Why we Must Speak Out 0

Guest blog by Kylie VanBuren

sarabrave Why we Must Speak Out

I love Sara Bareilles’ Brave. Who doesn’t love a message about overcoming fear in order to express one’s opinions?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

But why is simply expressing who we are and what we think interpreted as brave? Why is this so controversial that we have to be afraid of opposition? We live in a culture where backlash has become extremely harsh, especially when it means challenging the white middle class straight status quo. More than ever we need inspiration from brilliant thinkers like the late great Audre Lorde, who challenged us to push past the fear and voice our opinions.

Speaking out can be truly and honestly terrifying. It can hurt and put us back in our place. It can leave us vulnerable and accessible to the whims of others, who can use the opportunity of our opposition to tear us apart, either because of our opinion, or because of their own weaknesses. It can make us cry and feel shamed and like a scolded child. It can be hard and it can hurt.

And yet we still must speak. Audre Lorde reminds us that silence separates and creates boundaries that only speaking our truths can bridge. It is our responsibility then, as activists and as compassionate people, to stand up to inequalities. It may be as simple as disagreeing with what someone says or it may be as important as rallying a group together to truly and loudly oppose something. We have the right to challenge a system that puts so much pressure on us and forces us into so many contradictions. If we are pressed to see ourselves as individually responsible for upholding a system that is not necessarily meant for us or good for us, then we should be able to express our opinions about that system. We should be bold and expressive, even when there’s push back.

I have been shamed for speaking. I have been shushed for questioning. I have had people attempt to put me in my place. It is scary. It hurts. I have been embarrassed and afraid. I spoke. Then I got over it. Not all situations where we speak out will lead to the back patting, to “Good job, you exposed an inequality,” but it’s practice for another time, a time when we’ll be heard, and when it will really matter. It toughens our skin and reminds us that there’s always a next time, and when we’re pushed and shushed, we will be able to handle it better, and we will sleep at night.

As Audre Lorde’s daughter reminded her, “You’re never a whole person if you remain silent, because there is always one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out.” Sometimes I will make the choice not to speak out and to avoid controversy, but not every time. I am not ready to surrender my values to that extent. Instead, I will take Bareilles as my inspiration and Audre Lorde as my muse, and I’ll continue the messy work of activism and speaking out.

My Media Thank You Notes 0

Guest Blog by Brianne Wheeler

As children, we’re taught to use our manners, to say “please” and “thank you.” So I thought I’d use my manners and thank one of the biggest influences in my life: the media! I mean, when I look at the flawless woman on the cover of the magazine as I check out at the grocery store, I’m so grateful for all the choices I’m given: the clothes, the makeup, the products to make me look as perfect as this woman looks.

Dear media, I’m so grateful that you help me better understand and see what society wants me to look like, dress, act, and behave like so I can change myself for the better. Lucky me, right? What would I do without you telling me who I am?! Because you do all this work to help me out, I simply must thank you!

thanks My Media Thank You Notes

Seventeen: Thank you for making me feel like I must blow out my hair and put a ton of product in it to make it pretty. Thanks for putting Leighton Meester in pink to make her look even girlier. Thanks for giving me tips on how to look cute for spring… perfect hair and makeup tricks!? Wow! That’s so nice of you. Anddddd you’re going to show me how to get flat abs and a great butt by spring break, too? You’re too kind. Once again… thank you!

thanks2 My Media Thank You Notes

Cosmo: Thanks for showing me how to look sexy while putting on my high heels… I can’t wait to pause and look up as I put them on next time. I’ll be sure to hold my hair back just like your cover girl.  Oh and I’ll make sure my dress and shoes match perfectly. Thanks for giving me crazy sex confessions… I can’t wait to laugh my ass off. And I am soooo thankful for the best birth control tips! Who knew you were so knowledgeable about women’s health!? Again… thanks so much!

thanks3 My Media Thank You Notes

Glamour: Thanks for putting Rihanna on the cover! She looks so happy which must mean I will be happy if I read this magazine! Also, I am so thrilled you are giving me easy beauty tricks with three-minute miracles… did Rihanna use them while getting ready for the cover shoot? I figured! Oh, and thank you for reassuring me I can relax because guys love me just the way I am, I was really worried they didn’t. Also I am so excited you told me how to eat, drink and not gain weight… let me guess: eat celery and drink water? Thanks for that!

