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Talking Sex

Author:

By Guest Blogger Janie O’Halloran

sex

Can you remember a time in your life when you felt so incredibly uncomfortable and awkward? I sure can. I was sitting in my ninth grade health class during the sexual education unit. Our class was taught by Mr. H, the most feared and mysterious man who walked the halls of our high school. He was also the head coach for the varsity football team, and exactly the kind of man I wanted to go to for all of my burning questions about sex−not.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure that Mr. H was a quality guy, just not the guy I felt comfortable asking what it means to ‘pop one’s cherry’? So I didn’t ask, and no one else in my class did, either. I think all of us were scared that our curiosity would suggest we were either having sex or thinking about having sex− two things that none of us, boy or girl, wanted Mr. H to know about us. As you can imagine, a lot of the questions we had about sex remained as questions.

Like many schools in the U.S., our sex education stressed abstinence and the plethora of STDs we were bound to get if we did engage in sexual activity. There was so much missing in our health class conversations. Important stuff, like relationships, sexual pleasure, and desire. Nobody talked about these experiences and feelings so we weren’t sure they were okay. Any hint of desire was about adolescent boys —assumptions that they were innately inflicted with “sex on the brain.” They wanted it. They were naturally horny and they simply couldn’t help it. But what were we? Our desire was missing. We were passive, the cause and objects of boys’ desire. So we learned by our absence that if one of us engaged in sex it was not because we wanted to, but because of a boy’s unrelenting testosterone.

Fortunately for girls out there who are experiencing their own Mr. H, there’s a way to fill in this missing information about ourselves. Scarleteen.com is an online “sex education for the real world” that every girl should know about. This website provides a place where girls and young women can engage in a free and open discussion about sex, filling in all of the topics left out of traditional sex education classes, like girls’ sexual wants and desires. Scarleteen allows girls to ask questions about sex, take polls, and gives us an opportunity to share and read the sex testimonials of other girls.

Reading this amazing site makes me more certain then ever that we need a discourse of girls’ desire in our schools’ sex education classes, not only because there are still so many girls without access to the internet, but because this conversation is fundamental to what makes us human. Perhaps if I had known about Scarleteen when I was in Mr. H’s class, then I wouldn’t have gone through most of my teenage years thinking there was actually a “cherry” that I was terrified to pop.

Dove’s Definition of Beauty Exposed

Author:

By Guest Blogger Kylie VanBuren

 

urlWhen the Dove Real Beauty Sketches Campaign came out last year, I watched the video and cried. I’ll admit that it was a rainy night, and it had been a long week.

I forwarded the video to a friend after I watched it, with this note, “It’s nothing complicated, pretty much what you would expect, but maybe it’s expected because it is this simple. Anyways I found it powerful.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=litXW91UauE

The video touched me, yet even in this emotional state, I found the ending to be very obvious. I expected the women to say bad things about themselves, and I expected them to have their opinions changed and to realize that they were actually beautiful after all.

The next day the conversation came up with another friend who had just seen the video, and I mentioned that I guessed the theme of the video. She pointed out that it was a little weird that I could figure it out so easily, and her comment got me thinking.

I began to question why the theme was so clear to me. And why did it affect me so much to see other women tear themselves down so easily, realize they were beautiful all along, and that they had work to do on their self-esteem. This is the question I come back to again. What is Dove doing and why does the company continually want us to realize our outer beauty? Who defines beauty? I mean, instead of just being happy with ourselves (something I still think is really important). Shouldn’t we also be questioning the whole beauty industrial complex, of which Dove is a part, and how they make us feel bad if we don’t feel good about how we look?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRXe7KUQxYI

I think so.  I found myself thinking about the Dove campaign more thoroughly, reading critiques of it, and watching this spoof video, and I realized that Dove is still pushing the idea of physical, outer beauty above all else. They are selling Dove; associating being happy with your body and finding your own, “natural” beauty, with the products they are selling.

This is bad enough, but do you know that Dove’s parent company is Unilever? What other beauty product company does Unilever own? AXE. AXE is marketed in clearly sexist ways that degrade and objectify women. AXE sells women to men. Dove sells beauty to women.

