QUICK HIT: How NOT to be Racist this Halloween

30 Oct

With Halloween approaching, let’s talk about ways to avoid dressing in racist costumes!

1. Race is not a costume. If you dress as a “Mexican” or a “Native-American”, you are generalizing an entire culture and perpetuating stereotypes, therefore, you are being racist.

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2. It is acceptable to dress up as another PERSON from a different race or culture. You can dress up as Pocahontas, Obama, Princess Tiana, Beyonce, or Lil Wayne, but do not dress up as a “redneck” or as a “thug”.

3. DO NOT alter the color of your skin to match another race/ethnicity. Blackface is historically racist and demeaning, and so is trying to match the skin tone of a person that is different from your race.

4. DO NOT alter your facial features to match another race/ethnicity. See #3.

5. Don’t dress up to mock a person or culture. When you do so, you are perpetuating negative stereotypes that real people have to fight against – you are hurting cultures, people, and society itself.

If you want to make sure your costume isn’t racist, check out some other resources below!

9 Steps for Avoiding Racist Costumes || Don’t Be Racist This Halloween

You Don’t Have to Be Awful Just Because It’s Halloween

Feminist Taylor Swift: Why I’m On Board With #TS1989

29 Oct

Before I get in to the content of this blog post, I have to start with a disclaimer: I am a Taylor Swift fan. I have all of her albums: ‘Taylor Swift’, ‘Fearless’, ‘Speak Now’, ‘Red’, and now ‘1989’. I have [too] many songs from those albums memorized. I even went to the Taylor Swift Red Tour concert in 2013. Wow, it feels good to get my not-so-guilty pleasure off of my chest.

My reason for elaborating on my love for Taylor Swift is to recognize the bias in my writing. I am a fan of her music, personality, style, social media presence, etc., so I view her differently than someone who does not encounter her persona very often. That being said, Taylor Swift has gone through somewhat of a feminist transformation in the last few months, and I think it’s awesome.

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@feministtswift on twitter

Taylor Swift’s songs have often been empowering towards women and girls. For example, “Mean” is an anti-bullying anthem, “22” encourages young women to embrace feeling “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time”, and “We Are Never Getting Back Together” tells women to stand up for themselves and not indulge in toxic relationships. As evident in these songs and others, Swift has always been in support of feminist ideals without explicitly using the F-word.

However, 2014 Taylor Swift has gone through a transformation. In an interview with Guy A. Lepage on Canadian talk show Tout Le Monde En Parle, Swift talked about women in the media. She states:

‘I think when it comes to females in the media, you’ll see something that kind of upsets me, which is that females are pinned up against each other, more so than men. One thing I do believe as a feminist is that in order for us to have gender equality we have to stop making it a girl fight, and we have to stop being so interested in seeing girls try to tear each other down. It has to be more about cheering each other on, as women and that’s just kind of how I feel about it.’

She was also asked about her opinion on Emma Watson’s UN speech and He For She Campaign:

‘I wish when I was 12 years old, I had been able to watch a video of my favorite actress explaining in such an intellectual, beautiful poignant way the definition of feminism. Because I would have understood it and then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed that I was a feminist. Because I would have understood what the word means.

So many girls out there say ‘I’m not a feminist ‘ because they think it means something angry or disgruntled or complaining or they picture like rioting and picketing it is not that at all,. It just simply means that you believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities, and to say that you’re not a feminist means that you think that men should have more rights and opportunities than women. I just think that a lot of girls don’t know the definition and the fact that Emma got up and explained it, I think it’s an incredible thing and I am happy to live in a world where that happened.’

Taylor Swift’s feminist realization has been exciting to watch.  She cut her hair, moved to New York, devotes her time to her female besties (including Lena Dunham, Lorde, Selena Gomes, and more), and transitioned from a country to pop artist. In fact, in an interview with The Guardian, Swift states: “Becoming friends with Lena — without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for — has made me realize that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so.”

As for the 1989 album itself, Taylor’s new feminist persona bleeds into the music and lyrics. As a whole, the album is devoted to the positive changes in her life, rather than focusing on romance and heartbreak. In an interview with Fusion, Swift describes her life in relation to 1989: “My life is all about my friends right now, but I don’t have any song that’s like BEST FRIENDS ANTHEM, I really am trying to put these messages across subtly and tell stories where kind of those aspects of my life as felt rather than said to you.” Looking closer at the contents of the album, Bustle.com examined the lyrics of all of the songs on the album to find “5 ‘1989’ Lyrics That Prove Feminist Taylor Swift Is Here To Stay.”

