Cool Link: Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW)

From the Director of Women’s Studies at SIUE, Alison Reiheld, comes this Cool Link.

The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) at Lebanese American University sent their Director, Dr. Lina Abirafeh, to be interviewed on MTVAlive on August 11, 2017.  The video has a few short segments in Arabic, but most of the interview is in English. I commend it to you as a source of information about this great program, about women’s and gender issues globally, and as a window into women’s studies in a part of the world to which folks in the United States don’t always have (or don’t always seek) exposure.  Among other topics you might not expect, the professor who is interviewed discusses sustainable development and a recent student product to make an animated video for a song on partnership and gender equity.

Check out the interview and the IWSAW. If the embedded video isn’t working, you can get it here.

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PEACe in: SIUE has a new Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence Initiative

On the heels of our previous blog entry on sexual assault for April, which is sexual assault awareness month, we have good news from a new SIUE staff member whose job is entirely focused on this and related issues.  Meet Samantha Dickens. She has kindly provided her contact information at the bottom in case you want to get ahold of her.

Greetings, SIUe students, faculty, and staff!vawa bipartisan

SIUe competed for and was awarded the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant in October 2016, allowing us to create the Prevention Education and Advocacy Center (PEACe) and hire a program coordinator: myself, Samantha Dickens. The VAWA grant is facilitated through the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW), and the act has existed for over twenty years. During this time, OVW has refined the grant process based on research and critical analysis of that research, creating a three year grant with multiple structured trainings for the grant team and access to a point of contact with OVW and technical assistants who are experts in their fields of strategic planning, prevention education, cultural competency, and several other topics.

VAWA support

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A young woman with shoulder length curly black hair, brown skin, dark eyes, and pink lipstick holds a white markerboard. She is smiling just slightly. On the board is written “I support VAWA because it funds and provides CRITICAL and LIFE-SAVING services.”

Faculty and staff from across our campus–including the Women’s Studies program and many other sources–have come together to form a grant team with specialists in conduct, law enforcement, prevention education, and victim services. We are spreading our net wide to work from a socioecological model and an intersectional lens, incorporating multiple organizations and departments into the curriculum that we are building to provide peer education training to students. In order to have a comprehensive gender-based violence (GBV) prevention curriculum, we know that it is vital to work with student organizations across campus, including fraternity and sorority life, athletics, international students, Disability Support Services, and SafeZone among many others. We know as well that collaborating with academic departments such as Women’s Studies, Psychology, Counseling, Social Work, CSPA, Public Health, and many others will contribute to a more effective and engaging curriculum.

Though creating a prevention curriculum is a pivotal aspect of our grant, we are also working to coordinate awareness programming, policy revision, education for faculty and staff, and marketing our message. Much of this will be done through our Coordinated Community Care Response Team (C3RT) which is comprised of representatives from several Student Affairs and Academic Affairs offices across campus. The bulk of the C3RT work will be done through subcommittees that will meet throughout the year, and anyone working for or attending SIUe may join those subcommittees.

PEACe is a growing and active part of this campus after only a few months, and you may see the PEACe Coordinator at campus events, simply attending and getting to know the students or providing information at a table. You may hear her speak in your class about gender-based violence (GBV), consent, bystander intervention, or a variety of other topics related to GBV or see her collaborating with other campus organizations to provide trainings to faculty and staff on violence, trauma, and working with survivors.

PEACe is a program built for students: to volunteer, to intern, and to work. Students can apply to be peer educators by tabling events, joining the C3RT, attending peer educator training, and any number of other activities. The PEACe office is open for students to use as a resource center, and, as we grow, there will be books, videos, and other educational resources available. Currently, students may come to the office to ask questions, inquire about opportunities with the program, and to work with each other on projects related to gender-based violence (GBV).

As the new PEACe Coordinator, welcome to all students, staff, and faculty who would like to take part in PEACe.

Samantha Dickens, MSW

PEACe Coordinator

Prevention Education and Advocacy Center

SSC 0220



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The Continued Desensitization of American Culture through the Actions of our Fearless Leader

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  Our first blog entry of this month comes to us from Christy Ferguson of SIUE’s English Department and the SIUE Women’s Studies Program.

American culture dictates that we, as citizens of this country, respect and honor our leaders. However, how are we, as women, expected to honor a man that has been recorded saying the most incredibly demeaning things about us as sex? A man who has a proven track record of utter disrespect, not just for the women in his life, but for women in general?

The answer: We will not. We cannot.

