Where do I start?

I have not been paying as much attention as I should be to the upcoming elections, but I do know that Michele Bachmann is the “new” Sarah Palin.

Except worse.

Bachmann has rejected ‘feminism’ and voiced her lack of support towards homosexuality and, of course, believes in the biblical notion that women should be completely submissive to their husbands. I understand, though, that the term feminism has been distorted in the political arena, especially with Sarah Palin labeling herself as a feminist.

It just makes no sense at all to me why Bachmann would not commit herself to changing women’s rights and opportunities. She has made extra effort to target Planned Parenthood and the reproductive rights of women. “If Planned Parenthood is defunded on a federal level, millions of low-income women, many in rural or medically underserved communities, would lose access to basic preventative health services, such as pap smears, breast exams, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and affordable birth control.” (huffingtonpost.com) SERIOUSLY? In addition, she has voted in favor for the banning of abortion and for discontinuing medical training for safe abortions. I don’t understand how she can be so fervent about taking away women’s ability to control their reproductive system or even receive birth control when she HAS her own set of ovaries. It just perpetuates the idea that women have no say when it comes to their reproductive system.

There’s one quote I’d like to address:

”Does that mean that someone’s 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus? That night, mom and dad are never the wiser.” -Michele Bachmann

WHAT. I cannot even put into words this ridiculousness. For one, abstinence education is a joke. Secondly, I highly highly doubt that any person would take an experience, such as abortion, that lightly. Especially a 13-year-old girl. She must be terrified at the possibility of pregnancy and, in my opinion, if she had been given better access to birth control and better educated about pregnancy and the responsibilities involved with sexual intercourse, then the likelihood of her having to resort to an abortion would have decreased dramatically. It is insulting that Michele Bachmann would even imply that abortion is so… flippant.

Another thing that just blows my mind is her family’s gay therapy clinic. Yes, gay therapy clinic because homosexuality is some sort of disease. Just thinking about all of the people that agree with Bachmann and think that her clinic is ‘helping’ is depressing. The fact that people cannot be proud of their sexuality because of societal pressure is sad and frustrating. Since when has love been a problem? If anything, love is the reason why human beings are still alive today.

As I’m learning more about society, people, the government and life in general through my experiences, I am increasingly afraid. I am afraid that I have been conditioned to accept the status quo and keep my head down because that’s what I’m supposed to do.


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More often than not, I’m wondering if I’m doing “enough” as a Feminist.

I’ve taken on the position of advertising for the Chapman Feminists and my decision to minor in Women’s Studies are activities that show my interest in feminism. But I think about the women, in past and present, that have brought progress to the women’s movement. Literature is often a powerful medium as seen with published books and DIY zines. Protests have also been effective at raising awareness. Most recently, Slutwalks have gained a lot of attention towards rape culture and sexual violence.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I have not protested nor attempted to write a book about my thoughts on Feminist theory or women’s history. But I don’t simply sit in silence when someone says a sexist joke or misuses the word ‘rape’.

Whenever I think about what more I could do and what I should be doing to raise awareness or contribute to women’s issues, I usually just tell myself that I’m more aware than the majority of my peers in college and that I’m doing what I can do with the options I have.

But that sense of complacency just perpetuates the current system. It’s an endless cycle in my mind.

Yesterday, my Women Studies professor posted this speech from the SCHOOL OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO commencement address:

“The Guerrilla Girls’ Guide to Behaving Badly (Which You Have to Do Most of the Time in the World as We Know It)”

1. Be a loser. The world of art and design doesn’t have to be an Olympics where a few win and everyone else is forgotten.

2. Be impatient. Don’t wait for a stamp of approval from the system. Don’t wait around to be asked to dance. Claim your place. Put on your own shows, create your own companies, develop your own projects. To steal a phrase from the Dali Lama, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, Be the artworld you want to take part in.

3. Be crazy. Political art that just points to something and says “this is bad” is like preaching to the choir. Try to change people’s minds about issues. Do it in an outrageous, unforgettable way.

4. Be anonymous. Anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. So join that long line of anonymous masked avengers, like Robin Hood, Batman, and of course, Wonder Woman.

5. Be an outsider. But even if you end up working inside the system, act like an outsider. Look for the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair, then expose it.

6. Lead a double life. Be a split personality. Be two, three, four, five artists in one body, like me.

7. Just do one thing. If it works, do another. If it doesn’t, try it another way. Over time, we promise you it will all add up to something effective and great. Don’t be paralyzed because you can’t do it all right away.

8. Don’t make only FINE art.

9. Sell out. If people start paying attention to you, don’t waste time wondering if you’ve lost your edge. Take your critique right inside the galleries and institutions to a larger audience.

10. Give collectors, curators and museum directors tough love. Make sure that museums cast a wider  net and collect the real story of our culture.

11. Complain, complain, complain. (But be creative about it).

12. Use the F word. Be a feminist. Women’s rights, civil rights, and gay, lesbian and trans rights are the great human rights movements of our time. There’s still a long way to go.

13. Be a great ape. In 1917, Franz Kafka wrote a short story titled A Report to An Academy, in which an ape spoke about what it was like to be taken into captivity by a bunch of educated, intellectual types. The published story ends with the ape tamed and broken by the stultified academics. But in an earlier draft, Kafka tells a different story. The ape ends his report by instructing other apes NOT to allow themselves to be tamed. He says instead: “break the bars of your cages, bite a hole through them, squeeze through an opening…and ask yourself where do YOU want to go?”

This list, which I reduced to its main points, made me realize that I can’t expect from myself or anyone else a huge movement or change. A lot of the change that needs to happen begins with awareness and just noticing the flaws that most choose to ignore because it’s comfortable to stick with the status quo.

