Monday, March 1, 2010
It is imperative that college students investigate the facts and the myths that surround every cause that calls out for support. Upon hearing your friends talk, it’s easy to conclude that the play promotes the liberation and empowerment of women. If, however, you pick up a copy for yourself, reality proves quite the contrary. In the over-sexualized culture in which we live, Ensler has taken it upon herself to degrade a woman’s self-image to being solely defined by her body and sexual organs. What is empowerment? It is the focus on the dignity of the woman: her intellect, integrity, strength, and spirit. There is no liberation in chanting the word “vagina” ad infinitum as described in the chapter entitled “Reclaiming Cunt.”
Thousands of college students are lured into supporting the play each year, due to the misbelief that Ensler’s primary concern is to raise awareness regarding violence against women. Think again. She has been quoted saying, “If you had an understanding of the play, the vagina becomes the least significant thing.” Throughout the play, however, Ensler states that Monologues was penned in an attempt to rediscover her own vagina, because she frets over how, “we don’t think about them.” Instead, she should be worrying about how punishments are not severe enough for sex offenders or that self-defense techniques are not sufficiently funded.
The claim is often heard that those who oppose the play are anti-feminist. On the contrary, I propose that opponents of the play couldn’t be greater proponents of true feminism. Those who fought for our liberties and equal treatment under the law (the original feminists) were against reducing women to mere body parts, which is the very message Ensler conveys.
While we’re at it, let’s tackle another myth: Violence against women will end due to funds raised by the V-Day campaign. Although some funds are going to organizations that help victims, the play does not effectively call attention to the real issues, nor does it offer solutions. In treating women as objects, the play promotes the very attitude that often leads to sexual violence.
As an author, maintaining the credibility of your work is critical and Ensler herself says the play is based on true stories gathered from interviews of over 200 women, only to then state in her book that, “Some of the monologues are close to verbatim interviews, some are composite interviews, and with some I just began with the seed of an interview and had a good time.” There is no real evidence that these interviews were ever conducted even when you check her V-Day Web site.
Prior to cracking open the cover, I would never have guessed that within the pages I would read about a spiritually redeeming experience. The audacity of describing the rape of a young girl by an older woman in this way is repulsive. The experience is described as being “a surprising, unexpected, politically incorrect salvation.” The young girl is said to claim that this encounter raised her vagina to “a kind of heaven.” As you read through the chapter, the picture is painted of a 24-year-old woman handing the girl vodka and proceeding to violate her. What they don’t tell you is that in the original monologue the scene concluded with the lines, “If it was rape, it was good rape.”
For a play committed to combating violence against women, its logic isn’t very tight. You want to know what violence is? It’s finding that more women die of cervical cancer (caused by HPV, the human papillomavirus) every year than of AIDS-related complications every year. according to the medical journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. Condoms don’t offer protection against HPV, but Ensler wouldn’t be caught promoting premarital abstinence, even if it does safeguard against cervical cancer.
Instead of falling into our culture’s libertine approach to finding fulfillment through sex, reclaim what Valentine’s Day is truly about—love and romance. Don’t allow Ensler to define your role as a woman; you deserve much more. Instead, take a stand for your principles, voice your opinions, and empower women by celebrating their strength, intellect, and integrity. Promote human dignity and respect, not degradation and debasement.
Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste and long time New York Post columnist, lays it out perfectly when she says, “there is no dignity in a society that encourages touching another person’s body but not allowing that person to touch your heart.”
Monday, February 1, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Everyone seems to have a different definition for the term "hooking up". It can mean anything from kissing to oral sex and everything in between. It has been deemed the umbrella term that allows for privacy from others. No one knows what students mean when they use it and it gives them the opportunity to not have to go into detail with their friends.
For a while now, this has been a topic of heated debate on campuses, causing many people to wonder how we got to this point. Why are so many students succumbing to this trend?
You might recall hearing the voices of your parents right before leaving for school, or perhaps the president of the college during orientation telling you something along the lines of, "Who knows, in the crowd of people you meet this year, there could be that person who might one day be your spouse." And so, you embarked on this four-year experience believing, perhaps not wanting to admit, that somewhere amidst the teeming campus is your true love.
Upon arriving on campus, however, mixing and mingling with upperclassmen, you soon came to realize that relationships and dating, as they once were (the old-fashioned notion), have been replaced with drinking and hookups. We apparently have no time for relationships, so why bother? Instead, we get the message we should go for the no-strings-attached, fast and easy, fun approach. But is the experience really fun and worth it?
