and others alike are striving for. But again, these are just my thoughts on the matter.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
For the producers of the show, this is a bold move--intrudocing a transgendered sexuality into a show which has predominantly focused on the sexual tensions between male and female dancers. The show's producer, Conrad Green, declared that the show is "always looking to introduce viewers to new stories and perspectives"-- an idea that is coincidentally very similar to Felski's ideas of bi-textuality. This has interesting implications for the canon, suggesting not only the necessity of a "bi-textuality," but also a "multi-textuality" that extends beyond simple male-female dichotomies to explore liturature that perceives gender and sexuality itself as fluid entities--an idea I'm sure will recur in our explorations of homosexual and trasgender literature.
The article notes that the show has received a lot of backlash for its decision, which promted Bono to respond, "You know, it just kind of shows why for me it's important to be on the show, because so little still is known about what it means to be transgender...And there's so many just completely inaccurate stereotypes and thoughts that people have." This seems very reminiscent of the feminist challenge to the male canon/patricarchy; however, here it is not male patriarchy that is threatened but heteronormativity. In light of class discussion on the perception of feminist "affirmative action," we can see the show's choice to accept Chaz as a contestant as a progressive, political move that challenges viewers to re-examine preconceived biases that some sexualities are inherently more valuable than others by forcing them to view sexuality through a new perspective.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
As the curtains lifted and the smoke settled, audiences were greeted with a figure dressed in an Elvis-impersonating-black-pants-and-white-shirt, greased-hair, and thank-you-very-much attitude. After the first, poorly attempted manly masking of voice, the audience meets “Gentlemen Gaga,” as many on Twitter have dubbed the character. The character is that “cool, Nebraska guy” from her quintessentially masculine jam “You and I.” The fourth single from the Born This Way album, “You and I” is an expression of love from a “New York girl” to a “cool, Nebraska guy.” The song flips gender roles from every bound of classic, head banging, Southern, and Hair rock. In a quick explanation, the song is deconstructive of bands from Queen to Journey, the manly embodiment of music. Gaga uses the stomp-clap line from Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and its guitarist Brian May in exclamatory fashion. What sport-loving, hairy-chested man can’t recognize the stadium anthem’s signature stomping? However, by using the classic sing-a-long “Don’t Stop Believing” theme of small-town girl and city boy reversed into a “city girl, small-town boy” motif, Gaga takes possession of the chase. She takes the masculine go-get-the-girl role for herself, but still allows her alter ego to yell emphatically “sit back down where you belong” to the female Gaga. She completely blurs the lines of control and desire, and she uses herself, in the video, to play both roles. She took on the persona of the whiskey-breathed male for the MTV Video Music Awards further extending her gender-blurring masculinity to the “real world.” Her message, as she’s been trying to do for years, finally reached a main-stage audience, and soon enough, ripples will reach those who are still simply writing off the behavior of Gaga over the years to her “weirdness.” There is a goal, and from imaginative to reality, Gaga will slowly turn gender from the he-she-it mentality. However, there is criticism. As one Camille Paglia claims in an article from the Sunday Times, Gaga and her gender-blurring behavior will cause, as the title claims, the “Death of Sex,” a sexuality that Madonna, Bowie, Elton John, and Warhol all worked desperately to create. What will Gaga’s new masculine image, her mainstream attempt at gender redefinition do for the he-she-it world?
Saturday, September 3, 2011
I would highly recommend any other student who is interested in colloquium (it's not too late for spring semester you guys, and certainly Wyatt can take both) or simply in the history of the college to look through these folders. I was amazed by the professor's names I read as I went farther and farther back in time--names like Trippett, Powell, Fertig, Placher, and Campbell, seeing first where they began and then where they stopped. While these names changed, those of the fall semester reading list remained remarkably the same. Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Aquinas, Augustine, Machiavelli and others have persisted through the decades. (I noted with sadness that Milton didn't survive his freshman year, though perhaps he was brought back on the team at some later date). All of the names on those reading lists were, and remain on the list today, male. The spring semester started off the same way. Great names were included of course, such as Locke, Rousseau, Smith, Mill, Tolstoy, and of course Burke and Paine (which you might remember from C&T). But again I noticed all were men. This remained the same from the 1947-48 school year until the spring of 1964 when Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was added to the list. Then in 1978 Wollstonecraft made a one-year appearance, bringing the number of female authors up to two. Virginia Woolfe was added in 1979, but in the following year Stowe was dropped. Thus the "status quo" of having just a single woman author was preserved. From around here on out I began to see Prof. Rosenberg's name, and given that this was Friday afternoon and I didn't want to spend the entire day in the basement of the library, I put the file away. I assume Prof. Rosenberg can fill us in on more recent developments.
So is this an example of gender bias? If Stowe was worthy of being on the list, then why was she removed one year after Woolfe was added? Was it simply because of her gender? (Note that there certainly were other changes--but the timing here does seem suspicious to me). What names would you have added?
Two other things 1) Bi-textuality has official made the list of my favorite words and 2) Here is a quote I found about what makes a good Senior Colloquium student: "he is not afraid to attack the ideas of others...[and] he knows that occasionally he's going to be made ridiculous."