Author Archives: aba

Gender Equality, in a Bake Sale

At Jordan High school in Utah, a few female members of the Young Democrat’s club ran a bake sale, where they sold cookies at prices of a dollar for men and 77 cents for women. Their aim was to raise awareness on the lack of gender equality, or the equal treatment men and women within laws, policies and society (Aulette and Wittner 249) in places like the workforce, where women do get paid less than men. Kari Schott, one of the students running the sale, was interviewed along with three other students on their opinions regarding the school event. I personally believe that Kari and her friends from the Young Democrats club did a great job of addressing patriarchal privilege, the idea that many men, although not all, benefit socially and economically as men (Aulette and Wittner 10), and how it is still present in our society both socially and economically.

Many students expressed anger towards the bake sale event on social media and eventually in person. “They were really mad about it. They didn’t think it was fair and I said yeah, it’s not fair. That’s why we’re doing it” says Kari Schott (ABC 4 Utah). The three other students interviewed expressed support in their cause and a belief in gender equality, although one student, Jake Knaphus, did not support the method that Kari and her friends used to get their message across the campus. “I believe in what they’re doing, […] I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct” (ABC 4 Utah).

People believe in equality, and may support the idea of it. However, once it infringes on their own privileges, they can no longer stand by it. Perhaps if the cookies had no price difference and the sellers had only given out information sheets on gender equality, the bake sale would not have caused such a stir. But these negative reactions explicitly show how privilege is taught to not be recognized by those who benefit from it (McIntosh).

So this begs a big question: are people really aware of the pressing issue in gender equality? The wage gap between men and women is apparent, but problems arise when people fail to acknowledge this issue and the significance of it. I believe that the price difference with the cookies was an important and well executed way of helping students at Jordan High become conscious of how gender equality is, and how it affects women economically.

While these students did a great job of bringing attention to a huge aspect of gender inequality and said many words of empowerment, but I found that there were some critical downfalls in the things that they didn’t say. One aspect that I find very important within the issue of gender equality and equal pay is relevant to the topic of race. Race is “a contingently deep reality that structures our particular social universe” and a way of segregating people based on their physical appearance (Mills 48).

This segregation can be seen to affect people in many places such as the workforce. Women make less money than men, and on top of that, women of colour make less than white women. In 2012, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) plotted how much a woman in the US makes, weekly. Women were categorized by their race, then by their educational standing. The plot showed that within gender inequality, there is also racial inequality. It was found that, on average, white women with advanced degrees earned about $1,164, while African American women with the same level of education earned $997 and Hispanic women at a weekly wage of $1,093. In general, women with lower levels of education were observed to earn less per week, but in every category, women of colour are consistently seen to make less than white women.

These statistics show how race and gender intersect – a connection between identities such as race, gender, and class (Aulette and Wittner 45)Similar to male privilege, people with white privilege benefit simply because they are white. Peggy McIntosh writes about how these privileges are in an ‘invisible backpack’ and everyone who benefits from some social advantage carries one. Some of these advantages are so small and normalized that people forget to acknowledge them.

I would have liked to see them address racial equality, which is an equal treatment of people regardless of race, within gender equality, since it is still very relevant to their focus on the right to equal pay. The inequality of race, especially in Western society, often goes unseen and raising awareness on racial inequality will be the only way to end it.

Aside from these, I believe and support the cause that the three girls of the Young Democrats club were fighting for. I am also glad to see that there was support shown by the students who were briefly interviewed, showing that times are slowly changing as more and more people become aware of the social issues that stop us from reaching gender equality. Also, broadcasting stories like this is important since some people may not be conscious or simply do not know of the fact that gender inequality is still present in today’s societies. Kari and her friends send a strong message to viewers, especially to younger individuals such as Kari and her friends. They show that it is the younger generations that can take the biggest steps to reaching gender equality in the future.

Works Cited:

Aulette, Judy R., and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009-12. Print.

Carlisle, Randall. “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. NexStar Broadcasting, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 02 Apr. 2015.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Web. 02 Apr. 2015. < http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html&gt;

Mills, Charles W. “But what are you really?” The metaphysics of race. In Blackness visible: essays on philosophy and race (1998): 48.

“What Does a Race Have to Do with a Woman’s Salary? A lot.” AAUW: Economic Justice. 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.

