The Filling, the Overflowing, and the Emptiness

On November 23rd of this year, I had the honor of being appointed to the Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet of Minnesota.

The Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet brings together nonprofits, businesses, and government to improve equity in outcomes for young women in Minnesota who experience the greatest disparities.

This cabinet has been a work in progress for years, but nowhere would approve it until Minnesota. It wasn’t approved until Minnesota because no government officials were on board until Governor Dayton. As soon as the idea was pitched to him, he was on board!

If our action plan works, this cabinet will be starting in many other states as well and for those of us in the cabinet, we will be a part of history.

There are about twenty five women on this cabinet, ranging from ages of 16 to 24 who are working with me to create an action plan to strengthen services and areas that are already working for women in Minnesota.

It is seldom I feel proud of myself but being appointed to this cabinet is one of those moments. My voice didn’t seem important until now.

But getting appointed to this cabinet a few short weeks after the election was conflicting for me in many ways.

Being a part of this cabinet was the hope that I needed in humanity and in the world I live in.

There’s a phrase that says ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ and the election had me feeling as if my cup had run permanently dry.

After a few weeks of feeling absolutely empty post-election and then getting to be a part of this cabinet, it felt like the cup I pour from was overflowing.

But how does one keep faith in the work they’re doing when the world at large is actively working against them?

I have always believed in people and that they hold the power.

To maintain my full cup, I needed to be a part of this cabinet working to create change in a world that so desperately needs it.

At the first cabinet meeting, we each spoke about what made us decide to apply for a position on the cabinet. As each woman went around the room sharing what brought them to this cabinet, I had hope in the people around me and faith in the fact that people still care.

Each woman that spoke has known various forms of struggles and disparities. Each of the women has the desire to create a better world for all the people in it. Their passions ranged from healthcare disparities to racial profiling and beyond. Even though we all had different issues that brought us to this cabinet, we were a room full of people who cared. The amount of empathy and passion in that room was enough to empower anyone.

It was everything I needed to hear. Being in a room so filled with passion, I felt my cup overflow.

And I recommend becoming a part of something to everyone who is feeling their cup has run dry.

Be engaged.

Surround yourself with people who care and have passion to create change like you do because you are not alone. You are not the only one who feels empathy for others or has a desire to change the way that our world is going. And there is nothing more than to fill your cup up with hope.

Hope in the people around you.

There are more of us out here fighting for good than you think.

So my advice is to do whatever you can to find people like this because they do exist.

And people have the power.

We just forget that.

 

 

grace-espinozas-blog-pictureGrace Espinoza is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, majoring in Social Work. Grace works at the Women’s Center and the American Indian Center on campus. Grace is a straight, Mexican Portuguese/white woman with a passion for social justice, feminism, and poetry. She has been a published poet several times beginning in the seventh grade and is honored to contribute to Collective Feminism. 

 

How to be Trans

It always comes as a surprise to me when I hear of discrimination within the LGBTQIA+ community. I assumed that a group of marginalized and discriminated people would stick together, having experienced social exile and not wanting to again. But then I hear someone say, “They’re too masculine/feminine to be Trans”/”They must be faking it”/”How can they say they’re Trans if they’re not…” and I’m floored at the close-minded words of a seemingly progressive concept.

What is the correct way to be Trans?

There isn’t one right way to be Trans just like there isn’t one right way to be any other letter in the acronym. Saying that someone can’t be a Trans-man because he performs femininely is like saying that a woman can’t be a lesbian because she isn’t butch and loves makeup or that a man can’t be gay because his voice is too deep.

The way that someone chooses to perform does not validate or invalidate the way they wish to identify.

