Miss Musings

A modern miss provides commentary on sociological and psychological issues concerning politics, the media, literature, and everyday observances.

Feminism in the Digital Era

Ever since the advent of the personal computer and information highway, our world has progressed into a globalized mass of information. We are a wired community, connected via social media and shouts into the voids of Twitter and Facebook. Naturally, modern activism has taken a digital turn, leading us to question the crusade of internet feminism. Can a post on Instagram petition for equity? Can sharing a link on Facebook do more than inform a skeptical society about elusive social inequality?

Since the internet is an omnipresent force on our minds, we must focus on what feminist campaigns have surfaced through the platform. One of the more shocking recent movements involved Instagram taking down a photo of a girl with a menstruation stain on her pants. This action outraged many women, leading them to believe that the website was disapproving of female biological processes.

Later, campaigns against the censorship of female bodies occurred in various public areas of New York. The group “New York Women’s Liberation” placed stickers stating “This Oppresses Women” on various ads in subways that exploited women’s anatomy for profit. These ads catered toward a patriarchal society, so activists sought to prove that sexualized images will not work to sell products anymore. Female bodies are not vehicles for third-party money, and will not be trafficked in subway traffic.

However, fighting patriarchy is sometimes passive and accomplished through utilizing a modern internet strategy: empowering young girls. The 2014 Always #LikeAGirl campaign discusses sexist language in our society and how Western idioms, while seemingly innocuous, are often denigrating to women. In the viral commercials, people are told to “run like a girl” and “fight like a girl.” Sadly, they portray girls as weak creatures. Yet when young women are instructed to depict “girly” actions, they exude strength and confidence. The advertisement sought to render the image of the modern girl in a new light; since women are being given more opportunities to excel in all fields, we must change the conversation on how girls should view themselves individually and as members of the modern female network.

“What does it mean to run like a girl?”

“It means to run as fast as you can.”

Perhaps one of the greatest catalysts for the digital feminist movement was The Representation Project. In 2011, the organization released the infamous documentary “Miss Representation” at the Sundance Film Festival, and later launched the hashtag campaigns #NotBuyingIt and #BuildConfidence. The former calls out sexism in advertising and encourages people to photograph examples of problematic marketing strategies, therefore pushing for interactive feminism and instantaneous dialogue. The latter seeks to inform members of the social media community about healthy body image.

While The Representation Project made strides in socially-just social networking, one of the most critical moments of digital feminism was kick started by Emma Watson’s HeForShe speech at the United Nations. The speech has garnered millions of views cumulatively on YouTube and effectively focused on feminism’s impact on underrepresented players: boys and men. Emma pushed for men to be more vocal about everyday injustices against women. She also pointed out a goal that all humans should consider – emotions should not be viewed as weakness. Emma states that the way men are dictated to conceal emotions is unhealthy and can lead to depression and suicide, and that emotional discrepancies among genders can be solved directly by raising our daughters and sons to equally embrace having feelings. In addition, UN Women spearheaded the auto-complete campaign, which utilized Google’s autofill feature for searches that started with “women need to….” With this campaign, the United Nations and Google revealed that worldwide sexism had reached its apex, albeit through digital mediums.

In tandem, several other global websites have been taking action to aggressively fight off the exploitation of women. Amazon has stopped selling shirts with openly hostile sayings. One woman reversed Twitter’s decision to remove the “block” button through an online Change.org petition. She received threats on the website and fought to keep the button for the protection of herself and other people who were exploited, namely other women. YouTube has a wealth of self-defense lessons and feminist vloggers. Twitter is loaded with catchy but meaningful hashtags. Ergo, the internet and the right to the freedom of speech allows for both sexism and a healthy amount of counter-active activism.

Are these campaigns effective? Perhaps to some they are not. Yet regardless of one’s opinion of the internet, one must realize that people are using this cornucopia of data to change our day-to-day interactions. Online campaigns and digital media may be the ideal panacea to patriarchy, chauvinism, and sexism in society. We do not all have to participate via every personal tweet and post, but it is not too much to ask to request the acceptance of these equity achievement strategies.

Barbie can’t be a computer engineer… can she?

No longer is Barbie just a disproportionate plastic doll – she’s a computer engineer! Well, sort of….

