As I type this blog post I find myself becoming increasingly angry about the current state of my University. To give you a little back-story, I attend the University at Buffalo and have for the past three years. UB has 2 student publications that run regularly and neither is anything special. They are what you might expect from a typical campus news source and aside from a few poorly written articles each issue they do all right.

That is of course until this year, with the addition of the self titled “sex column” to UB’s The Spectrum.

The writer of this column’s name is Keren Baruch and she attempts to write on all topics relating to sex—as she calls it. She signs off most of her posts with “be safe, be smart, be sexual.”

I feel I should clarify that I have no personal problems with the idea of a sex column. Writing about sex isn’t something I think should be taboo or removed from college newspapers. Sex is essential to life and as such should be conversed about (whether that be in print or not).

What I think is problematic about a self titled “sex column” can be summarized by Keren Baruch’s column from January: What’s your number?

The second paragraph of this article reads:

How many times have you been in this situation: pants off, condom on, laying on your back ready for his gooey marshmallow to make the inside of your graham crackers complete.

Well, Keren, I can honestly say with some experience on this topic that I’ve never been in this situation. I might even stretch far enough to say that putting gooey marshmallow anywhere near the “inside of my graham cracker” sounds like I’m asking for a yeast infection.

Actual picture from The Spectrum's website associated with Keren's column

Keren goes on to create a setting in which a female is in a bar and is interested in a man and suddenly her mind shifts to sex and then to worrying about his “number.”

The number she is referring to is the amount of sexual partners a person has had. She poses the question if a high or low number has a negative connotation and feeds directly into heteronormative gender stereotypes.

Many girls feel that guys hold high expectations of the vagina that’s about to become the peel to their hard banana. These high standards set by previous freaky experiences and porn can be nerve-wracking, especially for a virgin.

Again with the weird, unnecessary food metaphors. I would hope if you are writing a sex column you would at least be able to use the words “penis” and “vagina,” but maybe that’s just me. I will say that she makes an interesting point to add in that the expectations of sex are extremely hyped up due to pornography–but I believe all people experience anxiety as a result of this in some form not just “virgin girls.”

Keren then goes on to speak for all men in saying:

 Guys want their girls to be good in bed but at the same time they don’t want their girls to have high numbers.

And gets a super reputable quote by sourcing a UB business student:

“The lower the number for the girl, the better,” said Ryan McTigue, a senior business major.

This generalization is problematic and I would even go so far as to say oppressive. Women must be good in bed, but they can’t have a high number of partners on which to establish practice for “good performance.” So, if the pressure put on people to perform a certain way during sex wasn’t already enough with the use of the before-mentioned pornography industry, (you can view it for yourself with a quick google search if you need a reference) now women especially must be good in bed and maintain a lower number to appease their male counterparts. Keren goes on to dig her philosophy a little deeper with this gem of a statement:

 simply “getting the crazy nights out of our systems,” isn’t an excuse to portray ourselves as easy and slutty

So, if a woman likes to have sex– I’m going to assume here she is speaking for all women as a whole, as she lumps herself into this “we” mentality in this statement– and has sex with whomever she wants, EVEN if she is safe, she is being “easy” and “slutty.” Gesh, pearls of wisdom.

She ends her column with a warning message for “naive” girls who are trusting in what their partners tell them to be their “numbers,” and sources a “relationship expert” who essentially says that everyone lies when it comes to the amount of sexual partners they have.

While I can understand the use of (what she may view as funny) food metaphors, and over simplification of sexual relationships, I can’t for the life of me understand how the editors of The Spectrum think a sex column this poorly done is helping their publication. This isn’t just a problem facing our campus, this female vs. male differential treatment when it comes to sex is incredibly problematic in everyday life situations. Take for example recent reproductive health laws and then read this column and think about who is being oppressed.

This column is not the only one of its kind to come from Keren Baruch, which is pretty unfortunate.

