Category Archives: Feminist Stuff

The One Where I Geek Out about Title IX

So, I know it has been absolutely forever since I wrote a post, but I’m back because I finally feel like I have the brain space to write and a topic I’m psyched to tell you all about!  Last week, on Tuesday, June 23rd, the White  House held a roundtable discussion to celebrate the 37th anniversary of Title IX and through a lucky convergence of events, I was able to attend the celebration!  I’ve been fairly obsessed with Title IX since I wrote my senior thesis about it in college, so I was RIDICULOUSLY excited to get to go to the White House event for it!  As it turns out, the roundtable also is a perfect excuse share some thoughts on why I am so in love with Title IX.

For all of you who aren’t Title IX geeks like me, Title IX is Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and it states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  It is most famous for getting women and girls into sports, but we also have Title IX to thank for removing admissions barriers in higher education (for getting more women into college), barring discrimination against women teachers, administrators, and professors, and prohibiting sex discrimination in schools.

(Above: The video of the event).

So, back to the event.  It was nice to get to go to an event for something where I got to do all that and get to feel pretty jazzed and emotional about the topic at hand!  Here are a few of the event highlights:

  • It was in the OEOB.  I’m kind of a nerd and I always wanted to go to the OEOB.  Unfortunately, my efforts to snag a souvenir OEOB appointment badge failed miserably.
  • Birch Bayh, the former Senator from Indiana, who sponsored Title IX back in 1972 was there.  I didn’t realize he was still alive, so that was pretty cool.  In his brief remarks, he seemed to care very deeply about Title IX and that was cool to see.  I wrote a lot about Senator Bayh when I was doing my thesis and I always thought of him fondly from the way he came off as I read hearings from the 1970s, so it was cool to see that he actually was a good match for how I imagined him!
  • Billie Jean King was also there and that was very cool.  It’s hard to be a woman who likes sports and not think Billie Jean King is pretty awesome.  She was pretty emotional about how much Title IX meant to her and actually seemed glassy-eyed at times, so that was quite touching.  I also want to share this BJK quote, “Nerds rule!  I love nerds the best.  They’re smart and fun!”  Nothing says we should keep educating women at the highest levels and get them into science, technology, math, and engineering fields quite like that!
  • Dominique Dawes is absolutely jacked.  I felt out of shape just looking at her.  Though, I am out of shape so maybe I just felt out of shape from being out of shape.
  • Russlyn Ali, who is in charge of the Office of Civil Rights, our friends over at the Department of Education who enforce Title IX, really encouraged people to bring Title IX complaints and she talked a lot about how they want to vigorously enforce Title IX.  Fun to hear that after the Bush years!  WOO!

I took some notes on the whole event with the intention of writing a blog post that would basically be a recap, but now that I am writing and the whole thing is on YouTube, I feel like I would rather write a bit about why I care so damn much about Title IX.

The whole time I was sitting at the OEOB listening to all the amazing speakers talk about Title IX, I could not help but reflect on my own feelings about the law.  I first got interested in Title IX one summer during college, it must have been the summer of 2002 (the 30th anniversary of Title IX) when ESPN was showing all kinds of specials about Title IX and when I was trying to think of things that could be fun thesis topics.  I remember talking to one of my professors about how I wanted to write about how women’s sports and Title IX were not killing men’s sports, and my professor encouraged me to instead write about why we only talk about Title IX and its impact on sports.  What about its promise for women in education?   In retrospect, that might have been one of the more important questions someone has ever asked me.  I ended up answering that question in my thesis (we focus more on sports because the discussion about Title IX sports focuses on gender differences than the discussion about education and Title IX).  The question also prompted what I think will be a long and fulfilling relationship between me and Title IX research.

Since that project forced me to learn all about the broad applications of Title IX, I really gained an appreciation for how much Title IX has made me what I am.  At this point, it’s pretty clear that I am going to be in school forever, ideally earning a PhD and becoming an academic and I’ve been playing sports ever since I was old enough to wear a hat that was way too big for my head and hit a ball off a T.   I remember reading about Title IX and realizing how much my generation took for granted.  Before the law, colleges had quotas for how many women they could accept, textbooks were packed with sex stereotypes, women scientists had their experiments sabotaged, and women’s sports received little support.  It just blows my mind to think about that.  Where would I be if I couldn’t have completed something like 18 years of education?  What would I have studied?  What would I have done with all my free time instead of playing field hockey or soccer or running or ultimate frisbee?  I just literally I have no idea what I would be doing as I feel like my life has so often been defined by my need to learn and research and my love of sports.  It’s crazy to think that if I had been doing all of this like 37 years earlier I might be a totally different person.

