Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fixing Her Hair: Representations of Transgender Women in Media

It’s the opening of a movie or a book. A tall woman with long, beautiful blonde hair enters the scene. She’s fixing her makeup, tousling her hair and adjusting her flowing, fashionable dress in the mirror. It’s only afterward that you look back with scrutiny - her build was pretty muscular, wasn’t it? Her makeup was on just a little too thick. You tell yourself that you saw “the signs” before the big reveal - the woman you’ve just witnessed is transsexual.

Why is this a scene that plays out so often in film and literature? In Whipping Girl, author and activist Julia Serano coins the concept of “effememania,” which explains this phenomenon in terms of sexism against women (129). Effememania involves a fear of femininity, especially when transgender women or gay men express femininity. For many, masculine or feminine traits are assumed to be natural and related to one's sex. To those who promote traditional gender roles and expression, it seems unnatural for males, who inherit privileges related to their masculinity, to “lower” their status by “choosing” to live as feminine and/or female.

In this way, the lives of transgender women are sensationalized. Femininity, unlike masculinity, is exploited in mainstream media - and this only intensifies with a lack of understanding when it comes to gender diversity. Transgender women are assumed to want to portray traditionally feminine characteristics, displayed often in movies and books that contain extremely feminine transgender characters. But just like cisgender (non-transgender) women, transgender women can be girly or androgynous or even masculine; they can paint their nails or paint buildings; they can have long, flowing hair or short, choppy locks. Assumptions about femininity in transgender women promote a narrow view of what it means to be transgender and a woman.

It is my belief that these kinds of perceptions are popular because they display normativity – that is, they appear “normal” enough to make people comfortable with them. Viewing transgender women as exclusively feminine reinforces gender roles, just like only portraying cisgender women as feminine does. It's my hope that media will soon reflect our uniqueness and diversity as individuals. More and more, people are accepting that long-held assumptions about gender can be wrong. When gender diversity is represented fully in our media, we will be one step closer to ending gender oppression.

Kai Niezgoda

Monday, October 7, 2013

Violence Against Women

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as “…any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Violence against women can include, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, dating violence, family violence, sexual assault, rape, stalking, sexual harassment, trafficking and slavery.  All of these assaults can be perpetrated by people of any gender, and can be committed against people of any gender.

Here are some shocking facts that you may not realize:
  • Around the world, at least 1 in 3 women has been beaten, forced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
  •  According to the National Violence Against Women Survey (2000):
    • Approximately 1.5 million women are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year.
    • Nearly 25% of women have been raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
    • One of six U.S. women and 1 of 33 U.S. men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.
These numbers are terrifying. 

Join Oakland/Macomb County NOW, Turning Point and HAVEN on a discussion of violence against women and what you can do regarding.  Information on the event can be found here.  Bring a friend.  Bring all your friends, of all genders.  

This is important.  

Christina Soliz
Oakland/Macomb County NOW Intern

Facts found in the lecture "Violence Against Women and Its Effects on Women's Health" by Dr. Lisa Martin, at the University of Michigan-Dearborn