UB MEME's response to Keren's "sex column"

As stated before, I have no qualms with publications that print “sex columns” per se. And I do understand that a column is reflective of the opinion of the writer and not necessarily of the entire publication as a whole. It’s that this depiction of females is harmful and degrading, the male perspective has inherently become some sort of authority within this piece for the basis of Keren’s argument on women’s sexual choices. Not to mention the entire lack of mention of anyone functioning outside of a heterosexual relationship.

Is your “number” important to you? And how do these implications affect your relationships?

As always, thanks for reading.

Girls Around Me: A problematic application.

Posted: April 12, 2012 by Carly Bea in Uncategorized

As access to the internet and social networking sites have expanded, privacy and security have become an increasing concern for many.  The advent of internet accessibility on cell phones has led to thousands of applications being developed, some of which are free and some of which must be purchased. A number of these applications allow individuals to have access to information about others.  This may not be too much of a problem when the information is freely given, i.e. the people involved enter their personal details and they are put online for others to see. However, things can turn scary when an application allows people to see information about complete strangers that most likely do not want these details to be shared, and were not aware they were available to the public.

 

 

The application in question is called Girls Around Me, and it is no longer on the market. An article about the app can be found here. A Moscow based developer, I-Free, developed the application to allow people to track the locations of nearby women.  The app works by utilizing publicly available data on the social network FourSquare (which allows users to ‘check-in’ to places, thereby showing their friends where they are). The Girls Around Me application, however, also drew information from women’s Facebook. By using both of these networks, Girls Around Me is able to create a map showing the locations and photographs of nearby women.  It also shows the ratio of women to men in the area. Despite the applications name, settings could be changed to search for men instead, but the default setting was to search for nearby women.  When the app is first loaded, it begins by determining the location of the use and, using Google Maps, showing a map of the surrounding area. Once the user specifies whether they are interested in men or women, the app immediately begins searching for people. Once they are found, their photographs and locations are displayed on the screen.

 

All of the information pulled by this application was publicly available – taken from Facebook and FourSquare, where people had voluntarily entered it. In fact, to be one of the people displayed, one must first “check-in” somewhere using FourSquare. However, these people were not necessarily aware that their information was being used for another application entirely. The application has had mixed reactions, many of which have been negative, especially from women. Concern has been expressed as to the safety of the individuals whose photographs and locations show up.  Some people voiced apprehension as to what implications the app could have if it fell into the wrong hands, such as those of a rapist or stalker.

Consider the following possible situation: A man is interested in meeting a woman, and uses the Girls Around Me application to scan for women in the area. The application detects that there are several women in a bar nearby. Depending on how much information these women have made publicly available on Facebook, he may be able to discern their full names, where they went to school, and even their interests. He could then use this information to strike up a “Remember me from high school?” type conversation.

Of course, this application could be seen as a wake-up call: Facebook isn’t as private as it may appear to be, and settings usually default to share a considerable amount of information. In addition, some people choose to link their accounts.  If one has their Twitter account set to public, linking Twitter  to FourSquare could make their location public to anyone.  People need to be aware of how much information they are sharing, and how they can restrict this from others if desired. It usually only takes a few minutes to delve into the privacy settings of a social networking site, and it is well worth one’s time if it protects one’s privacy.

 

However, the author, Larry Magid, does miss something: the inherent sexism of this application. There is no doubt that over-sharing data is a legitimate concern, but it is also important to consider the implications of sexism and gender relations the application may create. Although the application can be used to find both men and women, its title does not suggest such. It could also be argued that there is some victim-blaming here – the problem is women sharing data, not that men are using the application to find these women.  In fact, some of these women may not be aware they are sharing so much information. They may not even have heard of the application itself. Instead of being blamed for dressing in revealing clothing, women will be blamed for revealing too much data about themselves.  Instead of blaming the people who share the data itself, it is important to consider the sexist culture that has created the desire for an application such as this in the first place.  Because the application pulls information from those who have not necessarily consented to their data being available, it encourages objectification, and in my opinion, is pretty creepy.

