Saturday, August 21, 2010

Customer Service Representative

I am consistently reminded of sexism's presence most often when working behind the counter at the cafe. Not to detract from the many wonderful patrons that I come across daily, but I can't help but note the difference in treatment that I receive in comparison to my male co-workers. The expectations for women in the service industry to wear plastered smiles, laugh at jokes-especially the sexist ones, and to flirt with any male patron that walks through the door are oppressive, saddening, and infuriating. This is especially troubling considering jobs that involve tips, where making money from male patrons often depends on employing one of these gendered expectations.

1.) The Suspicious Stranger
Perhaps the most interesting reaction to my refusal to play the flirtatious card is an immediate distrust of my presence. I wish that I could do this particular phenomenon justice with the written word, but I can summon this all up with a single look-furrowed brow, grimace, and a wide eyed stare. My refusal to perform normative feminine behavior throws men off their tracks. If we meet again, I am usually met with coldness, lack of eye contact, and mumbling.

2.) The Apparel Commentator
And what perfect timing for this one seeing as it just happened as I write this blog. I don't care what a woman wears, she is NOT asking for it. I am wearing shorts today-it's hot and I like the way I look in them. I don't need to know from strangers that they like it too. The "I like your shorts, skirt, sexy pin up girl tattoo" all fall into this category. I understand the true implications of such statements, and I do not see them as compliments. I am being reduced to body parts and nonreciprocating sexual desire. Not to mention the presumption that I am heterosexual and would be attracted to men in the first place or attracted to heterosexist male performance!!

3.) Beautiful, Honey, Darling, Sweetheart, Sugar
Perhaps one of the most overlooked but most frequently utilized, the usage of pet names makes me furious. Whether with good intentions or bad, this tactic is undeniably sexist. Rarely if ever directed towards male employees by male patrons (which warrants another discussion on the role of homophobia in the service industry), I am frequently greeted with "Hey beautiful....sugar....darling." I find this one of the easiest for me to resist and here's how. When a male patron announces their presence this way, I simply treat it as if they have mistaken me for someone else, holding out my hand and introducing myself: "Actually, my name is Crystal. Nice to meet you." Unfortunately not every circumstance lends itself to this conversational progression, but I have found this response on my part humanizes me and leads to a better interaction with this customer in the future.

4.) Don't Be So Sensitive...Can't You Take a Joke?
I have one instance in particular that I will never forget because the comment was so explicitly offensive. A year or two ago, Danielle and I were enjoying one of our many Sunday morning shifts together. Two men come in and order a coffee. Simple enough. No big deal. After about 20 minutes or so, one of them approaches the counter and matter-of-factly states, "Since you ladies don't have your aprons on, I suppose I'm going to have to ask for a refill myself." Such a foolish and dated comment that I nearly scoffed out loud. Sensing my disgust, he retorts, "Oh don't be so uptight. It was just a joke." The "oh, you're just an overemotional, too sensitive female" cop out response. Truly one of the oldest tricks in the book! It shuts down any chance for him to take responsibility for his sexism and places the blame onto the female.

5.) Downright Sexual Harassment
This one has kept me emotionally charged for several weeks now, seeing as I faced my first experience with severe sexual harassment by an employee at the business right next to mine. My experience began with an unwanted pick up line or two, but when no obviously did not mean no to him, things began to escalate. Explicit sexual comments about my appearance and unwanted physical contact followed my consistent reiteration of "I am not interested". He stressed that he didn't like rejection and that because I was so beautiful, he just couldn't help himself. I escaped physically unscathed, but the emotional detriment of sexual harassment and borderline assault can leave an indelible scar. It threw me off of my power so significantly that I was not able to react in a way that may have shut down his further advances. This feeling of guilt and searching for ways I could have altered my behavior to have prevented it is the result of improper social messages that places prevention responsibility onto the woman. The only positivity I can glean from this experience lies in having a first hand experience in the oppressive and frightening ways sexual harassment and assault function.
***This just in: he got fired for what happened. Apparently I wasn't the only one harassed by this creep. Not that this gets to the root cause of his behavior, but at least he faced some sort of repercussion, and I don't have to worry about him while working.

