Some thoughts and perspectives regarding Women's and Gender Studies

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Afghanistan museum

For my extra credit field trip, I visited the Afghanistan field trip.  The museum was a 4-story display.  At the top of the first staircase is a quote by Rumi printed on a rock.  As I progressed up the stairs, I encountered the animals that are native to the land.  Three of the animals include: Marco Polo sheep, Himalayan brown bear and the Bactrian camel.  I was surprised to see there are bears there.

In touring the museum, I found out a lot of information that I didn’t know about.  This included finding out that a traditional Afghanistan musical instrument is the Dhol, which looked like a large drum.  Music seemed to be a big part of their culture.

I was surprised to find out the uses of cannabis in their culture.  It has long been used for fiber in hemp, medically and ceremonially as well as for recreation.  Further along in my path, I discovered the roof top café and looked at their menu.  The menu included lamb kebabs, Qorma, which is a lamb casserole, naan, a bread with sesame seeds, Palao, which is baked bismatti, khameerbob, dumplings filled with onions.

The Nuristani are people that live in a 5,000 square mile area in east corner of Afghanistan in heavily forested valleys of the Hindu Kush.  The area is rugged and accessible only by foot trails.





The second part of my field trip was to RAWA.  RAWA stands for Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.  It was created in 1977 and was meant to give voice to the deprived and silenced women of Afghanistan.  The magazine, Payam-e Zan, conveys the RAWA message.  Meena had a large part in RAWA, and she stood up for deprived individuals.  Meena established schools for refugee children and also a hospital and handicraft centers for refugee women in Pakistan to support Afghan women financially.

I would have to agree with their stance on the 10-year war.  There have been many civilian deaths from this war.  The repercussions do not stop at Afghanistan’s civilians, but others are effected as well, including our troops. In fact, there was a statement saying that one US veteran attempts suicide every 80 minutes.   You can see an anti-American statement on the wall titled “Stop the US War in Afghanistan”.  The article said that it doesn’t agree with the US troops needing to stay to prevent civil war.

The conditions for women and children have deteriorated since the invasion by NATO and the American troops.  Life has become intolerable for this group.  Girls are in prison for leaving their husbands.  Women prisoners are being raped in Kabil and there are revenge rapes.  Girls are forced into early marriage, raped, and are subjected to extreme domestic violence and gender inequality.  These are conditions of everyday life and are completely unacceptable!


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Field trip 2


For field trip number 2, I visited SLENZ midwifery build in New Zealand.  The building was large and somewhat confusing to navigate at first.  But after a little exploring, it was easy to get around.  The lower level of the building had a large waiting room with comfortable couches and a television.  It also had a large kitchen with a refrigerator for the patient’s and the guests as well as some tables to sit down and eat.  Off the side of the kitchen there were several rooms.

I did get the midwife resource pack, but I couldn’t open up any of the scenarios to see what they were.  I believe, however, that a birthing center is much more focused on the comfortableness of the mother and centered around them than a hospital, so I am sure that I would like to be treated like that.  I like the fact that one can do the roleplaying, especially those who work in the healthcare field.  I also think it would be a great thing for a pregnant woman to play around with to see what she might experience.

The birthing room is a large room with a bathroom, a separate waiting area, large spa and a bed.  I loved that the room had a large patio with beautiful flowers and trees outside. There were also couches in the corner with a rope hanging from the ceiling.  I believe that the rope would help support a mother as she held on to it and then squatted.  This would help with gravity and getting the baby out naturally.

The spa is something that you wouldn’t find in a hospital setting, and I think that it is a safe way to help promote natural childbirth, and it helps alleviate pain during the labor process.  There was also an IV cart, and that is something that you would find in a hospital setting.

I do think that this woman-centered unit is welcoming to the father as well.  The rooms are spacious and have televisions.  There is a lot of room for the father to help the mother along the process and be right there by her side.  I think that if I had another baby, I would prefer to go to a birthing center instead of a hospital.  The birthing center is much more warm and inviting instead of cold and sterile.

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The Freedom of Choice and the Vatican


Last year in the news Melinda Gates spoke up against her disagreement with the Vatican at the Family Planning Summit in London regarding the Vatican’s stance on contraception.

Melinda gates, a practicing Catholic, spoke in the article we read for class of her passion for the catholic religion, but that she also believes in the use of contraceptives, which is against what the catholic church believes.   Melinda’s foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the government of the United Kingdom hosted The Family Planning Summit in London last year in order to “bring access to contraceptives to over 120 million woman” as well as to “increase the availability and understanding of contraceptives.

I completely commend Melinda and her courageousness for standing up against the Catholic Church and standing up for what she believes in.  Women should be able to make the choices that are right for them in regards to their body and their life.  This would include the use, or non-use, of contraception.

