Girl Scout Project: A Summary and Hope for the Future

December 7, 2009

Our class created and directed a project designed to promote self-confidence in young girls. We decided to visit a Girl Scout troop and lead them through activities which would promote in them a high level of self-worth and confidence in who they are as individuals, despite being female.

First, some member of our class brainstormed ideas about what activities would be most beneficial to the ends we wanted to meet. Then, a vote determined the three projects we would conduct, which included writing mission statements, making bracelets with a meaningful word describing their character, and poster board trait-sharing, which involved the girls sharing their thoughts about their peers’ best qualities. The plan was fundraised mainly by donations from students in the class, though a bake sale came up as an idea for funding for the materials needed for the project. One student in class worked with a Girl Scout troop on a regular basis, and this troop’s meeting time fit with an available afternoon for nine students in the class. These students and our professor, Ms. Grosh, attended the troop’s meeting and led the girls through the activities.

When the students spoke about the project during the next class, they said that, though the girls were rambunctious, they seemed to already possess a good deal of confidence in themselves. At the third-grade level, girls are still children, and are more interested in playing and having a good time than worrying about how they are viewed. However, the point of this project was to instill in them the belief that, no matter what they look like or how they identify themselves sexually, they have inherent worth, simply because they are a human being. This project aimed to help girls remember that they are in charge of their own lives and have the capacity to make their dreams come true, as long as they stay true to themselves. Hopefully, years later, these nine girls will come across their posters, mission statements, and bracelets, and remember how they felt as children, confident, happy, and ready for new experiences. Maybe they will see that they haven’t changed much in character and personality, and that their mission statements weren’t so far off… and that would make this project worthwhile.

Behind the Mask: How and Why Women Hide their True Identities to Ingratiate Men

November 26, 2009

The role of women in patriarchal societies encompasses a wide range of attributes, most of which are in place to accommodate the expectations of men. In essence, a woman is expected to “smile and be cheerful … which signal[s]… docility and… acquiescence in [her] situation… [in which, truly, she is] being made invisible.”[1] A woman’s actions are regulated by men, who set the standards for how a woman should behave by either praising or criticizing what they see from a female. The idea of a “double life, … [or an] apparent acquiescence to an institution founded on male interest and prerogative… has been characteristic of female experience… in motherhood and many kinds of heterosexual behavior.”[2] This can be illustrated in the popular TV show Mad Men, which focuses on a successful advertising agency in the 1960s and the goings-on of the men and women involved with the company and its employees. The main character, Don, is a stereotypical American businessman, who is focused on rising in his company and maintaining the status of a man highly desired by women. Though he is married, he continuously takes part in liaisons with other women during business trips, and soon he ventures to partake in an affair with a woman who is his daughter’s school teacher and lives in the same town. His spouse plays the dutiful and supportive mother and wife until she, too, has an affair and grows tired of her husband’s devotion to work and other activities about which he shares no details.

The women working for Sterling-Cooper know their place as well. Every woman except one who works in the advertising agency holds the position of secretary. Each day, they come to work dressed appealingly and ready to answer their bosses’ demands. One secretary steps up to Don and requests a raise, mentioning the law passed which states that men and women doing the same job deserve the same pay, but Don defers this plea, though the secretary has contributed some new ideas to his projects. Some women enter into affairs with their employers, who personify the “charismatic through brutal, … unreliable” sexual nature of men, at least one of whom has left his wife for his more attractive secretary.[3] Essentially, the women in the show are either single and trying to impress men or are married and are trying to keep their men from cheating on them. The purpose of women, as exemplified in this show, is to serve men; they are the tools for men’s happiness and are only loved and admired if they are lovely and excel in embodying the ideal feminine image and role.

The women in this show exhibit the careful adherence to men’s standards and only deviate from their acquired personas and let down their guard a bit when speaking to other women, when they gossip and release some of their stress which comes with putting on an act. These women are different in the presence of men, mainly for their survival in the business and home settings. The ways of self-portrayal they adopt are often present in the women of today, though females have begun and are continuing to honor their own personhoods over men’s wishes and also demand equality between the sexes. (View Mad Men online at http://www.casttv.com/shows/mad-men/the-color-blue/b34cgi.)