These examples of sexist behavior, not limited to the workplace, permeate the many spaces of a woman's life. My professor Dr. Kubala, made an interesting point in class the other day, in the context of street harassment, that many acts of sexism, racism, classism, ect.. serve as punishment for women and other marginalized groups'(relegated to private realms of the home) increased presence in the public realm. I would extend this argument to the workplace, especially the service industry; however, I do not intend to suggest that misogyny does not occur within the home in epidemic proportions. The service industry represents one of the many precarious places for a female, having to constantly negotiate the male gaze and the actions that accompany it.

How have you experienced sexism, racism, classism, ableism in the workplace? My categories do not encompass the many ways one can experience misogyny. As a white woman, my racial privilege limits my full understanding of the ways this may function in a female's life.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Virginity and Value

So much time has passed since I posted anything here. Blogging is something I always tell myself I am going to cultivate, and yet I always seem to become so caught up in the day to day happenings and responsibilities. I suppose school is a decent excuse, but still!

I am very excited to embark on some new research over the course of the summer and into the new school year. First I plan on delving into the concept of virginity as dictated within several coming of age television series that aired during the mid to late 90s: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My So Called Life, Felicity, and Dawson's Creek. These series contributed a great deal to the dominant scripts concerning youth and sexuality within my generation. Largely heteronormative and female focused, the plot lines weave tales with many common threads. Virginity becomes reified, positioned as a tangible object, something that one can save and/or give away, i.e. "losing your virginity."

Embarking on some preliminary research, I've picked up Jessica Valenti's The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women So far it has proved to be a quick, informative read. Valenti writes in a way that is very accessible, which I appreciate and provides an analysis of virginity spanning the past 20+ years within the U.S. I especially enjoy her discussion of how the purity myth functions within rape and abortion discourse amongst anti-choice/pro-choice activists, within pop culture, and the resulting policy decisions. The "Woman's Right to Know" or informed consent laws that make it mandatory for doctor's to degrade women who seek an abortion, seeks to remind women of what an abortion means through forced ultrasounds and paternalistic counseling. Apparently within the states of Texas and Mississippi doctors are required by law to tell women that abortion and an increased risk for breast cancer are directly correlated (Valenti, 134). This completely erroneous statement assumes that women do not have the mental capacity to fully understand their decision as well as the ability to decipher the bogus from the truth. This is just one example that Valenti gives in her book of the ways that the purity myth attempts to control women's bodies. I look forward to finishing The Purity Myth in hopes to have a better understanding of how virginity discourse continues to shape our sexual realities.

Everywhere I turn, I hear and view examples of this myth at work. I find the usage of these misconceptions particularly insidious when utilized in television, film, and print media geared towards adolescent girls. At a time when accurate and inclusive information about sex is needed the most,instead, we see it denied to the majority of America's youth. We still receive messages that men have uncontrollable, biological urges for sex, while simultaneously denying sexual agency to women, especially teenage girls. I am looking forward to further examining these messages as I continue with my research.

Please feel free to comment with messages you may have received about sexuality and virginity growing up, as well as examples of these discourses functioning within pop culture and current events. I love feedback peeps!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beach House-new album to be released on the 26th!

I deem Beach House as one of my all time favorite bands, not only because I have a thing for lady vocalists, but also because they are truly that awesome. Their albums all maintain this dreamy, lullaby-like feel that I love playing in the mornings when I'm sleepily opening up the cafe. The official release date of Teen Dream is January 26th, although I'm not going to lie to you, I have my hands on a copy. I love it and guarantee it shall find it's way to my best of 2010 list. Check out this video of a live recording of Beach House appropriately playing their first single Used to Be on a beach in Sydney, Australia. There's also an adorable clip of Victoria singing TLC's Waterfalls. <3 <3 <3

Enjoy, yes?!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Year of Manliness

Today I found myself lazily browsing the remains of the 2010 calendar selection at Borders Books. 50 percent off; can't pass that up! As I perused the shelves, I found myself drawn to a calendar based on the title alone: The Year of Manliness. I picked it up and analyzed the samples of the illustrations found inside. It's certainly amusing to say the least, but it also struck the feminist chord in me. This is simply one calendar amongst the many, but these extreme displays of what we consider masculine (and feminine) are oftentimes problematic and as a collective are extremely influential to what shape us and pigeonhole us into the roles of man and woman. Here's a few haphazard iphone pics. Sorry about the glare.

