Author Archives: MJ

Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School

Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there have been significant improvements for women’s rights and large steps have been made towards more equality between the genders. In the past century, women have gained the right to vote, certain reproductive rights, taken on more prominent roles outside the home, and it has become more socially acceptable for women to work full time. Despite these accomplishments, women are still the victims of discrimination in the gender-based wage gap. For every dollar a male earns in the workplace, women earn seventy-seven cents, thus creating a wage gap of nearly twenty-two percent. In addition to this, women of different ethnicities and aboriginal women in Canada make roughly ten to twenty cents less than white middle class women (“Pay Equity & Discrimination”). Although many men and women alike believe that we have achieved the highest means of equality among the genders, the current presence of the gender-based wage gap proves this to be untrue. It is arguable that this wage gap is a result of systemic discrimination and outdated notions of gender binary-based roles (“Pay Equity & Discrimination”).

A few weeks ago, on Tuesday March 17, 2015, a group of Utah-based high school students held a bake sale to raise awareness for the ever-persisting gender wage gap (Carlisle). During the bake sale, male students had to pay one dollar for two cookies, while female students had to pay only seventy-seven cents. The differences in prices were reflective of the average differences in earnings between male and female workers (Carlisle). Although the bake sale raised much controversy among students and in the news, the students responsible were able to get their point across in an effective and safe manner (Carlisle).

One student, Jake Knaphus stated, “I believe in what they’re doing. I believe in their standing for a cause, but I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct.” In addition to this comment, the news article on the web page was filled with hundreds of comments echoing disbelief in the fact that women make seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man earns (Carlisle). Most of those who commented were quick to state that the wage gap was a myth, or chose to blame it on differing interests based on stereotypical gender roles, discrepancies in education or they blame it on the fact that women are responsible for raising children and caring for the family (Carlisle). What I find most horrifying about this situation is the fact that so many men and even some women today think that there is no gap at all. Moreover, I found it appalling that many of the comments resort back to arguments based on the ideal family, ideal femininity, and ideal masculinity. It is these arguments that allow for the systemic discrimination of women to continue well into the twenty-first century (Carlisle).

The persisting wage gap is an example of systemic discrimination because it exemplifies the fact that patriarchy, defined as a male dominated society, is extremely prominent in the world today and has been for centuries (Aulette and Wittner 7). By executing such blatant misogyny in the workplace, it enables men and society to remain functioning in a patriarchal fashion. Misogyny is most commonly defined as the hatred or dislike of women and girls, and it can be manifested in various ways, including discrimination in the workplace (Aulette and Wittner 95). These ideas of patriarchy and misogyny are not inherent to human nature, but rather, are taught to children in the form of gender socialization. Gender socialization is the process by which children are taught the dos and don’ts of gender binary, boy and girl (Aulette and Wittner 58). From gender socialization, norms of emphasized femininity and hegemonic masculinity are instilled throughout society. Emphasized femininity is an exaggerated form of femininity in which girls are expected to conform to the needs and desires of men (Aulette and Wittner 8). In addition, girls are taught that they must be soft-spoken, dress nicely, and adhere to certain interests such as dancing, Barbie Dolls and the colour pink. Hegemonic masculinity is the idea that men must always be the superior gender, and therefore, they should be the more educated, breadwinners of the family (Aulette and Wittner 8). Moreover, this relates to the wage gap, as it is these ideas that society has normalized that resulted in women being paid twenty-two percent less than men. These norms have also enabled society to attribute the wage gap to differences in education, interests, and ideals of who should be responsible for childcare.

This wage gap becomes increasingly more complicated with the intersectionality of race and gender (Aulette and Wittner 7). While Caucasian women make seventy-seven cents for every dollar their male counterparts make, women of ethnic minorities and aboriginal women on average, make ten to twenty cents less. The fact that women of different ethnicities make less than white women is another example of systemic discrimination against both women and race. Moreover, it clearly demonstrates the idea of white privilege, which can be defined as social privileges that benefit white women (in this case), in Western societies (Aulette and Wittner 117). Additionally, in situations like this, the idea of a glass ceiling comes into play. A glass ceiling is described as the seen but unreachable barrier that keeps women and minorities from reaching the highest corporate rankings, despite education and achievements (Aulette and Wittner 527).