How can one little magazine cover have soooo many important messages about hair, makeup, sex, secrets, body, and clothes!? What would I be without you?

Yet more offensive ads… 0

By Kate Parsons

The media is constantly treating women’s bodies as objects. Here buyers equate buying a truck with having the power to “drive over” or control women’s bodies. These images suggest to women that their bodies are objects and worse, objects for others to use. Women and women’s bodies are not meant to be controlled or “driven over.”

car Yet more offensive ads...

 More often than not, companies use women’s bodies to sell their product. In the case of this ad, the company makes the product into a body of a woman, thus taking objectification to a whole new level.

headphones Yet more offensive ads...

headphones2 Yet more offensive ads...

Boobs of Steel

By Abby Fontaine

When I was younger, my older brother had a pair of Superman pyjamas that I loved. They matched Superman’s costume completely, including the cape, which made the pajamas even cooler. My brother would run through the house with the red cape flying out behind him, and I got jealous. Soon enough, I learned to make my own cape from my pink blanket and followed him around. I remember waiting anxiously for the day he outgrew them and they were put into our storage closet full of potential hand-me-downs.

As soon as I was big enough, I wore those pyjamas whenever I could, day or night. However, time flew faster than Superman, and the pyjamas were soon too small for me. From then on, I had only girly pyjamas. My superhero days were over, until this Christmas when my sister gave me adult-sized Batman footie pyjamas, complete with a cape.

I used to love pretending to be a superhero. It was amazing to think that I could have super strength or super speed. With the current releases of all the fantastic Marvel movies, my nerdy love for classic comic book heroes has been renewed and invigorated. Only now, I’m more aware of important equality issues when it comes to representations of men and women. And in the superhero world, things are very far from equal.

Recently, I’ve been playing a two-person video game called “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” The game has a huge collection of superheroes that you can choose from and then fight with in one-on-one battle. At first, I thought it would be awesome to play as a female superhero. Although, when I choose a female character, it’s disappointing. She is always at a distinct disadvantage because she’s just not as powerful. As a result, I’ve learned to love the cooler male characters.

Along with differences in power, there are obvious differences in depictions and costumes. Women’s costumes consist of minimal material and the focus is on the body rather than on power—breasts are clearly emphasized and exaggerated. Yes, men are in tights and have defined muscles, but male characters’ costumes cover all. The contrast is so annoying and so obvious.

By objectifying these powerful women, the game makers lessen their imposing presence and powers.

superheroes1 Boobs of Steel

superheroes2 Boobs of Steel

superheroes3 Boobs of Steel

If the male characters were to dress in a similar way, the result would be comical rather than sexual. The problem here is the disparity: female characters’ costumes aren’t viewed by society in the same way. Women are effortlessly and commonly objectified, while men in similar costumes invite uproarious laughter. We can use this humor to our advantage to highlight the inequality and to help consumers abandon their blind acceptance of these inconsistencies. Better yet, how about some female characters fully and appropriately clothed to kick ass?

superheroes4 Boobs of Steel

Own Your Bossy!

Guest Blog by Maggie Rooney

Recently Sheryl Sandberg introduced a new campaign designed to put an end to the discouragement girls and women face from name-callling.  She uses the label “bossy” as her prime example. Sandberg’s Ban Bossy video features celebrities and famous leaders speaking out against the label used to bully girls and women into silence.

The campaign interested me and so I read an article in Forbes titled “Sheryl Sandberg, Beyonce, We Need To Embrace Bossy, Not Ban Bossy.” The author, Margie Warrell, deconstructs the messages sent out in the Ban Bossy campaign and argues that banning the “bossy” label can actually have a negative effect. She uses Prohibition as an analogy, “Just as trying to ban alcohol during the prohibition sent it underground; by trying to ban a word we actually give it more power to wound.”