I’ve still been writing about Title IX, most recently on the Bush Administration’s regulations that allow for single sex education under Title IX (we need to revoke those, by the way).  I also feel fairly certain that once I start a PhD program, I want to write my dissertation on the subject.   So, I thought that this White House event was the perfect opportunity to talk a little bit about why I care about Title IX since it’s something I plan to continue to work on for quite some time!

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This is the First Time I’ve Been Cited as an Expert in the Press

Check out my comments on why women are underrepresented in student government in the GW Hatchet.

http://media.www.gwhatchet.com/media/storage/paper332/news/2009/02/19/News/Sa.Election.Guide.Few.Females.Earn.Top.Spot-3638628.shtml

It’s exciting!

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It’s a Post about Academic Theory and Outrage!

As part of my morning routine, I always watch CNN while trying to will myself out of bed and this morning I was reminded of a story that’s been making my head want to explode.  Last week a story came out that Georgia Republicans are trying to ban “sex courses” (I love their use of scare quotes!) like queer theory.  Here’s the thing, I love queer theory and school, so this is the kind of thing I can really get going about.  Here’s a list of everything that is absolutely outrageous about this policy:

1) The press, I’m looking at you CNN, has embraced this language of “steamy sex courses” to describe queer theory.  Have any of these people ever,  you know, picked up a book?  It’s like they want you to believe that queer theory is a guide for how to have gay sex.  It is not.  It IS compromised of many awesome theories about how to see gender and gender identity as socially constructed.  It asks us to think way outside of the box and move beyond thinking of gender and binaries.  And my personal favorite part, is that it is actually very inclusive in mind, because it pushes for an understanding of gender that allows for a diverse array of gender identities and sexualities.  It challenges people to think in new ways and that is never a bad thing.

(I know, you’re so pumped about this theory now that you want to know where you can read more.  I’d suggest starting with Gender Trouble by Judith Butler.  It will blow your mind!)

2) Here’s what’s cool about academia, if you don’t agree with a theory, such as queer theory, no one is saying you can’t argue against it, you just have to do it on solid academic grounding.  I realize queer theory is pretty radical and some people are going to disagree with it, but to those people I say, why don’t you read some queer theory, do some reasearch, and give me a well-thought out position against it.  Just banning the teaching of ideas is a totally insane way to discredit an entire field of solid academic work.  Also, I’m pretty sure queer theory could come out on top in this academic debate!

3) “Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Calvin Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.”

This kind of narrow-minded thinking is a huge part of the problem.  It’s upsetting that those legislators cannot see that maybe there are some flawed assumptions in how those subjects are taught and embracing new theories like queer theory, feminist theory, etc. could help provide better understandings in all of those fields that would result in greater knowledge and improved policies based on that knowledge.

By the way, for anyone keeping track out there, I like the way this guy mentions that the purpose of education is limited to science, business, and math, 3 of the most gendered, male-heavy fields I can think of.  Are we also not responsible for teaching people about English, history, social sciences, the humanities, etc?  I feel like there’s a dangerous undercurrent in this that says education is only legit if it focuses on fields that have been traditionally associated with reinforcing a system that overwhelmingly privileges white, heterosexual males.  This is key, because banning queer theory could be a slippery slope.  What’s next?

4) I think there’s also a Title IX argument to be made here.  For those of you who are not obsessed with Title IX like I am, Title IX states,”No person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”   The law covers all areas of education and all programs at institutes of higher education.  While this has not yet been tested in court and policy recommendations do not yet exist on the issue, I would argue that banning the teaching of queer theory (or feminist theory or whatever else conservatives decide they don’t like) could be considered a form of gender discrimination.  I know if GW (where I am currently a student), decided to up and ban the women’s studies program, I would feel as though I was being discriminated against for wanting to learn more about issues related to my gender.

OK, I feel better having gotten that out!

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Here is a Woman Doing Something Awesome

Every now and then, I find a woman who seems to be doing something totally awesome and I feel like other people should know about it.  This is one of those cases.  As you may know, I am a fan of running and dressing like a complete and total lunatic when I am doing so.  This is actually harder than you would think since running companies tend to produce things that are “tasteful” or “generally considered attractive” in colors that most people think look good.  But, I am always out there on the hunt for something wild.  In this case, my sister consulted me on how to find an insane running skirt for the Cherry Blossom Run, and I found what might be the greatest running website ever, Running Funky.