I am particularly taken aback by the phrase "Get Punched in the Face Daily," found on the backside of the calendar. Although meant to be funny I'm sure, the linkage of masculinity with muscles and violence bothers me. I know that it's nothing new, but here lies a perfect example of the notion that to be considered a real man means that one must maintain an aggressive persona at all times. We see the same tired theme play out in television, film, and even in the historical tellings of countless wars.

These ideas also serve as a reinforcement of the stereotype of the gay male as overly feminine. The discrimination against gays in the military through "Don't Ask, don't tell" serves as a real life example of these influences at work. To openly admit to a sexual preference that moves beyond the heterosexual standard means to abandon your masculinity and lose any credibility as an effective member of the US military. This has an effect on women in the military as well, where although becoming more acceptable for females to serve, women are not taken as seriously and are also likely to face sexual harassment and oftentimes sexual assault. Lesbians in the military throw another wrench in the traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. Once again, by openly admitting to a sexual preference other than heterosexuality, lesbians in the military are victim to discrimination on multiple levels. To pass as a woman by traditional standards, one must adopt a passive demeanor and should be attracted to a man sexually. Lesbians frequently find themselves stereotyped as masculine, and on top of that do not engage in sexual relations with men. It's a classic double bind. No matter what she does, as a queer woman, she will find herself unacceptable by the constraints of traditional gender roles.

So here's my point, this comic, over the top portrayal of extreme masculinity speaks volumes of what society believes, be it a small piece in the gigantic puzzle of ideas surrounding gender and sexuality. We internalize these pictures and words and they shape our lives daily. They shape the notion that a woman must remain hairless ("you aren't hairy enough for this tome of manliness"). They shape the identities of young boys who learn that to prove themselves, they must do it with violence. They shape the discriminatory policies towards the GLBTQ community, in the military and beyond. This chance encounter with a random calendar reminds me just how important it is to become aware of and move beyond these old standards.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Keep the spirit alive in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cute Emergency Contraception AD

Saw a link to this posted on Bitch Magazine's blog. In response to the rates of birth control mishaps that skyrocket during the days that follow the ringing in of the New Year, this video serves as a reminder that emergency contraception is always available if you have a hot and heavy night paired with a birth control mishap or two. Not to mention this video is quite adorable!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009's Best in Feminism

Today I'm going to try my hand at something I do best, making lists! I became inspired as I watched my best friend and wordsmith extraordinaire Julia, from Fear of Arthropods blogdom, craft her list of the best music of 2009. My creative juices began to flow, and I thought it would be fun to tackle a similar endeavor. I am taking a slightly different approach however, generating my personal list of shout outs to 2009's best in feminist pop culture and beyond. I'm going to try to keep it to a list of ten, but we shall see how it goes!

I cannot make a list of the best in feminism without giving a shout out to this queen of witty commentary on what's wrong with modern American pop culture. Each segment surrounds a particular theme, analyzing current television advertisements through the use of witty reparte' on the ways women (and men) are portrayed in the media. Haskins' sarcastic commentary sheds light on how horrific stereotypes are used in order to generate profit in our modern day capitalist system. Now that's a mouthfull! Here's a clip of Haskin's personal best of 2009, summing up the year in the ridiculous to the most horrifying of television commercials:

She's a poet, a songstress, and an extraordinary musician. Annie Clark, the strikingly beautiful leading lady of St. Vincent notoriety really broke the mold with her new album Actor, released in the earlier part of the year. Her songs oscillate between gentle beauty, jarring instrumentation, breakdowns with pop song beats, and allusions to fairytales and chance encounters. With a little bit of searching, I found a high quality video clip of Annie playing the song The Strangers, the first track off of her new album. Bask in the glow of her talent and beauty!!

