Visibility & Piety

This blog entry comes to us from SIUE Philosophy professor Saba Fatima.  Dr. Fatima has published on social and political concerns as they pertain to the Muslim identity. Here, she combines her interest in Women’s Studies with her work on religion to reflect on an important topic: the presence of women in Islam.  Scholarship in history and in religious studies has long examined the role of women in Judaism, the Catholic Church, in protestant Christianity and in Islam.  Dr. Fatima joins that tradition by turning a careful gaze–one both critical and respectful–toward Islam and its varied forms. Being herself a Muslim, Dr. Fatima’s reflexive gaze comes from within  Islam.

Reservations

 I have been thinking about writing this blog for over a year. My reservation stemmed from the fact that for as long as I can remember, there has been a plethora of negative misconceptions about gender & Islam in the Western world, and I would hate to add any fuel to the fire.

Just recently, at the Republican debate in Miami on March 15, Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, stated: “There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means…Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.”

Such rhetoric (and its tamer forms) has been historically used to justify imperialistic wars against Muslim men, women, and children and has made the American public complacent to war crimes committed by Western governments. For some Americans, part of bombing the Middle East until ‘the sand glows in the dark’ is for their own benefit. To kill indiscriminately, in order to save their women from their men…. Or so the thinking goes.

This is all to say that when minorities are critical of certain practices within their own frameworks, the criticism is almost always re-appropriated to alien contexts by the dominant political frameworks in order to justify larger systemic harm to that minority. As a Muslim American woman, such flawed logic makes me very apprehensive.

Visibility and Piety 1

Muslim Americans praying in front of U.S. House of Representatives, Washington DC. Bodies kneel and bow, oriented toward the east face of the building looking over the National Mall, and thus facing toward Mecca.

That said, I also think Muslims have a lot to contribute to discussions on gender relations, and co-opting of internal-criticism by Western worldviews has often kept us, Muslims, from challenging the status quo; it has kept us on the defensive. However, if there are to be any challenges to the status quo, they have to come from an internal critical analysis. And I am Muslim, and I am a woman, and, yes, I do live in the United States. My critical outlook on issues that are systemic in nature and that I face, are situated from my particular social location. And thus, this blog appears in my university’s women studies program blog. The placement may appear as an external gaze, but I want to own my location as that of a Muslim, similar to if I had lived in a Muslim majority culture.

So what is it that I wish to write about, that required such a prologue?

I want to put some thoughts down about how much space women are allocated in the two most holy sites for all Muslims: Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.

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Why we need to be talking about Black Lives Matter and local causes of inequality

In this blog entry, I (Alison Reiheld, Director of Women’s Studies at SIUE) summarize our recent Featured Speaker for the 2015-16 year and provide a copy of my introduction to her talk.  Both show why we very much need to be talking about Black Lives Matter and focusing on local causes of injustice.  

Ashley Yates at SIUE

Ashley Yates of Black Lives Matter and the Ferguson protests speaks at SIUE. Description for persons with visual impairments: She stands behind a modern lucite-and-white-plastic podium on which hangs the bright red banner of SIU Edwardsville, with letters in slim white font.  Bright sunlight shines through the windows. She wears a dark suit jacket and dark shirt. Her skin is dark brown, while her hair is shaved on the sides and back and naturally styled.

On April 13, Ashley Yates spoke to SIUE students, faculty, staff, and community members.  Her talk, “Pulling Out All the Stops: How Local Municipalities Stonewall Black Families,” examined  the unique features of North County and the municipalities surrounding St. Louis.