Studies show that objectifying your partner plays a definite role in this process and if you ask most girls, it's all about the guy. Many feminists have tried to sell the hookup culture on the grounds that it's empowering to women: "I'll screw him before he gets the chance to screw me." The underlying theme here seems to me to be fear -- fear of rejection, fear of commitment, fear that he won't really like me. Fear is what has been driving girls to the hookup scene for a while now.
Yet, here is my question: How is this empowerment? Don't you see he's getting what he wants either way? Even if you think you are more self confident because you took the first step, got what you wanted, and got out, that doesn't change the fact that you are making it faster and easier for him to get what he wants and leave. Since when did being comfortable with your sexuality equate to hooking up, having sex, and everything in between?
By giving into this culture that pushes instant gratification at all costs and downplays feelings and emotions, you are not rebelling, standing out, empowering yourself, or making a difference. Instead, you're doing the complete opposite: you are pushing yourself into a corner, reprogramming yourself to repel love (yes, love, that nearly foreign word that seems to have joined the dinosaurs in the land of extinction), attempting to hardwire your emotions to an on and off switch. In the future, when you are ready to experience a real relationship, it will be a lot harder to turn on.
Why sacrifice who you are, what you feel and what you want? Why is everyone so scared of being the good girl? By saying no, you are standing out, making a difference, and all eyes will be on you...no more blending into the crowd of micro-minis, stilettos, over-the-top intoxication, and submissive attitudes.
So, the next time you are approached at a party or bar by some guy who has downed way too many Heinekens for his own good, asking you for your number and slowly making his move to "take you back to my room", try saying no. One of two things will happen: He will either walk away, or say, "Okay, I respect that," and if he means it he'll call you, because you weren't one of the other girls, you were the one that gave him a challenge to pursue.
What girls don't realize is that they have the power to bring back dating and romance. All it takes is breaking from the conformist ignorance everyone seems to be living in and making one's own decisions.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I have to admit, I’m not the most avid TV watcher nor do I ever really know what’s playing at the movies until I’m standing at the ticket line (there have, however, been a few exceptions). Generally, with so much work in the evenings, it’s difficult to find time to plop down in front of the screen, but even I have been subject to a few head turning experiences in the past months. The most striking has been the surge of TV dramas, sitcoms, and talk shows touching on the topic of teen pregnancy. There was a recent movie on Lifetime based on the scandal at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts that made headlines back in 2008, after an article in Time Magazine reported on the alleged “pregnancy pact” between 17 girls in June of 2008.
Some of you might also recall the Today Show interview with Tyra Banks conducted by Matt Lauer in 2008, where stats of an on-line survey posted by her show revealed the following findings: on average, girls are losing their virginity at the age of 15, one in three fears having a sexually transmitted disease, 24% of teens say that they continue engaging in sexual behavior even after having contracted STDs, and one of my personal favorites (as if the former haven’t been sufficiently startling), that one in five girls claims to desire being a teen mom. What is going on? Has our society finally reached the point where teen girls can find themselves pregnant and know that it will no longer be frowned upon? I’m sure we can thank the ever-relentless fight against repression and intolerance by Planned Parenthood and SIECUS, continually urging women of all ages to liberate themselves from the bondage of traditional values by accepting any consensual sexual encounter.
It seems, from shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, that through society’s attempt to not pass judgment on the sex lives of teens, it has managed to reverse the once closely guarded principle that pregnancy out of marriage is out of its proper context and unacceptable. Now, not only is it assumed that guys and girls are going to have sex, in particular given the message being conveyed when schools hand them condoms and teach them “safe sex” practices, but now, it’s also taken into account that realistically, they could be pregnant by the age of 15. In a way, it’s like handing a teen a six pack and telling them that as long as it’s consumed at home, it will be allowed, only to later find out that they’re raging alcoholic a couple months later. Not a surprising outcome when the process was so conveniently facilitated. Even though shows like the ones mentioned above show the hardships young mothers undergo, you would be hard-pressed not to find multiple instances where the scene depicted would lead you to believe that pregnancy at 16 is almost a right of passage.
Society has been lowering standards for decades now by supplying contraception, offering abortion and the morning after-pill as options that are being treated like any other method of pregnancy prevention, and justifying these actions with claims that no matter what, teenagers should be fully in control of their sex-lives and the choices they make in experimenting with their sexuality. Why are we allowing kids to make grown-up decisions? Remember when you used to ask your dad to explain something to you when you were, let’s say, ten, but instead he’d respond saying, “You’ll understand when you’re older.” I would get that constantly and would end up frustrated for hours until I found something else to focus on. Hopefully, as we have progressed through life we have come to realize that like those instances, we can’t always fully comprehend the repercussions of the actions we take and the decisions we make. It’s the culmination of all these individual learning experiences that prepare us for what lies ahead: college, grad school, relationships, our profession, marriage, and family life.