Further, Warrell says that by embracing the label “bossy,” these leaders can embrace the positive aspects of the word, not the negative. The word “bossy” comes with traits like being a leader, role model, and an agent for positive change. “Bossy” females are necessary to our world and should be praised rather than silenced.

bossy Own Your Bossy!The updated campaign

Other writers have pushed back on the campaign with similar views. Margaret Talbot writes in The New Yorker that she felt the campaign itself had a bossy tone and that the message should be reconstructed. She mentions that in the past society has taken negative names like “nerd” and rebranded them in a way that’s now positive. “Bossy” is perfect for such rebranding.

Joshunda Sanders, in her article in The Week, also advocates rebranding negative words and says that famous women such as Tina Fey, R&B singer Kelis, and 1972 presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm already reclaimed the word “bossy” in the titles of their famous works.

What all these Ban Bossy campaign critics have in common is their belief in the importance of sending a message to girls that labels shouldn’t define them, that they can define themselves. As Sanders writes “it doesn’t matter what anyone calls you – it’s how you answer them.” In other words, don’t give the power to name-callers, understand the duality of labels, claim the positive for yourself. Fight for your version of bossy, no matter the verbal adversaries.

 

Period

By Suzanne Warshell

 Period

On a monthly basis, I am confronted with a crisis most everyone who has ever gotten a period has faced: how to handle your period at school. I have learned to discreetly put my tampon in my boot when leaving to change it during class – because God forbid anyone catches me holding it! I have put tampons in days before I am scheduled to get my period, just in case any blood leaks out beforehand. I have bought copious amounts of vaginal washes and cleansing wipes for on the go to ensure that my vagina remains in pristine condition, taught to be ashamed of when its anything… but.  I. am. done. Thus, in honor of my time of the month, my favorite video this week is Alice Wilder’s, a Girls For A Change ambassador for U by Kotex, video on periods and the stigma surrounding them.

I have felt the exact same feelings of shame and embarrassment Alice describes, because these types of feelings are exactly what society wants. Girls, and other people who get periods, are socialized from elementary school to be ashamed of their periods, to speak about them only in codewords and hidden glances. I remember a particularly panicked incident in 5th grade when a boy in my class found one of the girl’s pads. My fellow pre-teen classmates stumbled through a explanation about how they were scented tissues, terrified of the consequences that would result if he discovered what they really were. That incident happened six years ago and I am still trying to reconcile, with myself and others, that I do not need to tell men what I’m holding in my hand is a scented tissue.

This is not a phase that girls are allowed to grow out of. Fast forward to seventh grade health class; we were split up into groups of girls and boys during the sex education unit. Ignoring the issues that arise due to this gender division in the future, it did enable many of the female students to feel more comfortable asking otherwise taboo questions. One of the girls raised her hand and in a meek voice asked, “what do I tell a male teacher if I have my period during school?” Her face flushed immediately along with those of every other student present. My health teacher, a woman herself, cleared her throat and told her to “just tell them you have to go to the bathroom, they don’t need to know you’re on your period.” And she’s right, they don’t need to know I am on my period, but they don’t have to not know either. The pressure put on young girls to be polite about their period is nothing short of misogyny, causing girls to be ashamed of their own anatomy and reviled by their natural bodily functions.

Gradually, I have started holding my tampons in my hand as I walk to the bathroom and I no longer feel a need to lower my voice when talking to friends about my cramps. I’m sick of it. I am sick of being told that my period is gross or being asked if I’m being moody because my hormones are “flaring up.” The  monthly shedding of my uterine lining is not taboo, I will not be polite about it and I do not care if it makes you uncomfortable. I am angry, I have the right to be angry, and my anger will not subside in five to eight days, when it’s no longer that “time of the month.” So, in honor of Alice, and in solidarity with anyone who has ever been told that their period is something to be ashamed of, I will not be embarrassed today when I grab a tampon from my backpack, and I will not care who sees it.

Because We Can: Covergirl’s Newest Ad

By Kara Chyung

girlscan Because We Can: Covergirl’s Newest Ad

At PBG, we tend to talk more about the negative events happening in the world and with feminism; sexual assault, objectifying advertisements, and Photoshop are among the most common themes. This is understandable; since our goal is to promote the power of women, we try to address all of the negative portrayals of women that exist in our daily lives.