Some women choose to use birth control, a form of contraception, such as the pill, medicinally to help with issues caused by their menstrual cycle, such as painful cramps, and this should be the woman’s prerogative.  Some use contraception, such as condoms, to protect themselves for sexually transmitted diseases and from getting pregnant when they are not ready to care for a baby.  This should be their prerogative as well.  The choices women make for themselves and about their body should be theirs alone.  It should not be up to any government or church to tell women what is best for their body, and usually the ones speaking on behalf of the government and the church are men.  How are they in any position to speak on something they know nothing about?  While I respect the many religions that are in existence, including the Catholic religion and Church, It is hard for me to respect the element of control that sometimes comes with these institutions.



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Cult of Pink


For our readings this week in class we read essays from two women who fought breast cancer, Audre Lorde and Barbara Ehrenreich.  The articles were written nearly 30 years apart and both authors were angry regarding the stigma applied to breast cancer.  The stigma seems to be to just “be positive” and fight your way through cancer, and that you will come out a survivor with these skills at hand.  It doesn’t take into account the depression or anger that can come with a diagnosis, and it almost seems that these are not acceptable feelings to have.  This, however, is not true, and these are normal feelings.  There also seems to be a very feminine “cuteness” that goes along with breast cancer merchandise.  Items like pink ribbons and pink teddy bears.  Tote bags full of items such as journals and boxes of crayons for those with a breast cancer diagnosis.

While searching the web for breast cancer awareness and charity sites, I was inundated with breast cancer merchandise such as bears, ribbons and shirt, and I certainly believe that this “cult of pink” is still dominant with breast cancer.  I found many sites that carried this same mistake in counseling that the authors had talked about; to just have a positive attitude.

One such site that I found was Y-me.org.  One particular area of the site spoke about reconstruction surgery.  It went along with Lorde’s article and how she spoke about how reconstruction seems to be pushed upon people.  The site said that reconstruction surgery was a decision that needed to be made early in the process, but it didn’t even mention the actual choices.  Not everyone has to be “constructed” into how women are supposed to look based on society’s views.  I found this to be interesting that the actual choices women had weren’t even talked about.

In contrast, however, The Cancer Treatment Centers of America has a good section on breast cancer.  One that, I believe, is truly respectful to women.  I think this site had a lot of information for women diagnosed with breast cancer.  It also recognizes that depression and anger are a part of the diagnosis and doesn’t expect women to just be positive and optimistic.

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Tough Guise


Tough Guise is a film that reflects on the way society defines masculinity and what it means to be a man in today’s day and age.  The title  uses a play on words to show us the film maker’s idea that generally the image of a tough guy is merely a guise, or an outward image that the person is trying to portray.

Society tells men how they should act, and when men do not live up to this image, they are called names such as bitch or gay.  What is  funny to me is that these names that men are called are often used to describe woman as well as the LGBT community.   So when men are seen as weak, they are compared with the “weaker” people in society.   Those that are weaker in society seem to be minorities and those that are not the white, privileged male.  We can see this point in how we see such little diversity in the “guise” of African American and Asian men.  Because they are a minority and no power, they put on a guise of toughness so that they have some chance at owning a little bit of power.

There is a cycle to this masculinity and violence that we see.  The idea of being masculine is to be tough and violent.  This violence just seems to repeat itself over and over.  A great idea of this cycle that just repeats itself is when the film talks about the movie Boys in the Hood.  When a friend is shot dead in the film, the friends feel they have to take justice in their own hands…an eye for an eye, if you will.  Cuba Gooding Jr’s character stops this cycle though by getting out of the car while they are on their way to get revenge for their friend’s death.

It seems that this ideal of masculinity shares with it a lot of violence, and it is not only women that suffer, but it is all of society.  As time has progressed, the portrayal of men’s bodies have changed over the past 50 years.  We see this in action figures and toys, movies, games and in the media.  The bodies have gotten larger and more muscular, more “masculine”, if you will.  Along with this increase in size in the bodies of men, we see the weapons that they carry in movies and games get larger as well.  We are bombarded with these images each and every day of our lives.

For those of us who do not carry with us the image of masculinity, it is easy for us to find our “toughness” by owing and carrying a gun.  This is seen many times over by looking at school shootings.  We see kids that have been picked on in school because they don’t fit this image of being tough.  They take matters in their own hands and shoot those that have prosecuted them because they don’t fit the mold that society tells them they need to fit in.  Instead of the media looking at the real problem (male violence and the ideal male), they focus on the individual.

The same idea is played out in sports as well.  The film states that an athlete tends to look better when another has lost or been humiliated.    It is the whole idea of being tough that we are bombarded with every day, through media, movies, games, and sports.

