What Not to Wear…5-Year-Old Edition

What Not to Wear…5-Year-Old Edition

Ahh….School dress codes. What a wonderful way to police what young women wear, while shaming them for having shoulders and legs and simultaneously telling them that it is their responsibility to keep young men’s minds on their studies, instead of sex (as if there is any way to keep adolescents minds off of sex.)

I suppose I understand the need for dress codes. I get that people should be dressed “appropriately” for school, and that if there’s not a rule against certain things, some (small percentage of) students will wear something legitimately distracting (like a balloon hat… or a flashing neon light-up tank top!). But…it seems to me like dress codes are just one more way for society to sexualize women and blame victims of sexual harassment and assault.

For the past few years, articles about schools’ ridiculously sexist dress code policies start popping up in the spring. In fact, last summer Jezebel put out an entire guide of “How to Tell if Your Dress Code is Sexist.” But this one is one of the craziest I’ve seen. A 5-year old (FIVE YEAR OLD!) was required to put a t-shirt and jeans on over her spaghetti-strap dress because it violated the school’s dress code.

I just don’t get it. If this dress too revealing?! (Revealing of what?!) Will the other children be distracted?! (Again distracted by what?!)

I suppose that the school could say that they have to have the same rules for all students or it would be unfair. Which does make sense, but then that brings us back to the initial problem with dress codes. What, exactly, is it about a spaghetti strap that ruins the educational environment? And who’s educational environment are we actually discussing? Clearly, it’s not the person who is wearing the spaghetti strap. No, she is quite comfortable. I have a feeling it’s the young men we’re worried about (and the other young women, but that NEVER comes up. Our society is still far too hetero-centric). We want to protect the young men from the dangers of a woman’s body. We understand that young men cannot control their own sexual desires. Never mind that women have sexual desires too. Never mind that someone can be attracted to another person for a reason other than his/her body.

I can’t help but feel angry that this is now starting with 5-year olds. 5-year olds, who barely know what sex is and are most definitely not yet having sexual desires, are now being penalized for being too sexual. I just can’t handle how ridiculous it has become.

I’m not anti-dress code. I’m really not. But we’ve got to stop thinking of women as sexual objects and finding ways to neutralize their power. It’s 2015 you guys. Let’s stop shaming women for their bodies.


High School Heroines

High School Heroines


Although it’s happening more and more these days, it’s still newsworthy when people stand up to fight sexism in our society. Especially when they’re in high school. In Utah.

Last month, a group of Young Democrats at Jordan High School held a bake-sale to raise awareness about a very important issue: the wage gap between men and women’s earnings. To do this, they charged young women $0.77 per item, and young men payed $1.00. They did this to highlight that, according to the US Census Bureau, in 2012 on average women were still making just 77 cents to the dollar that men made. So… fair’s fair, right?

Not in internet land! Let the comments begin (I know, I did it again! I’m just trying to make myself angry at this point…):

There’s a few people saying that the wage gap disappears when controlling for certain factors… one woman who cheers on the young kids… another few people who say the Census Bureau is wrong (never any citations, by the way!)…and then… there it is. There’s the battle cry I was looking for. A man complaining that this is discrimination against men. “Celebrate gender equality by being unequal? I guess they don’t teach what the word ‘equality’ means anymore” and a bit later on in his post, “this is blatant sexism masking itself as social justice.”

“This is blatant sexism masking itself as social justice.”

Is it though? Is it really blatant sexism? I don’t think so, sir (the commentor identifies himself as a “guy” in his post, for the record). I would argue that it is not blatant sexism. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. These students are raising awareness that our society still values men *just a little bit more* than women. Sure, it’s only 23 cents more, but that’s more folks. Contrary to what the other commentors on the page said, lots of studies have been conducted controlling for factors like equal work, experience, education, etc. And the gap still exists. So these young people raising awareness that our system is not fair, that our system pays women less for the same work, that our system is sexist? That’s not sexism. That’s fighting against it.

Now, do I think that everything should be priced differently for men and women? Absolutely not, that doesn’t make sense (But it does make me consider why items that are “for women” are so freaking expensive. Anyone buy a box of tampons lately? What about a “female condom”? That stuff is EXPENSIVE….)  But a group of teenagers putting on a bake sale to raise awareness about gender inequality is not discrimination against men. It’s a group of high school heroines.