Besides all this, this application, like many other social networking sites, seems to discourage getting to know someone the “old-fashioned” way – meeting someone new and having a conversation. Instead, Girls Around Me encourages instant gratification and the chance to obtain information with minimal effort.  I’m not saying there is something inherently awful about social networking sites – just that it is crucial that people be aware of what privacy settings are available and how to use them. In addition, we shouldn’t have to rely on applications such as these to do something as simple as striking up conversation. It could be argued that applications such as these may even further alienate people from each other, because information is accessible at the touch of a finger rather than having to talk to someone.   I for one am happy that this application was removed.

I am wondering what others think – is an application like this okay? Is it ethical to draw out other individuals’ information without their informed consent?  Would you consider using an application such as this?

As always, thanks for reading.

Carly

A Spotlight on the Vagina, ONLY the Vagina

Posted: April 10, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized

 

I have never been a big fan of the magazine Cosmopolitan, because it disseminates sexist information that continues the heteronormative ideas of gender dichotomy. It seems as though every issue is a new way to “please your man.” The most recent, April 2012 issue is no different. Yet this time the article is titles: “The Thing He’s Dying to See During Sex” by Brittany Talarico. This article is all about a man’s lustful desire to view himself penetrating a woman. Talarico even goes so far as to give a detailed description of the best position to give him the premium view during sex.

 

This article, and the entire magazine, is directed at a heterosexual audience. Talarico presents herself as an authority revealing a universal truth. This standpoint in itself is very problematic. Her refusal to account for other sexualities reinforces the notion that other sexualities are deviant. Talarico assumes that she is addressing an exclusive heterosexual female audience, who is seeking to find the best possible method for pleasing their male partners. As an authoritative figure, Talarico fortifies the idea that sexual relationships are only for male pleasure. This problematic stance undermines a woman’s desire for sexual pleasure and reinforces normative gender roles.

 

Looking at the material present in the article impedes on the acceptance of women’s social advancement, which continues the ideas of placing sexual desires in a binary of normality and outlandishness. This article presents the act as mischievous which leads to being erotic: “…men get off on the fact it’s a dirty picture that’s out of the norm.” The language used supports the idea that the act of viewing one’s own body is a deviant act. This act is referred to in negative language several times throughout the article: in terms of “raw” which brings to mind a savagery associated with viewing one’s body. She also uses the terms: “shocking,” “dirty” and “taboo” which places this act outside of the “norm.” Using this language associates the act of gaining pleasure in one’s body as foreign which makes it exotic and erotic. The association with discovering pleasure in the exotic has been a long tradition, but even though the experience may be pleasurable it is still considered abnormal. 

 

The standpoint of the article places sex as for man’s pleasure. The article reports that the act of a man watching himself penetrate a woman “…taps into a guy’s craving for sexual power.” The focus is on the man craving a woman; as though this is his need that she needs to satisfy. Talarico assumes that women are confined to the gendered role of the feminine female. Almost as an afterthought at the end of the article Talarico adds: “And why not take a peek at the action for yourself when the position allows? [my emphasis] Who knows, it might give you just as much of an erotic rush as it gives your guy.” This statement places women in the role of only giving pleasure and maybe if his positioning allows for her to “take a peek” she may also find some enjoyment herself. The language of “peeking” for her, and giving him the “clear shot of the real action” reveals the socially constructed gender roles just in how one can observe their body. It is shocking that a magazine intended for women, does not view female sexuality as a priority.

 

The article gives a detailed description of how to perform the act for his optimal vantage point:

If you want to be in control, straddle him on top, lean back, and rest your hands on his upper thighs. This will open your pelvic area so you’re fully exposed to him… Want him in charge? Have him take you from behind, then put your head down toward the bed- it angles your body in a way that allows him to look down easily…

This description constructs the sexual act in terms of power and control. It also gives the woman a false sense of “having control.” The entire sexual position is for his benefit and the control or power is only “who is on top.” By using this language, Talarico highlights the gendered binary, which views men as superior and ultimately women as inferior making their desire secondary. The description of the woman in a position of control sounds more like a balancing act and disregards the woman’s comfort level. Yet again, this places all the focus on his sexual pleasure instead of mutual pleasure. This power construction is also made clear in the previous quote about a man’s need and craving for “sexual power.” The notion that a man needs sexuality and craves it, reinforces the notions of masculine gender roles.

