Tag Archives: Feminism

Walk a mile in our shoes ….by learning about our actual experiences

Recently (yesterday), SIUE participated in the national event known as “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes.” As is typical of such programs across the nation, and as described in a press release from SIUE earlier today, “Men crammed their feet into red high heels and walked on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Tuesday,  Feb.13 to support women and to bring attention to gender-based violence.” While a post-event session offered by SIUE’s Prevention and Education Advocacy Center (PEACe) offered much more depth and a chance to really learn about being active bystanders and preventing violence, the event is often reduced in the public perception to being about the red shoes walk, itself. Our own Prof. Saba Fatima (SIUE Philosophy Department) reflects on this  public perception of these kinds of events–not necessarily the SIUE event itself–in a blog entry authored before the event took place. Note that this public perception is reflected in the way that the University’s press release covered the event even though the event itself contained a much richer opportunity to explore issues of gender, sexual harassment, and other aspects of sexism.

Walk a mile in her shoes 02-13-18 high heals

Men in pants stand on one foot and stick out the other, linking arms in a semicircle in front of the Cougar statue outside of SIUE’s Morris University Center. They are wearing bright red high heels. This is the public perception of what the event is about. This is also the image taken from the SIUE press release about the event. The picture was taken February 13, 2018. Shown in the center is Jeffrey Waple, vice chancellor for student affairs at SIUE, who led the march.

Across US campuses, men get involved in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event an effort to raise awareness for violence against women. So on Feb. 13th SIUE men walked in high heels to literally experience what it feels like to walk in a woman’s shoes. The idea is an event that is a “playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women.”

The whole point of ‘Walk a Mile Her Shoes’ is to get a glimpse of what women experience. The walk is generally followed by providing productive information that focuses on raising awareness about sexual violence. I think everyone that organizes & participates in it has their heart in the right place, but perhaps we need to rethink specifically the ‘high heels’ activity that accompanies this intent. I cannot help but think that there is something off about men walking in high heels to experience women’s experiences. Here are a few thoughts on it:

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What’s Your Type? Race, Gender, Attraction, and Sexualization

Alison Reiheld, SIUE Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of SIUE Women’s Studies Program, brings us PART 4 in our series on gender, sexualization, and the media.

Every once in awhile, Wikipedia has a surprisingly well fleshed-out entry. One of these is the description of racial fetishism. This:

…involves fetishizing a person or culture belonging to a race or ethnic group that is not one’s own—therefore it involves racial/ethnic stereotyping and objectifying those bodies who are stereotyped, and at times their cultural practices. This can include having strong racial preferences in dating… 

Do you know someone who tends to only date people of their own race? What about someone who tends to date people of another particular race?  What is the line between preference and fetish, between finding certain particular kinds of people beautiful and treating them particularly, out of all other groups, as sex objects?

The African-American online magazine, The Root, has an article called “5 signs you’re about to be racially fetishized.” It begins “So… What’s your type? Admit it. You probably have one. Most of us do.” The author goes on to describe her experiences with on-line dating and the dating app Tinder:

As a member of what is purportedly the least-pursued demographic online (smart, sexy and successful, yet single, black women), I was understandably leery about what—and whom—I’d encounter on an app best known for “hookups.” But in the interest of adventure, I braced myself for potential encounters with predators, grade-A creepers and flat-out racists.

I wasn’t prepared for the fetishists… my experiences dating “across the aisle” were no preparation for the highly racialized world of online dating.

beware white boys on tinder

 

Such fetishization of African-American women relies on stereotypes about black women’s sexuality such as those described by sociologist Patricia Hill Collins in her book Black  Feminist Thought.

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If you could be anything, anything at all…: Are Halloween costumes getting better at providing a range of possible selves?