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I love Taylor Swift, and her feminist awakening only makes me love her more. As an artist with a large following of young girls, Taylor’s feminist proclamation is bound to influence her young fans. I have a sister in the 8th Grade (13 years old), and she is a huge Taylor Swift fan, so I’m happy that the pop star she idolizes is also a positive feminist role model. As for my opinion on the ‘1989’ album itself, I like it. I’m not as enamored with it musically as I have been with some of her others (specifically ‘Red’), but the more I listen to it, the more I like it. My favorite song at the moment is “Blank Space”. ‘1989’ is the kind of album that makes me want to sit on the floor with my best girl friends with a bottle of wine and a plate of cookies, and talk about life while dancing around the room. It’s the kind of music that makes me feel young and free, and as a 21-year-old Senior in college, that’s exactly how I want to feel right now.

QUICK HIT: Badass Halloween Costumes for Little Feminists

28 Oct

Here are some ADORABLE and awesome costumes that rep some famous feminists! Here are some favorites:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/morganshanahan/awesome-feminist-costume-ideas-for-little-grrrrrls

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Bra Straps, Yoga Pants, Business Suits: Does it really matter?

28 Oct

The following is a guest blog post from a woman who’s close to my heart and happens to be an extremely talented writer and feminist.  Renee graduated from George Mason University in 2011 and her experience as a professional, young woman in the work place provides her with a unique perspective. The piece highlights the covert sexism experienced daily in real life situations and questions the significance of debates surrounding new dress code rules. We can change the grade school dress code, but is that really the source of the problem?

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QUICK HIT: What it is like to be a woman in NYC and everywhere

28 Oct

A young film-maker recently walked all over NYC for 10 hours, and recorded her experience. Street harassment is a reality women deal with on a daily basis. Some of the men in the video seemed as if they were being polite, but in my experience and obviously in the experience of the film maker, if you engage the activity with a polite response or smile, its taken as an invitation. Take a look:

Not That Kind of Girl

27 Oct

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working my way through Lena Dunham’s new book, Not That Kind of Girl. As I read, I laughed a lot. I also was struck by how much I related to Dunham’s stories. Unlike Dunham I have not grown up in NYC, or attended a super liberal school, or been the creator/writer/director/star of an HBO show… yet. Despite the differences in our experiences, I still was able to relate almost everything Dunham wrote about to my own life.

Not That Kind of Girl is divided into 5 sections: Love and Sex, Body, Friendship, Work, and Big Picture. All of these topics are things that most women have experienced no matter their circumstances. Specifically, sections about body image, sex, rape, and being a women in the workplace resonated with me. Not only did I enjoy Dunham’s auto-ethnography from a feminist viewpoint, but I also liked it because it was damn funny. Dunham’s voice shines through the pages, and her writing style is so personable that I sometimes felt Lena and I were just chatting over a cup of coffee. 81ZqOFyzSjL

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JMU is the #3 American University with the Hottest Girls. Who Gives A Fuck?

27 Oct

Recently, I saw an article titled “These 10 Colleges Have the Hottest Girls”, that two of my female friends shared on Facebook. Normally, I don’t pay attention to those kinds of articles because I think they are stupid and unimportant, but the fact that two female friends on Facebook shared it sparked my interest. I clicked on the link and read the article, but what I read made me question a couple things.

First off, why is the attractiveness of JMU’s (female) student body something that is valued? What about our academics? What about our extremely successful student-run organizations? After some digging, I found that Niche.com, the website where the data for this article came from, includes lists of colleges with the best academics, most diversity, and safest campuses, things I personally see as more worthy of being proud of than our looks. Unfortunately, JMU did not make the list for any of the above categories.

Is this image honestly a truthful depiction of the diversity that exists within American universities?

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It’s Not MY Problem: Bystander Intervention and Why It Matters

26 Oct

Bystander: someone who is aware of or sees a potential dangerous situation occurring and can do something to stop it.

Most of us have heard this phrase, and if you’re a freshman or a sophomore at JMU, you’ve sat through a whole program on the subject during Orientation. But what does being a bystander mean? Doing the right thing and intervening? How do we even do that? And, perhaps the biggest question: does bystander intervention even really make a difference?

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From iamnotthebabysitter.com

This Friday, I attended a conference at JMU about promoting safe drinking habits on college campuses. The opening speaker was Jessy Lyons, a fabulously engaging lady from Green Dot, Etcetera, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating others about violence prevention. Lyons spoke about the culture of violence that exists on college campuses and our role as bystanders.

Lyons pointed out that as a society, we look at the culture of violence that exists in this country as a big, unchangeable fact of life. However, culture changes all the time. Lyons used the movie The Social Network as an example:

Facebook started because Mark Zuckerberg created the website in his dorm room. If you stopped the movie there, no culture change has occurred.

Mark then tells a few of his friends, and they start using Facebook. If you stopped the movie there, no culture change has occurred.

