Emily Kane Talks About The Gender Trap

GenderTrapImageFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Emily Kane, Professor in Sociology and author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls.

1. You have written extensively about gender and childhood. How did this interest come about?
My research had previously focused on how adults think about gender inequalities, and their interconnections with inequalities of race, class and sexuality, mostly in the contemporary United States but with a bit of international comparative work as well. My focus there was on inequalities in the adult world- in workplaces, the division of labor in households, etc. I’d been interested in what kinds of people are more likely to recognize gender inequalities as existing, how they evaluated those inequalities (i.e., whether they thought they were problematic or not), and what- if anything- they thought should be done about them. Then I had children, and that experience brought more of my attention into children’s worlds. As I spent time at day care centers and preschools, on playgrounds, in play groups, and as I visited children’s clothing and toy stores, as I read children’s books and watched children’s movies, I became more and more interested in how deeply gendered young children’s worlds were. And I become increasingly interested in how that early gendering helped build the foundation for gendered patterns in the adult world. [Read more...]

Nudity on the Cover

kelly-rowland-talk-a-good-game-artworkMost female musicians, no matter how talented they are, tend to become more sexualized over time from when their career starts to when they “peak.” This sexualization is especially noticeable in photo shoots, magazine spreads, music videos and on album covers. It is therefore interesting to think about how these musicians got started. Many were young when they began singing, such as Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and Taylor Swift. In the beginning, these artists are often less overtly “sexy,” but after a while, they all start looking the same, and nudity becomes a very common element in their performances.

Since CD sales are dwindling, nudity or partial nudity on the covers may be one way to bump up sales, even though you do not see many male musicians nude on the covers. At the same time one can make the argument that showing of ones body is an act of empowerment, self-confidence and originality, one that comes with maturity and self-awareness. In fact, this statement is often made, pointing to women’s sexuality as a tool to be used to gain power. However, it seems as if nudity and “sexiness” are now so routine that all women are expected to embrace these standards.

The female body is beautiful, but does it have to be on display at all times? The trend of sexiness seems to be here to stay, but I often find it tiresome. The saying goes, “sex sells,” and that seems to be true, but the underlying message of that catchphrase is that women constantly need to be sexy, because their talent comes second to their appearance, no matter how successful they are or how hard they work.  [Read more...]

Carlos A. Ball Talks About His Book “The Right to Be Parents”

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Today I am very excited to introduce Professor Carlos A. Ball, author of The Right to Be Parents, From the Closet to the Courtroom and The Morality of Gay Rights. I asked Carlos a few questions about his latest book The Right to Be Parents.

1. What was your inspiration for writing The Right to Be Parents?

I wanted to bring attention to the committed and courageous LGBT parents who have turned to the courts to protect their relationships with their children. While the issue of same-sex marriage has received an immense amount of attention by the media and the public, there has been a quieter revolution going on in terms of getting many courts to recognize and protect the relationships between LGBT parents and their children. I had previously written a book about the amazing human stories behind some of the leading LGBT rights lawsuits, but none of those cases involved parents. So I wanted to dedicate an entire book to this important subject.

2. In The Right to Be Parents you include extremely powerful stories of both success and discrimination that really highlight the struggles for LGBT families. How did you go about choosing the various stories?

I chose the cases based on a combination of their legal importance and the extent to which materials about them are available to researchers like me. As time goes on, it becomes especially important to honor and recognize some of the pioneering LGBT parents who, in the 1970s and 1980s, fought for their children in the courts before there was any real social acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships. It is important to me that the stories of these parents not be lost to history. I hope that my book contributes in some small ways to that process.

3. Over time, LGBT individuals and couples have gained many judicial rights when it comes to parenthood, but discrimination is still rampant. What do you believe needs to be done to continue working towards greater rights and equality?

Most of the progress that I document in my book resulted from judicial rulings. I think it is very important, going forward, to also focus on what legislators and child welfare officials can do to prevent discrimination when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity in matters related to parenting. There is only so much that courts can do, which means that long-term solutions will have to be found elsewhere.

4. The notion that heterosexual couples are better suited to instill gender conforming values in a child is discussed in the book even though you mention that research states that sexual orientation does not matter. Why do you believe this idea still persists?

The idea that children need both a mother and a father (as opposed to simply parents who love and support them) in order to thrive remains a deeply ingrained one. The social science literature is actually quite clear that neither parental gender nor sexual orientation is associated with child well-being. But it takes time for that evidence to overcome the strong assumptions and stereotypes that many people have about what children need in order to thrive. At the end of the day, what matters most in promoting the welfare of children is that they have adults in their lives who are able to care for and nurture them. The gender and sexual orientation of those adults matters little.

5. Several states, such as Mississippi and Utah still have laws that prohibit LGBT individuals and couples from adopting. Do you believe that these laws will change anytime soon?

I think it is likely, unfortunately, that some of the more conservative states will retain their legal restrictions on LGBT parenting for some time. But I think those states are to some extent already outliers. Most states do not impose explicit restrictions on the ability of LGBT individuals to serve, for example, as adoptive and foster care parents. I am hopeful that, as with the issue of marriage, equality will eventually prevail in matters related to sexual orientation/gender identity and parenting.

Book Review: The Pill Problem

 

Before I started reading The Pill Problem by Ross Pelton I had just finished Drugs for Life by Joseph Dumit. I was slightly apprehensive about the message of the book, thinking that Pelton would promote solving one problem by perhaps encouraging the use of various drugs, but I was wrong. Pelton acknowledges the fact that the pill plays an important role in the lives of women, but states that the side effects are many and varied. Pelton’s mission with this book is to educate women on the side effects of the pill and hope that they will switch over to safer, healthier forms of contraception.

