Beyond Yes or No: Consent as a Sexual Process

For the peer-led discussions, my group read an article called Beyond Yes or No: Consent as a Sexual Process. In the article, Rachel Kramer Bussel added a new layer to the discussion of consent by discussing the importance of being verbal with one’s partner when it comes to pleasure.

Overall, the article was really interesting. It makes a good point that the meaning behind consent goes beyond a simple yes or no. Sex should be enjoyable for everyone involved, and for it to actually be enjoyable, there needs to be some communication between both parties.

I would say this article also pointed out how sex is still a taboo subject for a lot of people. Part of why these discussions are rare is because people are afraid to be candid about sex, even with their own partners. This point seemed to really hit me as I discussed the article with my group in the library. There was something slightly embarrassing about discussing an article that focused on sex in such a public place, but I couldn’t help but reflect on how unfortunate it is that I was feeling that way about a school assignment. Sex should be a comfortable subject for people, especially when it’s being discussed between two people actually having sex.

I also think it’s important to discuss how this taboo affects women. I think men typically feel more comfortable discussing what they want from their partners, because women have been conditioned to think that they aren’t allowed to want anything from sex. In Western society, there’s such a massive focus on reproduction when it comes to sex, and I think that stifles women’s pleasure in a really drastic manner.

Hopefully, progress can eventually made as people like Bussel open up about their feelings towards the subject.

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Single Stories

This past week, we’ve been talking a lot about the dangers of telling a single story. Between listening to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discuss the importance of venturing beyond a single story and watching the Half the Sky documentary, it’s been made clear that there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to sharing different perspectives of minorities across the globe.

I think the discussion we’ve been having fits in pretty well with Moonlight’s recent Oscar win. While the film has its Western elements, it managed to break the “boundaries” of what stereotypical Oscar films entail. It was the story of a gay, black experience, and that’s unfortunately not a story that’s often shared. The movie’s Best Picture win was historic, with it being the first LGBT themed film to win in the Best Picture category, and that’s something that’s probably going to mean a lot to anyone that’s able to relate to the film’s content.

Obviously, Moonlight’s Best Picture win doesn’t mean The Academy/film industry at large is perfect when it comes to representation and diversity. However, I think the fact that the film resonated with people shows how important it is to go beyond the “single story” and share the experiences of people that aren’t always represented in mainstream media. Not only does representation offer audiences variety, but it opens room for discussion and brings society closer to embracing people’s differences with rather than ostracizing those that don’t fit unspoken molds.

Parenting & Gender

Last week, we read and discussed Ruth Padawer’s article What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?, and it had me thinking about how intense parents can get when it comes to enforcing gender norms with their children. The article discussed various cases of gender variant children and how those children’s parents approached their child’s outlook on gender. While parts of the article were heart warming when it came to parental support, others were disheartening. Why is it that so many parents prioritize their own preconceptions over their child’s happiness?

I understand that no one wants their child to be seen as an outcast, but instead of trying to force your child to act or carry themselves in a certain way, wouldn’t it be more productive to function as a support system rather than an entity that shares the same views of potential tormenters?

At one point in the article, Padawer mentions a mother that consulted a psychiatrist because of her son’s gender variant behavior. That psychiatrist told her to encourage her son to be more aggressive, hoping that it would “help” him develop a more masculine personality. I found this frustrating. It’s baffling to me that people would rather teach their children that aggression should be rewarded. In this mother’s case, it led to advocacy, but I can’t help but think about all the children that were taught to be aggressive for the sake of masculinity that eventually grew up and brought harm to others as a result.

I’m a firm believer in teaching children to be the best they can be. Perhaps that’s a bit Hallmark-y, but I think it’s a lot better than trying to mold a child into an identical, gendered copy of myself or others. I care more about passing on skills like compassion and kindness onto my potential children than what kind of clothes they wear, and I hope that someday, other parents will feel the same.