Axe The Dirtier You Get

Axe Any Excuse to Get Dirty ad

What kind of beauty? Physical beauty. The kind of outer beauty that women must be obsessed with and reduced to. It does not matter how many advances we make in the corporate world, or how smart we are, or how powerful we are. We must still achieve the unattainable happiness of our own perfection; and Dove will help get us there because Dove is different. Except that it’s not, it’s just another marketing campaign. It’s just trying to tear us down.

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10 Companies that Run the World

Why I Was So Hesitant to Take on the Feminist Label, and What It Means to Me

Author:

Guest Blog By Grace Dickinson

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 7.19.13 AM

The absolute most important thing to know about feminism is that I can define it for myself. For so long I struggled with adopting the label feminist—The F-word.  While at the end of the day I knew I believed in most of the ideals feminism supports, the notion of being a feminist always sparked worry that I would be seen as a bitchy, power hungry, angry woman—something I knew I wasn’t. I know a lot of people share this image, and, while there are definitely those types of people out there, it is important, no, vital to know that they do not define feminism. What I have come to realize is that feminism, activism, all of those words that seem to encompass feminist work and ideals, can actually be embodied in small, individual, personal actions and decisions.

What I mean to say is that feminism is not a burn your bra belief that women should rule the world. Feminism can be as easy as sticking up for another girl being sexually or racially harassed, even if you aren’t friends with her. Feminism can be as simple as deciding not to use derogatory words about other girls such as fat, dyke (used as an insult), or slut. I used to fear the feminist label because I thought boys and other girls would call me a bitch, but since when did it become bitchy to want equality?  To paraphrase of the incomparable feminist Audre Lorde, if we don’t speak up now, for ourselves, no one will speak for us.  If we don’t act now, will we later regret our silence?

This doesn’t mean every girl everywhere needs to start calling herself a feminist, but it is important to know that in it’s truth, the movement calls for equality. And while we don’t all need to take on big causes or march in protest to be heard, we cannot be silent. The facts tell us that girls are too often afraid to speak up in class for fear of being called bossy; that by middle school, girls worry that participating in sports will mean others see them as lesbian, like that’s somehow a bad thing. Challenging these limited conceptions doesn’t have to mean arranging sit-ins and waving flags of protest. I’m learning that it can be as simple as sticking up for other girls’ right to be who they are and want to be without labels.

At the end of the day, no matter what your beliefs and actions, it is essential that we don’t shy away from feminism simply because of it’s misconceptions; because whether I decide to organize a conversation on sexual assault or simply support those girls and women around me, that’s feminism, and I’m damn proud of it.

 

 

Childhood Flashback

Author:

By Kara Chyung

Manners-book

Did anyone else grow up thumbing through American Girl’s guides to health, friends, and manners, or poring through their quiz books with your friends? I certainly did. Funnily enough, The Care of Keeping You, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friends, A Girl’s Guide to Money, and a few others still have a place on my bookshelf, although they remained untouched until recently.

The other day, as I was rummaging through my room, I came across A Girl’s Guide to Manners. I smiled as I looked through its pages, remembering fondly how well-informed I felt after reading about which foods should and shouldn’t be eaten with your fingers. I then went and found The Care of Keeping You (this seems to be by far the most popular American Girl book), and as I read, I was amazed at how different it felt to read it when I was no longer a scared eleven-year-old, when my friends and I combined had experienced the eating disorders, the hormonal moodiness, and the acne described in its pages.

At first, you may not think that any sort of girl-empowerment would be found in a product of American Girl, whose dolls are often criticized for their exorbitant prices. But as I looked through my other American Girl guides, I realized that many of the basic messages about self-respect, self-esteem, kindness, and empathy were first imparted to me through these books. It’s nice to know that there is a company out there that seeks to nourish young girls physical, mental, and emotional health and help guide them through difficult situations.

I wish that there was an equivalent series for boys. Perhaps one exists, but if so, it isn’t nearly as prominent. Should boys and girls be educated differently about how to approach difficult topics? How different would A Boy’s Guide to Manners be from the female equivalent? Does the fact that these types of guidance books are more available girls than to boys girls indicate anything?

They may seem like silly books full of trite advice, but it’s important to be aware of the messages that we are imparting to children. These are the ideas that they will carry with them into their adulthood.

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