A present-day example of women working to catch men’s eye comes in the form of blogging. One woman, who goes by the name of hotforwords on YouTube, uses her sexuality to sell her job. As a philologist, Marina, the blogger’s real name, studies words and their origins; on YouTube, she accepts requests to break down words and reveal their meanings in English, Latin, and other languages. To grab viewers’ attention, she uses the surest method to do the job: her attractiveness. Often clad in revealing attire, Marina and her YouTube channel do not try to conceal the fact that she is using her sexuality to sell, much as do the advertisers in Mad Men. Her new book, Hot for Words, invites readers to take “a titillating journey through the origins and meanings of words and phrases,” and male readers won’t be disappointed, for included are “provocative, full-color photos of the alluring author.”[4] Marina even acts like a silly school-girl, saying that questions about words “keep [her] awake all night long.”[5] Her whole image, and who she is as a person, reflects the idea that she will be heard if she uses her body to sell her message. She personifies the idea that sex sells, an idea she has acquired no doubt through her interactions with heterosexual men. Though Marina is free to do what she wants, her way of “teaching” actually reinforces numerous social expectations of how women should look, especially the belief that women should always be sexy, and especially if they are doing something on the dull side, such as talking about words.

(See Marina’s book description at http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061776311/Hot_for_Words/index.aspx. Watch her videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/hotforwords.)

 


[1] Frye, Marilyn, “Oppression” in Feminism is for Everybody, South End Press (Cambridge, MA: 2000), 2.

[2] Rich, Adrienne, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and lesbian Existence” in Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. (New York, NY: 1986), 60.

[3] Rich, Adrienne, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” in Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. (New York, NY: 1986), 62.

[4] http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061776311/Hot_for_Words/index.aspx

[5] Ibid.

Proposal: Getting the Word Out

September 28, 2009

As a woman, I have always felt as though I have needed to please and be pleasing to others around me, most often to men. The unbalanced relationship and inequality of expectations for men and women have always deeply frustrated me as women are always short-changed and receive less freedom than do men. Not only do women have to dress to impress but they also must be caring, open, friendly, and always “smile and be cheerful” (Frye 2). “If we comply, we signal our docility and our acquiescence in our situation … [and if we happen to show our unhappier side one day,] we are perceived as mean, bitter, angry or dangerous,” and the criticisms begin (Frye 2). By accepting this social standard, “we participate in our own erasure” (Frye 2).

The form of sexual inequality that most resounds with me is the fact that women, much more often than men, are expected to be a certain way in order to be loved, admired, accepted, and respected. I cannot recall how many times in my life I have been treated with disrespect because of the outfit I wore was unbecoming or my feelings leaked through and made me seem as though I needed someone else to help me be cheerful again. Before being women, we are human, and it seems that the freedoms we deserve are removed as we enter womanhood and are expected to be caretaker, motherly and giving. At what point are we allowed to live our own lives without restrictions, as men are not only allowed to do, but encouraged to do and loved more because of their individuality. (An example is that women always seem to be drawn to the men who are bold, individualistic, and gregarious, whereas the qualities most encouraged in women are reservation, acceptance, and action only after social referencing. I cannot remember the last time a girl was either the most popular kid in school or was labeled the class clown without being hated for either.)

In short, the expectations of women are severely limiting to her growth and expression of character. Too often are women restricted in what they can do for fear of seeming unfeminine; truly, women are loved for their femininity and beauty.

An easy answer to eliminating the inequalities between men and women is not easy, but someone has to start somewhere. My proposal is to simply rethink our actions and ask ourselves whether what we are doing in any situation is because of how we are expected to act or how we feel we should act as a human, not as a woman or man. (This proposal includes men because men also are respected more for their masculinity.) In summation, the measure of a woman is dependent upon her femininity while a man’s is dependent upon his masculinity; both of these criteria seem to be passed down from ages ago when men were hunters and women stayed home: it is just too old-fashioned! No one deserves to have their actions dictated to them in life, but this is what happens from childhood. In most situations, we conform and make ourselves social slaves.

In addition to changing the way we think, which is how all change must begin if it is to really last, getting the word out is important as well. T-shirts that say something like, “Humanity before sexuality” or “Listen, don’t look,” may prompt questions from others, and clubs where ideas are shared concerning how to eliminate “social slavery” and raise equality between all individuals would further spread the equality movement. Any non-violent way women (and men!) can express their belief that equality can only be found once we view each person as a human is one step closer to finding equality.

Hello world!

September 22, 2009

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