 

I was not surprised by the articles I found in the Cosmopolitan magazine, yet I am still disgusted with the blasé reinforcement of socially constructed gender roles. The article is featured in the Lust section of the magazine which is introduced by a survey titled: “His 50 Wildest Sex Secrets Revealed” which is an interview of over 1,000 heterosexual men  that gives a detailed description of their favorite positions, duration of each position and a various sexual preferences. Directly following this interview is Talarico’s article. The entire section on lust focuses on a man’s desires, even though the magazine is aimed at women. You would think there would be something about the issues women are having in the bedroom, or how to vocalize those issues. But no, the only information given is how to give him the best experience ever. Why do you think that in a magazine such as this, that women’s sexual pleasure is a topic that is completely dismissed? I think that we all know that a woman can gain just as much pleasure from sex as a man can, so why is that not recognized? Is it because it would be considered not feminine to express those desires? Or is there a deeper issue here?

You may have heard of something called “The Vagina Monologues.” It has certainly been a source of great interest and increasing popularity in recent years. It has also sparked controversy – in my personal experience, I can attest to a few individuals being offended, or at least feeling awkward, by the inclusion of the word “vagina” in the title.

But what exactly is the Vagina Monologues, and how did it come about? The aim of this short piece is to focus on the first all-transgender performance of the Monologues, and the public’s reaction to such. However, in order to do this, some background information must be provided.

The Vagina Monologues is, essentially, a collection of stories from women of various walks of life, performed by other women.  The idea was created by a woman named Eve Ensler, who believed that women’s empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality. Ensler also stated that growing up in a violent household helped to shape her interest in women who have been affected by sexual assault and other forms of violence (ibid).  It was this curiosity that led Ensler to begin speaking with close friends about vaginas, and sexual experiences in general. Some of these friends would advise her to speak to someone they knew, which eventually led Ensler to conduct over 200 interviews with women of various ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations. Ensler recalls that at first, women were hesitant to speak, but speculates that this is due to the fact that no one has previously asked them to talk about such sensitive topics. She stated, “Any time we open the door to a place where we have a lot of feelings or thoughts or stories, we react enthusiastically” (ibid).

This collection of stories turned into The Vagina Monologues that are performed worldwide today. Ensler wrote the first draft in 1996, and they debuted shortly thereafter at the HERE Arts Center in New York City. Although the play ran for only about a month at this venue, word spread, and interest in the Monologues grew.  Years later, in 2001, a performance in Madison Square Garden took place, that included Whoopi Goldberg and Melissa Etheridge.

One of the monologues, entitled “My Angry Vagina,” can be viewed here.  Be forewarned, it is explicit.

In 2004, Eve Ensler decided she wanted to try something different. With the help of Jane Fonda and Deep Stealth Productions, the GenderMedia Foundation staged a performance of The Vagina Monologues.  It was held on February 21, 2004, at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, CA. This unique performance featured trans women from all over the world. This show was intended as a benefit for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults against Women. This was a one-night only performance for “LA Until the Violence Stops,” and included monologues read by eighteen different women.  A brand-new monologue was also included to document the experiences of transwomen.  Photos of the event can be found here.

The new piece was entitled “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy;” you can watch it below.  A word of caution: violent experiences are discussed, and like many of the Monologues, it can be a bit intense and evoke powerful emotions.

They Beat The Girl Out of My Boy (Video)

In this performance, a woman describes how those who do not “pass” are often pushed aside in society. One trans women describes, as a child, seeing a vagina and wanting one, thinking that “it would grow.” Another woman describes wanting to smell like her mother and “be pretty.”  Still another says that she “ached to belong.” The same message is echoed over and over: that these individuals knew that they were women, but were repeatedly told that they were not adequate. One joined the Marines, another grew a beard, and others were told to “butch it up.” Nearly all of the women faced violence at one point or another in their life. They talk about their experiences with transitioning: everything from surgery to practicing speaking in a more feminine voice.  One woman details how her boyfriend was beaten simply because others did not approve of his dating a woman who happened to be trans. She concludes, “They were afraid of love.”