As Director of Women’s Studies, I usually use this blog to amplify others’ voices. But today, I want to use this venue to follow up on a blog I wrote long before I became Director. After all, ’tis the season.  –Alison Reiheld

Several years ago I wrote a widely read SIUE WMST blog entry on sexism and Halloween costumes including pictures I took of the local Target Halloween section, myself.  In that blog I argued that boys and girls were presented with limited visions of imagined selves, and that girls’ were distressingly likely to be sexualized or otherwise feminized.  You can find it here, for comparison.  Why comparison?  Because I want to sound a hopeful note.

Homemade costumes have always been a source of invention for something beyond the commercialized mass produced costumes. And while commercial presentation of options is getting somewhat better, there are still problems. As has long been the case, homemade costumes can provide a model for doing it differently, and even for doing it better. Check out the first results for Pinterest on girls’ Halloween costumes, which include one for a main character from the recent film Zootopia (a kickbutt female police bunny) and several just made from imagination, some from scratch and some by combining commercially available bits and pieces.

pinterest-girls-costumes-2016

This year, as Halloween has slogged toward us like an unstoppable beast, I came across a delightful cartoon about a homemade costume, and a truly exciting actual homemade costume. These inspired this follow-up to my original blog entry on this topic.

Lindsay Sherman (@LindsayWSherman) got her kiddo the costume of her dreams as Holtzmann from the Ghostbusters reboot. And baldocomics.com hits home with a comic about a little girl who wants to dress up as a different kind of hero:  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Consider this: if you could be anything… anything at all… what would you be for Halloween?  Ask your children. Ask yourself.  And find a way to make it happen. My mom did it for me.  Behold the author, about age 5 or 6, as a “witch” “doctor” (my love of puns is neither new nor sophisticated; the stethoscope is from a doctor’s kit and the hat is homemade from construction paper):

alison-witch-doctor

Giving kids the Halloween they deserve doesn’t require Pinterest, a sewing machine, and Goddess-like construction skills.  It could involve those.  But a kid and a cardboard box and a spray can and some duct tape can work wonders. So can combining the things you already own in interesting ways. Commercial options are also available if you don’t mind spending money and want a complete look. For more on feminist-friendly mass-produced Halloween costumes that provide a range of selves to choose from, see as always A Mighty Girl.  Or maybe even your local department store. But I urge you to always do Halloween with an eye to expanding kids’ options for imagined selves beyond the tiny constrained boxes of masculinity and femininity norms.

So, I ask again.  If you could be anything… anything at all… what would you be for Halloween?

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Feminist Songs…: Day 11, One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you

My mother, Robin Crane, has been following our Feminist Songs series. She has already assisted once this semester with a Women’s Studies event and, I think it is fair to say, started me feministing at a young age: I distinctly remember the buildup to the 1980 presidential election, and watching politics on TV with my family because Geraldine Ferraro was the vice presidential candidate for the Democratic party.  Of course, Reagan won that election and the election after that. But it was a potential sea change and at only age 4, it was my mother who helped me see that. Not long after, she encouraged me to start a scrap book of women doing amazing things in the news. It was she who bought for me a much-loved early omnibus of 1940’s Wonder Woman comics, edited and introduced by Gloria Steinem. To sum, I don’t know if I’d be me without her.   

Robin Crane, born at the tale end of World War II, has suggested that this series consider two songs that were the first pop music women’s liberation anthems which many in her generation came to know as adults. I grew up listening to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” (yes, it is such a big deal that the song has its own Wikipedia entry) on my home hi-fi system, and discovered Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” a little later (yep, this too has its own Wiki page).  I can still hear the base line for the latter whenever I think of it. Both songs share a sense of women in control of their own lives, broadly but also in their romantic/sexual relationships. My mother was in her early 20’s when Sinatra’s song came out, and just 30 when Reddy’s song was first released. Not only were they important to her but, as the Wiki entries point out, both were influential for the women’s movement at this time. If you don’t know them yet, I am sure you will be interested in them as both historical works giving popular voice to women’s worth and self-confidence, and perhaps even as songs you will come to know and love or already love and are glad to remember. Lyrics are below each song in case you want to learn them or cannot listen to the music for whatever reason.

–Alison Reiheld, Director of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program

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