Masculinity & Femininity

With masculinity and femininity playing such dominant roles in how many people view gender, it is not out of the question to consider how the two concepts might also affect race, class, and sexuality. Views towards masculinity and femininity differ across cultural backgrounds, because what it means to “be” a woman or man is not entirely universal. I am not confident that I know what roles masculinity and femininity play in race or class, but the topic of sexuality is one I am fairly familiar with.

Continue reading “Masculinity & Femininity”

Political or Academic?

After reading Chapter 1 of Threshold Concepts in Women’s and Gender Studies, I couldn’t help but ask myself if the ideas discussed in the chapter should be considered political or academic. Ultimately, I decided that a a Women’s and Gender Studies class is fully capable of being both.

While plenty of people believe that academia and politics should never mix, I’m not somebody that subscribes to that belief. I think the two intertwine a lot more than people might think. While you might not be discussing bipartisan issues in your calculus class, I think you could definitely make the argument that subjects like history, art, sociology, science, and even English have a certain political aspect to them. Humanity is discussed to some extent in each of these classes, and I think that’s a key element of being “political.”

Plus, Women’s and Gender Studies courses are ultimately teaching the history behind groups of individuals fighting for what they believe in.  I don’t see how that’s any more political than your average American history class. Sure, issues like reproductive rights are discussed, but that’s because the discussion surrounding those issues have played a major role in the history of how women are treated across the globe.

I understand that people want to be able to separate politics from different parts of their lives, but at the end of the day, politics has a massive impact on everyday living. It’s understandable that it bleeds into our education, and personally, I don’t have an issue with that.

March On

It’s been about three months since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, and it’s safe to say that the country’s current political landscape has people in an uproar. The Trump administration has made it perfectly clear that the policies they intend to put in place will negatively impact the lives of minorities in the United States, and for many, now is an important (and terrifying) time to become an activist.

On January 21st, 2017, a global protest known as The Women’s March took place. In Washington DC alone, over 500,000 people marched in order to start a conversation about the state of women’s rights. With conversation typically comes curiosity and debate, and there was one question specifically that was asked frequently during the march’s lead-up and aftermath.

What are people marching for?

This question managed to garner a variety of responses. On one “side,” you had people defining the march’s purpose by saying it was a way of bringing attention to topics such as reproductive rights, immigration, the LGBT community, racial inequality, and more. On the other, you had people stating that they didn’t feel there was a need for a protest, stating that they feel there is already widespread equality in the United States.

As a result of this opinion division, memes were created, with those against the march often citing oppression occurring in other countries as a way to minimize what those in favor of the march felt they were fighting for. Those in support of the march responded to these types of posts with memes of their own, listing the reasons why they felt the march was a necessary way of taking action and fighting for what they believe in. The discussion was very reminiscent of posts that went around a few years ago with women holding up signs and stating why they didn’t need/needed feminism.

Personally, I agree with line of thinking that the march was necessary. There is still a lot of progress that needs to be made for women in the United States before they can be considered equal to men. Protesting is a way for people to have their voices be heard, and I don’t see anything wrong with speaking out against injustice.

What is feminism?

A fairly important question to ask yourself at the start of a Women’s Studies course!

Personally, if I was to give feminism a somewhat generic definition, I would say that it is a social/political movement that’s overall goal is to advocate for women’s rights. That being said, I think the movement is much more complex than what a single sentence can describe. Not every feminist has the same set of values and beliefs, and not everyone is going to agree on what identifying as a feminist entails. Feminism is nuanced.

I would say that my “role” in the movement as a man is to listen, reflect, and uplift. It’s important that I take what the feminist movement teaches me and incorporate it into everyday living. It’s also equally important  for me to evaluate the privilege I have as a result of my gender and correct any behavior that contributes to the oppression of women.

Overall, I would say that I identify as an ally of feminism. There’s a lot of debate among feminists on whether or not men should use the feminist label, and I think that those are voices I should consider. I would rather define myself as an ally and avoid upsetting those that disagree with the idea of a man identifying as a feminist than identify as a feminist for the sake of having a more progressive label attached to my identity. At the end of the day, I don’t think the process of labeling myself as a feminist is really a priority when it comes to supporting the feminist movement and doing what I can to fight for women’s rights.