Laverne Cox on Street Harassment and Transphobia

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”
Cornel West’s profound statement from his Harvard University sermon could not have been said more perfectly. Equality can only be infiltrated by understanding the varying degrees of oppression and privileges that all individuals have. The point is not for a person to blame another or a certain group of individuals for the way social construction has shaped them, but to help them see the way things are for those who are oppressed. It is important for us as individuals in a diverse social system to see the maltreatment all people may experience to cause them to act a certain way. No one is without privilege, and everyone experiences discrimination in some form.

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/

Linked above is a speech done by Laverne Cox, where she takes her own approach to the topic of street harassment and incorporates Cornel West’s ideals. She is an American actress best known for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is The New Black. She is an LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual queer or questioning) community advocate. Laverne Cox has experienced discrimination in many forms; she is black and she is also transsexual. Transsexual and transgender people challenge the biological gender they were assigned at birth, believing that they have been assigned incorrectly (Aulette and Wittner 45). In this video, she speaks of her street-harassment experience with two males who had catcalled her while she was crossing the street. She, among many transsexual women, is victim to the street harassment that many transwomen experience. Although cisgender women – cisgenders being individuals who identify with their assigned gender — also frequently experience street harassment, statistics show that trans people are more likely to be harassed and to a more violent degree (“What Is Street Harassment?”). Laverne says, and I quote “Our lives are often in danger, simply for being who we are when we are transwomen.” She also mentions how she is harassed for being black, on top of the hate she has experienced for being transsexual.

Laverne Cox, being a coloured transwoman in America, represents a large group of trans people whose voices often go unheard, even within the LGBTQ community. I agree tremendously with the unique approach she takes in explaining the intersectionality between racism and transphobia. Intersectionality is the crosscutting and connection between different identities such as race, class, sexuality, and gender (Aulette and Wittner 9-10). With reference to her own experience, Laverne acknowledges how many of her harassment encounters have been men of colour, and why that might have been so. Laverne explains how the post-traumatic stress from the history of slavery and Jim Crowe laws that many black people endured in America could be a contributing factor to the way black men have acted towards her, noting that they see her as the embodiment of the oppression and emasculation that most black men work to overcome today. Oppression is the exercise of inequality through domination of one supposedly more superior or privileged group over another (Aulette and Wittner 9-10) and is experienced by all people, as Laverne has proven. What I appreciated most from Laverne’s story is how she has learned to see past peoples’ antagonistic ways and acknowledged that everyone experiences privileges and oppressions at their own varying degrees.

Laverne also addresses the topic of bullying in schools, and how children who do not conform to society’s gender binary are thought of as different and often marginalized for this. Gender binary is the traditional ideology of there being only two definite and distinct genders, male (male-masculinity) and female (female-femininity) with no in-between (“Gender Socialization”). Views on social concepts, especially gender and sexuality, are social constructions, which are taught to all of us from an early age. “There is no gender or sexuality – just bodies – before they are socially constructed” by power systems to maintain social norms (Aulette and Wittner 3). It is obvious that these gender binaries intersect with other forms of hate crime such as homophobia, which is the devaluation of anything feminine, such as being a stereotyped gay male or a stereotyped “butch” lesbian (Aulette and Wittner 117).

Intersectionality is proof that prejudice on the streets, in school systems and any other social environment does not only affect one group of people. Everyone that can identify with any social group can be both a victim to discrimination and directly or indirectly the oppressor to another group, a systemic conflict that is very hard to fix because people continue to be violent towards one another for differences they cannot control.

Now, going back to Laverne’s interpretation of justice and love. How can we achieve justice until we learn to love one another beyond our differences? This in no way justifies discrimination that one may face, but it is important to consider this mentality. Blaming and reciprocated hate may be just as damaging as prejudice itself. The aim should be for people to educate one another and for individuals to continually acknowledge where they stand with their privileges, advantages and disadvantages. It is true that the past can never be erased, and I don’t think it should be. The racism and sexism that our relatives and friends of the yesterday have experienced should always be acknowledged and learned from. However, it is up to us as individuals to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and actively work together to make sure that the past does not repeat itself.

Works Cited

Aulette, Judy R., and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009-12. Print.

“Gender Socialization.” 20 Jan 2014. Web. Mar 8 2015.

“What is Street harassment?” Stop Street Harassment. Web. 6 Mar 2015.

Blackbird 2014 Film review by Aba

Attending the Reelout 2015 film festival was quite an experience. All the films presented for viewing seemed to have interesting plots. I chose to watch Blackbird, a 2014 film directed by Patrik-Ian Polk. The trek through the treacherous snow to find the library in downtown Kingston was definitely worth it!