Having leaders who openly and unapologetically express their dominance over women, not only perpetuates the misogynistic attitudes we have become accustomed to, but outright condones this behavior. We teach our children from a very young age to admire our leaders, who are expected to be positive role models. We encourage our children to follow in the same paths, study their lives, and respect them in their positions of authority in our country. So, when we elect a leader who embodies sexist attitudes and openly expresses them, this is incredibly problematic, not just to young women, but also to young men and our culture as a whole.


children Trump

This image shows a Donald Trump rally. Trump is on the left in a suit jacket and white hat. On stage with him are 10 children, one in a red jacket holding a sign and wearing a hat both saying Make America Great Again. Five of the children wear white t-shirts, each with a letter of Trump’s name on it in red. All of the children on stage are boys except for one girl wearing a blue skirt and red shirt.


As our children grow and learn, more often than not, the media has quite an influence on the way that they see the world. They learn by following the examples set for them, not only in their households, classrooms, and peer groups, but through depictions of powerful people in the media. Of course, there are different levels of power from celebrity, to internet sensation, to the President of the United States. However, despite that distribution of power, children tend to emulate the things these people do. It is understood to most children that there are appropriate and inappropriate things that a person can do and say, not just in their lives in general, but in public to other people. Growing up in a society that has consistently shamed women for being sexual and men for being too sensitive, they grow to embody those ideals without even trying. Now, we have a president whose misogynistic comments and actions have been thoroughly documented. This was not just a minor slip up or words twisted by media outlets. The fact that they are being continually overlooked as if unimportant is a matter of contention.

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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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Is being sexy, and allowing one’s body to be revealed publically, unfeminist? Emma Watson (Hermione; Beauty) takes on this modern question

PART 3 of our series on gender, sexualization, and the media for Women’s History month.

In a series of photo shoots to promote  Beauty and the Beast and its star, Emma Watson, one seemed to stand out.  It was the Vanity Fair shoot, and in it one costume barely covered Watson’s breasts, with much of her chest and a portion of her breast showing.

emma watson vanity fair

Watson was accused by some of being anti-feminist for allowing this imagery to be produced and disseminated.

is actress and feminist emma watson a hypocrite

Such a critique matters immensely to Watson who has often been the face of celebrity feminism, including the UN’s He For She campaign which is aimed at bringing men into feminism. What’s more, it matters to a number of young women for whom Emma Watson is the face of not just celebrity feminism, but feminism per se.  See Buzzfeed’s “13 Times Emma Watson Totally Nailed The Whole Feminism Thing” for a bit of Watson’s background and profile. Now, we all know there are many feminism(s), but it’s pretty clear from that overview of Watson quotes that she adheres to one worldview that is unambiguously a type of feminism. Watson is familiar to young women for other feminist reasons, as well. Watson’s Hermione, in the Harry Potter films, was strong, brave, smart, dependable, and a bit full of herself at first.  Anyone who has read the books or seen the films has no doubt that without Hermione, Harry (and Ron) would have been dead many times over and Voldemort would be in charge of it all (though of all moldy Voldy’s many terrible sins, sexism was never shown to be one of them).

To this attack on her feminist credentials, Watson responded with indignation. Click here for a video of her response on March 5, 2017.  She said:

Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with [sic]… It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation… it’s about equality. It’s not *brief pause* I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It’s very confusing… I’m always just kind of quietly stunned.

If one allows oneself to be feminine according to classic gender norms, or to be portrayed in such a way that it makes one prone to sexualization by others, is that your responsibility? Philosopher Linda LeMoncheck says that sexual objectification is dehumanization, being treated as a mere body part or an object when in fact one should be treated as a whole person.  This is something somebody else can do to you regardless of what you do.  For LeMoncheck, it seems that it is only the objectifier who is to blame.  To be sexy is not the problem.  Rather, it is the reduction of a whole person to merely sexy by the viewer.  LeMoncheck, at least, would seem to agree with Watson that it is not anti-feminist to be sexy, though perhaps with different reasoning.

What do you think?

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The Plight of the Double-Standard in the Sexualization of Political Figures and Media Representation

This blog entry by Christy Ferguson, Instructor in English and Women’s Studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, brings us PART 2 in our Women’s History Month blog series on Gender, Sexualization, and the Media.

When typing the name of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau into a search engine, what would you expect to find? Topics about his policies? A speech, maybe? Certainly, one does not expect to find this:

“Everyone is Extremely Thirsty for Young Justin Trudeau” –Marie Claire via Yahoo News

“Young Justin Trudeau Pictures Have Been Discovered and the Internet is Freaking Out” –Yahoo Style

 “Will Justin Trudeau Ever Pose Nude? Young, Shirtless Photos of Liberal Canadian PM Prompt Hopes and Hoaxes” –International Business Times

“The internet is losing its collective mind over Justin Trudeau’s Butt.” –Marie Claire

In political media, we have become accustomed to witnessing the continued sexualization of women who dare to climb the governmental ladder. With constant focus on their clothing choices, bodies, families, and marriages, women in politics have faced a myriad of sexism in the media as they fought their way to positions of power.