3.) Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009:
During President Obama's first week in office, we finally saw the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This ensures that anyone who discovers they have received disparate pay from their employer based on discrimination will have a fair chance in seeking legal action. Previously, it was only possible to investigate and prosecute within six months of the unfair paycheck. The act was named after Lily Ledbetter, a female employee of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, who discovered that she did not receive equal pay based on gender discrimination. This case climbed its way to the Supreme Court, ultimately resulting in this addition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that is in place today! Oftentimes justice does prevail ya'll!

4.) Bitch Magazine:
I must give props to my favorite feminist publication, online and in print. The magazine strives to give interesting and informative articles critiquing pop culture via a feminist lens. Bitch's content ranges from questioning whether Prince is a feminist, blog posts analyzing the way those with disabilities are portrayed in the popular media, and podcasts that include a segment called "Ask Your Cervix." If I were you, I'd subscribe, check out their website, and/or donate! They are a non profit organization and rely on its fans to keep the publication afloat!!

5.) O.B. Tampons
Of course O.B.'s have been around for quite some time now, but I recently discovered the joys of using them over the run of the mill Tampax variety. For the eco-minded gal, they produce very little waste. O.B.'s are applicator-less, and have a very thin, plastic covering. This means not having to toss a cardboard applicator and huge paper wrapping, several times a day for 5-7 days, once a month! Even the box is small and easily stashable. This is especially convenient when you share a wee, city apartment such as the one Julia and I reside in. As long as you can get over the lack of the applicator, which really isn't that much of a hastle (I promise!), I think switching to O.B.'s could significantly improve the inevitable arrival of your menses.
(click on the link above and you can receive a free sample from their website!!)

6.) Feminist Women's Health Center
One of my favorite Atlanta non-profit organizations, the FWHC is located on the outskirts of Decatur. FWHC is one of the few safe places in the Southeast that provides safe, non-judgemental abortion services. Not only this, but they also offer a multitude of other services, including but not limited to STD testing (for you and your partner-male or female), gynecological services, access to contraceptives, trans health services, and a reproductive justice advocacy network. As a part of the reproductive justice advocacy network, you can attend informative workshops that give you a run down on where Georgia stands when it comes to reproductive freedom (which is not great, I might add) and how you can take a stand against current and impending policies that prevent women from having access to contraceptives and safe, healthy abortions. I have attended the introductory workshop and I highly recommend signing up for the next available session. Not only that, but I have had wonderful experiences with the gynecology and wellness services as well. Two thumbs up! Click on the link above to access their website; it has all the information you could possibly want, including a complete list of the services they offer as well as the address and telephone number.

7.) Bat for Lashes-Two Suns

Bat for Lashes' sophomore album Two Suns is another of my favorite female fronted musical releases of 2009. British Natasha Khan, the real name behind BFL, uses a fascination with mystical imagery and subtle undertones of celtic instrumentation (not in a cheesy way mind you) and pairs it with electronic pop beats and harpsichord-heavy keys. According to Wikipedia, Two Suns is a concept album that Khan based on an alter ego she imagined for herself named Pearl. Ultimately I love the album for the living room, dance crazed jam sessions that it inspires. She puts on a pretty rockin' live show as well that I attended at Center Stage back in August. I recommend you give this album a good listen, as well as her first release Fur and Gold. Warning: you may feel an intense need to paint a bit of glitter around your eyes and don a bejeweled feather headdress, but don't worry, the wizard won't hurt you.

8.) ANGELA DAVIS-best public speaker of the year
Back in March I had the pleasure of hearing Angela Davis speak on behalf of Women's History Month, sponsored by Emory University. I am sad to say that I missed the National Women's Studies Conference that took place at the beginning of this past November, where Davis also spoke. This was perhaps one of the greatest opportunities I have had to hear one of the most influential feminist activists and writers of the past 40 years. Most importantly, Davis has contributed to the black feminist movement that spoke out against the racism in the women's movements of the past. In Women, Race, and Class, which I am currently reading, she analyzes and discusses not only the racism that occurred during the 1960s and 70s women's movement, but also the exclusion of black women's voices from the suffrage movement and the denial of reproductive justice to women of color that found its basis in the eugenics movement. Here she discusses how women of color were oftentimes forced into sterilization and the restriction of access to contraceptives and healthy, safe, abortion services. These are just a few of the many points that Davis touches on in her book, all of which still hold relevancy in the socio-political climate of today. She has also gained recognition for her commitment to speaking out against the prison industrial complex and its disproportionate effect on women and men of color, yesterday and today. This small blurb on Angela Davis is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her significance in the arena of social justice; what an amazing, awe-inspiring woman.

