Monday, August 29, 2011

Why are women expected to be Superheroes?

As a senior in college, I am reaching a point where I have to make some decisions about my future. I don't think I need to have a plan for the rest of my life, but I know that now is when I should be thinking: What's next? As I've considered this question frequently over the past few months, I've discovered how complicated it is particularly for women to decide on career paths. While this is a long way down the line (at least for me), I have to ask myself: When does a family fit into my life plans? That question affects job plans and grad school plans.

I noticed that dilemma during a conversation with one of the women that lives on my street while I was waiting for my brother at the bus stop. She was asking me about my plans after college. I remarked that "I wasn't sure at the moment." She responded that she had an assortment of jobs after college. She worked in an after-school program for ten years and at a doctor's office. Then, she said that after she had children, she didn't work again because "her career just didn't matter..." When she made that last statement, her voice trailed off, suggesting that there was a mix of emotions packed inside of it. Perhaps, guilt, frustration, angry, indifference... I'm not sure, but it made me realize that this is a big feminist issue! (Note: I don't mean to offend stay-at-home parents. I respect mothers that want to stay at home with their kids because it's a tough job, but in this post I am discussing working moms).

While women are not confined to their homes like in the 1950's, they are now constrained with "mommy guilt" if they work and have a family. Women are expected to be "superheroes" that work all day but have the time to bake cupcakes for their kid's class, read books to their children and cook a delicious meal.

These images of women are perpetuated in media portrayals. The film I Don't Know How She Does It, to be released September 6th, features an overwhelmed Sarah Jessica Parker trying to juggle work, family life, and a husband. I question what the point of the film is. Is it to give viewers a relatable heroine and stick up for working moms? I think one benefit of a film like this is that it contrasts the media images of women that have "it all figured out." The "perfect" mother now has some flaws and maybe women will feel less pressure to be perfect. But is that true? My thought is that even if Sarah Jessica Parker has struggles in this current film, she still finds that balance at the end of the movie, and the storybook ending ensues. But, what happens after the credits roll?


Let's be honest here... While writing this post, I saw a Loreal commercial on television with Julianna Margulies. She stared into the camera, exclaiming, "We all need to do ten things at once. That ages you." She then went on to promote Loreal's new anti-aging face wash. Why is it that "We all need to do ten things at once?" Who told women that? Can women work and be moms without "Mommy guilt"? This issue is also complicated by the fact that daycare in the United Stated isn't great. Anyone above the age of 16 can work in a daycare center in the United States, and the required education for daycare teachers is minimal. This doesn't make it easy for parents to feel comfortable leaving their kids in daycare with some (not all) unskilled professionals.


I'm tired of being told I need to be perfect and look 21 for the rest of my life to be happy. 

Aren't you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Funny or Offensive. You Decide.

While getting coffee the other day, this birthday card caught my attention. The inside said: "Enjoy the many possibilities of beauty and bling. Happy Birthday!"

Well, this image just confuses me. Is there humor to be found in the way the little girl is holding The Beauty Myth, a book that negates the pressures women face to be beautiful and thin, while looking like a beauty queen with makeup and curlers in her hair? The cover is creepy to me and a reminder of the ways advertisements and even greeting cards promote mixed messages about how young girls should behave and look. Is it supposed to be progressive with its message about the many possibilities of beauty, suggesting that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes? You decide.

As far as I'm concerned, it reminds me of the work of Diane Arbus, an American photographer famous for photographing "misfits" and those marginalized by society. Consider one of her photographs below:

Diane Arbus, girl in a party dress
Find any similarities with the greeting card?

Can Empathy Be Taught?

A Midwestern university questioned whether "Empathy can be taught?" in an "Empathy Experiment" where students took their in-school education to the real world through volunteering projects. The study argues that teaching empathy is a key aspect of a student's education, especially with the rise of social media tools and narcissism among youth. A University of Michigan psychologist found that empathy in today's college students declined 40 percent compared with peers 20 to 30 years ago. 

That statistic doesn't surprise me since social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook encourage their users to be selfish. Keep updating your status because all of your "friends" care about what you are doing every second of the day! 

In terms of the research question about empathy, I think students in a classroom can learn how to be kind and considerate, but there needs to be more to "empathy education" than completing one "good" act. There needs to be the reflection piece where students question the implications of their actions. I think this is necessary because often when students are asked to do service, they don't get anything out of it besides a signed piece of paper and a wasted afternoon. I think it is also important to question how much it is possible to understand what another person is going through. Maybe we should just strive to do our best and be considerate of others instead of attempting to "understand" them or walk a mile in their shoes. 

I think I'm still wondering if it is possible for every person to get over their own insecurities and problems and truly care about another person. Is that something we acquire with age and life experiences?


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm 20 years old, and I feel like I'm too old to be at a Kesha concert


Last week, my roommate and I took a spontaneous trip to Columbus to see Kesha perform. It was quite an experience to be sandwiched in between hundreds of preteens and older couples with their seven-year old children chanting to Kesha's "Tik Tok", "Cannibal" and "Take it Off." My roommate looked at me embarrassed asking if I also "felt like I was too old to be at this concert." 

The public image Kesha has crafted intrigued me the most. She emerged on stage in a black leotard, ripped stockings, wild hair, and crazy makeup, the opposite of a proper, well-manicured woman. She cultivates the persona that she's doesn't care about the way she looks. She just wants to party, drink a lot of beer, and play music occasionally. Her lyrics are simple, and I can see why her messages are seductive to young women that want to go out and have a good time. While she may fit narrow beauty standards with her thin frame and blond locks, she tarnishes that image when she curses on stages, touches herself, and dresses in messy clothes and makeup. So, she is escaping one stereotype that women must be polite and "nice" while confirming a stereotype that girls just want to party and exist for the pleasure of men. I still don't know what to make of Kesha's "image", but there is something that tells me that she's a lot smarter than she shows.