More and more Harvard students started using Facebook. If you stopped the movie there, no culture change has occurred.

But then Facebook is opened up to the general public. Then, real culture change starts to happen. Facebook has irrevocably shifted how we communicate in our culture, and all it came down to was a series of individual mouse clicks.

Our culture CAN change, Lyons says. It takes lots of individual changes and choices to create a larger, long lasting change.

This idea of individual decisions creating a big cultural change is essential to bystander intervention. You may think that stopping one situation isn’t making a difference to the larger problem, but if everyone stepped up even once, we would see real culture change.

As a feminist and violence prevention advocate, I’ve found myself getting incredibly frustrated at the endless task of creating an equal, safe environment for everyone. I’ve often wondered if my actions were even making a difference. Jessy Lyons’ talk made me realize that it’s not a matter of questioning my own actions; it’s a matter of motivating others into action.

“There are about fifty people in this room right now,” Lyons said.
“Imagine a perpetrator is standing on one side of the room and wants to do harm to someone on the other side of the room. If we sit back and do nothing, the perpetrator can easily get to the victim. But if we all stand up, there’s no way the perpetrator is getting through.”

After hearing this talk, I am making it my personal mission to stand up in potentially unsafe situation, whether that’s intervening myself or getting someone else to do it. And if we all make it our mission to stand up, there’s no way perpetrators are getting through again.

Is it Good to be a “Bad” Feminist?

25 Oct

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, is a book I never thought I would be able to identify so closely with.

Within the opening pages, Gay talks about her frequent rejection of feminism in her young age. She explains why “women still fall over themselves to disavow feminism, to distance themselves.” She notes that she did the same in her younger years because when she was called a feminist, the label felt like an insult. When I read this passage of her novel, it was almost as if I was reading my personal story. I, once too, renounced the “feminist” label because of the heavy stigmatization attached to the term. And, I too understand why women work so hard to severe ties from the movement.

Aside from my immediate and close identification with Gay’s viewpoint, what I love most about her writing is her raw honesty. With absolutely no holds barred, she airs out her flaws, and our flaws, as feminists:

“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself…”

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Media’s At It Again: This Time Normalization (Pt.1)

23 Oct

For all of the people who think media “doesn’t affect them,” well listen up because Melissa Fabello makes it clear that you are wrong. Last night Melissa opened up a dialogue about intimate partner violence and how our media normalizes the violence. Now you’re thinking who is this Melissa and how can she just come up in JMU with this perspective, well first off Melissa Fabello is a highly educated feminist. In 2013, she received her M.Ed. in Human Sexuality at Widener University. So, anyway, I want to first say that I have done my own research into intimate partner violence, but I learned so much in an hour and a half, now my brains on overdrive. My first instinct is to just list out the whole event, but that would be far too long, I will just highlight the key points.

First, the way that she tackled this whole idea of media not affecting us, is by doing an activity. She presented the audiences with letters of different colors and fonts and we had to guess what company was behind the letter, we were able to do this efficiently and quickly. Melissa, argues, that if we can take these letters and apply them to different kind of media avenues, then yea, media definitely affects us. Right off the bat, I thought that this is gonna be good, and she did not disappoint.

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One of the biggest concepts, Melissa focuses on is media literacy. Media literacy, “provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society.” Basically media literacy goes the extra step of not just viewing media, but understanding the intentions behind the presentation. One of the biggest questions you ask is, “Is it really selling what it’s advertising?” In most cases, no, it’s selling you the idea of something else.

So you’re probably thinking how does this relate to intimate partner violence, to answer this its simple, media normalizes intimate partner violence. Melissa Fabello uses pop music as a main frame of this normalization. One of the examples she uses is Ours by Taylor Swift.

Seems like there’s always someone who disapproves
They’ll judge it like they know about me and you
And the verdict comes from those with nothing else to do
The jury’s out, but my choice is you

So don’t you worry your pretty little mind
People throw rocks at things that shine
And life makes love look hard
The stakes are high, the water’s rough
But this love is ours

Now, I know what you’re thinking, don’t diss sweet T-Swift, but this song does have problematic elements. Though it wasn’t Taylor’s intention, the song could feed into a survivors want to stay in an abusive relationship though others strongly disapprove. Also that line, “don’t you worry your pretty little mind,” doesn’t that kind of creep you out? These lyrics that we listen to on a daily are permeated into our culture.

So how do we solve this problem with our media? Melissa provides some answers.

1. Forget “mindless entertainment”

2. Ask questions

3. Start conversations

It’s time we stop looking at media with blank slates in our minds and analyze the way media influences our culture and plays into normalization of such tragic incidences.

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*I will post again this week, to talk about her perspective on queer relationships as it relates to intimate partner violence, because I believe that voice needs to be heard. Stay Tune!*

 

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