The film was a touching story of a young African American boy named Randy, finishing his final year of high school in a small Mississippi state town. It is obvious from the start that he comes from a religious family, and he gives back to his church by singing in their choir. Most of his close friends seem to be religious, too. He devotes a lot of time to taking care of his mother Claire. Throughout most of the movie, Claire spends her days worrying over Chrissy, Randy’s younger sister, who had gone missing many years before. Randy struggles with opening up about his sexuality to his parents and friends, especially when he starts to develop feelings for one of his schoolmates, Ty. Fortunately, Randy’s father makes an effort to show Randy his love and support when he realizes Randy is conflicted. Later in the movie, Randy meets a young aspiring actor named Marshall, and an instant connection seems to form between them— although Randy is not quick to acknowledge it. Randy eventually accepts his sexuality and introduces his family and friends to Marshall. At the end of the movie, Randy says, ‘whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love’, realizing that it does not matter who you love, but that you love at all.

The first thing that really stood out to me was the racial representation in this film. A lot of the time, you will see casts dominated by white actors and actresses with perhaps a few roles done by individuals of colour. In this film, white people were the minority. A lot of the media that we absorb everyday may also portray homosexuality with a homo-normative stereotype. This film, however, did not represent this typical homo-normativity, since Randy was African- American and Marshall was Caucasian.

To me, the most important scene was the part where Claire finds out about Randy’s homosexuality. Randy and Marshall are parked in front of Randy’s house, kissing for the first time. Claire, who stayed up worrying when Randy did not come home on time, sees them and becomes livid. She forces Randy into the house and proceeds to yell at him for what his actions. Claire blames Randy for the disappearance of Chrissy, saying ‘God was testing them’ and it was Randy’s fault for being gay. Foreshadowing from early on in the movie suggests that Randy knew his mother would react like this. I was impacted and empathetic towards Randy’s character when he felt that he had disappointed his mother; disappointing a loved one is every person’s fear.

Claire’s angry outburst was immediately followed with their church pastor suggesting that Randy should go through Deliverance in other to stop his ‘unnatural desires’. The pastor expressed a very hetero-normative perspective, enforcing the ideals that men should love women and there is no other normal way. Although Randy later accepts his sexuality, he agrees to go through with Deliverance, saying that he wanted to be ‘normal’. A large conflict within the Christian church is the unwillingness to accept homosexuality, saying that it is a sin. This sheds some light on an essentialist point of view, stating that people are born with predetermined characteristics— including sexual preference—based on their biological sex (“Essentialism, Social Constructionism and Sexual Identity”). Essentialism is a large spectrum of traditional ideals that are taught to be the way things should be, for lack of a better explanation. The pastor’s words made it apparent that Randy’s struggle was made harder by the binary thinking he was raised in, teaching people to act according to their gender with no in-between. All throughout the movie, Randy struggles with his feelings, and it seems as though his biggest fear was of disappointing Claire, his church, and God because he didn’t feel the heterosexual desire that men should allegedly feel.

The heterosexual matrix that constructs popular culture’s view of sexuality and gender is so hard to escape because of the norms that are taught to many of us (“Gender Trouble”), even within the homes of people like Randy. This can be seen in the way Claire lashes out at Randy, condemning him for his ‘sins’. Although not all religious people think like this, I would argue that the traditional values of the Christian church play a huge role in the social constructs of how men and women should act. I am certain that there are many teens that experience a similar treatment to what Randy went through.

This movie opened my eyes to how the social construction of sexuality and gender is so present in today’s society, especially within tight-knit communities like Randy’s. Everyone is influencing each other and being influenced (Aulette and Wittner 92-93). Although this movie is fiction, the story behind it is real for many individuals growing up in our predominantly hetero-normative society and I am happy to see films like this in the media. I am glad that we have festivals like Reelout in smaller cities like Kingston, because it contributes to the social progress our society is slowly making with the LGBTQ movement.

Trailer to Blackbird 2014 film:

Works Cited

“Essentialism, Social Constructionism and Sexual Identity.” Ludicrous Palaver. 27 Mar 2006. Web. Feb 5 2015.

“Gender Trouble: Prohibition, Psychoanalysis, and the Production of Heterosexual Matrix.” Sophie Moet. 29 Jan 2014. Web. Feb 5 2015.

Aulette, Judy R., and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009-12. Print.