However, it seems that a lot has changed since I first joined PBG. Many more companies have adopted the mindset of the Dove Real Beauty Campaign, which was launched in 2004. With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches and Aerie’s Real Beauty Campaign, I am seeing more media campaigns that seek to portray real, unedited women than I was even one year ago. While these campaigns aren’t necessarily flawless (e.g. what exactly is “real beauty” anyway?), they do demonstrate a lot of positive change in the amount of respect women receive from the media.

The latest in this new stream of ads is Covergirl’s “Girls Can” advertisement, featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Katy Perry, Sofia Vergara, Janelle Monae, Pink, Queen Latifah, and ice-hockey player Natalie Wiebe. The one-minute video begins with the words “Girls can’t.” Each of the women then lists something she’s been told that she couldn’t do because she was female (“girls can’t be funny,” “girls can’t rap,” “girls can’t be strong”), and then says how she decided to ignore what others said to achieve her goals.

Toward the beginning of the ad, Ellen says, “Girls can’t. Sometimes you hear it, but more often you feel it.” I think that this summarizes perfectly the struggle with confidence and self-esteem that most girls face. While you still hear blatantly sexist language, it is usually the little things that are the biggest discouragements, like a flawless photo of your favorite celebrity in a magazine or being the only girl on your quiz bowl team. But the message of the video is that we cannot allow these obstacles to control who we are and the decisions that we make. Even though it is absolutely true, “be yourself” is a such a cliché, and what those words actually mean can sometimes unclear. But I interpret it to mean that you can be whatever you choose to be, and that being a girl should certainly not going to stop you from doing so. The world is not always a friendly environment for women, and it only will be if we have the courage to change it.

Why Madonna is my Shero

By Yas Necati

madonna Why Madonna is my Shero

“Drinking beer and smoking weed in the parking lot of my high school was not my idea of being rebellious, because that’s what everybody did. And I never wanted to do what everybody did. I thought it was cooler to not shave my legs or under my arms. I mean, why did God give us hair there anyways? Why didn’t guys have to shave there? Why was it accepted in Europe but not in America? No one could answer my questions in a satisfactory manner, so I pushed the envelope even further… But it was hard and it was lonely, and I had to dare myself every day to keep going… And I wondered if it was all worth it, but then I would pull myself together and look at a postcard of Frida Kahlo taped to my wall, and the sight of her moustache consoled me.”

Dear Madonna,

A couple years ago, when I was in school, I posted a picture of my hairy armpit on Facebook to prove that people would react and that sexism still existed. I posted this picture after reading the exact words of yours quoted above. I believed it was the right thing to do, but just like you “I wondered if it was all worth it.” Just like you, I found it “hard” and “lonely.” But then I thought, heck, if Madonna can do it, then so can I! Why should I be scared when one of the bravest women in the entire world was behind me?

But the truth is, Madonna, it’s sad that you’re considered brave for doing this. It’s upsetting that something as simple as showing the natural female body is actually “brave” in our society today. And if it’s a bold move for one of the most famous and influential women in the world to make, then how terrifying must it be for other women? Everyday women? Women who know that they don’t have tens of thousands of people behind them who will respect and support them no matter what?

In high school you were on you own, but you had Frida Kahlo. I was on my own, but I had you. And hopefully, if young women of the future ever feel alone, they’ll have you, me, and a whole feminist movement behind them.

Thank you for standing up for what’s right as a woman who’s never been afraid to defy the crowd. It’s increasingly difficult in a society with a narrow-minded, arrogant and oppressive media. Thank you for implying that women should have a choice when that media tries to box us into ideals and force us into silence and submission. Thank you for speaking up and out. You give hope and power to a future generation. And hopefully, in the future, thanks to our collective “brave” actions, hair in natural places might not actually be considered brave at all.

In solidarity,

A fan and a sister x

Princess Goldie Blox

By Kate Parsons

goldieblox Princess Goldie Blox

Today, girls and women are bombarded with advertisements that transmit an extremely narrow set of messages about girlhood and womanhood. At first glance, the advertisements for GoldieBlox seem as though they are pushing-back on the mainstream idea that girls should aim to be princesses or domestic goddesses when they grow up. The Oakland, Calif.-based company won a contest run by Intuit to launch the toy, which is aimed at a new kind of engineer: young girls. The advertisements are exciting because they aim to end the stereotype that all girls want to be princesses when they grow up. The toy really took off after their commercial during the Super Bowl. The commercial shows girls forgoing their usual toys for a more interesting and stimulating experience building and getting their hands dirty.