So, I hit Running Funky on the old Google search and I immediately felt good.  Then I started looking around I felt great.  Multicolored neon patterns.  Check.  Holiday themed patterns. Check.  Ability to buy skirts, tights, or even a unitard.  You betcha.  They have everything I have ever wanted out of running gear.  Now, granted, I have not actually used these products, but they really fit my aesthetic since I am someone who also owns this running skirt.  So, obviously, I will love them.  Plus, they were designed by a runner and runners tend to design great running stuff!

cheetah-haute-pink-running-skirt-web

Anyways, I digress.  Just as I was in neon lyrca heaven, I explored the website a little more and found out Running Funky was started by a woman who has been running forever, and like me, likes to look like a freak show during races.  She also seems to employ all women.  So, truly the best part is that I can dress like a neon idiot while supporting a smalll, independent, woman-owned business.  I love it so much I can’t stand it.  Sadly, my new computer means I should wait before purchasing some sweet gear from Running Funky.  But, fear not, it will happen.  I am running a St. Patrick’s Day race and my birthday is April.  Man, this stuff just makes me just want to get back in shape.  Good work ladies!

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Question to Ponder: Will a Woman Ever Have Her Own Late Night Show?

So, I was up way too late the other night and watching Conan O’Brian and I got excited that he will be taking over for Leno soon, and then I thought about the whole who will be the next Leno controversy and I realized these shows really are all about old white dudes and Jimmy Kimmel and Carson Daly.   Not once have I heard someone say, you know what would be a sweet idea, let’s replace Leno with a really hilarious woman!  How is it that we think that that only these dudes can make people laugh during the 11-1:30 slot?  I feel like people like to get worked up about how Americans don’t want to get their news from women, but I’ve decided I’m more worked up over the fact that I can’t get my parodied news from women.  It’s not like there aren’t funny women out there.  Here’s some women that I think would be awesome to host Late Night TV talk shows.  I guarantee all of these people are more interesting than Leno and Carson Daly.
6a00d83451bae269e200e551987c228834-800wi1 Tina Fey

Obviously, on the list because she is my heroine, but I also because I   think she’s the leading contender.  Here’s what she has going for her:

  • Has late night chops from her years on Saturday Night Live.
  • Her work on Weekend Update and 30 Rock proves she rocks when it comes to topical humor.
  • Improv background at Second City could make her good at ab libbing funny conversations with whoever is promoting their last movie.
  • She’s so hot right now thanks to Sarah Palin (probably the only positive contribution Sarah Palin made to the country if you think about it).
  • Sure, we’d have to wait till 30 Rock is done with it’s run, but I think Tina’s worth the wait.
  • 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live proved that Fey knows how to run her own show.
  • One of the most obviously feminist candidates for the position.

Amy Poehleramy-poehler

Amy Poehler is also hilarious and a little deranged and I like that.  Here’s what’s in her favor:

  • Also has Saturday Night Live experience and Weekend Update experience.
  • She’s well-known.
  • She’s pretty goofy, so she might be good at coming up with absurd segments in the same vein as Conan’s “In the Year 2000.”
  • She has an improv background too.

sambee01Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents because she always knows how to use being a woman to her advantage to make things especially outrageous or hilarious.

  • Her Daily Show experience means she knows how to take what’s going on in politics and the world and make it hilarious.
  • She could use her Daily Show experience to do a more hilarious man on the street feature than Jay Leno’s Jaywalking.
  • Bee’s background is in sketch comedy, which I also feel could be good for those little funny segments that always happen before the guests come out.  Those are usually the funniest part of these shows, might as well make them good!

Sarah Silvermansarah-silverman-cc08

Definitely my most controversial selection.  I feel like the thing that Sarah has going for her is she knows how to use humor to make shocking statements that can get people to think.  On the downside, not everyone sees her that way.  Here’s why I think she’d be good:

  • She certainly has a watchable quality in that you’re always wondering what crazy thing she is going to do next.
  • Controversy will get viewers and could open up some taboo conversations in a non-threatening, funny way.
  • She’s been doing her own show on Comedy Central for awhile, so she knows how to do it.
  • “I’m Fucking Matt Damon” is one of the most hilarious sketches to happen on a late show (The Jimmy Kimmel Show) in recent memory.

haskins_bioSarah Haskins

Sarah Haskins is my dark horse suggestion.  I know many of you out there are asking who the hell Sarah Haskins is, so I’ll tell you.  She does these hilarious Target Women sketches on Current TV (some kind of internet TV website) that mock the way things are marketed to women.  I’m in love with all of them, but especially the ones for birth control, yogurt, and cleaning products.  Here’s what works for her:

  • The Target Women spots are short funny bits and they rock.  Late night shows need them.
  • She’s really smart (Harvard grad!) and you like to see that in someone who is mocking topical news.
  • Along with Tina Fey, she is probably the one of the most obvious feminists.
  • Also has improv background.  I really do love those improv-ers.