Slasher films sexualize violence by showing images that arouse men a moment before a violent scene.  We also see male violence in pornography though dominance and degradation of women in these films.  Howard Stern just perpetuates this idea of male superiority with his comments of women being purely sexual objects, something to look at and judge.

The ideal of the modern man is one of independence and strength.  The ideal man is muscular, strong, and not vulnerable.  Because of this ideal, it is more common for women to seek out therapy because it is more acceptable for a woman to be vulnerable and emotional.

I think more positive role models are needed to get men out this idea of what it means to be a man today.  I find men that are vulnerable and kind to be more appealing than one that has a tough guise.  Courage is stopping this violent cycle from continuing.  We can see this with Gandhi, MLK and Nelson Mandela.  Even though they were the victims of violence, instead of repeating the cycle and getting even, they rose above the violence.

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A Second Life field trip

Snapshot_005 I included this picture of a statue I found on Virtual Ability Island since I couldn’t find the snowman!

Virtual Ability in Second Life is a great field trip to take for the beginner.  The field trip was essentially a pathway that you would follow along and come across boards with instructions that teach the newbie everything from navigating to updating the look of your avatar.  It also teaches you how to fly!

As I followed along the path, I came across some butterflies that were floating above a beautiful pond.  They were there to help the beginner learn to focus closer on items.  When I clicked on them, they lit up and “whispered” congratulations to me.  I kept following along the directional arrows and came then across a dance floor.  It had different colored bubbles each indicating a different dance.  When I clicked on them, my avatar would dance.  There were several dances including the YMCA, Club Dance, Lime Jelly and the Chicken Dance.  I think out of all the dances, the Club Dance was my favorite.

I continued along my path and came to the flying test.  When I practiced flight, I landed on the bull’s eye which it replied “Congratulations! You can fly”.  This is an exciting feature that allows my avatar to explore areas quickly.  I think the talking monkey was my favorite part of the island.  He would chat with you by replying to what you chatted to him in the chat box.  I asked him if he was tired since he was laying down, but he replied no, he wasn’t.

I then found a free t-shirt and put it on my avatar.  I also got a free gift box that included a camera and a straw hat.  Then I found a shopper’s paradise with tons of free items.  I bought everything from new tennis shoes, jeans, and jewelry.  What a nice treat!

The one thing that I couldn’t find in my exploration was the snowman!  I don’t know if he is there anymore.  I felt I looked everywhere!  Did anyone else have this problem?

Virtual Ability Island is a community for people with disabilities.  It is a peer-support community, essentially.  I really liked the scenery of the island and the tutorial of the basics, and I even found a hammock that was tied to a couple of trees next to the water.  What a nice spot to relax!  I think that the snowman was what was missing!  I could not find him and spent a lot of time looking for him.   I feel if I had a disability, SL would be an interesting place to visit.  It would give me the opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be.  Second life offers a (virtual) world of possibilities!


Second Life…an extension of our own life?


 Above is a picture of my avatar in Second Life (a little dark, I apologize).  She is a representation of me in a virtual world that I use to attend my Women’s and Gender Studies class online on Tuesday nights.  Second Life is much more than just a way for a class to meet off campus, it is a whole virtual world much like the world we live in.  A person who is a member of Second Life creates an avatar that they would like to be within this world.  They can create many different looks by changing the body type, hair, height, weight and even the color of their avatar’s skin.  They don’t even have to be an avatar that represents a person…they can be a robot, werewolf, or even a vampire.  They can express themselves and represent themselves however their mind desires.

The idea of race doesn’t really seem to apply in this virtual world.  Differences seem to be a given within this world, and, to me, they seem to be much more accepted and appreciated.  We can look at a robot in SL and not really think they are really any different than us.  It is just the way the creator decided to express themself. 

I think that class is similar to race in SL as well.  There doesn’t seem to be a class within this virtual world other than maybe some discrimination towards newer avatars.  I can’t say that I have experienced that, however, since I have really only used my avatar for class purposes. 

Even though judgments may not be passed on from avatar to avatar because we are looking at something that is created, I think that this virtual world is really an extension of our own.  The creator still carries the same thoughts and feelings and attitudes and brings them into this virtual world.  We have the same thoughts of beauty that society has imposed upon us.  For example, when I first signed up for SL, many of the female avatars that I saw to choose from were very thin and carried the same idea of beauty that is portrayed in the real world.  The male avatars seemed similar, tall and thin. 

Outside of SL in the real world, I certainly believe that race is nothing but an illusion.  It is an idea that has been socially constructed.  We, as a society, seem to be taught to focus on the differences among us.  We categorize these differences and label them as “race”.  However, the website Race: The Power of Illusion proves this thinking and labeling different “races” is wrong.  As seen in this photo:


We are all different and unique but we are all human.  We all belong to one race, and that is THE HUMAN RACE!