A plethora of traumatizing experiences and memories are discussed, but some hopeful and positive aspects of the performance shine through. Women talk about how they would like to travel, how they feel more like themselves, as they should be. One individual talks about how she is much happier in her body since going through a transition.  Another woman states, “Once I got my vagina, it was like a car alarm was turned off.”

The women who participated in this performance stated that this was a “historic opportunity for the trans community to express ourselves in a positive, contributing light.” The monologues held at the Pacific Design Center were certainly very different from what many were used to. Instead of focusing solely on cis women’s experiences, the monologues shifted to frame the experiences of being a woman in a different way. The reactions seemed to be positive – of course, like nearly all of the monologues, many audience members were emotional during the performance. However, it was well-received, and in my eyes, truly a monumental event in the V-Day Campaign. Through her writing of a piece dedicated to the experiences of trans women, Eve Ensler showed that she was willing to be more inclusive, and wanted to encourage this sort of inclusivity in others. In a society where unfortunately, women are still fighting for their rights, trans women’s experiences are all too often pushed aside and ignored. This show offered hope that in the future, trans women may continue to be included in this and other such performances that typically only include cis women.

Questions still remain: How can the Vagina Monologues and V-Day campaign continue to be, and improve upon, being inclusive to all those who identify as a woman, regardless of sex assigned at birth, race, and etc.? How do you think a performance such as this might be received at a college such as the University at Buffalo? And lastly, should only women who are trans be allowed to perform monologues such as this, or should any woman?

 

As always, thank you for reading.

 

Carly

Abhorrent white behavior, an American history.

Posted: March 29, 2012 by chelsiehinck in Uncategorized

Ever relevant today in the spotlight of recent political debates is the issue of birth control.  What is left out of this conversation altogether is the horrific historical record of the United States performing sterilizations on women without their consent. A majority of these sterilizations were performed on women that identified within minority groups inside of the United States. For the focus of this blog post, the forced sterilization of Native American women will be explored.

To begin, I just need to say that this is another example of absolutely appalling behavior that is a direct result of white patriarchal society. It’s a ridiculously disgusting abuse of human rights.

To put a date on the sterilization of Native American women is a somewhat difficult task. With the colonization of America and the invasion of “white man” the oppression of Native Americans as a whole began. The forced sterilization of Native American women as a “campaign” began in 1970 through the “fully federally funded sterilization campaign” by Indian Health Services (IHS).  Information on the Indian Health Services can be found on the Internet here, and in summation is the U.S. Federal Governments way of providing health care for Native American people either for free or for minimal cost (according to the website). This is the only source many Native Americans have for their health care needs because traditional treatments were no longer an option after the forced relocation of many tribes. When the only option is health care from IHS, women seeking reproductive services were left with limited options.

Forced sterilization may seem like a tough term to understand, and Myla Carpio sums up a majority of the instances that were common among Native American women populations:

 American Indian women are susceptible to uninformed or involuntary sterilizations because of the different ways in which doctors or health care professionals present hysterectomies and tubal ligations. Some women reported that questionable delivery room diagnoses led to their sterilizations. IHS doctors used consent forms for medically required sterilization procedures rather than forms that distinguished voluntary sterilizations from required ones. Other women were told outright lies about their conditions and treatments (Carpio).

The reasoning behind such sterilizations is covered extensively in Andrea Smith’s book Conquest, which is available for purchase here. This book is an extensive look into the sexual violence and American Indian genocide. In chapter four of this book, titled: “Better Dead Than Pregnant” The Colonization of Native Women’s Reproductive Health, Smith cites many “justifications” used for the practice of sterilization of groups of people. The main point being that the potential for furthering the “continuance of the people” through childbirth becomes threatening to white dominated governments looking to control the population in their favor.