To conclude, the bake sale carried out by the teenaged Utah students, and the wage gap among women themselves, are prime examples of male privilege, as well as white privilege. Those who are generally the best off within society are white, middle-class men, as they earn the most and have the best education available to them. While this has changed for women, and continues to do so, it is important to remember that the fight for women’s rights and wage equality is not over and will not be for some time. As long as outdated notions of the gender binary (male-female) are persistent in society, one can expect systemic discrimination against women; especially women of aboriginal descent and those who are ethnically diverse.

 Works Cited

Aulette, Judy Root., Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. Third ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Carlisle, Randall. “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. Nexstar Broadcasting Inc, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

“Pay Equity & Discrimination.” Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

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The Intersection of Racism, Transphobia, and Misogyny

Cornel West once stated that “justice is what love looks like in public,” and when there is no justice, there is no love. Often in the LGBTQ community, people of all races, genders, and backgrounds are discriminated against and shown no justice. More specifically, there are certain combinations that are more acceptable than others. For example, black men and women who are gay are more likely to be subjected to discrimination than white men and women in the same position. Additionally, interracial couples in the LGBTQ community are also discriminated against more often that heterosexual interracial couples. Moreover, black trans women are the most targeted victims of violence within the LGBTQ community. This systemic discrimination is in part due to the gender binary that is taught to children, through different means of gender socialization.

Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, spoke about the intersection of trans phobia, racism and misogyny (Cox 2014). In doing so, Cox recounts one of the countless times she has experienced harassment on the street by men who, upon realizing that she is a trans women, became very aggressive. She goes on to state that many trans women are in danger simply because of whom they are, and the gender that they choose to express (Cox 2014). Additionally, Cox argues that most of the street harassment she has experienced has come from black men. Although a generalization, Cox explains this phenomenon as a response to the collective trauma experienced by blacks in the past, as well as a result of the emasculation of black men. Finally, Laverne Cox states that when men or women harass others, it is an inner problem or issue they have with themselves, rather than the person whom they are targeting (Cox 2014).

Apart from this example, there are many examples of the intersection of misogyny, racism and trans phobia, and this is due to gender socialization and the appearance of strict gender binaries. Misogyny is the explicit hatred or dislike of women or girls, and can be expressed in numerous ways, some of which include: sexual discrimination, violence, denigration and the sexual objectification of women. Misogyny intersects with both racism and trans phobia in the sense that black or coloured (trans) women have less privilege than white women and white trans women. Apart from being discriminated against for being a woman, many are additionally discriminated against for being black and trans as well. This is specifically due to gender socialization, which refers to the socially constructed roles and expectations of both men and women. Gender socialization is most often based on a strict gender binary where there is only two sides of the spectrum, boys and girls, and each have opposing characteristics.

In today’s society, racism, misogyny, and trans phobia have become institutionalized through socially constructed rules and regulations. Although not enforced by law, it a common understanding that in order to be “normal” you must be either male or female, or the sex to which you were assigned at birth. The problem with this is that many or most people do not fit into the strict gender binary set by society. Even if you are cisgendered, meaning that you identify with the sex assigned at birth, you are likely to not stick strictly to the characteristics of said gender. For example, some girls like sports and are powerful and outspoken: these are usually qualities typically associated with men. Furthermore, due to this, it is more inclusive to think of gender as a spectrum, rather than a binary.

There are many examples of this systemic discrimination against transgendered people in all societies. Recently, the Canadian parliament voted to make amendments to bill C-279; a federal Bill that seeks to bring rights and securities specifically to transgender Canadians (Wingrove 2014). The amendments senate wishes to make render the Bill completely useless, and the Bill has been highly contested by Parliament as well as the general public. More specifically, the senate wants the term ‘gender identity’ to be removed, and this would subsequently take away the right of trans people to identify as the gender they are, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth (Wingrove 2014). This Bill is a form of systemic discrimination against trans people as it provides legal regulations that take away the rights and services of trans women and men. Therefore, the amendments to the Bill are a form of misogyny and transmisogyny, as well as a form of state sanctioned violence against trans women and more so trans women of colour, who are already susceptible to violence and discrimination (Wingrove 2014).

Although many people in today’s society believe that men and women are equal, it is becoming abundantly clear that this is not the case. Discrimination against those associated with the LGBTQ community is still happening and is becoming more systemically implemented than ever before. This discrimination is due to the gender socialized norms and binaries we are taught as children, and that we see reinforced over and over again. Laverne Cox is one example of a trans woman who is popular in the media and often speaks out against certain indecencies she experiences first hand. It is important that trans women and men specifically get the justice they deserve, and in turn it is important to love and accept everyone for who they are.