The widely-discussed book “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” has made quite a wave in the feminist and tech-o-spheres, as its portrayal of the doll as the “creative soul yet incompetent programmer” has enough sociopolitical ammo in it to arouse viral upheaval.

Barbie is portrayed as a girl who accidentally downloads a virus onto her computer, but admits that she needs the help of her male friends to fix it. Bring in the feminist organizations – we need a clean up on the toy aisle, particularly Barbie’s plastic laptop kit. Later, she explains that she is designing a video game (rad!), but when her gal pals ask to play it, she admits that she will need her guy friend’s help to turn it into a real game (bad!). But Barb, we thought you were the computer engineer?

If I were a young reader, I would probably not understand what everyone is upset about. Barbie would not have seemed incompetent to me, because she frequently seeks out magic and other-worldly help in all of her plot lines – the girl doesn’t do much for herself, because if she could, what would be the point of having other characters and wild mystical possibilities involved? But as someone who is in tune to the qualms of the modern STEM woman, I understand the issue of Barbie not being able to code the video game herself – I mean, she is claiming to be an engineer, yet she puts the workload on someone else and does little tech work herself. While having imagination is critical to any project, it is not sufficient to supply ideas and call yourself the chief creator or “engineer” of a game. I worry more about the fraud and ethical implications Barbie is pushing in the story than the gender stereotypes that one could assume are propelled at our youth.

According to Time.com, Mattel apologized for how Barbie is portrayed in this story, which came out in 2010, yet only just now was brought to the attention of the internet. Time notes that Barbie has been “to space and business school,” and is a competent woman.

Surely if Barbie can do all that, she can be a computer engineer – I hope.

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Photo: theverge.com

 

 

My new perspective on feminism

About 4 months ago I wrote a post about the socially-scary “f” word… you know, feminism. 

Perhaps I was a naive 16-year-old when I wrote about wanting equality for women, only because I praised the “f” word and encouraged people to use it more often. Somehow, I do not think that would answer society’s beef with females. In fact, the word “feminism” itself might be the pristine hamburger patty of beef, disguised as an innocent and delicious sandwich.

When we say “feminist” and “feminism” and “right to choose” and “patriarchy,”  we preach to the choir. These phrases have become so mainstream that men and women alike have heard the qualms of the modern feminist. So, to cease the arguments, companies and politicians address these hot buttons with everything from media campaigns to women-oriented press releases solely about female issues. The right to choose is discussed in a girly way more than taxes, budget cuts, security, border control, and online privacy.

Breaking news!

Women care about these issues too.

But when we preach a desire for feminism, we state that the main issues that are important to us are problems that directly affect primarily females. Private and government industry matters directly impact us, yet women are encouraged to follow a one-track mindset. For example, getting girls involved in STEM, an issue I wrote about only a few weeks ago, is a problem. Yet isn’t it an anti-feminist notion to single out a woman’s contribution to STEM, when all contributions are important regardless of sex? It only makes a woman in the sciences seem to be more of a rarity, which I doubt is anyone’s intention.

Sorry all, but maybe talking about “feminism” is not giving everyone the best advice; it certainly doesn’t always work out as intended. Then again, maybe it is a difficult issue to work with.

But enough of the heavy stuff, girls and boys, let’s end on a happy note: dancing kittens.

 

Where was my invite?

Where was my invite? Found at cheezburger.com

Making STEM appealing to the modern ‘girly girl’

I grew up as a Barbie®-loving girly girl who only had fashion design and ballet on the brain. I thought robots and planes were for boys, despite my dad’s desire to share these hobbies with me at a young age. No one told me technology and engineering was men’s work – I just assumed it was since Erector® sets did not come in pink.

If they had, I would have had an easier time visualizing myself making strides in STEM.

 

Courtesy of girltalkhq.com

Courtesy of girltalkhq.com

 

The fact is, STEM toys, groups like FIRST Robotics, and technology-infested films such as Transformers and Iron Man are not targeted towards the typical girly girl. Granted, not all girls are girly, but some who are have the aptitude to excel in various STEM fields. I was never interested in any extracurriculars related to STEM as a child or young teenager, although math was my favorite subject and I was a creative thinker and problem solver. Yet when I walked into a FIRST Robotics meeting one year I instantly clammed up; I was intimidated by the technology I had never been exposed to throughout my years I spent focusing on my girlier interests.After all, how could I have the ability to succeed in STEM if I had not been building robots or soldering my entire life?