In part as a direct result of white flight from St. Louis and attempts by those who fled to draw boundaries around their communities that would insulate them from black and other ethnic minorities, there are over 90 municipalities and 10 unincorporated census-designated places.  Many are less than 1 square mile in area, with populations under or just barely over 1,000. Nearly all have their own municipal system including courts and law enforcement.  Many give vastly more tickets for traffic offenses than there are residents, funding their systems through penalties which seriously damage the financial and legal status of those on whose backs these systems are built. These backs are overwhelmingly black.  A person can run afoul of multiple police departments in a 10-mile stretch of Natural Bridge Road.  If that person  cannot pay the ticket fine, they begin to incur court fees. If they cannot pay these, a warrant may be issued for their arrest. Once arrested, they lose jobs, gain a criminal record, and sometimes lose the right or ability to vote.  This is a very real debtors’ prison.

Ashley Yates Q and A

In a lively discussion following Yates’ talk, students and faculty and staff shared  their experiences and questioned what methods might effect change. Description for persons with visual impairments: this image shows the audience with people in the foreground and background of a variety of skin tones and hair colors. Several individuals have turned to look at Morris Taylor, an African-American professor of Public Administration at SIUE, who is speaking.

Cycles of poverty, loss of money, loss of voting rights due to  felony convictions or loss of picture ID now required for voting: all of these disenfranchise voters who are, again, overwhelmingly black. As Yates said, over 60% of black men in St. Louis have lost the right to vote.  While more women retain this right, the pervasive sense that both black men and women are governed by systems over which they have no democratic control–due to literal inability to vote, or by law enforcement from municipalities other than their own having frequent control over their lives and finances–leads to a very real and often very correct sense that black folks in North County are not truly seen as citizens nor are they able to exercise their rights of citizenship.   How to engage with your own society, your own government in the face of losing traditional means of political citizenship?  Use others. Build cadres (Yates’ own word). Protest. Bring legal challenges. Use media. Continue when the cameras are no longer watching. Use social media. Repeat.

Yates did a masterful job presenting these realities, making effective use of excerpts from a documentary video which you may wish to view. These are realities that we have good reason to become and remain aware of, as I argued in my introduction of Yates, below.

This talk would not be possible without the mutual support of the SIUE Black Studies Program and its Director Prince Wells, and the continued support of the SIUE Women’s Studies program by SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences including Dean Greg Budzban, Associate Dean Wendy Shaw, Grant Andree, and Shavonda Mitchom.  Without them, we could neither bring Ashley Yates here to speak with us today nor provide refreshments of any kind, much less cookies.  Did I mention there are cookies?  Feel free to partake at any point.  Before we begin, I would like to say a few words about Ashley Yates and the reasons her talk here tonight is so valuable.

In 1993, legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw published one of the most powerful elucidations of a long-recognized phenomenon: that people who have membership in multiple groups have social positions determined by those overlapping memberships.  She called this “intersectionality” and argued that the discrimination affecting women as a class manifests quite differently for some women than for others. Thus, straight white middle class women are in a very different social situation from straight black middle class women, who are in turn in a very different social situation from poor lesbian black women.  These traits, Crenshaw said, are not just additive. Rather, the whole is great than the some of the parts.  Women differ from each other by race, class, ability status, sexual preference, class, educational level, and gender expression.

To borrow a phrase, what difference does this difference make?  All the difference there is.  For activists and scholars who work on injustice, intersectionality has become a fundamental concept. Failing to account for it in analysis or in actual policies sets us up for failure.  Those who respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” dismiss the value of intersectional analyses, as well as dismissing the history of black folks’ treatment in our society which has not at all conveyed that all lives matter.  Those who respond to calls for women’s rights and security by dismissing the term “feminist” and calling for “humanism” make the same mistake.   We go badly wrong when we assume that all people share the same opportunities or lack thereof, that all women share the same opportunities or lack thereof, that all black folks share the same opportunities or lack thereof, that all poor folks share the same opportunities or lack thereof, that all families share the same opportunities or lack thereof.  Focusing on the way that social and political systems treat different people differently is a fundamental task of the work of justice.  Without it, we cannot hope to undo injustice.