The LGBTQIA+ community is filled with people who don’t fit into the Cis-normative/heteronormative boxes that society has constructed. Society said that marriage is between a man and a woman, a heteronormative belief. Lesbian and Gay individuals subvert this. Society says that men have penises and XY chromosomes while women have vaginas and two X chromosomes. The existence of transgender and non-binary individuals subvert that. It shows that there isn’t one way to be a certain gender. You can be a man with curves, with fat on your chest, and with a higher pitched voice. You can be a woman with facial hair; you can be neither on the simple basis that it’s comfortable for you. Gender and the way that it is received in society was created to restrict and label in a way that created hierarchies in our society (i.e. women as the weaker sex to keep them in the home). So why is there a correct way to be Trans? Why put someone in a category that the LGBTQIA+ community was created to resist?

If a Trans-woman says she’s a woman, she’s a woman. You have no right to tell her what she is and isn’t, just as she has no right to do the same to you.

The LGBTQIA+ community was created as a place where an individual could be themselves un-apologetically, a place where they’d be embraced for their differences and spectrum of identity. Invalidating an identity because it doesn’t fit what society says it should be is doing nothing more than participating in the oppressive system that created the need for the community in the first place.

 

 

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Mariam Bagadion is a second year student at SCSU double majoring in Women’s Studies and English. She has a passion for writing and social justice and thinks the coolest thing in the world is when the two can be combined. In her free time, she writes fiction, watches Netflix, and plays one of the three songs she knows on the ukulele.

The Mark Cohen Complex 

When I traveled to the Philippines for three weeks at the end of last summer, I had a plan to write about my experience. I wanted to share my experiences of seeing my extended family, seeing the sights, and experiencing the difference between cultures that makes the group of over 7,000 islands so unique and dear to my heart. I wanted to write about the horrific traffic, the sky that turned the color of loamy water with the combination of pollution and fog, and the mom and pop shops pressed up against each other like the sardines they undoubtedly sell. I wanted to write about the first day in particular when my uncle picked us up from Ninoy Aquino International Airport and instructed his driver to take us on a tour of “The Real Philippines.” I made a point to bring along a small blue notebook to write down observations and then turn them into a candid analysis of Philippine life through my eyes.

The sight isn’t something that I’ll easily forget. Naked toddlers waddled into the middle of traffic and two five year olds crouched near a drain pipe with plastic Ziploc bags, filling them with rainwater, tinted yellow by God knows what. My sister pressed her finger to the window and said plainly, “That doesn’t look safe.” A few days later, driving in the same car, I witnessed the erecting of a shanty: cardboard and plastic bag walls, sporadic gleams of tin just to give it something resembling strength and to give the illusion that it wouldn’t blow over with typhoon winds. Something deeply bothered me when I looked at this, but I still wrote it down, though keeping most of the details through pure memory. Then, during the last week, we went north of Naga City (where we were staying) to the smaller town of Panicuason. Specifically, to the house on land that my mother and a few more of their siblings owned. It was far from a mansion, just a one story structure with two bedrooms a bathroom and a kitchen; it was one hundred-percent livable. What caught my attention and set off alarm bells in my head was the house adjacent to the main structure, belonging to the maid tasked with the upkeep of the house. Dried out banana leaves and various grasses were woven together for the roof. Posters for cell phone plans made up part of the door, or maybe the outer wall (a literal side by side comparison). And it hit me that I’d never step into that house, that I’d never get close to the shanty or even worry about water to the point that I’d risk my health just to get some. But part of me still wanted to write about it, explore this struggle, and turn it into something.

I started calling this the Mark Cohen Complex, named after the filmmaker in the musical RENT. I called it this for two reasons:

  1. It’s the desire to help in the form of art. Me through writing and Mark through film.
  1. Too late is the realization that it serves more as a buffer between the artist, their art, and the message it’s trying to convey. A wall. A separation to keep that uncomfortable rolling of your stomach out.

In the musical, an old, homeless woman calls Mark out for filming some police officers urging her to get off the street, saying, “I don’t need no goddamn help from some bleeding heart cameraman. My life’s not for you to make a name for yourself.”

And I couldn’t make a name for myself out of the lives of people I saw for less than a second. The churning won out, and I decided to write this piece instead.