We often hear about side effects associated with the pill, but we are rarely told why women taking the pill are more likely to have blood clots for example. Pelton states that research has shown that nutrient depletion is common for the majority of women taking the pill, and that nutrient depletion can cause a range of undesirable symptoms and illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, depression, birth defects, cancer, osteoporosis and more.  [Read more...]

Melinda Tankard Reist on the Harms of Pornography

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Melinda Tankard Reist, co-editor of Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry. Melinda is also the co-founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation.

How did you become interested in researching pornography?

There were a few things that came together around the same time. Women started telling me their stories of being hurt and harmed by a partner’s compulsive porn use. In my talks in schools, teen girls shared with me the pressure they felt to provide a porn-style performance, to act, essentially, as a sexual service station for men and boys. They were expected to provide naked images of themselves, to provide sexual services. As well, the sex industry was dominating and colonising every public space and was rarely brought to account. I began to talk to my publishers about what I was hearing. Spinifex had published an earlier book in 2004 titled Not for Sale: feminists resisting prostitution and pornography edited by Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant. It was a powerful book. But so much had happened since then, especially with the internet being used to globalize and spread pornography. We felt that a new book on pornography was needed. It also seemed to be a natural progression from my previous book Getting Real: challenging the sexualization of girls, published by Spinifex in 2009. [Read more...]

Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter Talk About Letting Go of Shame

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Amy Ferris and Hollye DexterSDC15444, the co-editors of Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small, a collection of  essays by women discussing their accounts of shame.

1. How did the concept of writing about shame come about?

HOLLYE: Amy and I had numerous long phone conversations about the ways our own shame had limited us. We each began blogging about shame, and were overwhelmed with responses from readers who shared their own stories. We realized how alone we all feel when we are carrying these silent burdens, and how in sharing them, we form bonds with others and are transformed. We wanted to share this with many more people, so we gathered essays from other courageous women we knew, and voila- the book was born.

AMY: Hollye and I talked (and talk!) all the time. About our lives. Our fears. Our doubts. Our joys. Our victories & defeats. Everything from our marriages, to the importance of friendship. And we talked a lot about our shame. All the stuff that kept us small, kept us hiding. Talking with Hollye gave me great courage. I think we both realized (in almost the same moment) that by sharing all that pain & suffering we were able to loosen its grip. We both came to the realization that if we shared our stories, others would be inspired and join in, and that was pretty miraculous.

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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been cleaning out my garage and came across a wide selection of National Geographic magazines. As also mentioned before, I am very interested in how women and men (as well as girls and boys) are portrayed in the media. Therefore I have been looking through some of the magazines and found interesting examples of gender roles, stereotypes and gendered expectations.

As many of the magazines are from the 1950s to about 1980s, they may seem irrelevant, outdated and not so significant when discussing today’s issues. But it is interesting how much things can change, yet still stay the same. Take for example women’s portrayed roles in advertisements, something I am very passionate about. To summarize overall research; women are portrayed in more roles outside the home now than previously (including positions of power), but the sexual objectification of women in advertisement is also greater now (and more explicit) than it has ever been before. Basically, women are now “allowed” greater freedom in terms of life choices, but at the price of relentless sexual objectification.  [Read more...]

Masculinity and Violence: School Shootings and Mass Shootings

In June of 2012, a man opened fire inside a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. He killed 12 people and injured 58 more. Only days ago, a man in Oregon opened fire in a mall and then killed himself. On Friday, December 14 it happened again, only this time it was at an elementary school where 27 people were killed, most of them children, in Newtown, Connecticut. Mass shootings like these make us wonder how people can simply take the lives of so many others. We think about motives, the shooters complete disrespect for human life, and most often we cannot think of how to describe such atrocities without using words such as monstrous, horrendous and sick and we wish something like this would never happen again. Mass shootings and school shootings are rare, but leave us mortified every time. Many of us also remember other school shootings, some of the more high profile ones being the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, and the Columbine High shootings in 1999. There is an overall pattern in terms of both school shootings and mass shootings; the perpetrator is almost always male, and is often emasculated in one way or another.  [Read more...]

When Holding Hands Becomes Punishment

In order to avoid suspension after fighting, two male students at a high school in Mesa, Arizona were forced to hold hands for approximately 15 minutes. Pictures of the boys holding hands, and covering their faces while numerous students surrounded the pair are now spreading quickly across the Internet.

It is troubling that the initial reaction to two boys fighting in class is to “humiliate” them with a gesture (holding hands) that is deemed non-violent and for the most part affectionate. What the school is doing is not really addressing the violent act, why the boys chose to use physical violence, or even reinforce that violence does not belong in school. Instead, they allow violence to take place while making non-violence the forced punishment for a violent act.  [Read more...]

Not Just Any Kind of Sexuality: The Pornography of Everyday Life

I have a thing for advertisements, especially when they portray sexism, gender stereotypes, or the pornification of sexuality. Elin and I frequently write about advertisements that we find disturbing, annoying, or just plain sexist. And there are many kinds to choose from, as different forms of advertising are everywhere. Some of my favorite analyses and discussions of popular culture and advertising are Jean Kilbourne’s series Killing Us Softly and Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. I also wrote about the documentary Orgasm Inc, concerning female sexual dysfunction.

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