We have invited Ashley Yates to speak today because her work does just this.  With Black Lives Matter in Missouri and California, and in her own right, Yates has levied coordinated policy critiques that account for intersectionality and for systemic injustice. Her social media presence under the Twitter handle BrownBlaze garners thousands of likes and retweets daily.  Yates was involved in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, against militarized police and systematic injustice in municipal government. Of her involvement in those protests, Yates has said “The killing of Mike Brown and the subsequent reaction by the police department—from the initial brutalization of community members in Canfield to the mass terror enacted upon those of us on West Florissant and at the Police Department—left me no choice but to fight with every fiber of my being to do my part to enact change.  None of these events should have ever occurred in 21st-century America, much less been allowed to continue with impunity.”   Yates became instrumental in the growing Black Lives Matter movement along with Alicia Garza of Oakland, Opal Tometi of New York, and Patrisse Cullors of Los Angeles who were involved in the very beginnings of Black Lives Matter in 2013. The movement coalesced after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin and after the shooting of Michael Brown and police responses to protests. Yates’ activism did not begin, though, with the Ferguson protests after the shooting of Michael Brown. She became politicized as a teenager when her aunt introduced her to the writings of James Baldwin, Sonia Sanchez, and Assata Shakur.  She served as political chair of the Legion of Black Collegians at the University of Missouri Columbia, where she learned many skills she now deploys in her social justice work. These efforts and her work with Black Lives Matter led her to be invited to the White House along with other activists to meet with President Obama and his staff.

Today, Ashley Yates will share with us her hard-won, carefully-developed knowledge of the way that small town and city policies can affect black families. I urge you to consider what this calls us to do.  And if in hearing it you are filled with a righteous anger that fuels the flame of change, so much the better. As the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said, it is a virtue to be angry with the right people and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way. And as black lesbian scholar and poet Audre Lorde has urged, the right use of anger is not guilt and defensiveness, but corrective surgery. First, however, we must know where to operate.

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Art and Eating Disorders: A Self-advocacy Campaign Through Video Narratives

Sarah Pray is in her second year as the SIUE Women’s Studies Program’s Graduate Assistant. Her work has been invaluable. Pray is completing her M.A. in Art Therapy at SIUE. Here, she discusses her thesis project, a series of films about people using art to work through disordered eating, and provides links to some clips. She also provides further sources at the bottom for anyone interested in learning more.

During my second and third year of graduate school in the SIUE art therapy program, I became interested in the ways that advocacy, art, and one’s personal recovery from an eating disorder can intersect and support one other.  The question guiding the inquiry became “can video shorts of artists who have struggled with an eating disorder document authentic stories of recovery, provide a supportive and creative environment to the artists, and increase public awareness of eating disorders?” In collaboration with the Emily Program Foundation, an advocacy non-profit organization in St. Paul, Minnesota, we initiated a pilot project called Art and Eating Disorders. Between August 3rd and 7th 2015, we recruited five artists to record their narrative and share related creative work. One of the artists provided a father’s perspective, a heartfelt testimonial of the experience of supporting his daughter through recovery. The recordings were then edited into short videos and full audio interviews that were implemented to The Emily Program Foundation website and presented at various events.

Personally, I was surprised to hear just how much impact the creative arts had on the artists’ experiences. Discussions about art did not feel like side notes, but rather an integrated and important factor in their stories. I was surprised, namely, because I had doubts about the importance of art within my own recovery story.  At times, I have dismissed my interest in songwriting because, in some ways, I had used it as an excuse to isolate when I was struggling.  In hearing others’ stories, I recognize that, while I may have used art destructively, art has also given me an identity and purpose, a space to express and understand my feelings, a sense of control, self-efficacy, and confidence. I consider their willingness to share their stories a gift toward understanding and accepting my own story as an artist.