Until recently, the media’s sexualization of male politicians had rarely reached such a state of embarrassment. However, over the past few weeks, photos of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been circling the internet with an extreme focus on his good looks. With much of the focus specifically on his backside, people all over the world are ogling the PM instead of focusing on his politics.

Trudeau butt

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: On the left, we see an innocuous photo of Justin Trudeau in dark slacks, a white shirt, and a button down tie. It is taken from the right side of his body. He is in profile, with his right leg forward slightly, perhaps resting on the crossbar of a chair leg. The righthand photo is zoomed in on his muscular backside. In a class sign of objectifying images, Trudeau is now headless and the focus is a single body part. (Photo Credit: Yahoo Image Search via

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Kicking off Women’s History Month with International Women’s Day

This women’s history month, SIUE’s Women’s Studies Program will run a series of blog entries on the theme of “Gender,  Sexualization, and the Media.”  This is PART 1 in the series. We will kick off our original blog entries tomorrow. While you’re waiting, check out our Feminist Songs Series from last year, starting with the first one, Loretta Lynn’s ode to oral contraception, “The Pill.”

Today, however, is International Women’s Day.  The UN’s theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work.” Part of the goal is to think through how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, which aims to accomplish key milestones in gender justice by 14 years from now. Some elements include:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Key to trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation is the sexualization of women in ways that paint us as less than human, and encourage us to see ourselves as less than human.  Exploration of this theme is necessary for thinking seriously about gender justice. And to do so well, we will need intersectional analyses of sexualization.  international women's day.jpg

Watch for all the entries in this series throughout the month of March.

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A Brief List of Feminist New Year’s Resolutions

The Director of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program, Alison Reiheld, here offers a few of her own New Year’s Resolutions and those of some friends and feminist thinkers.

  1. I will wake up ready to fight, and have no truck with fascism.
  2. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.
  3. I will take risks for what I believe in.
  4. I will use my power and position on behalf of those who don’t have as much.
  5. I will amplify rather than speak instead of or over.
  6. I will listen.
  7. I will be gentle with myself, and with others who are trying.
  8. I will be angry when I should be angry, in the right way, at the right time, at the right people, for the right reasons.
  9. I will do more calling in, as well as calling out.
  10. When I think of my own fleshy self, I will set my skeptical eye to watching for the filters of strange and damaging notions of what makes a body a good body.  I will focus on what my body does for me that I need it to do.  I mean, hell, it turns sleep and food and oxygen into motion and thought and water vapor and carbon dioxide. Behold it.
  11. Like Saba Fatima, I will stop backing down on what I know is right. I will not avoid confrontation to appease the powers that be.

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Solidarity and Activism Starter Kit

Regardless of aims, activist-and-solidarity movements from across the political and values spectrum face similar problems. The SIUE Women’s Studies Program Director and faculty have produced the following Solidarity and Activism Starter Kit. It is designed to help avoid some of the very real problems that happen within movements, to help people who haven’t been involved before get involved, and to help a group be effective. It is designed to enable the just pursuit of justice. It is not meant to be the last or only word. It is simply meant to be a starter kit. May it serve you well.

–Alison Reiheld, Director of SIUE Women’s Studies


This image depicts solidarity by showing human hands of many skin tones, some with colorful bracelets, all reaching in to put their hands together.

We also have this available as a PDF document that prints on one sheet of paper, double-sided: solidarity-and-activism-starter-kit

1) LISTEN to hear and understand, not to formulate a response.  BELIEVE people when they speak of their experiences and concerns.

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“He said/She said” and the gendered dynamics of rape reporting

SIUE Criminal Justice faculty member Trish Oberweis has long been concerned with sexual assault, especially on college campuses. In this blog entry, Dr. Oberweis again takes up this long-standing concern. She wishes to thank former SIUE faculty member Carly Hayden Foster, now on the Political Science faculty of Luther College, for assistance in developing this consideration of a local sexual assault case and how it reflects light on taking women’s word for it.  Does presuming innocence on the part of the alleged perpetrator require presuming incompetence or malfeasance on the part of the alleged victim?

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

This autumn, Missouri House candidate Cora Faith Walker alleged that Steven Roberts, Jr., another House candidate from a different district, raped her. They were strategizing legislation together, in anticipation of a future in which they would both be elected to the Missouri House of Representatives from their respective districts, and would be collaborating on various projects. It was a late meeting, and one that Walker asserts ended in violence.

cora-faith-walkerShe reported the crime to police, who investigated it. On October 25, 2016, the special prosecutor appointed to the case, Tim Lohmar, declined to press charges. “There simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that sexual relations between these two people were anything but consensual,” he said. In other words, it was a he said/she said situation. How can we possibly sort out that sort of situation?

Well, I am not convinced that it is really that difficult.

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