Adding Insult to Injury

Adding Insult to Injury


As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a problem with our current health insurance system (who doesn’t?!) — specifically with how for the vast majority of people with insurance through their jobs, employers hold power over what should be an individual decision about their health care. As was horrifically evidenced in the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, this linkage allows strangers to have power over which health care options are available to us as consumers, and — completely unsurprisingly — the powers-that-be most often make decisions that disproportionately negatively impact women. And why do these laws allowing these people to make decisions about my health exist? Because, as my hero Dan Savage has frequently said in pointing out the hypocrisy of right-wing politicians, “Conservatives want small government. They want it so small that it can fit inside a woman’s vagina.” So much for personal liberty, eh?

But it isn’t just employers who have the power to make decisions for women. No, it’s pharmacists, too. In early April, a woman named Brittany Cartrett had a miscarriage just five or six weeks into her pregnancy. Her doctor kindly wrote her a prescription for a medication that would allow her to pass the miscarriage without an invasive procedure called a D&C. However, when Cartrett went to the local WalMart pharmacy to fill the prescription, she was told “no.” Apparently, the prescribed medication can also be used to induce abortions and — even though this was not Cartrett or her doctor’s intended use of the medication — the pharmacist stated that she “couldn’t think of a valid reason why [someone] would need this prescription.”

This is a prime example of the country’s cultural and institutional sexism. Six states currently have a law on the books that allows providers to refuse reproductive-related healthcare services to individuals based upon their own religious beliefs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that these individuals have the right to feel however they want to about religion and procreation. But that should not prohibit them from providing services. That goes beyond the scope of their role. That is not their job.

But, is this truly sexist? Isn’t this more of a religious freedom issue than one of sexism? Some could argue that point. But, I chose to include this story, because we don’t see men being denied anything that their doctor has said is necessary. In fact, there’s no debate as to whether health insurance should cover vasectomies or Viagra for men. But when women want to be in control of their bodies, when women choose to make decisions about how and when they reproduce, that’s when conflicts arise. That’s when pharmacists refuse to provide medication, not for anything related to how the drugs will be used, but based on how they could potentially be used. And that, in my opinion, is sexist.


Shame on UPS

Shame on UPS

Before I begin, a disclaimer. The United States Court system is incredibly complicated. Over the past few years, I’ve begun to understand the system a bit better, but forgive me if I mistakenly present incorrect information about this lawsuit, the courts’ initial decision, and the Supreme Court’s ruling. I’ll do my best.

In October of 2008, Peggy Young sued her former employer UPS under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, for refusing to accommodate her doctor’s orders that she do no heavy lifting (i.e. boxes over 20 pounds) throughout her pregnancy. Rather than transfer her to a job as a truck driver or give her “light duty,” UPS decided to place her on an extended, unpaid leave of absence, during which she lost her health insurance.

Young and her attorneys appealed this decision (twice), and the case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, where — in a shocking turn of events — the majority decided that Young did have the right to sue under the Act. (This is where it gets tricky, the Supreme Court did not actually make a decision on Young’s case. Rather, they bumped it back down to the Fourth Circuit Court, who will decide whether UPS discriminated against her).

Legalese is extremely complicated, but it seems that UPS argued that because their decision to place her on leave was “pregnancy-blind” (meaning that they were considering her “disability” as if it were an injury she obtained off-the-job), she did not deserve any special treatment, and they were not discriminating against her.

A few problems with this: (1) I am still not entirely sure how I feel about people referring to pregnancy as a disability; although we discussed this issue ad nauseam in class, and I know it’s incredibly hard to come up with a definition for that word, it just rubs me the wrong way. And (2) Corporations are heartless.

I understand that it affects the bottom line of a company if an employer gets injured — or pregnant — off the job. But how is it acceptable for the company to put a person on unpaid leave, leading the individual to lose their health insurance when they need it most? (All of this makes me want to jump on my soapbox to talk about how health insurance should never be tied to employment. Every person should have health insurance, whether they are employed or not. It’s a public health issue and our employers should have nothing to do with our bodies… BUT that’s another issue, so I’ll leave it at that.) Employees who choose to have a baby — or God-forbid, get injured — should have the right to remain in their jobs for as long as they healthfully can! Accommodations should absolutely be made in these cases.

