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Posts Tagged ‘equality’

by Julia

I’ve been dealing a lot this summer with a not-uncommon state of conflict within myself (and with my elders) since graduation from college. A lot of me feels like the woman I write about on my résumé – a woman with a fabulously enriching college experience (in an academic and social sense) who is taking the next >2 months to relax in preparation for law school. A major part of this relaxation involves enjoying my independence. I’m grateful to have relative freedom in terms of how and with whom I spend my time during this transition.

Yet it would be disingenuous to paint this summer (and time in my life) as wholly independent of the opinions and pressures of those around me (in both a concrete and abstract sense). As a feminist in my early 20s, I have an indelible internal drive for achievement in every conceivable sense of the word. A major part of this quest centers on surrounding myself with the experiences, resources, people, and places who can both challenge and fulfill me. When I’m on this drive (which is almost always), I want little to stand in my way. I’m autonomous, god damn it!

This indignation, I’m sure, comes from a place of defense against attack. It is no surprise that woman today – even those of us standing in the wake of the second wave feminists – still face daily obstacles towards achieving autonomy. I’ve recently focused my feminism not so much on the idea of equality (with whom?…I don’t want to be like this), but on that of autonomy, which to me seems like I much more difficult, but ultimately more liberating, goal.

All of this is to say that,despite certainly sensing autonomous adulthood at times, I seem to crumble at the slightest sense of a challenge to my expression of choice. Am I aware that my emotional reaction might be a product of my youth? Sure. But I’m exasperated by constantly being told by those older than me (again, abstraction) that I’m incapable of making a choice – about my body, my relationships, my career – without outside input. At what point do young women cross over from being objects of others’s influence to subjects of our own choices?

As you can imagine, it was with great delight that I stumbled across Nancy Bauer’s new article on the New York Times’s feature, The Stone. This feature highlights modern day issues in a philosophical light, so clearly I’d be following it. But philosophy + feminism + dialectics + generational differences in understanding + Lady Gaga? Yea, I’m there, and then some.

I can’t think of a single category in modern society who wouldn’t benefit from reading this piece (maybe if you never interact with young women and never will…), so seriously, click through. Parents should read this. Partners and friends of young women should read this. Most of all, young women: read this.

In summary, Bauer uses the example of Lady Gaga to explain the phenomenon of post-second wave women. Lady Gaga is fabulously independent, seemingly impervious to outside criticism and speculation, and talented in her own right – not to mention progressive on issues of sexuality. At the same time, Gaga is often scantily dressed, pushing boundaries of “acceptable” entertainment, quite thin, and ultimately highly sexualized. What might seem like another analysis of a pop star’s antics quickly becomes entirely relevant to young women through political theory.

Bauer uses both Hegelian dialectics and Sartre’s philosophy on being-in-itself to explain that human beings at once experience themselves as subjects of their own desires and objects of society’s control. Explaining Sartre, Bauer writes:

On occasion we find ourselves pretending that we’re pure subjects, with no fixed nature, no past, no constraints, no limits.  And at other times we fool ourselves into believing that we’re pure objects, the helpless victims of others’ assessments, our own questionable proclivities, our material circumstances, our biology.

de Beauvoir takes this further by asserting that women experience this split more so than men, and often experience subjectivity in a sexual sense. Simone de Beauvoir also realized, however, that women are able to experience subjectivity without sexual objectification, but it is necessary to “re-describe how things are in a way that competes with the status quo story and leaves us craving social justice and the truly wide berth for self-expression that only it can provide.” This redefinition of the world in which we live requires struggle. Simone “warned that you can’t just will yourself to be free, that is, to abjure relentlessly the temptations to want only what the world wants you to want.”

Bauer stumbles when she asserts that Gaga’s autonomy centers solely on her sexuality. I disagree with Bauer (and others) that young women use solely sexual tactics to advance themselves – there are plenty of other choices that parents and elders do not understand that do not involve oral sex or fishnet stockings. What people of previous generations (and perhaps, all those outside of the experiences of young women) fail to realize is this: the choices that we make – even our mistakes – are self-interpreted as a type of power. Bauer admits:

What’s mind-boggling is how girls are able to understand engaging in it [read: deviance], especially when it’s unidirectional, as a form of power.

Until self-expression – sexual or not – is understood by others not as “mind-boggling” but rather natural behavior for female human beings, young women will continue to struggle against the divide between subjectivity and objectivity, until a separation no longer exists.

