feminist at college

If you believe gender is a social construct, then you must concede everything we know is a social construct, including the very concept of social constructionism. So if gender can be easily removed as it’s a mere social construct, then what damn hope does this theory spouted by your sociology professor have? 

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.

The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth.

Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded.

But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, The kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old.

And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.  Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me: I’m the sunscreen.

—  Mary Schmich, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”
The Only Person Reading This is Probably My Best Friend (and I'm learning to be okay with that)

My mom tells this story all the time about when I was in kindergarten and my teacher wrote on my report card that, “That Bridget is a hot ticket!” My mom declares that this was the very moment she knew she had a kid who was going to kick and kill her way up the food chain to success. 

I went through high school, and consequently college, believing that if I wasn’t successful, I was nothing. I don’t necessarily believe it was my family or my environment that instilled this within me, but If I didn’t have an award, or a title, or something that everyone remembered about me at the end of the year, I felt like I just hadn’t made it yet. I learned to be ashamed of the moments when I was mediocre, and thus, went through the first 22 years of my life desperate to prove myself to everyone around me. 

I recently graduated from undergrad and moved to Boston to pursue my graduate degree. I’ve embarked on this mental journey with the age old question - What am I looking for? Who am I trying to prove myself to? Why is it so damn important to me to appear better off than everyone else? 

Truthfully, I have absolutely no idea where this obsession with success came from, but what I have recently realized is the insane level of anxiety it has given me. Who has the chops to be perfect all the time? How are those people not going home every night and downing the nearest bottle of red wine within arms reach? 

I’m learning that success is really defined within us. It’s not something anyone else can declare. I don’t quite believe in God, but I imagine we don’t get up to the pearly gates at the end of this journey and see him say, “great job Bridget, you became a Senator, created the world’s largest charity to end global hunger, saved the lives of seventeen dogs, won a Nobel Peace Prize and opened a microbrewery in your spare time.” 

Like I said, I don’t have a ton of faith in the man (or woman, just saying), but I bet he’s just like the rest of us. He remembers the way other people make him feel, not what they did or how many awards they won.

This blog is going to be a mixture of political and feminist musings, some lifestyle commentary, my journey of self discovery and perspectives from (yes, you guessed it) another millennial. While I’m okay with the fact that only my best friend is reading this, I hope you’ll follow the page and stick around.

2

7.6.17// nice study session in the green courtyard, at FU. I was reading some more literature about women writing and enjoying the sun while waiting for my German course to start.  

4.6.17// rainy day and intensive study session, at the Grimm-Zentrum. Also a day of unexpected meetings: I met an old friend of my cousin. She is working as an au-pair girl in Berlin and doing her application for my same master.
I had a lot of work done yesterday, so I´m quite satisfied. Hope I can finish the book on feminist literary critic tomorrow and work on the topic for my paper.   