According to a report surveying 12 areas of the IHS’s sterilizations 5 percent of all Native women were sterilized between1973 and 1976 (Smith), and some reports state that around 42% of women of childbearing age of Native American origin were sterilized, leaving the number of Native American women that were sterilized as a part of the IHS sterilization campaign difficult to pin point exactly.

Most women were sterilized with no prior knowledge or consent to the procedure.

Barbara Moore, a Lakota, conveyed her experience:

I was pregnant myself and I went to a public health service to deliver my baby. For one reason or another, I was not able to deliver it in a normal way. They delivered my child by caesarian [sic], that is all l remember. When I woke up the next day after the operation I was told that my child was born dead…. Besides this, they told me that I could not have any more children because they have had to sterilize me…. I was sterilized without my knowledge or without my agreement (Carpio).

Barbara, like many other Native American Women, was not given any consent form to sign releasing the hospital to conduct further procedures without her awareness. She was left childless and unable to have further children due to a forced sterilization. From her statement, it doesn’t even seem as if the doctors gave her relevant information about what went wrong during child birth perhaps lending to the fact that the IHS was acting under governmental orders to basically perform mass genocide of the Native American population.

The discovery that the Federal Government had issued this “sterilization campaign” came from a doctor inside of the IHS, Dr. Uri, Choctaw and Cherokee, discovering that women as young as 20 had received complete hysterectomies.

At first I thought I had discovered a case of malpractice… There was no good reason for a doctor to perform a complete hysterectomy rather than a tubal ligation on a 20-year-old healthy woman. I began accusing the government of genocide and insisted on a congressional investigation (Carpio).

The desecration of land and the forced relocation of Native American populations across the country apparently wasn’t enough to appease the United States government. When boarding schools weren’t enough it seemed that they took a more direct approach in attempting to perform a mass genocide by halting the reproduction and therefore birth of further Native American children. It’s absolutely abhorrent that less than 40 years ago this country allowed the Federal government–and then President George H. W. Bush to conduct themselves in such a manner.

An important lesson to take away from this terrible situation would be to focus on what is happening inside of the health care system we are currently living in. Access to affordable health care has become increasingly difficult in this country and due to our patriarchal white dominated society the groups that suffer the most are women of minorities. By limiting health care as a privilege only afforded to *some* in our society are we not still promoting the same ideals that led to the forced sterilization of Native American women?

Sources:

Carpio, Myla Vicenti. “The lost generation: American Indian women and sterilization abuse.” Social Justice31.4 (2004): 40+. General OneFile. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.

Smith, Andrea. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Cambridge, MA: South End, 2005. Print.

Deconstructing Language

Posted: March 28, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized

I feel that Rhacel Salazar Parreñas’ book: Servants of Globalization does not adequately deconstruct ideology of the female migrant worker. The composition of the book and the use language reinforce the socially constructed notions of transnational migrant workers. Parreñas initial interviews of the migrant women focus heavily upon their role as mothers, and the fact that their children are living separate lives in the Philippines. This focus makes her interviews come across as critical and judgmental nearly vilifying the migrant workers.

The first three chapters set up Parreñas’ study of migrant workers and introduce key terms for understanding their experiences. These chapters start to divulge into the women’s experiences but mainly focus on introducing the study she is constructing. Chapter four is the first glimpse we have into the lives of migrant women. This chapter heavily focuses on motherhood, and the distance between mother and child. I understand that Parreñas is using this method as an attempt of showing the situation in the Philippines which forces women to transnationally find employment to sustain their families. However, Parreñas uses very negative language when talking about the women; several times she uses the terms absentee (mother) and talk about the women as having abandoned their children. These term have very negative connotations and reinforce the blaming of migrant women.

In Parreñas’ interviews with the women in Chapter Four, she goes so far as to intentionally make the women feel uncomfortable on the basis of their family situations. In the interview she conducts with Lolita, it seems as though she is badgering her and deliberately trying to make her feel guilty and uncomfortable. After Lolita shuts down and will no longer speak on issues about her children, Parreñas inserts her opinion: “Although she claims to work and struggle, using her own words ‘for the happiness of her children,’ her discomfort and inability to earnestly discuss her relationship with them alluded to feelings of guilt and wrongdoing” (93). This comment places the blame on the women, because they are not adequately fulfilling the socially constructed gendered of the mother. The focus on Lolitas’ feelings of “guilt and wrong doing” trivializes the sacrifices she is making her children.