Later on I realized the importance of STEM confidence – you may not be able to succeed in the fields unless you know that you can learn the tricky topics. This is simply not taught to bright girls who would rather play with dolls or write poetry than dig into STEM at a young age.

Maybe this confidence can be built through designing engaging and girly STEM activities. Perhaps we can market them in an effective way to a subset of girls that is rarely recruited.

So think like a girly girl: writing a computer program may be more appealing when the correct algorithm can simulate an online dress up game. Math equations and solutions could be clues for Barbie® as she tries to find the missing amulet in a computer game adventure. Beading bracelets could emphasize the importance of planning programs, and you can even traverse the bead array and perform physical searches and sorts on it.

While the STEM world may not be the girliest one, girls should be able to feel confident with their reasoning abilities and have the opportunity to develop these abilities at a young age. If we are serious about closing the STEM gender gap, maybe we just need to target the unorthodox audience. Just imagine the potential scientists who could be unearthed once we make youth STEM activities less intimidating and more diverse.

How do you think we should get girls involved in STEM? Send Miss Musings a tweet or join the conversation on Facebook

3 slam poetry performances that I can’t stop thinking about

Some slam poems have made me feel so deeply that I could not ponder on anything other than their meanings, and how certain phrases convey these meanings so acutely.

Here is a selection of a few slam poems that made me think, as well as some commentary and specific parts to look out for. However, these lines and meanings should stand out by themselves.

 

1. “Nearest Exit” by Alex Dang, Brenna Twohy, and Eirean Bradley

 

“You can only tread water for so long… when the plane starts going down you will not want to keep breathing… you were just fooling yourself into thinking you were above gravity.”

I do not dare to state what this poem is about – or any of these poems really – but “Nearest Exit” appears to deal with misconceptions regarding coping with grief. The vocal dynamic created by the trio of speakers, similar to a group reading from Greek and Roman times, brings the morbid nuances and helpless calls for realization of this poem to life.

 

2. “Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers

 

“[She was] deciding how much space she deserves to occupy… I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”… a circular obsession I never wanted, but inheritance is accidental.”

This poem is one of Button Poetry’s most viral videos, at approximately 4 million views. Myers employs the metaphor of food and size to represent the role of women in, what she has experienced, a man’s world, and expresses her anger through helpless observances, whether through apologizing for no reason or observing the oppressive scenario she never asked for. A brilliant social commentary, “Shrinking Women” is bound to be known as a 4th wave feminism literature trademark, albeit digital. Let the number of views speak for itself in this regard.

 

3. “21” by Patrick Roche

 “6 – I wanna be… Spiderman. Or my dad, they’re kind of the same…” 

Since this poem has been featured on Upworthy its views have skyrocketed to over 2 million views in one week. Roche is one of my favorite spoken word poets because he writes such unorthodox poems. The poem has been met with some confused comments due to its complexity, but it brilliantly details the life a boy with an alcoholic father (and presumably mother) by recalling memories from years 21 to 0. Ironically, 21 is the legal drinking age in America, and this age and his father’s death start off the poem.

Other recommendations include OCD, Audio Book, Pine City, and Siri: A Coping Mechanism. These poems contain colorful language, so please view with discretion.

Captain America wears a tutu

Recently I strutted over to the local Party City in high heels and wandered by the colorful costumes. At first glance, there was a clear distinction between the male’s costumes and female’s costumes. When the two suddenly merged, I stopped in my tracks.

There was the Captain America costume, but it looked a bit different.

Captain America had a tutu. It was pretty cute, too.

The Marvel section proudly displayed an adorable child’s costume: a dress with a red, white, and blue tulle skirt and a glittering Captain America shield on the chest, complete with a matching wand and crown, both equally Americana.

 

Cute, right?

Cute, right? Source: http://www.partycity.com/product/child+american+dream+tutu+dress.do?navSet=170692

 

If this had been any other costume, perhaps a princess or a cowgirl, I would not have taken any notice. But as a young woman who quietly bought a Captain America hoodie from the boy’s section in Target, something personal drew me to the innocent, yet still potentially politically powerful tutu. There are no Marvel hoodies in the women’s section at Target. But there is a superhero dress for little girls at Party City. Though it is only a costume, Captain America’s tutu may be a step in the right direction for girls who might just adore superhero movies, or any forms of entertainment that are pre-dominantly marketed towards males.