6 Ways Feminism Can Be Accessible to Autistic People
  1. Tag facetious comments - Autistic people have difficulty with figurative language, especially when given a dry delivery. Keep in mind that it’s hard for autistic people to read social signals, and it’s harder for everyone to understand the delivery of plain text online. You might think it’s clear that “Kill all men” is an extremely sarcastic declaration of annoyance but to autistic people unfamiliar with the feminist in-group culture, it looks like a legitimate call to gendercide, especially to those who may be more familiar with the hateful exaggerated stereotype of a feminist popularized in mainstream media than with real world examples of feminists and feminist discourse. This all can be avoided with sarcasm tags or by using literal language like “Men annoy me so much, I can’t even.” (Although “I can’t even” is figurative language, it’s more readily understood as a facet of mainstream slang.)
  2. Don’t expect everyone to take college classes - It’s not as prominent as it was a few years ago, but there is an attitude among feminists that because they learned feminist theory in college classes that everyone should. Keep in mind that college classes are not accessible to everyone because of reasons of class or disability, the latter of which includes autism. I encountered this myself, where in order to pass a Women’s Studies class, I would have had to perform charity work such as feeding the homeless, which was beyond my mental ability at the time. If I had to do it now, I might have the mental fortitude to maintain calm in those kinds of stressful situations, but that was not accessible to me in 2012. By saying “I’m tired of ignorance, so you have to have taken a college class on the subject before I’ll talk to you about it,” or “I learned in a class, and you learned in a class, so I think feminism 101 articles are bad,” you’re cutting out autistic people who lack the ability to take such classes.
  3. Don’t demonize masculine autistic traits - In the struggle against creepy entitled guys, there is a tendency to lump autistic traits in with their warning signs. Autistic people have difficulty with body language, may have difficulties with articulation, and often overlook tact. That can lead to things like too much eye-contact, which can be interpreted as aggressive or a sexual advance; not enough eye-contact, which is interpreted as shifty behavior; taking up too much space, including “manspreading” and getting fat, as might produce a “neckbeard”; rambling about their interests, which is interpreted as dominating the conversation or “mansplaining”; and being too overt about sexual interest, not knowing how to play the elaborate game of alluding but not too distantly, being assertive but not too much, and when “coffee” means “sex” or is just “coffee”. Autistic women have the same behavior, but it doesn’t receive the same demonization due to sexism imbuing men with an aggressive characterization and women with a passive characterization. Typically, feminists are against that, but they tend to forget when staring at “weird people”. Keep in mind that a standard stereotype of an anti-feminist is a “neckbeard [fat] nerd [person with passionate interests who doesn’t know when socially appropriate to shut up] who doesn’t understand the most basic of cues women broadcast to signal disinterest, and who lives in his mother’s basement [lacks the ability to perform in society because of mental issues]”, demonizing autistic traits instead of the anti-feminist beliefs such people may have.
  4. Don’t infantilize feminine autistic traits - This is the feminine counterpart of the above problem and also has to do with traditional gender roles. Instead of being seen as creepy for not achieving the expectations of social performance, autistic women are seen as childlike. This is a manifestation of benevolent sexism where autistic women are disrespected out of good values, where empathetic feminists try to keep them safe, but it is fundamentally indistinguishable from male notions of chivalry that put women on pedestals. The characterization of immaturity leads to the dismissal of autistic women’s sexualities, which are regarded as unhealthy behavior for the infantilized autistic women to demonstrate, and men who find autistic women sexually attractive are inappropriately demonized as pedophilic. (This is sometimes hard to untangle from sexist autistic men attracted to autistic women and displaying chivalrous notions that infantilize them and the separate concepts must be distinguished before their outlines can be seen.) Basically, don’t treat adult women like kids. Don’t laugh when they do something that surprises you. Don’t call their behavior “cute”. Don’t talk down. Respect their ability to be sexual.
  5. Don’t dismiss “mentally ill” people - Feminists typically don’t like to be told that they’re not understandable when they use figurative language or in-group memes and may declare in a snotty tone that even translates through text that “Only mentally ill people wouldn’t understand! Totally whacked out loonies!” In statements like this, mentally ill individuals are dismissed as not really human and not worth caring about, evoking the conservative idea that mainstream culture represents civilization and that any outliers represent savagery that must be removed to keep society safe. They don’t want to even have to think about them. They want them quietly removed to asylums and assume that the existence of mentally ill people reading and misinterpreting their very clear words represents a failure of the government’s ability to locate and institutionalize mentally ill people, so their comprehension isn’t even a concern to them. It’s a deeply ableist mindset, borne of a deeply ableist society. If they gave it some thought, they’d probably realize it, but they’re too angry at the challenge to their very clear wording to do anything more than resort to dismissing the issue with very ableist wording. The truth is, ableism is a feminist issue; “mentally ill” people can lead happy lives without being problems to society and should be empowered to do so; and at one point, feminists would have been condemned as madwomen and sent to asylums. 

