I think (or at least, I like to think) that most people in our society would agree that women deserve the same political, social, cultural, legal, and economic power as men. By at least one definition of feminism, that would make them feminists. But is being a feminist really that easy?

In one online forum that I frequent, there was a thread asking the community whether they were feminists. People generally responded in support of feminist ideas, yet the poll (with a total of 143 votes) stated that over a third said they weren't feminists. Why might that be?

Several posters discussed an idea that, after much thought, I eventually agreed with: the mere belief that society should aspire to achieve gender equality is not sufficient to qualify a person as a feminist. One must also make conscious efforts to achieve it. This would involve deconstructing ways that sexism pervades society, and giving heavier consideration to the voices of those most adversely affected.  For those privileged, this can be a challenge.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing inherently wrong with having privilege - after all, a person with privilege is still a person. But it does mean that it's harder to recognize things like sexism when you have it. As a feminist, I have to give weight to a woman's opinion when she claims something is sexist even when I don't immediately recognize it as sexist.

Accepting the responsibilities of "qualifying" as a feminist can be hard. Ironically, as a bisexual Chinese male, I think the transition was made easier for me thanks to being privileged in one way yet disadvantaged in another. But, in my opinion, it is a necessary step toward the cherished goal of  true equality.

Posted by: Anton Li
I must admit that before taking this class I didn’t give much thought about transgender identity. This is probably due to the fact that I have never personally had any experience (that I know of) with someone who considers him or herself transgender and to me it seemed like a very rare occurrence. However, after watching Transgeneration, I began thinking about how often people with transgender identities are seen in the media.

For example:

·      Thomas Beatie, the infamous pregnant man

·      Chaz Bono, son of Cher, currently on “Dancing With the Stars”

·      Isis from “America’s Next Top Model”

·      Katelynn on “The Real World”

·      Amanda Lepore, model and performance artist

As I came upon more and more examples in the media, Sexing the Body, and other readings, I realized that the percentage of transgenders in America must be way more than I initially imagined.  A study in the spring of 2011 by The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law found that an estimated .3% of Americans are transgender. While that may not seem like a lot, it is in reality around 935,400 people, and almost three times the population of St. Louis.

While the transgender population grows in numbers and in recognition, so does the struggle for equality and acceptance in today’s society. We all saw the daily problems and the weightier problems Raci, Lucas, Gabbie, and T.J. faced in Transgeneration. We know how difficult college can be already, imagine having to worry about which bathroom to use or whether or not to disclose your “past” gender with new friends. Thankfully, state legislatures are beginning to finally recognize these struggles and are signing transgender rights bills into law. On October 10, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed two of these bills:

·      The Vital Statistics Modernization Act streamlines the process for trans people to receive a new birth certificate or other identifying documentation that reflects their current gender.

·      The Gender Nondiscrimination Act “provides clarity to those who are victims of unlawful discrimination as well as for business owners, employers and other entities required to comply with the anti-discrimination protections by explicitly enumerating gender identity and expression as protected categories in a number of state codes.”

California is not the first and certainly not the last to pass transgender rights laws. Hopefully we will see the LGBT movement grow as a whole and acceptance become more widespread. Discrimination is ignorance and I imagine that the only thing more difficult than knowing you were born as the wrong gender is being discriminated for having the courage to address your true self. 

Posted By: Madden Hodes





                   Having just finished our gender atypical act papers, I feel that it would be appropriate to discuss gender equality in academics, or the lack thereof. I could easily get into a discussion about how the ratio of male to female professors differs greatly between different departments and what that says about gender equality in various disciplines. Yet, I am more interested in the inequality of the sexes that we see from student-professor interactions in the classroom every day. Some of you who are reading this might be thinking “what in the world is this person talking about? I definitely do not feel like I am at a disadvantage in school because of my gender.” I was thinking the same thing when my professor, Dr. Frey from the WUSTL chemistry department, brought up this topic in a seminar for academic mentoring. However, the longer I looked at it, the more apparent the discrimination became.

                 One of the key points Dr. Frey made in her lecture was that teachers/professors (both male and female) tend to call on male students more often than female students in class. Furthermore, teachers will wait longer for a male student to respond and even coach male students to develop their thoughts by giving them more extended feedback to their responses. Interestingly, the teachers are not intentionally biased. They do not realize that they treat their male and female students differently. If that is the case, does that mean it is the students’ problem?

                   While most students are brought up in an environment that promotes gender equality, males and females do in fact develop different communication styles. In most situations, the female style is disadvantageous. For example, girls tend to present their statements in a more hesitant fashion and often use qualifiers like “I guess” and “I was wondering”. Though it may be a sign of politeness, statements made in this manner are less likely to be taken seriously. Furthermore, in a large lecture class, female students are less likely to speak up and so males tend to dominate the discussion. Again, this kind of behavior is unintentional, but it is easily observed. Why does this happen? And perhaps more importantly, how can we stop it?

                    The underlying mechanism is the problem of gender construction in culture. It is a process that begins from birth and includes mundane things such as naming and color association as well as more subtle acts like social interactions with people. As functioning members of society, we have become successfully enculturated and so we have behavioral tendencies that seem to go against gender equality. This is not our fault, but it can be if we choose to ignore this fact. Culture is not easily fixed, but it can be changed as long as people in a society are aware of cultural issues. Therefore we must consciously watch ourselves and correct certain behaviors that we know go against our personal beliefs. For teachers, that may mean taking note of who you are calling on and making an effort to “count” the number of boys and girls you pick. For male students, it might mean encouraging your female peers to speak with more assertiveness and not overshadowing their opinions. For female students, it could mean not being apologetic when you speak, even if you are not completely sure of the answer. After all, if you are going to be wrong anyways, might as well be confidently wrong.