I figure that many artists have at least the first part of the complex. And why not? The purpose of art is expression or attempting to make meaning out of things not easily explained. But for me, it was hard to write about the things I saw. I wasn’t sure if I was stepping into shoes that I didn’t even own, or if I was stealing stories and images from people who barely have even that. The line between creating art and using people to do so became a really big issue for me, and I’m still struggling with every aspect of it. I know it’s not about me but about the people who suffer injustices at the hands of cyclical poverty every day. But I can’t use their voices as someone who stays at hotels, resorts, and three story residences when I visit. I’ll never know their story or feel their struggle, so it’d be wrong for me to try and express it.

Many times what starts off as an attempt to help and raise awareness romanticizes the issue with no real work to fight the issues that are romanticized. I think it’s important for artists to understand this line and to start making a concerted effort that directly benefits what they’re trying to create the art out of. With that in mind, after asking people I know who live in the Philippines and have greater knowledge of the workings of local organizations, here are a few charities to support:

Save the Children: Philippines

Gawad Kalinga

UNICEF Philippines

With this I’m hoping to do my part beyond sharing the beauty of this country through the written word.

 

 

thumbnail_147Mariam Bagadion is a second year student at SCSU double majoring in Women’s Studies and English. She has a passion for writing and social justice and thinks the coolest thing in the world is when the two can be combined. In her free time, she writes fiction, watches Netflix, and plays one of the three songs she knows on the ukulele. 

What Race You are Might Affect Your Water Access

Most people know that there are places in the world where water access and quality are bad.  And I’m sure if you have been watching the news, you have also been reading about the quality of water in places like Flint, Michigan.  While I knew issues with water quality existed, I was astonished to learn that these problems affect the United States in enormous ways.  I also didn’t see the connections between race and water access. I thought issues of race didn’t run so deeply, but I was wrong.

According to The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, “Over one billion people do not have access to improved water supply sources and more than two billion people do not have access to any type of improved sanitation facility.”  This lack of water and sanitation contain a lot of repercussions for women and men, but as with other things in our patriarchal society, women bear the brunt of these issues.  Bearing children becomes much more dangerous without sanitation.  Girls and women are less likely to participate in school once they reach ages of menstruation, due to the cultural unacceptance and lack of sanitation.  Women and girls are also the “collectors” of water in many countries, and on average a woman walks six kilometers a day in order to get water for their family (Link).  Most of the people that live in these conditions are people of color.  Norleen Heyzer, the director of UNIFEM stated, “Women constitute 70% of the world’s…absolute poor.”  This fact means that not only are the people living in these conditions people of color, they are women of color!

Enter Flint, Michigan.  This predominately African-American city is located northwest of Detroit, and most of the residents in this city live below lines of poverty.  In 2014, the city changed its water system in order to get water from the nearby Flint River, because it saved money.  Since 2014 there have been warnings sent to public officials, who haven’t taken any of the warnings seriously (Link). I certainly can’t give reasons why someone in public office would ignore EPA warnings, but it seems as though Governor Rick Snyder didn’t care about the lives of people that wouldn’t be backing him in upcoming elections, as he gave tax cuts to big businesses by about 1.7 billion dollars, while raising individual taxes, and cutting programs in education!  (Link).  And this is the same man that “respectfully declined” to testify at the hearings for the crisis last spring (Link).

Celebrities have been helping provide water and housing to the thousands of residents that can’t afford to leave the city.  Aretha Franklin, resident of Detroit, donated money to pay for hotel rooms; Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and Mark Wahlberg have donated a million bottles of water (Link); and filmmaker Michael Moore created “10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy” (Link).

It seems that even in the U.S., water security is something that we afford to those people who have money, instead of providing safe and clean water to all of our citizens, even when we can afford it!  Surely something can be done to shine a spotlight on the corruption that is obviously happening within the political climate of Michigan. Corruption that is still happening, because Flint STILL doesn’t have clean water.

I’m sure the residents of Flint would agree!