And I realize that I can’t just ‘raise awareness’, but I should try my best to inspire others to work towards change. A lot of progress began with ideas and questions that then changed history. I hope I can contribute to the progression of my generation in some way.

It took 8 minutes for the lethal injection to kill Troy Davis.

In 1989, nineteen-year-old Troy Davis was accused of shooting Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer. MacPhail was helping a homeless man in a Burger King parking lot when he was shot in the face and the heart. According to court testimony, Davis was said to be a part of the group of two other men that was assaulting the homeless man. Prosecutors also claim that he had was beating the homeless man with a gun for beer. Nine eyewitnesses came forward and provided eyewitness accounts that stated Davis murdered MacPhail. This led to Davis’ first death sentence in 1991. Over the next twenty years, Davis and his supporters have been successful at preventing his execution. Appeals from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Amnesty International, former President Jimmy Carter, fifty one members of Congress and former F.B.I. director, William Sessions along with thousands of people wrote to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for clemency. In 2010, seven out of the nine eyewitnesses recanted their statements and allegations of police coercion have surfaced. Furthermore, there was no gun or DNA evidence that proved without a doubt that Davis was the murderer. Ninety minutes before his execution, the Supreme Court stepped in to review the case, but declined to grant a stay for Davis. Until his death, Davis was defiant about his innocence.

Unbelievable.

I don’t even know how to articulate my feelings about this. I’m upset, sad, confused, in disbelief and most of all, afraid. The death penalty has been (one of) the reason(s) for the death of innocent people, it has perpetuated injustice and the belief that ‘closure’ and justice can be achieved simply with death.  How is it possible that, in this present society, the death penalty is morally permissible and legal?

In another case, Duane Buck, an African American, was scheduled to be killed in Texas. Hours before his death, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution because a psychologist testified that “Mr. Buck’s race increased the chances of future dangerousness”. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? It is painful how discriminatory the US legal system and death penalty is. What happened to “Freedom and Justice for all”?

I also found this picture online, which is self-explanatory:

And yet, I cannot help but also be frustrated with myself. As a member of my generation, I am ashamed of my habit of being outraged for five minutes and then slipping back into indifference. I admit I was not fully aware of the Troy Davis case until a few days before his death. I lacked a definitive opinion on the death penalty until I took the time to delve into the argument against it. I looked into the Innocence Project, which is, according to their website, “a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice”. So far, it has successfully saved 273 individuals from unfair execution since 1992. Despite the accomplishments of the Innocence Project, I can’t help but think that there must be more or something different that needs to be done to effectively end the use of the death penalty. I clicked on the “What Can I Do?” link on the Innocence Project website. I’m not too surprised. Of course, awareness and staying informed, along with writing to elected representatives and the media are helpful, but the present existence of the death penalty makes me question our power as citizens. I could go on and on about this but it obviously detracts from the main issue of the death penalty.

Until his death, Troy Davis continued to have faith that he would be saved. He told prison personnel: “May God have mercy on your souls; may God bless your souls.” Before his execution, Davis was described as being in good spirits and prayerful.

I wonder what it feels like to be executed for a crime I didn’t commit. I wonder what it feels like to know that, despite the support of nearly 630,000 people, there is a roomful of people that decide I should die, despite a lack of concrete evidence.

I think it is admirable and amazing that Troy Davis maintained a positive attitude towards humanity and had faith that things would change. I hope I can continue that same positivity and hope that one day things will change with our efforts.

Read on:

Amnesty International – Death Penalty

NYTimes – Troy Davis

Thoughts about what can be done to change the system?

Will the removal of the death penalty be enough?

Keep questioning and take care,

S.

At one time or another, we have all been ashamed of who we are, what we look like, where we are from and the list goes on. And on other occasions, we have made someone else feel that shame too.

In high school, I was part of the my school’s journalism team. We wrote newspaper articles and also began creating online newscasts that included information about major school events, alumni, videos and photos. For the first webcast, I volunteered to be the anchorwoman. Once we finished editing the webcast, we posted it online for the students to view.

The next day, I walked into the courtyard where my friends were sitting. A close friend of mine, Maya, had watched the video and told me that I should come back to Hawai’i and be an anchorwoman after my career on Saturday Night Live because who wouldn’t want a former Saturday Night Live cast member delivering the news? A few moments later, one of my classmates turned around and said to me: “Sarah, you can’t be an anchorwoman, you’re not pretty enough!”

Despite her joking tone, I felt myself paralyzed with anger. I didn’t consider myself especially pretty or ‘hot’ and so, in some ways, I agreed with her. That night, I cried myself to sleep and my anger subsided. Instead, it was replaced with a recurring sense of inadequacy and frustration with my appearance.

I never realized it then, but after taking Women’s Studies and gaining an understanding about Feminism, I understood why my classmate’s comment continues to affect me. I felt inadequate as an entire person because the media has caused us to hate ourselves. Advertisements with photoshopped celebrities and models create unrealistic body figures and skin that have us frustrated and confused because without us, these corporations would not make billions of dollars each year. This emphasis on body image and appearance convinces us that we are valued based more so on our looks and less on our actions or intelligence. This doesn’t only affect women, it affects everyone, men and women, and how they think about how they should be.

Feminism has introduced me to plethora of issues that explain not only my own behavior, but the behavior of others. Women’s issues do not affect only women, they affect everybody. It is frustrating and alarming how comfortable we are with sexist attitudes.

WIth this blog, I hope to spread awareness and hopefully gain more insight about social justice issues, feminism, gender and learn about how to maintain an optimistic state of mind during my journey through life.