The treatment of eating disorders has long suffered from a lack of understanding that has resulted in unsupported and even destructive insurance practices. Such misunderstanding about the serious nature of the disease breeds stigma and shame, impeding individuals from seeking treatment (Missouri Eating Disorder Association, n.d.).  Personal self-narratives have proved to be an important tool for decreasing stigma and increasing understanding of serious mental illness (Pandya, 2012). In conjunction, art-making and art therapy can offer individuals the opportunity to create an expressive and assertive voice while shifting blame from the self to the disorder.

The Artists                   

Deborah’s Story

Through her jewelry making and fiber art, Deborah has found a meditative and confidence-boosting practice that has helped her throughout her journey in overcoming an eating disorder.

Joey’s Story

Joey and his daughter listen and connect to each other through art, along a journey that can hold both joy and sadness.

Kelly’s Story

Through the creative adventures of painting and drawing, Kelly has found a process of reflection and expression that has helped her throughout her journey in overcoming an eating disorder.

Kristine’s Story

Through songwriting and musical collaboration with her sisters, Kristine has rediscovered her voice–a voice to fight back against an eating disorder, and a voice to center herself in the present moment.

Marsha’s Story

Through creative writing, Marsha has found a place to identify and express her emotions throughout her journey in overcoming an eating disorder.

After the videos were completed, I wanted to better understand the themes that the artists had discussed in terms of supportive factors in their recovery, causes of the eating disorder, and the role of art in their recovery. Below are the word clouds I generated from analyzing the full audio interviews of the four artists in recovery.

Themes in Recovery

RECOVERY THEMES NO JOEY 4_Page_1

 

Figure 1. The words are direct quotes from the interviews. Each color represents a different artist. The quotes are grouped into themes and sequenced in order of how many artists commented on a particular theme. “ED” stands for eating disorder.

 

Etiology of the Eating Disorder

 ETIOLOGY_Page_1

Figure 2. The words are direct quotes from the interviews. Each color represents a different artist. The quotes are grouped into themes and sequenced in order of how many artists commented on a particular theme. “ED” stands for eating disorder.

 

The Role of Art in Recovery

Art Themes sans Joey 2

Figure 3. The words are direct quotes from the interviews. Each color represents a different artist. The quotes are grouped into themes and sequenced in order of how many artists commented on a particular theme. “ED” stands for eating disorder.                   

 

Through the film making process, I learned that there is a space in which advocacy, the arts, and personal wellbeing may grow together. The recording process allowed the artists to further explore their story, or build confidence in telling it. The artists also identified many more roles of art in their recovery than were specified in the art therapy literature—themes such as playfulness and adventure, social aspects of sharing and receiving feedback, empowerment, meaning-making, art as a meditative practice, and a way to gain a sense of control, identity, self-efficacy, confidence, and motivation to continue the recovery journey.  Just as art-making can provide the tools for individuals to define recovery for themselves, advocacy-work can provide the conduit for sharing that definition with others–both art and advocacy a means to exploring, expressing, and experiencing empowerment (Peters & Fallon, 1994).

At the same time, public response to the videos demonstrated increased understanding of the complexity and subjective nature of eating disorder recovery as well as the varied ways in which art can support overcoming an eating disorder.  In short, reducing stigma is an important aspect of recovery from an eating disorder. Advocacy work may lessen the divide between those labeled healthy and sick, in effect reducing the very real effects of shame for those who suffer (Goodman, Glenn, Bohlig, Banyard, & Borges, 2009; Pandya & Myrick, 2013; Perlick, 2001).

 

References

Emily Program Foundation. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.emilyprogramfoundation.org

Goodman, L. A., Glenn, C., Bohlig, A., Banyard, V., & Borges, A. (2009). Feminist relational advocacy: Processes and outcomes from the perspective of low-income women with depression. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(6), 848–876. doi:10.1177/0011000008326325

Missouri Eating Disorder Association. (n.d.) Advocacy.  Retrieved from http://moeatingdisorders.org/advocacy/

Pandya, A. (2012). NAMI in our own voice and NAMI smarts for advocacy: Self-narrative as advocacy tool. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 18(6), 448–450. doi:10.1097/01.pra.0000422744.79871.1a

Pandya, A., & Myrick, K. J. (2013). Wellness and recovery programs: A model of self-advocacy for people living with mental illness. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 19(3), 242–246.