    “It’s all to do with reproductive organs / Which are naturally unstable in a dame / You see, from ‘lunar’, we have ‘lunacy’ and ‘lunatic’ and ‘loony’ / And they’re always ovulating by the cycle of the moony!”
    – ”Girls! Girls! Girls!” by Emilie Autumn
  6. Be receptive to questions, even “weird” ones - There is a profound problem where feminists are really adverse to answering people’s questions about feminism. Feminists are wary of negative questions, such as are attached to trolling or sealioning, but there is a general resistance to answering questions that just makes it hard for ignorant people curious about feminism to actually learn anything about it. Part of this ties into the expectation that newcomers take college classes, where the in-group is established by its members undergoing a rite of passage where no one helps them along the way, and they learn themselves and get to dismiss people in turn, similar to hazing. (In absence of college classes, the instruction is to instead lurk in forums.) There is also a widespread belief that asking questions of feminists is anti-feminist because answering questions takes away from time that might otherwise be spent on important activist work, which might be accurate in some cases, but typically what people do when they go online is look at cute cats and reblog memes, so spending that time answering questions would be activistic work and of greater value than browsing cat videos. Where this fits in with accessibility is that autistic people are going to have a harder time understanding feminism, as they have a harder time understanding almost everything in human culture, which is going to lead to questions, especially questions that look weird because the problems with comprehension are going to be dramatically different than with other people. I’ve asked feminists multiple questions that have been outright ignored, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they looked so weird that they were dismissed as trolling. I’ve encountered this behavior AFK with regard to asking about social protocols that seem obvious to people. They’ll either just stare at me blankly for a minute and then ignore me or get angry because they think I’m playing a trick on them (i.e. trolling). Questions need to be answered and not just with links to Google, which represents a misunderstanding of how Google works. Google personalizes results to be more effective to individual people. You might Google a feminist term and get tons of useful articles, while someone else might Google the same term and get completely unrelated stuff or even MRA articles about why that concept is unfounded. Basically, if you’re going to just link off somewhere, use Google yourself and take advantage of your personalized results to find articles that you can link. And keep in mind that weird questions can be honest.
10

Hi everyone! At this point, I’m approximately half-way done with my paper (it’s over 12 pages at this point, woah), and since I plan to get it published in a scholarly journal, I won’t be posting it on here. But I did give a presentation based on my research at Simmons College’s undergraduate symposium this past Wednesday.

Subjects of my research

Agent Carter

The ABC series Marvel’s Agent Carter, which is a spin-off of the Captain America film series focusing on Agent Peggy Carter, a skilled agent for the Strategic Scientific Reserve and the right-hand-woman/love interest of Captain America, as she struggles to prove herself in the sexist society of post-World War II America.

Sailor Moon

A Japanese magical girl anime and manga series that follows 14 year-old Usagi Tsukino, a.k.a. Sailor Moon, and her friends who upon awakening with the power to transform into a team of superheroines, known as the Sailor Guardians, fight for love and justice in order to protect the Solar System.

What is weaponized femininity?

A trope commonly found in female action heroines wherein their femininity is retained alongside masculine demonstrations of physical or mental strength, or functions as something to be manipulated as a tool of empowerment.

Its juxtaposition of masculine power with traditional femininity presents the feminine and the feminine-subject as active agents capable of undermining patriarchal power as well as cultural assumptions of girls and young women.

Offers resistance to what feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey called the “active-male/passive-female dichotomy” of gendered power on film, wherein men are depicted in active roles that bestow them with agency within a narrative, whereas  women in film serve as objectified, sexually titillating spectacles for “the male gaze” of the male audience.

Although hyperfeminine action heroines and female characters who manipulate the terms of their femininity have been the subject of feminist media scholars for years, there is currently no academic scholarship on the trope of weaponized femininity itself. This is because the term “weaponized femininity” is a neologism that began circulating around the feminist blogosphere around 2013. Thus, I was tasked with giving this concept validity as a trope in and of itself.

Component #1 - Masquerade

Female characters use or manipulate the terms of their femininity in order to gain power, navigate through oppressive power structures, or subvert patriarchal authority.

Draws from theorist Joan Riviere’s idea of femininity as strategic masquerade, wherein “womanliness…[can] be assumed and worn as a mask” to hide a woman’s possession of masculine strength.

Often enacted by superheroines, female secret agents, and female assassins, who perform a carefully constructed feminine identity in order to infiltrate the unsuspecting male sphere.

Component #2 - Destability of Gender Assumptions

Wherein hyperfeminine female characters demonstrate physical and/or mental strength on par with men.