 

Photo courtesy of weheartit.com, clip from "Mean Girls"

Source: http://weheartit.com/entry/group/17308827

 

While I wanted to say “four for you, Party City” and chant about equal access to superhero merchandise, I stepped back to ponder on the result of blurring the social lines regarding what costume is appropriate for which gender. Boys may start requesting to wear tuxedos with Angelina Ballerina accents, and girls may conveniently wear a colored skirt over otherwise “masculine” Power Rangers jumpsuits. Soon enough, boys and girls may dress up exactly like the characters they intend to emulate, regardless of their genders. However, what may be a cause for social shock and outrage about “enforcing experimentation on today’s youth” is most likely just dressing up. In the words of my inner five-year-old, “girls like superhero movies too, deal with it.”

The hoopla caused over mixed gender costumes leads me to believe that society has one big problem: its members read into behaviors too much, therefore causing unnecessary inter-gender friction.

Society says: men wear pants. Women wear skirts. It has been this way for literally hundreds of years. Now, women are wearing the pants… although hesitantly, and when someone calls “feminist” from the rooftops the women jump at the chance to call “male privilege” and “oppression.” Suddenly, we see the hidden power of the pants: we get a bit courageous and perhaps even too big for our new, un-tailored britches.

The same women who cry “oppression,” due to the fact they are frowned on for expressing masculinity, may need to evaluate their opinions on men, one day, wearing skirts. Would it be so wrong for men to express femininity? It may not be wrong, but by today’s standards, it is alien. This is where the supposed “gender gap” in equality really lies: between our meticulous interpretation of trait expression, both for masculine and feminine qualities. If it is so empowering for a woman to wear pants, it would be no different for a man to wear a skirt – if you believe in the true definition of feminism, anyway.

 

The most accurate definition I could find of "feminism."

The most accurate definition I could find of “feminism.” Source: http://www.dearwinnie.com/2011/02/09/rebranding-feminism/

 

When men and women view each other as pants and skirts and judged solely on outward appearance, they give a lot of power to pieces of fabric. Suddenly, we are what we wear and have to conform to the expectations of our clothing. As we continue to read into what people wear, we prolong the nonsensical and nonexistent correlation between what kids wear and who they are. This creates problems that do not have to exist; dress-up time has turned into a social movement, whether you are on the “girls don’t wear pants” or “girls need to have equal access to pants” side of the picket line. It is all shouting in the end, and it certainly distracts from playtime.

I would want any girl to be able to wear the Captain America tutu, but not for feminist reasons or because she “should be able to” – only because she loves the Captain America movie just as much as I do.

Wait… that’s what feminism means?!

Some have coined “feminism” as the new f-bomb. Others just shiver in fear when it is uttered.

It is quite evident that there is a stigma against the word “feminism.” Whenever I mention in conversation that I am a feminist, or even when I casually drop the word in a sentence I am greeted with the hesitant smile of a person who is wondering what monstrosity turned me into such an angry, bitter soul.

To this I kindly respond that my definition of feminism consists of two identical numbers: 50, 50. Feminism means that women are equally capable as men to perform in various areas including employment, intellect, academia, etc. and they deserve the rights and responsibilities associated with participating in these fields. Once I explain this definition, thankfully, it is understood by plenty of people, yet they still have a great distaste for the word I am defining.

My problem is that if I close my mouth after saying the word’s first syllable, I erase the other “50” in my definition.

feminism

Promotional photo from the Who Needs Feminism project.

Hesitancy to accept the word “feminism” into our evolving social vocabulary disturbs me. If we continue to view “feminism” as a word to be censored, an f-bomb of sorts, we will never be able to appreciate or accept its meaning; daily, we reduce a connotation of equality, empowerment, and simple logic to one of shame – we turn a potent adjective into a socially unacceptable word.

However, people are fighting the stigma associated with such a politically-loaded word. Some people believe that feminists are fighting for women to be considered superior to men. This is simply untrue. As I mentioned before, feminism is about equality. My friend said it perfectly the other day when she addressed the “are you a feminist?” question after discussing how women should be paid equally to men: “Yes, definitely. I am for equal rights, so I am a feminist. If men were getting paid 77% of what women were, I would advocate for them instead.”

Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?