 

In the next chapter, five, the focus continues to be on the role of the woman as mother, but from the perspective of the children in the Philippines. The chapter explores the situation of financial instability which is the driving force behind the women finding work outside of the Philippines. Yet the main focus is on the experience of the children and continues to use negative and critical language. While discussing the women who have children who live with them, while at the same time have other children living in the Philippines she explains: “…the different relationships that they have developed and maintained with their two sets of children are inexplicable, transforming into a grief they are unwilling or unable to confront” (130).  The problematic word choice of “inexplicable” sets the women up to be wrong, and the implication that their choice cannot be explained or justified automatically sets them up as the villains. Parreñas presents Gay’s life story, as an example of a Filipino child’s experience. Parreñas makes the connection that a contributing factor to her mother’s employment outside of the Philippines was the fact that her father had relationships with other women. As a result, Gay was raped by her father and Gay said that he did it because she looked like her mother when she was younger. I think that this interview is a prime example of how Parreñas veers away from the social issues which drive women to seek work elsewhere and instead places blame, or partial blame on the women. Now, I am not questioning the truth behind Gay’s story, nor am I attempting to trivialize her experience. I personally believe that these initial chapters which introduce the reader to the personal stories of migrant women do not deconstruct the traditionally family roles that women are forced into, but perpetuate them. 

Parreñas goal was to remove the stigma from women and depict the social issues which are shaking the foundation of the traditional Filipino family. Yet I personally believe that in order to do so, one has to go outside of the negative language, which hinges on normative gendered roles to complete that goal. By setting up a gendered binary of the roles of mother and father, Parreñas leads the reader to assume that there are certain roles that both should perform according to their gender. Parreñas does show how the Filipino children assign these gendered roles to their parents by exposing the ideology that a majority of the children believed that it is the role of the father to leave, or that it would be easier to have the father find work outside of the Philippines. Yet I feel that she falls short by not taking that ideology further to deconstruct this notion.

 

The following chapters focus on the experience of the migrant worker, and place them in terms of being human beings instead of only being mothers. These chapters also focus on the individual experience of the workers and the struggles they face as a result of the work and pressure placed on the women. I think that if these chapters would have been presented earlier, the critical and judgmental tone may not have been so heavy. Also if these chapters would have introduced the women’s experiences it would make the reader more sympathetic to their experience instead of viewing them in extremely gendered tones and may have also allowed for a clearer understanding of Parreñas’ goals.

While reading chapters four and five of Servants of Globalization I became enraged at the critical and negative tone towards the migrant women. After reading further I was understand the situation that Parreñas was presenting. However I believe that in order to deconstruct the constructed social ideology around gendered understandings of transnational workers the language has to be carefully chosen to correctly convey the stand point of the author. I feel as though the focus, setup and language in this book blur the distinctions that Parreñas is trying to convey by failing trap to these gendered notions. Looking at only chapters 4 and 5, did Parreñas’ language affect your view of the migrant workers? Is there another angle Parreñas could have taken to discuss the migrant women?

Men and the Dolls Who Love Them

Posted: March 8, 2012 by globalsexandsexuality in Uncategorized

Men and the Dolls Who Love Them

In an era when sex is not only profitable, but also accessible from virtually every corner of the world; there are bound to be innovations, which push the boundaries of what is considered the norm in terms of sexual practices and aids. In visualizing a product that is not only unusual, but also creepy to some is something I had no problem in searching for. The object I chose is something I discovered when I was a pre-pubescent child discovering the wonders of HBO past midnight.