I can’t help but think that corporations would treat pregnancy entirely differently if it were men who carried the babies. I have a feeling that companies would be bending over backwards to ensure that men could stay in their jobs throughout their pregnancies, with as little disruption as possible. Allowing them all sorts of accommodations. And think, if men were the ones who were pregnant, companies would already have set policies about how to best keep men happy during this time of their lives. Because they would have written these rules in for themselves at the start. And of course, each and every health insurance policy would make sure to cover fertility-related expenses, all forms of contraceptives, and labor costs. Because men think of men. And our culture follows suit. Men are valued. Men are respected. And women… oh yeah…. I guess we have to deal with them too now.

I’m really glad the Supreme Court said that Peggy Young had the right to sue. Now I just hope that the Fourth Circuit recognizes that UPS’s policy was discriminatory. Apparently, UPS already realized it because *spoiler alert, * they changed their policy; probably due to the terrible press they were getting for being a sexist company. It’s too bad that it takes these long, drawn-out expensive lawsuits to change our culture around sexism. But hey, one corporation at a time. At least there’s change.


Division of Labor

Division of Labor

When it comes to roommates, I would rather live with men than women. It’s nothing against women. I’m not the type of woman who claims that “I have no girl friends” or that “I just get along better with men” or even that “I’m one of the guys.” I love my female friends, and I have a lot of them. But in general, in my experience, I have had much easier, much lower-conflict roommate situations when living with men.

Whenever I tell people this, I always get the same response, “But boys are so messy!” (This, too, is a sexist comment, making a lot of assumptions about the men), but I usually agree. “Yes, they are. But I’m kind of a clean freak no matter what, so I don’t mind picking up after them.”

In general, this is true. I’m a very clean person, and I often find myself cleaning up after my roommates. Usually I just assume (rightfully so, this assumption is based on experience, after all) that they probably won’t clean to my standards, so I’ll probably end up cleaning even after they have cleaned.

I never thought about this as a sexist issue, until I was telling a girl friend about a recent experience.

I came home two nights ago, opened up the fridge to get some water, and realized that the bottom of the fridge was covered in coke. There was a 2-liter laying on its side on the bottom shelf, and the cap hadn’t been screwed on all the way. Normally, I would have immediately pulled out the crisper drawers and started cleaning. But… it’s finals. I’m stressed, and I’m moving out in a few weeks. I just didn’t have the energy. So, I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself that it’s OK for things to be dirty for a few hours, and waited until my roommate G came home.

When he walked in the door, I immediately became nervous. Remember, that since I always clean up after the roommates, I am not very well skilled in asking them to do chores. But I knew it had to happen. So I allowed him some time to settle in, then I asked, “Hey G, is that your coke in the fridge?” “Umm… yeah.” “Ok cool. It seems to have spilled all over the bottom of the fridge. Do you mind taking care of that?”

I DID IT! I asked him to clean up after himself! I am strong! I can handle confrontation.

And he did. He seemed to do so begrudgingly (I heard some huffs and puffs), but he did it.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I walked into the kitchen that I realized that in cleaning out the fridge, he got sticky soda all over the kitchen floor. I paused. I thought, “can I wait until tonight to have this cleaned up?” Ultimately, I could not. I did not. I just brought out the mop and dealt with it myself.

So… I was relaying this story to my friend. And she immediately said, “You should write about this in your blog!” And she’s right, but I hadn’t really thought about it before. What does it say about me that I would rather clean up after my (male) roommate rather than just have a conversation. Am I cleaning up after them because they’re men? Do they expect me to clean up after them because they’re men? Is this sexism or is this just me being a clean-freak?

Ultimately, I think it’s somewhere in between: I probably clean more because I’m borderline obsessive AND because I’m a woman who has been socialized to take care of others. But it’s definitely something to keep in mind for the future, especially as I move into an apartment with my partner. What is expected of me? What is expected of him? And how can we ensure that there’s a fair division of labor in our home?