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Highly Highly Skeptical that Sexy TV is Responsible for Knocking Up Teens

Today, Pediatrics (the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) published a study by Anita Chandra that links teen pregnancy to sex on TV shows such as Sex and the City, Friends, and That 70s Show.   Chandra tracked 2,000 12-17 year olds over the course of three years and found that those who watched sex on TV shows were twice as likely to be pregnant.  Now, I must admit, that I really want to read the actual study before making conclusions, but it looks like I can’t get it through the GW online library, so this is based on my newspaper findings.  I’m going to try to actually find this thing though, so I can look at the actual findings (if anyone out there can get it, please send it!).  Here are all the reasons I am skeptical.

I take issue with the shows that were selected.  First of all, Sex and the City is clearly not a television show that was meant for children to view.  It has always been rated TV-MA.  So, I think we can assume there are other problems if kids are watching SATC.  Second, all of the shows selected might show that sex is fun and they mostly focus on sex between adults (That 70s Show being the exception).  There have been plenty of TV shows out there that show the consequences of teen sex (I’ll cite Gilmore Girls, where Rory’s loss of virginity with her married ex-boyfriend was a mess and poor Lane got pregnant on her first time having sex, which, incidentally, was with her husband!).  How would the results have changed if shows like those were included?  What about the fact that teen shows tend to favor sex in loving relationships?  The tried and true formula for teenage couples is that they only have good sex when they are in love.  Otherwise, disaster ensues.  For your consideration:

serena-dan-look1Dan Humphrey and Serena van der Woodsen (Gossip Girl).  Dan and Serena have sex for the first time after they have fallen in love and Serena makes a special Christmas present for Dan.  Dan, our sweet, sensitive guy is losing his virginity and it is strong implied that this is the first time that Serena has ever had sex that mattered.

Blair Waldorf and Nate Archibald (Gossip Girl).  Blair saved herself for her first love for years before they had sex.  Though Blair lost her virginity to Chuck, her tryst with Nate is depicted as the first special sex she has.  Chuck was a mistake until….

Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass (Gossip Girl).  Blair and Chuck fall in love.  They no longer sleep with each other, but instead are holding off until they can feel comfortable exchanging “I Love You’s.”

Chuck Bass and Poor Victim Girls (Gossip Girl).  At the beginning of Gossip Girl, Chuck Bass tries to force himself on Serena and on Little J.  Serena kicks his ass.  Dan punches him for trying to force himself on his sister, and Little J gets revenge by locking Chuck naked on a roof.  It is clear, sex should be consentual and in a loving relationship.

ss2

Seth Cohen and Summer Roberts (The OC). When Seth Cohen and Summer lost their virginity to each other, they agreed to slow down and save sex until it meant something.  In the end, I don’t think Seth and Summer ever even slept with someone else since they got married!

Ryan Atwood and Marissa Cooper (The OC)  Even the “bad boy” outsider Ryan and the “bad” overprivileged girl Marissa waited until they were in love and waited many YEARS (like season 3!) to sleep together.  When Marissa lost her virginity to someone she didn’t love (Luke, oh silly, Luke), it went badly.

Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano (My So-Called Life). Angela decided she could not have sex with Jordan despite the fact that he looked really hot playing guitar and leaning on things, because she was not ready. She was celebrated for this choice.  angela

Joey Potter and Pacey Witter (Dawson’s Creek). Joey and Pacey slept together once they were in love and on a ski trip.  After declaring they were in love, Joey took the condom from Pacey and told him “I want to throw the wrapper away).

Joey Potter and Dawson Leery (Dawson’s Creek).  Joey and Dawson waited almost 20 years to sleep together!  They were well into college before it happened and then it was a VERY big deal because of all the emotions involved!

Felicity and Noel (Felicity).  Felicity and Noel never actually sleep together, but only because their attempt to have sex during season 1 was such a disaster because they tried to force it instead of waiting until sex would have been a natural part of their relationship.