In watching a show titled “Real Sex”, which explored sexual practices, objects and entertainment between adults of the pre-Millennium; I discovered something that could very much replace human connection. That object is a Real Doll. A Real Doll is essentially, a life sized sex toy designed for sexual gratification. A Real Doll is usually fashioned in the form of a human female; though male Dolls are also available. This product is the result of a California company named ‘Abyss Creations’ and it’s founder Matt McMullen. The doll is the product that was initially created in 1996, and through the years the company has perfected the silicone it is made of, making it more “realistic”.  The dolls are sold exclusively on the internet through their website, www.realdoll.com The current Real Dolls can be custom produced with a variety of wigs, skin color, genitalia type and size, body proportions, eye color and the like. The dolls are manufactured inside of a warehouse in San Marcos, California, and the production team consists of McMullen and his wife, and seven production employees who manufacture the dolls. They are made of a silicone skin, metal and vinyl frame,

The basic doll retails for $6,000 USD, so it can be argued that these dolls are aimed at people with a lot of disposable income. According to an article by Peter Hossli (http://www.hossli.com/articles/2004/01/01/real-dolls/), much of the consumption of Real Dolls come from the United States, with countries such as Germany and Japan catching up to the phenomenon. At first glance, the Real Doll may appear to look nothing more than a human looking sex toy. However, the appearance may be deceiving. Looking at various pictures on the Internet, it seems like these toys may have become a sort of replacement for actual women. In advertisements, the dolls are dressed provocatively; if they are dressed at all. It can probably be argued that the dolls have taken on a misogynistic allure. These dolls have all the ‘physicality’ of a woman, without the emotion, intellect and humanity of a woman. They take on complete and total submission.

In the mind of the average person, Real Dolls are probably seen as weird sex toys that are expensive. However, I believe these dolls are just a small segment in the issue of what I’d like to call ‘deviant sexuality’. Not deviant in the sense of something inherently bad or discouraged; but a deviation from human-human contact to human-inanimate object contact. As I mentioned before, these dolls can be thought of mechanisms that stress or exacerbate negative relations between heterosexual men and women. In my research, I have found that some reasons people resort to Real Dolls have to do with negative experiences the customers have faced in regards to human interaction and intimacy. They feel as if human-human contact is unsatisfactory or is not fulfilling. I think this sentiment is something that seems to appeal to various people (mostly men with disposable income) transnationally. I think the demand of the Real Dolls stem from a paraphilia known as ‘Agalmatophilia’, which is the sexual attraction to a doll or mannequin. As aforementioned, I believe there is a misogynist and sexist element that plays a part in why these dolls are popular. I also think these dolls are a product of the attitudes of women in Western society; seen and not heard. Women feel, they emote; they experience sensations such as anger, pain, hurt and shame. I can go on a limb and say most women do not want to be mere sex objects designed for the pleasure and gratification of men.  Real Dolls seem to be the penultimate in examples of feminine objectification and examples of a patriarchal society. According to Lauren Vork, our society has perpetuated this ideal portrait of a female as being physically perfect, without a human element most men are privileged to have. (http://laurenvork.xomba.com/real_dolls_a_sex_positive_feminists_analysis) So, Real Dolls are; in effect, a result of this longing of perfection and complete reticence and acquiescence. This notion troubles me greatly, because it leads to a school of thought that human interaction is so troublesome, or imperfect that I need an inanimate object to feel complete, or to feel like I have a viable companion. Moving away from a western point of view and to more of a global perspective, I think that the countries that have citizens buying them have similar reasons as the United States, and these countries are decidedly more “western” (In terms of GDP, population, average income etc.) than others. I’m sure there are people who either have a Real Doll or who want one, and they come from the Global South. I would have to say, however, in countries with a higher rate of poverty or a low GDP, the primary consumer of this expensive object would undoubtedly be men; perhaps men in higher ranking offices who can afford this type of synthetic luxury.

The popularity of Real Dolls has spawned much interest. There have been a few films made with a Real Doll as a primary “character”. These include Lars and the Real Girl, a movie about a young man who incorporates a Real Doll into his life; Love Object, a sinister movie about a Real Doll and it’s owner; and Guys and Dolls; A documentary about Real Doll owners. It seems like the familiar trope that subjects women as objects of desire and not as human manifests itself much like the mold that these Real Dolls come from.