Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Today has been one of those days. You know the kind I'm talking about. The ones where nothing is going quite what how you want it to. It's sunny when you think it's going to be overcast so you don't have your sunglasses. Then it's raining when just moments before, you SWEAR its was JUST sunny. This is my day. Waaaaaaa. I am wallowing in it. Wallow wallow wallow.

So, while I'm buggered and angsty, I will take a moment to tell you about a wonderful woman - a folky/indie singer Vicci Martinez. She came to Plymouth State for the acustic cafe and her voice... was fantastic. I was in love. Hard core in love with the way she sang, what she sang about and how she felt her music.

So, what does any of this have to do with feminism? I think it is vital for women who are fighting the battle to be feminists to honor themselves as creative and expressive individuals. So... I am honoring myself by ending this blog, finishing my paper and devoting some time to drawing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Can A Feminist Wear Lipstick?

On Friday night, I was, for some unexplainable reason, wide awake around midnight. My parents have decided to downgrade our cable... leaving my television options (at midnight) down to PBS and infomercials. So, of course, I settled in for a good hour watching some PBS special (btw, I am allll for public broadcasting, national public radio etc)

The evening program was all about women and dun dun dunnnnn MAKEUP! The Powder and the Glory

However... it was refocused on the incredible women who built their own powerful and influential companies targeted specifically for women:  Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein. Rather than focus on the question of changing ones appearance in order to more socially acceptable (which I do think is interesting and bears discussion) I would like to acknowledge what these women were able to accomplish in their lives.

So... now moving onto the makeup question. Can a feminist wear makeup? I personally feel it is ridiculous when women who are fighting a stereotype label a woman who chooses to wear makeup with a stereotype. As a woman, I wear makeup. I dye my hair. I use hairspray (though my environmentally conscious side cringes). Men wear cologne (may I remind you of the Axe commercials? or TAG--eww--) and face other social pressures to be masculine. (I recognize I am being vague on this point, but I don't want to spend a lot of time delving into that cesspool in this blog) I do not feel that I am any less of a feminist because I chose to put on eyeshadow in the morning or wear a thoughtfully chosen outfit. Rather, I feel like I am taking pride in my appearance and femininity. So perhaps the question is... can feminists be traditionally "feminine" in certain aspects of their lives?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where's the Women's Studies?

The University System of New Hampshire is a collection of five public higher education institutions in New Hampshire:

Plymouth State University
University of New Hampshire
Keene State College
University of New Hampshire-Manchester
Granite State College

Beyond USNH, there are private schools:
Saint Anselm
Colby Sawyer
Hesser College
Chester College of New England
Antioch New England Grad School
Daniel Webster College
Dartmouth College
Franklin-Pierce University
Franklin-Pierce Law Center
Lebanon College
Magdaline College
McIntosh College
New England College
New Hampshire Institute of Art
Rivier College
Southern New Hampshire University
Thomas Moore College of Liberal Arts

So ... out of all of the schools in New Hampshire, what are students' options for studying women's studies and/or gender studies?

At Plymouth State University, students may minor in Women's Studies. *However* although there is a Women's Studies Council there is *no* Women's Studies Department. Instead the faculty, who are primarily adjunct and from other departments must get a sort of release from their own department chairs to teach WS courses. (this is my understanding of how things work... it may not be entirely accurate) There is minimal funding for the program at a university that is more concerned with environmental issues than diversity and gender. There is no minor offered in Queer Studies, and it was a struggle just to get a course titled "Contemporary American Male" accepted into the list of pre-approved courses for the Women's Studies Program. Gender Studies - a product more of the third wave - does not seem to be embraced by the Women's Studies Council.

The University of New Hampshire offers not only a minor in Women's Studies, but a major in Women's Studies. It also offers a minor in Queer Studies. (PSU is offering its first Queer Studies course next year) It would appear that UNH is doing a lot more than PSU. Why? Well, UNH is a much larger University, with more funding and resources. It has it's own Women's Studies Department.

Dartmouth College offters Women's and Gender Studies. (Hmmm and interesting title, don't you think?) "Women's and Gender Studies may be undertaken as a program for a major, minor, modified major and a certificate." (right from their website) LGBTS courses are equally as prominent at Dartmouth as Women's and Gender studies courses, and are currently integrated into several fields of study (including the Women's and Gender Studies department) and may be headed towards a major/minor program of it's own.

Keene State College offers a minor in Women's Studies with it's own Women's Studies Department.

Colby-Sawer offers a minor in Women's Studies as well. Their faculty seem to be based in the Humanities department.

Granite State College, Franklin Pierce University, Saint Anselm College, Rivier College do not offer Women's Studies or Gender Studies.

I was going to come to a point that larger, more prominent universities and colleges seem to have stronger more active Women's Studies/Gender Studies/Queer Studies programs and departments. And yet, New England College - an itty bitty College in Henniker offers a Women's Studies major and minor program. Furthermore... Keene State College has 5,717 students (including undergrad, grad and part-time students. Plymouth State University has 6,562 students (also including undergrad, grad and part-time students). Size clearly is not an excuse. I would argue that if Keene State College can find the resources to provide for a Women's Studies department, then so can Plymouth State University.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Historic Day Leaves Women Behind

On March 23rd, President Obama finally signed the Health Care Reform Bill into Law. It was a historic and powerful moment - but we are all reminded that the struggle is not over. I want to focus on a side of Health Care Reform that seems to be shunned from the news networks. Abortion. Abortion, Religion and Politics.