Perlick, D. A., Rosenheck, R. A., Clarkin, J. F., Sirey, J. A., Salahi, J., Struening, E. L., & Link, B. G. (2001). Stigma as a barrier to recovery: adverse effects of perceived stigma on social adaptation of persons diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. Psychiatric services.

Peters, L. & Fallon, P. (1994). The Journey of recovery: Dimensions of change. In P. Fallon, M. Katzman, & S. Wooley (Eds.), Feminist perspectives on eating disorders (pp. 339-351). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

 

 

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Feminist Songs…: Day 15, This Is Not A Feminist Song

Our final post comes to us from SIUE Women’s Studies program graduate,  and graduate student, Destiny Green.  Destiny is the 2014 winner of the Martha Welch Award, our program’s annual award to students who have demonstrated thoughtfulness and leadership in the context of women’s and gender studies. Her Master’s thesis work focuses on black masculinity.  Here, she reflects on the March 2016 Saturday Night Live song-skit “This Is Not A Feminist Song.”  If you wanted to know why we strove for a wide diversity in song choice, and why yesterday’s entry involved links to another diverse array of songs, this will go some way to explaining it. No one song could address the multiplicity of women’s issues. I leave the floor at last, and at the last, to Destiny.

–Alison Reiheld, Director of Women’s Studies at SIUE

The women of Saturday Night Live, featuring Ariana Grande, presented what they would consider to not be “a feminist song”—but yet they accomplished just that. They performed a song that served as a beautiful ball of Kimberle Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality, Patty Collinsstandpoint theory, black feminists’ annoyances, and white feminist alliesanxieties alike.

Thank goodness for comic relief!

Though amusing and entertaining, these women captured real concerns in the realm of feminism in their lyrics:

Every woman has a struggle, and every struggle is real, but just try to write a song that captures every woman’s deal

Consider how many times you have to check yourself when writing in a heteronormative voice or when discussing women’s oppression, you somehow are never exhaustive enough (darn it, why do I always forget that every woman is not able-bodied??).

Overall, my favorite aspect of SNL is that they use their platform to discuss social justice issues and make them more palatable for viewers. Thanks SNL for welcoming everyone into our world (or worlds ;-] ) !

To read more, check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/snl-this-is-not-a-feminist-song_us_56e584f0e4b0b25c91823c18.

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Feminist Songs…: Day 14, O brave new world that has such people in’t!

We have been focusing on individual feminist songs nominated by folks associated with the SIUE Women’s Studies program or with me as Director. However, we are by no means the first–nor shall we be the last–to do a series on feminist songs. Today, on our second-to-last day of the series, I present links to other series on feminist songs from a variety of sources. These provide a knowledge of genres that goes far beyond the knowledge distributed amongst the folks who nominated songs for our series.  Enjoy!

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

beyonce feminist

Beyonce performed at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards with this enormous sign behind her as sections of Chimamanda  Ngozi Adichie’s speeches play in the background.

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Feminist Songs…: Day 13, I said I was a boy; I’m glad he didn’t check

Our post today comes to us from Kate Norlock, a feminist and philosophy professor at Trent University in Canada, where she holds the Kenneth Mark Drain Endowed Chair in Ethics. Kate is the author of Forgiveness from a Feminist Perspective She responded to my call for feminist songs by nominating singer-songwriter Dar Williams‘ “When I Was A Boy.”  I yield the floor to Kate to say a bit more about the song itself.