Posted by: Elizabeth Fang

Our society depicts the homosexual man as completely lacking masculine characteristics, however in my experiences gay men can be some of the most masculine.  However ubiquitous stereotypes about gay men portray masculinity and homosexuality as entirely dichotomous, leading to entirely misconstrued views of homosexuals in our society – an issue which is detrimental to the acceptance of homosexuals in society.


This video shows 20 stereotypes of Gay men, including a few which are particularly relevant to the discussion of masculinity:

-          Gay men think sports are boring

-          Gay men are obsessed with fashion

-          Gay men love to dance

-          Gay men are incompetent running machinery

-          Gay men always have a trust girl-pal by side

-          Gay are whinny bitches

-          Gay men are catty

-          Gay men are drama queens

-          Gay men pepper their lives with Pop culture references

These stereotypes are largely untrue, as no gay man I have ever met has encapsulated more than a handful of these characteristics.  There is also the fact that many of these traits may also just as easily be applied to straight men as they may to gay men, showing that if masculinity were to be determined by the adherence of men to every single stereotype of masculinity, true masculinity would be unequivocally rare.

Gay stereotypes portray homosexual men as being incapable of masculinity; however these stereotypes are drastically exaggerated in popular culture although they apply only marginally more to homosexual men than they do to straight men.

Curtis Eisen

Nobody ever likes to admit to oppressing anyone. That's like admitting to being a chain smoker while being a pulmonary doctor. In our politically correct world, especially in upper middle class suburbia, nobody oppresses anyone, right?

I say wrong. We don't even realize when we do it, because the concept of social hierarchy isn't usually something we wake up one morning and decide to believe. It's something ingrained in us. From the time we're little we are given pictures of other types of people and told "this is what you are" and "this is what somebody else is" and that "you are different." 

Who decided that we were different in the first place? It's just like bell hooks' description of the little boy who came up to her and asked what nationality she was. Who taught him to think that nationality had anything to do with skin color?

Perhaps it's because we feel most comfortable with those whom we see as being most similar to ourselves. It's interesting how we're slower to judge those with whom we most identify than those with whom we identify less.

It's also interesting to me how people will only face racism and classism when it's fed to them in a certain way. 

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is a great example of this. Here is a book that gained nationwide popularity and touches on serious issues including the oppression of black maids in the Jim Crow south by white housewives. 

Yet as Dr. Wanzo, a professor here at Wash.U points out in her review of the book for the huffington post, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-wanzo/the-help-movie_b_925550.html) this book "makes Jim Crow palatable."

First of all, the heroin/main protagonist of the novel is a young white woman. Stockett could have made the main protagonist either of the two main characters in the story who are black maids, Aibleen and Minnie. 

Secondly, Aibleen is an older, matronly figure portrayed kind of like Mammy, the happy slave in Gone with the Wind. She still seems to enjoy her job and only criticizes her employer for not giving her own daughter affection. Why couldn't Aibleen dislike her job? It seems that do endear Aibleen to the public, Stockett finds  it necessary to make Aibleen a somewhat passive older woman who evokes sympathy from us because mostly because she's old, not necessarily because she's 

Thirdly, Minnie is typefied as the typical "sassy black strong woman." She bakes a feces-filled pie for her former employer in retaliation for the horrible way in which she is treated.

Out of curiosity, I went onto about.com to see some reviews of the book verses the movie to find out what people thought of each. Two comments particularly fascinated me. One woman commented only that  she'd seen the movie and not read the book. "I don't think Stockett needed to include that pie thing. Couldn't it have been something else?" Clearly the pie made her uncomfortable, yet I would have hoped that the racism on the part of the white women made her uncomfortable too. Why didn't she bother to mention anything about the way the white women acted towards the black women? I'm pretty sure accusing someone of stealing and putting them out of a job is just as bad, if not worse, than baking a feces pie.

Another woman commented later on that she was African American, her great grandmother was a domestic servant in the Jim Crow south, and that she thought Minnie did just the right thing by making the "pie."

If all of the horrible things done to black women not only during the Jim Crow south, but before and after were to be turned into pies, well, I'd say we'd have a lot of baking to do.

             “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.”  So, do you recognize this quote? I would guess most of you do; Mean Girls anyone?  Regardless of its not so serious origin, Tina Fey may have actually been onto something when she said this line in the notorious comedy. 

            We often throw around these terms without thinking or considering the weight behind them.  The inspiration for this blog came while reading Oppression for homework, when a particular paragraph caught my eye.  Marilyn Frye speaks of the fine line that women must tip toe on to avoid either being too prude or just outright slutty. 

            It’s interesting to examine the effects these words can have whether coming from a male or female.  These derogatory terms have become so desensitized that it is basically unsurprising to hear them. 

            Used by a girl:

        ·     A joking, teasing term used between friends

        ·   OR a jealous, spiteful way to isolate another girl

            Used by a guy:

        ·   To brag to his buddies, sound “cool”

        ·   To unfairly label and belittle females

            Regardless, to be considered “easy” is not a desirable trait, no matter what it’s source.

            For fear of being labeled these things, girls often have to make very difficult decisions and must be much more careful about what is appropriate at each stage in a relationship.   I truly do believe that in most aspects of American society today, women have achieved equality, but this is a double standard that I do not predict disappearing any time soon.

            Unfair as it is, there’s basically nothing we can do about it.  Perhaps just think twice before calling that girl a whore, even if she did hook up with your ex-boyfriend. 

            By Sara Bower

Food for Thought…