The physical power and mental strength of these feminine subjects stands in opposition to cultural assumptions of female passivity,  refuting assumptions of appropriate gender roles by unifying feminine appearance and masculine toughness.

This iteration of weaponized femininity is frequently found in the young girl action heroine, who offers transgressive potential through her unique combination of physical power with stereotypical youth and femininity.

While the young girl action heroine has been featured throughout Western media ― The Powerpuff Girls (1998 - 2005), Hanna (2011),  and The Professional (1994) ― she has proven to be a cultural phenomenon throughout Japanese anime and manga in the form of “the beautiful fighting girl” (sentō bishōjo), young heroines whose “pure and lovable girlishness remain intact” while they do battle and fight to save the world.

Component #3 - Empowered Femininity

The powers of these heroines are characterized as feminine or depicted as stemming from femininity.

Constitutes a reclamation of femininity as a site of empowerment, reinscribing traditionally feminine characteristics with the active power commonly attributed to masculinity.

“The heroines themselves are empowered by their femininity, their weapons and superpowers as pink and girly as Barbie’s accessories, but as lethal as Rambo with heavy artillery strapped to his bulging chest. ”

Divisiveness of Criticism

However, feminist criticism towards these feminine action heroine attests to the weaponized femininity trope having a “double stake” in simultaneously resisting and reinforcing Mulvey’s active-male/passive-female dichotomy

The degree in which these hyperfeminine heroines are coded as sexually desirable objects sees the trope working in favor of the male gaze, presenting their resistance to female passivity as “erotic spectacle” and turning them into “sexist window-dressing” for male audiences.

The empowerment strategy contained in weaponized femininity also bears likeness to the neoliberal “tropes of freedom and choice” contained in postfeminist ideology. Thus, the trope often takes the form of the depoliticized, market-oriented Girl Power narrative that presents surface-level feminist rhetoric in commercial, apolitical ways.

Zack Snyder’s (Dir. Batman vs. Superman) 2011 film Sucker Punch was subject to criticism for the highly sexualized ways in which its heroines were depicted. Variety’s Peter Debruge called the film “misleadingly positioned as female empowerment despite clearly having been hatched as fantasy fodder for 13-year-old guys.”  

My Argument

As valid as these criticisms are, most of them fail to take into account the influence that female-authorship and female-readership/audience have on the trope’s images. Male agency over these narratives is assumed, and thus depictions of female sexuality constructed by female creators can be conflated with sexual objectification.

Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze specifically notes that these sexist images of women are the products of male production and the privileging of male audiences.

Furthermore, for feminist scholarship on Japanese anime (particularly Sailor Moon), theorists tend to apply strictly Western concepts of gender and feminist theory (such as Girl Power) onto these culturally Eastern narratives. This also ignores the fact that there is a rich history of female authorship to be found in Japanese manga.

I my paper I examine how female authorship and an explicit focus towards female audiences influence depictions of weaponized femininity, which I propose give female characters greater agency, subverts sexual objectification, and reinserts feminist gender politics back into the trope itself.

Weaponized Femininity in Agent Carter 

A significantly female production that centralizes female creative power, giving female-agency over a female-led narrative. Not only was Hayley Atwell integral to to show’s development but she’s an outspoken feminist herself who’s emphasized the political nature of her character.

Additionally, two of the three showrunners are women - Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas.

Agent Carter is also the first series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe to focus on a female heroine, and was also developed out of response to feminist criticism that the Marvel series was sidelining female characters. To this date, this series and Netflix’s Jessica Jones are the only two female-led series to exist.

While Peggy Carter’s role as Captain America first love-interest in the comics was minor, she was expanded on into a supporting role in the film. In the series, her male-authored history is challenged under female-authorship, which gives her the leading role. In this way, you can say that women really reclaimed Peggy as their own!

The show’s 1946 setting sees the trope politicized against post-war sexism and misogyny, at a time when women were being forced back into the home and gender roles were being re-established.

Despite her credentials, Peggy is dismissed by her male peers at the S.S.R., who demote her to secretarial duties and exclude her from field work.

In order to clear the name of her War-friend Howard Stark, Peggy is forced to use her femininity as masquerade in order to navigate institutional sexism and conduct her own investigations.