Pregnancy is not something that young teens should ever be concerned with. No matter how ready, capable, self-reliant, motivated, and full of support they find themselves to be. There is a time and a place for everything and when done in the right context all things work out. Pregnancy at a young age is asking to engage in an experience beyond one’s years and one that if experienced too young prevents all the proper elements from being fully present: most cases are lacking a father, available income, a stable home, the support of the grandparents, and a secure environment in which to raise the baby.
Through the portrayal of young mothers in the media, it is often offered up as a reason, that they don’t regret their decision to have sex because now they have a b
aby that will always love her no matter what happens. She might be left to raise the child without the father, face shame and humiliation in school, rely on the aid of her parents, accept the possibility of not being able to finish school, among many other setbacks, but her baby will always be there for her.
In my personal opinion, it seems to me that these girls are si
mply craving attention from certain areas of their lives. They feel that by carrying a child for nine months and raising it on their own, they will never have to look for someone else to supply the care and affection that they need. At any age, given the wrong context, a baby is not the answer. Women need to focus instead on finding fulfillment and elevating their confidence before raising a child. You cannot convey such self-assurance to your child if you don’t posses it yourself.
In conclusion, society has found a way to inadvertently condone teenage pregnancy (especially since you always have “options,” right?). We have to start making sure that girls know the true consequences of having sex and bringing a human being into the world. For those who are subject to a pregnancy at a young age, help and support should always be provided, but the message should be sent to woman everywhere that life is precious and too short; everything happens in good time, patience is a virtue and if you take your goals and ambitions seriously, prioritize, and strive for a healthy and stable lifestyle you will end up with no regrets and accompanied by years of happiness.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
On sidewalks, buildings, in train stations nationwide, Dockers tells the male population of America “Face it, You’re a Man.” These bold words are part of their most recent “Wear the Pants” campaign, where they call upon men to stand up to embrace strength and masculinity. Read the words of their Man-ifesto:
In a post-feminist revolution world, it may seem counter-cultural to hear (or see) a message such as this one plastered conspicuously on every billboard. We find it surprisingly refreshing. Some feminists bemoan the “call of manhood” and wonder whether patriarchal norms are once again rearing their ugly heads, but we find no reason for concern. On the contrary, given its popularity already, Docker’s message could potentially launch a cultural trend where noble masculinity is once again esteemed, and viewed not as a threat, but as a valuable and enriching quality.
Jennifer Sey, Vice-president for Docker’s global marketing campaign, speaks candidly to Brandweek about the struggles that men face in today’s culture. Women now outnumber men in the work-force, and men are increasingly disillusioned and confused about what an authentic masculine role might look like. Through the “Wear the Pants” campaign, Jennifer hopes to breathe life back into a dying understanding of manhood:
Men have told us that they are expected to be more sensitive, to do more at home. They are confused about what it means to be a man today. This led us to the pants idea and essentially, the goal is to provide empathy and encouragement, but also a sense of humor and to help define the new modern idea of man, which includes sensitivity, chivalry, ambition, decisiveness, as well as empathy, so we can inspire today’s men to be men.The feminist revolution did more than redefine the woman’s role in society – there has been a shift in understanding of how a man is expected to function and flourish. Qualities such as sensitivity, understanding, and good communication skills are lauded and encouraged, while chivalry, courage, and ambition are regarded as remnants of an oppressive patriarchal system.
Kevin Kwasnik, grad student and contributing writer for Prolife Propatria, celebrates the Dockers statements with some equally thought-provoking assertions of his own:
“You know a tree by its fruit. Though humorous in tone, the Dockers Man-ifesto relays a nugget of profound truth: the indifference of men leads to the destruction of society, the foolishness of the youth, and the susceptibility of the weak. If our society is to flourish men need to step up and fill the gap. Men must rebuild the structural incontinence of their society, they must guide the foolhardy youth, and they must serve the weakest and most infirm of their brethren. Men, step up and produce good and holy fruit in a society that is starving for authentic manhood.”We sympathize with Kevin and would also like to echo the words of Leo Keliher, co-president for Harvard’s True Love Revolution: “Manhood really has been swept away in modern society, leaving many men no more mature than teenagers, just bigger and with more work skills. It’s time to bring back real men, confident leaders focused on service to women and children. Khakis are optional.”
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