 Works Cited

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. Everyday Feminism, 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

Wingrove, Josh. “Transgender Rights Bill Stirs Heated Debate in Senate.” The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail Inc., 02 Oct. 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity

A few weekends ago, I attended a screening of the film Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity, at the Reelout Film Festival here in Kingston. The documentary, directed by Emmy-nominated director, writer and producer Catherine Gund, surrounds and provides a deeper look into the life and work of dancer/choreographer Elizabeth Streb. Much of Streb’s work focuses on the idea of extreme action mechanics, as well as the obsession of making the human body fly. In addition, the film provides insight into the process of creating movement, the lives of the STREB dancers and their relation to the LGBTQ community (BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity).

In more detail, the film jumps between the past and present, the story of Elizabeth Streb, her dancers, and finally to the London Olympics in 2012. Streb decided at the age of seventeen that she wanted to be a dancer, and began taking traditional dance lessons. From here, she moved to New York to establish her own independent company and began creating her own shows (“About The Film.”). Much of Streb’s work focuses on her belief that popular dance was too delicate and beautiful. Therefore, in her own practice, she rejected this notion and took the idea that; “anything too safe is not action” (BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity). In 2003, the STREB Extreme Action Company opened SLAM – better known as the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics. Much of the film focuses on the injuries and personal lives of the dancers, and the dedication and effort it takes to complete the movements they are required to execute (“About The Film.”).

The film reaches its climax when Elizabeth Streb and her dancers travel to London in the summer of 2012, a few weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympic games. Their motive for the trip was to foreshadow the athleticism and extreme action of the games with various events around London, such as; bungee jumping off a bridge, walking down city hall, and finally, dancing on the spokes of the London Eye. This final scene of movement on top of the London Eye is significant due to its intersection of extreme action, dance, and the personal lives of the dancers. More specifically, this scene provides images of just how small and fragile the human body is in comparison to the mechanical world. While atop the monument, the dancers were subtly moving and creating beautiful images of the strength and agility of the human body.

In addition, this scene is significant as it relates to a few themes presented within class. To begin, this scene provides insight into the intersectionality of privilege, sexuality and race. Intersectionality can be described as the study of intersections between forms of oppression, domination or discrimination (Aulette). Privilege is defined as an advantage or right given to a particular person or group of people. Sexuality is simply defined as whom you are attracted to (Aulette). Many of the Streb dancers identify with the LGBTQ community, which defies the norms expected from society (Aulette). Moreover, many belong to communities of racial minorities and therefore have grown up in a less privileged manner. Although they have faced many adversaries, it is because of their “fierce existence and passion” that they have come to Streb to create a community of inclusion through dance (BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity). Therefore, they connect to themes presented in class and have found ways of overcoming roadblocks.

Furthermore, the film, Born to Fly relates to course concepts of gender socialization and the stereotypical view of how both males and females should act. Gender socialization is the social construction of gender roles, and tells us how we should act according to typical male/female roles (Aulette). Generally speaking, the Streb dancers are very muscular and large, which falls in suit for the men and the idea of hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is a culturally exalted form of masculinity that is linked to power, authority and aggression over women (Aulette). Opposing this idea is the contradiction and idea that dance is not masculine and men should not follow through with the profession. Therefore, the male dancers challenge this gender-socialized norm by pursuing a career in dance and the performing arts. Vice versa, the female dancers in the Streb Company are very muscular, masculine and large. This too goes against the idea of femininity and emphasized femininity that is associated with the typical female dancer. Emphasized femininity refers to how society or the media sees womanhood, or expects women to act (Aulette). Moreover, Streb’s movement involves a lot of crashing and thrashing about which too goes against typical gender ideas of how women should act and move.

In my opinion, the film was both very well made, and aesthetically pleasing to watch.   As a former dancer myself, I was intrigued by the movement and creative process of Elizabeth Streb and her dancers. Moreover, I found that the film gave a perspective to dance and movement that many people do not see; as a bold, harsh, and injury filled profession. While watching the film, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, eagerly anticipating the movements of the dancers’ dangerous positions and exhilarating scenes. The experiencing of attending the film and the film festival was a very positive one for me. To conclude, I would recommend this film to anyone interested in dance, gender studies or both, as I found it touched on aspects of both disciplines.

Works Cited

“About The Film.” BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity. Aubin Pictures Inc., 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2015.

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2015. Print.

BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity. Dir. Catherine Gund. Prod. Tanya Selvaratnam. Perf. Elizabeth Streb. Aubin Pictures Inc., 2014. Film.