The show’s emphasis on post-war sexism simultaneously serves to provide a metacommentary on the erasure of women from the comic book industry, which began after men returned from the War and pushed women out of the workforce. This resulted in the cancellation of many superheroine comics and superheroine characters being demoted to either love-interests or minor, unsuper roles.

Similarly, Peggy is dismissed by her male colleagues as nothing but Captain America’s “gal”, and the erasure of women from comics is paralleled via the character Betty Carver, Peggy’s fictionalized counterpart on the radio show “The Captain America Adventure Program,” which demotes her role in Captain America’s story the core and powerful ally he revered to a gushing, damsel-in-distress.

Weaponized Femininity in Sailor Moon 

Created by Naoko Takeuchi, a female manga artist, who created the series specifically for young girls, because she saw a lack of female characters in the male-dominated super sentai (Japanese superhero team) genre.

Is a genre-hybrid of shōjo (manga aimed towards young women), mahō shōjo (magical girl), and super sentai. But falls in the realm of what Japanese psychologist and media scholar Saitō Tamaki calls the “beautiful fighting girl” character.

Takeuchi consistently places the experiences of Japanese girls and young women at the story’s forefront, reflecting shōjo’s history of politicizing girl’s experiences (sexuality, gender, etc.).  

A history of female-authorship exists in manga. Specifically, the “beautiful fighting girl” figure that Sailor Moon represents originates from shōjo.

Around the late 70s and early 80s, a new audience demographic for these stories and the beautiful fighting girl arose ― male otakus, or adult male hyper-fans of anime and manga, who came to sexualize these young female characters.

This resulted in many beautiful fighting girl characters and series to become sexualized in order to appease this audience and their consumer interests (such as anime merchandise).

Japanese Gender Politics

Once a patriarchal structured society, Japan in the early 70s saw a change of gender roles as women were given greater social freedoms, such as the ability to make their own marriage decisions.

However, this resulted in a sense of male anxiety and emasculation, and men began to feel socially disempowered relative to women’s increasing social status.

As Saitō Tamaki notes, this change in gender roles informed a sense of sexual entitlement and fetishization of young girls, who are still relatively bound within Japan’s age-based social system (one which expects conformity from children and prioritizes seniority.  

Thus, the beautiful fighting girl character was “hijacked” from female authors and female audiences because her youthful femininity and fictional nature allowed her to be easily fetishized.

The agency over the narrative allotted by female authorship sees the trope used to subvert the Madonna/whore dichotomy, as Sailor Moon’s power is sourced in her “pureness of heart” and yet, while being a clutzy, crybaby of a teenage girl, she’s allowed to be a sexual being and have ownership over her own desires.  

The very concept of weaponized femininity is also queered through the number of characters who express/engage in non-heterosexual love (the lesbian relationship between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune) or are depicted as having a fluid gender-identity (Sailor Uranus and the gender-bending Sailor Starlights).

When asked why she included such a non-fetishized depiction of lesbians in the series, Naoko Takeuchi stated, “There’s not only heterosexual love, but there also can be a homosexual love, in this case between two girls.“

So, not only does this queerness work to destabilize the notion of female essentialism in weaponized femininity, but this form of queer representation remains radical even in 2016 Japan, which is still very behind in terms of extending anti-discrimination and marital rights to LGBTQ citizens.

ID #17897

Name: Danielle
Age: 25
Country: United States 

I’m a recent college graduate with a degree in art. I’m looking for penpals over snailmail, tumblr or even email. I’m a feminist, artist and I occasionally write. I enjoy discovering new music, documentaries, paranormal theories, Journaling/sketching, deep conversations and getting to know new people. I’m accepting and open to new ideas, and I’m a good listener. And admittedly, a bit of a dork. I’m super friendly! Don’t hesitate if you think we have stuff in common! 

Preferences: 18 and up.

Day 5/100 Days of Productivity

Forever writing a paper of some sorts. Being away at a conference this weekend has me so far behind on a few papers, so I’m now playing the catch up game. Exams and other big assignments due this week as well. Going to be a busy week as I count the days until Fall Break.