9.) Whip It

The film Whip It, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, stars Ellen Page (Hard Candy, Juno) supported by an incredible line up of amazing ladies: Marcia Gay Harden (Mona Lisa Smile), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live), and Alia Shawkat (Pash, Bliss's best friend in the film) to name a few. Raised to compete in beauty pageants by her post beauty queen mother, 17 year old Bliss Cavendar, resident of small town Bodeen, Texas, finds her true calling as the Austin city roller girl Babe Ruthless. Can't help but love Ellen Page in yet another role as an outspoken, tough adolescent pushing the limits of what it means to be female in America. Whip It provides a realistic portrayal of this genuinely brutal sport, proving that women can roll with the punches just like the rest of em.

10.) Aida Battle and the Finca Mauritania Coffee Farm
Alongside my passion for feminism and social justice, I also share a deep love for coffee. I decided to add this amazing woman in coffee to my top ten. Aida Battle runs the farm Finca Mauritania in Santa Ana, El Salvador. She is not only dedicated to producing pure, quality coffee, but also has the guts and the passion to take risks! This means that she's dedicated to maintaining organic practices, which is quite rare for a coffee farm in El Salvador. Battle also experiments with microlots (small, single plots of a particular coffee plant) and different methods of coffee processing. In 2009, she rolled out her Grand Reserve, which consisted of washed, natural sundried, and pulp natural coffees from Finca Mauritania, as well as the other delicious peaberries from several other microlots. This may consist of a bit of coffee jargon, so feel free to ask questions. Also, here's a link to Counter Culture Coffee's website, which is full of information about all the coffees they roast. Counter Culture works very closely with farmers like Aida Battle through direct trade. Direct trade is a step above fair trade, where buyers work directly with farmers, building relationships and ensuring that the farmers receive wages that are truly fair. Here's to you Aida Battle; I truly respect you for your hard work and daring to produce some of the most interesting and delicious coffees I have ever tasted!

Once again, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I look forward to another year of great moments in feminist history and beyond!

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's been a long time

I have been on hiatus from writing in this thing for quite some time now. Today at work I had an experience with a customer that made me realize that I need this blog as a constructive outlet for speaking my mind. Unfortunately, the nature of customer service does not allow for one to argue across the counter about whether or not Wal-mart is an ethical, progressive company. Personally, I think the answer is obvious....NO WAY!! Factories overseas that utilize cheap labor through the exploitation of female workers. The fact that the bulk of the wealthiest people in America own some portion of the Wal-Mart corporation. The terrible advertising, touting that they offer cheap, healthy breakfast for families. Frosted Mini-Wheats? Toaster Strudel?? Really??? Right now I don't have any numbers to throw at you, but in my opinion, just because you serve organic yogurt from Stonyfield Farms, does not make you progressive. Now, my main conundrum is this, and has been this for a while now: how do I remain an empowered feminist who does not fear confronting another with my personal opinion on something I feel passionate about? It's true, I do take it a bit too personally and can become one feisty babe. Perhaps I need to work on relaxing and knowing when it is appropriate to have a healthy argument over the issue at hand. Maybe right in front of my boss and in the middle of a drink order from one of my least favorite customers is not the best time; however, I do not want to constantly silence myself in order to placate the masses when it comes to issues of social justice. Do I not know when to pick my battles? Maybe. But at the same time, I refuse to stop challenging the complacency of others with the injustices that slip by us silently (or oftentimes, not so silently). As I search for the solution to the problem at hand, I do think this blog is a good place to start in finding my voice and standing up for what I believe to be the right thing.