Please, allow me to introduce you to Bart Stupak. Stupak represents Michigan's First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has been a very vocal and very active anti-abortion, pro-life politician, and has held onto a lot of support because of his firm stand on abortion. One of the challenges of being a college-student activist is staying informed, while also balancing course work, extra-curricular groups and campus activism. So, I was surprised, when I learned (for the first time - - gah!) that Stupak is actually a Democrat.

Stupak has been there in the planning and building of this bill since the very beginning. In 2009, Stupak wrote, "I was also concerned that the bill opened the door for public funding to pay for abortion."

I feel Stupak's provisional information on his influence on the Health Care Bill says it all:
"By working with my Pro-Life colleagues and with Speaker Pelosi, I was able to secure an up or down vote on my amendment with regards to federal funding of abortion. My amendment does one very simple thing: It applies current law (the Hyde Amendment), which bars federal funding for abortion except in the case of rape, incest or life of the mother, to the health care reform bill. ...

My amendment has no impact on those individuals with private insurance who do not receive affordability credits and in no way prohibits any individual from purchasing a supplemental abortion coverage policy. Health insurance companies can still offer policies that cover abortion; insurance companies just can’t sell those policies to individuals using affordability credits to pay for the policy. My amendment was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 240 to 194 on November 7, 2009 and was included in H.R. 3962. Without the votes of 41 Democratic Pro-Life supporters of my amendment, health care reform never would have passed the U.S. House of Representatives."

It's important to understand that Stupak is no longer a popular man with the rest of his pro-life cronies, since approving of and voting for the bill. He's being called a traitor. At first I thought it was hysterical - after all he was responsible for these limitations placed on women seeking abortions with either low funding or an insurance policy that didn't cover (or partially cover) the procedure. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops writes on their website "Most American women and men don’t want abortion in their health coverage, and don’t want the government funding or promoting abortion." (according to whom, I wonder?) Although the Catholic Bishops are not representative of all Pro-life Americans, I believe it is fair to surmise that generally Pro-lifers not only want Health Care Reform to abstain from funding abortions all-together, but also to take a firm stance against abortion and a woman's right to chose.

The Health Care Bill as it has been signed into law "says individuals who receive federal subsidies to purchase insurance may purchase abortion coverage, but must do so by writing a separate check from personal funds." (Espo)
So... as a young woman, how do I feel about the Health Care Bill and it's stance on abortion? I believe that a man or a woman may have personal feelings against ending life. I can understand that. Let me ask... do these same men and women allow those feelings to pertain to war efforts? What about defensive action? How do these same men and women feel about the right to bear arms?
If I became pregnant - would I chose to have an abortion? I can't honestly say I know the answer to that. I can say that as a woman, as an individual, as a citizen of this country, I want the right to make that choice for myself, and I want the support that I deserve to make that choice from my government. Women who chose to have abortions do not make the choice lightly or painlessly and we are not irresponsible flighty creatures, incapable of choosing our own lives. Any legislation that impedes a woman's rights or options for receiving health care in any capacity - whether it's birth control, STI screening, family planning or abortions-- is not only "bad" legislation, but against the constitution and enforces the patriarchal society that tells women they are second class citizens and must be put in their place. To quote the suffragist movement heroine Alice Paul, "How long must women wait for liberty?"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Gathering of Feminists

In many ways, feminism to me seems to be a journey. A journey of self-discovery, as an individual, a journey of discovery of woman-hood as a whole (not just as it may be defined in the limiting terms of biology, but in a more inclusive way - woman-hood as embracing "non-traditional" women) and a journey towards a powerful movement of equality and celebration of the qualities that make us different and the qualities that we share.

It is fitting then... to begin this new blog with a tangible journey.

Over the past weekend, I climbed into a car with 6 other college students... and rode in the back of said car down to Washington DC. Yes... about an 11 hour trip. In the back. of. a. car. And I am so glad that I did.

About a month ago, some interesting young women on my campus decided to gather their energy and re-establish a group on campus called AWARE. The purpose of this group is to raise awareness of Women's challenges and capabilities on campus and in the community. (Disclaimer: As a group we are still re-defining our mission statement, and so this purpose may change...) Since part of our purpose is to break down the priviledge roles based in the patriarchal power system, our group has decided to *not* have an executive board - rather we will govern ourselves as a whole. It's an empowering and challenging system and in many ways I am honored to part of it.

7 of us decided to pool our funds and set out to participate in the 2010 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, hosted by the Feminist Majority Foundation at the University of District of Columbia, in Washington, DC. Fast forward back to where I started: Yes. In a car. Ok, so I'm used to roadtrips, and I've done this one before... twice. Or maybe three times. So, it really wasn't that bad. I got some really nifty pictures on the way:

The conference was so influencial and powerful - a gathering of over 200 young women (and men!) to learn more about how they can impact their campus communities. There were so many things I took from this conference, which I hope to share in posts to come.