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

Dar Williams is a pop-folk singer who was especially popular with LGBT audiences in the 1990s. (Since another song of hers is “You’re Aging Well,” I want to emphasize that she has produced many albums and is still working today!)

dar williams

Her song “When I Was a Boy” was an influential hit from her debut album, The Honesty Room (1993: Razor & Tie). Today it’s considered her signature song.

No quick sketch can do justice to the reasons so many of us are moved by this song, but I can safely state the main reason it makes many listeners and readers cry. The verses build to a first-person account of the harms to women and men of a sexist and masculinist culture.

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Feminist Songs…: Day 12, Riot Grrrls

Alyson Spurgas is an Assistant Professor in SIUE’s Sociology Department and has been involved in the Women’s Studies Program since her first semester here. She has written several blog entries for our program on injustice and within her specialty, medical sociology. Here, she discusses the Riot Grrrl movement and presents one of her favorite tunes. 
–Alison Reiheld, Director of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program
Bikini Kill is just one of the most integral bands within the “Riot Grrrl” movement in punk rock. Originally based in Olympia, Washington, the band consisted of Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox, Tobi Vail, and Billy Karren (the only male-bodied individual in the band). This all girl/queer band was one of many that turned the male-dominated punk rock scene upside down in the early 1990s.
bikini-kill-611x480

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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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Feminist Songs…: Day 10, I don’t need to be rescued

Director of Women’s Studies Alison Reiheld shares her thoughts on one of her favorite songs by a long-favored artist, Ani DiFranco.  DiFranco’s work was nominated for the feminist song series by several people including Edwardsville local Kayci Combs Leuker and Shailushi Baxi Ritchie, President of the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and Board Member for About Face, an organization dedicated to countering negative media images aimed at young women. 

I first discovered Ani DiFranco my freshman year in college. To earn money for tuition, I was working for instructional technologies. Among other things, we ran the sound booth in the campus auditorium for concerts. I was on duty the night Ani DiFranco played our small college.

I had never heard of her before, but as a budding feminist I was pleased as punch to help out with a mid-1990’s concert raising funds to help women who had been sexually assaulted and raped in the war in Bosnia. This was both my first introduction to Ani and my first introduction to the notion of rape as a weapon of war. On both fronts, it was a revelation.

Ani’s career took off within a few years and she formed her own record label, Righteous Babe Records.

ani
Ani has many feminist-flavored songs, some quite queer, others about economic justice. One of my favorites has always been “Not A Pretty Girl”, however. It is an anthem to self-definition, to bucking norms of femininity.

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Feminist Songs…: Day 9,masculinity, femininity, self-loathing and self-love

Today’s Feminist Song comes to us from WMST Graduate Assistant and Art Therapy MA student, Sarah Pray.  Pray uses all manner of artistic forms to process her thoughts, a feature of the art therapy she is studying to practice. One of her projects during her MA has been a film of interviews with people using art therapy to recover from eating disorders.  We will have a dedicated blog entry on this, with links, later in Spring 2016.  Here, we get an unusual treat: one of Sarah‘s own songs from her 2010 album.  I will give her the floor to describe its feminist content.

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

I wrote this song “Be A Man” one night when I was feeling very frustrated with an internal dialogue of self-loathing and body hatred.

I had just eaten an uncomfortable amount of food and was feeling the aftereffects of guilt. In that moment I felt hopeless and overwhelmed at the task of finding and valuing my own definition of womanhood. Though I have a better sense of my definition now, a few years ago, that part of me–the part that accepts me as I am, as a woman–was hard to believe.

I think it is important to empathize with myself in that hopeless and powerless state, a state that I came across frequently with individuals while interning at an eating disorder treatment center.  Like the individuals I encountered there, I did not know how to become empowered, nor did I believe defying beauty standards could actually be OK, truly OK.  I would have liked to have written a song that is clearly empowering, but I don’t think I was ready.  Maybe feeling empowered, for me, is not only finding self-acceptance but also allowing myself to express my true feelings of powerlessness. I don’t have to be strong all the time, I just have to be myself.

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