Monday, May 30, 2011

Femorial Day

Over this long weekend the nation celebrated Memorial Day; cities gathered to celebrate with parades and picnics; families and friends joined together for bar-b-q-ing and pool parties; I hope that deep down we all remember the meaning of today and the lives that were given so that we can live in a free county. Memorial Day is meant to allow reflection and remembrance for those who have fallen in battle, from the Civil War when Memorial Day was first called Decoration day, to the wars in the Middle East. Please remember the men and women who fight for our country and our freedom.

Along with the soldiers who have died serving our country, I wanted to remember the women who have sacrificed their reputations, family and friends, and even lives for gender equality in America. I want to call today Femorial Day, not just Memorial Day, to honor the millions of women in the world who have the strength to face gender inequality every day of their lives; the women who came before us creating the first and second waves of feminism; the women who are paving the way through the third wave; the women who claim feminism as their own and define it in their everyday lives; and the women who may not identify as feminist but who get up everyday and fight for social justice and equality so that this world can truly be a better place.

The first women I would like to remember are those represented and named in Judy Chicago's piece "The Dinner Party." This piece depicts individualistic place settings for 39 mythical and historical women, while also including the names of 999 women on the ceramic floor of the artwork. "The Dinner Party" was created from 1974-9 and is on display at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. The 1038 women represented all had an important influence on herstory, even if it was not feminist or they did not identify as feminist.

(Info on "The Dinner Party"

Next, I'd like to honor some famous and not so famous feminist: Abigail Adams, Carol Adams, Linda Martin Alcoff, Paula Gunn Allen, Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Anzaldua, Simone de Beauvoir, Clementina Black, Elizabeth Blackwell, Amelia Jenks Bloomer, Rita Mae Brown, Judith Butler, Marie Therese Forget Casgrain, Carrie Chapman Catt, Judy Chicago, Nancy Chodorow, Kate Chopin, Helene Cixous, Martha Layne Collins, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Daly, Angela Y. Davis, Crystal Eastman, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Judith Fetterley, Barbara Findlen Betty Friedan, Diana Fuss, Carol Gilligan, Charlotte Gilman, Ruth Ginsburg, Emma Goldman, Sarah Grimke, Judith Halberstam, Donna Haraway, Sandra Harding, Heidi Hartmann, bell hooks, Karen Horney, Luce Irigaray, Mother Jones, Elizabeth Ann Kaplan, Evelyne Fox Keller, Ynestra King, Julia Kristeva, Aurdre Lorde, Maria C. Lugones, Catharine A. MacKinnon, Fatima Mernissi, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Laura Mulvey, Emily Murphy, Leonora O'Reily, Sherry Ortner, Emmeline Pankhurst, Elsie Worthington Clews Parsons, Alice Paul, Emma Perez, Judith Plaskow, Adrienne Rich, Gayle Rubin, Diana Russell, Margaret Sanger, Olive Schreiner, Valerie Solanas, Elizabeth V. Spelman, Barbara Smith, Gloria Steinem, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Nadine Strossen, Harriet Taylor, Sojourner Truth, Rebecca Walker, Riki Anne Wilchins, Monique Wittig, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mitsuye Yamada.

(Curious about them? and for more information on the women listed here).

I'd like to remember Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who was the inspiration for "Rosie the Riveter." Ms. Doyle was born and raised in Michigan, when she was seventeen, in 1942, she took a factory job in Ann Arbor but quit two weeks later because she feared injuring her hands (she was a cello player). During the time she was there a photographer from the United Press came to take pictures of women working in the factories. A picture of Ms. Doyle inspired the graphic artists J. Howard Miller to do a render, creating Rosie. Ms. Doyle passed away on December 26th 2010. She was 86 years old.

Finally, I'd like to honor and remember all of the strong women who are living feminism for themselves today. It is important to remember all the women who have made sacrifices for the feminist movement; it is important to remember our herstory.

Please, help me add to the list of important women to remember on Femorial Day if you feel I have left anyone out!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Being Raised Gender-less?

Earlier this week I came home from work to my Mother wanting me to read an article she had found on the internet, titled, “The baby who is neither boy nor girl: As gender experiment provokes outrage, what about the poor child’s future?” I was intrigued of course, and after reading through the article that revealed a progressive couples’ decisions to raise their third child as “gender-less” I thought the notion was awesome.

Here is the article regarding Storm Stocker, who is the gender-less baby.

I found this article rather offensive and negative concerning Storm’s parents' decision to raise their child as gender-less. It’s depressing to me that we live in a society that is so against difference; not open to the idea of multiplicities of people or identities, and specifically genders. The big quotes that appear through out the article reinforce the negative stigma related to gender deviant identities. The quote “To raise a child like this is creating a freak,” I found to be the most upsetting and proves that people are not very open-minded about gender play in society.

The idea of being raised gender-less has been briefly mentioned in my past women and gender studies education. Despite being raised gender-less, Storm Stocker will eventually be exposed to notions of gender in our society. The beauty of his/her parents’ decision to raise him/her as gender-less is that Storm has the free choice to become whoever s/he wants to. For Storm, the possibilities of identity are limitless. Stocker and Witterick's decision, while some find it to be bad-parenting, displays how gender norms do not allow for a multiplicity of masculinities and feminities to be expressed in society.

The uproar over Storm’s hidden sex reveals how much our society depends on gender norms to define an individual. Storm’s mother says in the article that they’re not keeping Storm’s sex a secret, rather they’re keeping it private. I loved this point, because she’s posing a very good question: why does the world have to know what kind of parts are between a baby’s legs? Why does knowing those parts determine what you think of the child, and how you treat the child? Would you treat a baby boy differently then you would treat a baby girl--they're both human beings, both people, why would you treat them differently based on their biology? Storm is a beautiful, blonde haired, blue eyed child—who looks happy and (I think) is well loved by his/her two brothers and parents—what else matters? And what business is it of the world?

The Today Show had a segment on Storm’s story. They interviewed the original journalist of the story Jayme Poisson and Dr. Harold Koplewicz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Here’s a link to the video of the interview:

While I don’t agree with everything that Dr. Koplewicz says, I think I understand what he means by Storm’s parents’ decision as “misguided.” He argues that raising a child in a gender-less environment can be harmful to the child because it could create confusion within the child about their own identity; established gender norms/roles within the child’s environment help the child develop a healthy since of their identity. I think this point is arguable. And even if established gender roles help a child develop a since of identity, society is still not very accepting of children, like Storm's eldest brother Jazz, who develop their gender identity contrary to their assigned gender. I applaud Kathy Witterick and David Stocker for their progressive parenting and bravery in challenging the gender norms that plague our society. Their praxis of raising their children in a gender neutral environment is encouraging and I hope will help change the way some people view gender.While I don't think they meant for their parenting style to attract to much media and controversial attention, it definitely brings to light questions of how gender influences the treatment, perceptions and equality of individuals.

~Katie, Oakland County NOW intern.