Felicity and Ben (Felicity).  Felicity and Ben (oh Ben…) don’t sleep together until they have gotten together, broken up, gotten back together, and fallen in love.  It is, of course, perfect when it happens!

buffy_angel11Buffy and Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  When Buffy sleeps with her vampire boyfriend for the first time, Angel literally turns back into his evil self.

Buffy and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  After being mortal enemies, Buffy and Spike start sleeping together and it is literally depicted as an S&M relationship.  They tear down and house and bruise each other.  Buffy beats herself up for it.  This relationship is a total disaster until Spike gets a soul so he and Buffy can finally fall in love.  Of course, then he has to go sacrifice himself to save the world, killing that shot at happiness.

55497_1_9Willow and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Ah, the only gay couple to make the list.  It is always implied that Willow and Tara have a deep emotional connection and therefore, they have literally magical sex.

Willow and Oz (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). These two fall deeply in love and have very sweet, very safe sex.

freaks31Lindsay Weir and Nick Andopolis (Freaks and Geeks).  Despite the fact that Nick spoke-sang Lindsay a bitchin’ version of “Lady” and then just wanted to cuddle, these two never got it on.  Why?  Lindsay was weirded out by the idea of sex and the fact that she didn’t love Nick the way he loved her.

Daniel Desario and Kim Kelly (Freaks and Geeks).  So these two are freaks, which naturally means they get it on a lot,  but they also have a very strong, if not very troubled love.  Daniel and Kim help each other deal with their dysfunctional families and for them, it always seems like that love helps them conquer many things (though not all, because no one can ever be perfectly happy on Freaks and Geeks!)

Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars).  Poor, poor Veronica Mars loses her virginity when she is rufied and raped.  Again, it is clear sexual assault is bad.  Veronica does manage to have good sex when she falls in love with Duncan in season two though.

jess_rory_nyRory and Jess (Gilmore Girls).  Rory and Jess never have sex, despite the fact that Rory expresses an interest in losing her virginity to Jess.  Rory and Jess also have all kinds of issues emotionally opening up to each other and saying things like “I love you.”  Concidence?  I think not.

bailey-i-sarah-party-of-five-181321_84_120And one more, bonus blast from the past, Bailey and Sarah (Party of Five).  Those two waited forever! I don’t remember a ton about this show, but I remember that.  Also, I remember that Julia had a pregnancy scare (see, sex, never a good idea for teens), but thankfully, miscarried it.  And then everyone got cancer and alcoholism, and really, that’s a whole other blog post.

Nuts right?  Look at all that loving, committed teen sex.  And those consequences of deviating from that (and I didn’t even get into The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which I haven’t watched, but is all about a girl getting knocked up her first time). Ok, now that my love for teen TV is painfully obvious, and it’s clear sex on teen TV is all about love, here are some other issues I have with this study.  It seems like there is not any information about the association between TV and teen pregnancy.  From what I can tell, there is no evidence that TV leads to teen pregnancy and not the other way around.  What about other factors?  This study was conducted between 2002-2004.  Sure sexy TV has been popular in that time, but you know what else has been super popular, ABSTINENCE ONLY sex education?  How is it that NO article managed to mention this fact?!?!?! Might the fact that teens haven’t learned as much about contraception actually be responsible for this increase in teen pregnancy?  Call me crazy, but I think that’s pretty likely! What about the role of parents?  What kinds of houses do these kids live in?  Is it possible that they see more TV because they do not have the resources to access more productive/positive activities?  In all of the articles I have read, I also have not read that the difference Chandra found is statistically significant.  Perhaps that’s in the Pediatrics article, but I need to see some of that information.   Ultimately, I feel that there a number of complicated reasons that teen pregnancy has increased and blaming adult sex on TV is a poor scapegoat.  In reality, many factors contribute to teen pregnancy and teen TV, even the most irresponsible teen TV (ahem, Gossip Girl), tends to show that sex is best when it takes place in loving, committed relationships.  Let’s just look at the full picture before we all freak out.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch tonight’s Gossip Girl!

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Pro-Life Unless the Life Belongs to a Woman Going for An Abortion

This is easily the most fucked up thing I have seen from Sarah Palin, which is saying a lot considering there’s tons of footage of her hate fest rallies.  I think Palin’s hypocrisy speaks for itself, so I’ll leave it at that.  Plus, I need to get out shopping.  I have $150,000 for clothes burning a hole in my pocket.  I plan on buying approximately 3,000 hooded sweatshirts.

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