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by Julia


After months of tea partying, Stupak (“baby killer!!”), death panels, and “bipartisanship,” Congress passed legislation late Sunday night designed to greatly expand health care coverage and combat the tyranny of medical insurance companies. Despite my reservations about the bill, I am confident that this step is significant for millions of Americans in a similar way that Civil rights legislation was to previous generations under Johnson in 1964. President Obama and Congressional Democrats weighed reelection and popularity with the plight of the under-insured – particularly the lower classes – and thankfully, their ideological beliefs trumped potential losses in the 2010 and 2012 cycles. George Packer at the New Yorker writes:

“Civil rights brought an oppressed minority of Americans closer to equality, and—as Johnson knew—was so hated across the South that it was bound to cost the Democrats the region. Health-care reform, if it does what its supporters claim, will humanize a system in which the vast majority of Americans feel trapped. It will redress social and economic, not racial, injustices. Its breadth and potential effect will resemble those of Social Security and Medicare far more than civil rights—programs that became prime instances of popular activist government and tied substantial segments of the electorate to the Democratic Party for decades.”

The reform purportedly will cost $940 billion over 10 years. Not too shabby, recalling that the US budgets $700 billion annually for the military. The real test, of course, is whether the legislation actual delivers on the glossy prediction of increased equality. Among other things, the legislation:

  • Expands coverage to 32 million currently uninsured Americans
  • Bans denial of coverage or higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions (phased in by 2014)
  • Bans higher premiums for women
  • Creates an exchange market in which small business owners can shop for insurance coverage for their employees
  • Taxes households making over $250,000 in order to pay for the expanded coverage to the lower classes
  • Allows young adults to stay on their parents insurance through age 26 regardless of college enrollment
  • Requires everyone to have insurance, either under Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance (those without insurance coverage will pay a $695 annual fine. No word on who exactly enforces this clause…)
  • Closes the Medicare prescription drug donut hole
  • Consolidates all student loans under the government starting in July and greatly increases Pell Grant funds
  • Places a 10% tax on tanning salons (sorry, Jersey Shore)

The bad news:

  • Abortion – a legal medical procedure – is still not covered by federal funds (though, without a public option, this basically maintains the status quo of Hyde.) Jos over at Feministing fears that the incredible silence on the part of pro-choice organizations will lead to a further marginalization of women’s rights, and she’s right.
  • Women insured by private companies will be forced, by the Nelson “compromise,” to pay separately for abortion coverage and the rest of their health insurance. Political scientists predict that this clause will ultimately lead to the elimination of abortion coverage by all private insurance companies. Stellar.
  • The bill lacks a public option. We are very much still at the mercy of insurance and Big Pharma, and anyone who tells you otherwise is greatly deluded.
  • It prevents undocumented immigrants from purchasing insurance through the exchange.

The conversation is far from over. Major props to Ezra Klein for his start-to-finish coverage of the process of health care reform, and to the Tea Party for providing plenty of comic relief. Lest we forget: underneath all of the bantering from both sides about the faults of government-run health care, there are millions of uninsured Americans declaring bankruptcy and in some cases dying for lack of health care. This is unacceptable in any society, and it is about time that the United States takes care of its citizens. Is the legislation perfect? Not at all, especially because it lacks a public option. But passing legislation which begins to establish equality in access to a necessity for survival is something I can and should support. Here’s hoping for continued reform and expansion (and abortion coverage).

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by Julia

I’ve spent the past three days snowed in following an epic 30 inches of snow here in the DC area. This translates to lots of movies, food, alcohol, and reading. Here are some highlights:

Epic snowball fight on McKeldin Mall here at UMD.

DCist has lots of pictures from Snomgasm 2010 in the nation’s capital.

The Daily Show on the plight of men in this new, post-patriarchal society. [sarcasm]

Jersey Shore beauty lessons. Genius.

A list of the most influential feminist texts, courtesy of Feminist Philosophers. There could definitely be more additions, but a good start for sure.

Definitely going to check out this book, I Don’t Care About Your Band: Lessons Learned from Romantic Disappointments. The Miss Piggy analogy is great.

Carla Fiorina’s hilarious campaign ad. Politics could use a dose of humor like this.

In the “really?” category, the Olympic Committee refuses to allow women to participate in certain events based on potential damage to their vessel status. Charming.

Jaclyn Friedman tears it up regarding sexism and the Super Bowl.

If filmmakers directed the Super Bowl.

If you haven’t checked out the British tv show, Skins, you really really need to.

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