What I don’t get is why the infamous ad that appeared during the Super Bowl and the web and print versions of the advertisements do not match up. I applaud GoldieBlox and think that the toy is a great idea to replace domestic-themed toys with building toys for girls. But why is the print ad full of the girly colors the CEO first condemned when she walked down a toy aisle in a big-box store. Furthermore, there is actually a princess in the ad, even though the point of the toy is to move girls away from the princess dream. Will there ever be a toy that truly crosses boundaries and stereotypes? Or will girls’ toys always be purple, pink, and princess-y in order to sell?

Crying Double Standards

Guest Post By Samantha Slotnick

A few hours before my last home hockey game, I stumbled across an article that was shared by a handful of my Facebook friends. The headline read: “Mocking the US Women’s Hockey Team for Crying Over Their Loss to Canada is Sexism, Pure and Simple.”

1 Crying Double Standards

 Members of the US Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team crying after losing gold-medal game

Baffled by the title of the article, I clicked on the link to learn more. The author calls people out on their responses via twitter to the women’s team for crying. Some of the tweets she referenced included (please note that I use italics to draw attention to the shocking things people had the audacity to say): “The US women hockey team are such ungrateful assholes. The damn Swiss team is so happy with bronze & you’re crying cause you won silver;” “The women’s US hockey team crying after they lost is exactly why women shouldn’t play sports. Grow some ovaries. #GetOverIt;” “To the US women’s hockey team: ‘There’s no crying in hockey.’” I was enraged.

I followed the US Women’s Ice Hockey team’s journey in Sochi and watched the entire gold medal game versus Canada–all the way down to the devastating overtime loss. I watched the medal ceremony that immediately followed too, and quite honestly I did not even think twice about the girls crying over their loss. To me, that was normal. These 21 girls had not only trained four years to win gold in these Olympics, they had been training their entire hockey careers for this. You don’t just magically become an Olympian–it takes hard work, dedication, and a drive to succeed that is built upon year after year after year.

It was not until I sat in the locker room before the last game of my college career that I realized what hockey truly meant to me and that it was almost over. Our coach, with whom I and the other seniors have a very close bond, gave a heartfelt speech about four “little girls” who began playing the game of hockey, and shared cute little tidbits our parents sent in advance. This was when it really hit me. I thought of the relationships I built with my teammates and family, and about how important hockey has been in my life as a necessary escape from reality from time to time. Something about realizing that this game–a game that played such a prominent role in shaping who I am today and the relationships I cherish–was coming to an end, brought me to tears.

There is in fact crying in hockey. We see it every year in June with the winning team of NHL players hoisting the Stanley Cup over their heads as the losing team exits the ice as fast as possible fighting back the tears in their eyes.

2 Crying Double Standards

 Henrik Lundqvist crying after losing Eastern Conference Finals–Keeps NY Rangers Out of Stanley Cup contention

3 Crying Double Standards

Ray Borque crying after winning the Stanley Cup for the first and only time in his 22-year career

Why is it okay for grown adult males to cry when losing in a professional competition, but it is not okay for a team of females representing their country, with an average age of 23, to cry when losing the gold medal to their long-time rival?  As a female hockey player, I am not naive to the fact that I carry some bias in my argument. This issue hits close to home. As a human being though, I cannot help but wrestle with this double standard. The American culture socializes us to believe that men don’t cry; women do. But in the case of sports, why is it okay for men to cry but women cannot?

This is just one of the many contradictions female athletes face. We are expected to be strong and intimidating on the playing field, but sweet and feminine off the court– “dolled up” with makeup or sexualized in the Sports Illustrated swim suit edition. As a society we tell girls it’s not only okay to cry, but expected of them, yet attack females for crying after losing in a sport? Where is the logic? So, now I ask the really tough question: how do we work on socializing generations young and old to understand that expressing our emotions is not only okay, but actually psychologically healthy for all human beings alike?