Wow… just… Wow.

Wow… just… Wow.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/pregnant-model-sarah-stage-defends-tiny-baby-bump/story?id=29551634pregnant model

I came across these photos on my friend’s facebook page. She has apparently deleted the post since I last saw it, but her comment said something to the effect of, “This woman is going to make men of my generation think that all women look like this when they are 8 months pregnant. MEN: YOUR WIVES WILL NOT LOOK LIKE THIS.”

All I could think is: wow. These photos — this woman’s post — clearly touches on femininist issues, but… is it sexist? Before I can come to any conclusions, I need to break down the layers of emotional response that these pictures bring up.

First, this picture has clearly made women feel badly about themselves. I’ve never been pregnant, but my sister had her second child last December, and I remember very specifically that she did not look like this. And, she absolutely did not feel like taking selfies in a bra and panties. Also, my friend who originally posted this link was obviously upset. She is currently 8 months pregnant, and — like most women — is not currently able to see her abs.

Then, there’s the backlash that this model experienced for posting these pictures. Her instagram feed was covered with comments, expressing that she was “obviously” unhealthy; that she was doing something wrong; that she needed medical attention. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’ve never seen a 37 week pregnant woman with a baby bump this small. But I’m not a doctor, and I know there’s an entire television show called “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant,” so clearly pregnancy looks different for different people. Who am I to shame her for how her body has responded to pregnancy.

Finally, why is she posting these pictures to begin with? Who is she posting them for? Granted, she is a model, so she’s probably used to posing for pictures in her bra and panties. But what does it say about our society, that we are sexualizing and objectifying women even when they are nearly 9 months pregnant?!

I feel really conflicted about this woman’s post. I’m lucky (and happy) because these pictures don’t make me feel bad about my own body. With that said, I totally understand the impact it could have on a woman who is currently (or recently) pregnant. It also makes me a little bit sad that this woman is being so objectified. But on the other hand, she is happy with how her body looks and she’s proud of her appearance, so that makes me feel bad about feeling sad. Finally, are the women who are harassing this model for being “too skinny” propagating sexism by body-shaming? I just… I just don’t quite know how to feel.

Why is it so complicated? Why can’t I just look at her photos and rather than think about her motivation for posting the photos, the intent behind her internet commenters, the anger and shame that these photos “make” other pregnant women feel, why can’t I just accept that she is a really fit pregnant woman and think, “Wow… just… Wow.”


***UPDATE*** As I was writing this post, I found out that the model Sarah Stage delivered a healthy baby boy. He weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces. I say it again. WOW.

Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part Two

Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part Two

As we are all approaching graduation and beginning the (super fun and not-at-all stressful) process of finding jobs, I thought it was appropriate to discuss salary negotiations. According to economists and authors of the book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation — and Positive Strategies for Change, “men ask for what they want twice as often as women do and initiate negotiation four times more.” This ultimately means that over the course of a woman’s career, she may sacrifice over half a million dollars worth of earnings. Because she didn’t ask.

Now, I want to take a moment to recognize that this language is a bit victim-blaming. The title of the book “Women Don’t Ask” seems to be saying that women are not doing something that they should do; they are not doing something that men do. In our society, being a man is the norm, the standard to which everything else is compared. While I do not at all agree that this is the way our society should be, it would be foolish to argue that it’s not. So I am in support of ways to “level the playing field” as it were.

This book is one way. It speaks about how women can become more comfortable negotiating, and it offers strategies for women to ask for what they want without coming across as aggressive. (Don’t forget, it’s “aggressive” when women ask; it’s “confident” when men do…).

Ellen Pao, has another way. As the interim CEO of Reddit, she proposed getting rid of negotiations all together. She stated that “There’s no way [for women] to win,” in reference to the well-documented fact that even when women do negotiate, they experience negative consequences. In one 2006 study (linked to in the above article), the average evaluator’s willingness to work with an individual who negotiated went down 5.5 times more when the negotiator was a woman.

Getting rid of negotiations during the interview process could certainly help reduce the disparity between men and women’s starting salaries. And it has the added perk of not shaming or blaming women for behaving exactly how our sexist culture has socialized us to behave. Ellen Pao, I think you’re awesome.