 

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center.  Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy! 

 

Kardashian-Jenner Sisters: Cultural Appropriation

Whether you’re browsing through TV channels or even looking through social media, it isn’t uncommon to accidentally come across new gossip about the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, or even their latest fashion go-to looks. The Kardashian-Jenner sisters are well known for their TV show on E, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But besides that, the Kardashian-Jenner sisters are all over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and many other forms of media.

As I walked to class the other day, I was calmly looking around, gazing at different houses as I passed by them. One thing caught my attention in particular. In one window of an apartment building, there was a poster facing the street showing the Jenner sisters modeling. There is no doubt that whoever lives in the apartment building enjoys the Jenner sisters and perhaps they even look up to them. This made me think about how influential the Kardashian-Jenner sisters are. The Kardashian-Jenner sisters most definitely have had a huge impact on the way people see themselves, others around them, and the world as a whole. I am arguing that this is problematic. I argue this because the Kardashian-Jenner sisters are guilty of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is a form of disrespect to another culture due to the unacknowledgement of why these elements are culturally significant.

So, let’s take a closer look at some photos the Kardashian-Jenner sisters have posted.

khloe

Almost a year and a half ago, Khlo‎é Kardashian posted this picture of herself on Instagram. She decided to caption this picture “Habibi Love.” In this picture, she is wearing a niqab. A niqab, not to be confused with a burqa or hijab, is a veil that some Muslim women wear on their face that does not cover their eyes. Wearing a niqab is a part of some Muslim women’s faith. For Khlo‎é to be adopting this significant element of another religion is disrespectful. It is disrespectful because Khlo‎é does not identify as a Muslim and rebranding the niqab erases its cultural significance.

kylie

Kylie Jenner posted this photo on her instagram and captioned it, “I woke up like disss.” First of all, we definitely know Kylie did not wake up with that hairstyle. We also know, that Kylie is guilty of cultural appropriation due to the fact that she decided to have a cornrow hairstyle. This hairstyle has historically been worn by black women and originated in Africa. Kylie’s decision to have cornrows is inappropriate due to the lack of acknowledgement of where cornrows came from and why they have been historically worn by black women.

Cultural appropriation eliminates the historical roots behind whatever is being culturally appropriated. The Kardashian-Jenner rebranding of other communities’ elements to be “trendy” is disrespectful and socially unacceptable. People look up to these women and when cultural appropriation is seen as the norm, people stop questioning it. It’s time for the Kardashian-Jenner sisters to stop culturally appropriating and start culturally appreciating.

 

 

heather-helmHeather Helm is a student at Saint Cloud State University. She is currently studying Women’s Studies, Psychology, and Human Relations. Heather is extremely passionate about helping others. She aims to apply a feminist framework to her anticipated career in the future as a Social Worker. 

 

The Picture Perfect Trans American Family: Mainstream Media’s Representation of Trans Relationships

When you’re looking for representation of marginalized groups in mainstream media, you’ll likely be disappointed by the lack thereof. And whatever little representation you find tends to lack diversity and intersectionality and overtly attempts to homogenize an entire group or subcultural phenomenon. One such phenomenon is the abundance of intra-transgender romantic relationships; or put simply, when two or more trans people are engaged in romantic relationships (trans cisgender people). I find these relationships beautiful and interesting, showing that even though we’re constantly made to believe that we’re not beautiful, desirable, or loveable, we are in fact all of these things; we are enough for one another. And when we’re looking at romantic relationships between trans binary folks (trans men and trans women), another interesting characteristic is that, from my personal experience/observation, it is much more common to find trans men dating other trans men and trans women dating other trans women. But when we look to corporate media networks to mirror the reality and commonality of intra-trans relationships, what you will find are relationships between trans men and trans women.

Let’s take a gander at an example, shall we? The popular, online, British newspaper, Daily Mail, published an article titled, Trans or not we would make great parents’: Married couple who are BOTH transgender share their dream of starting a family as they desperately search for a child to adopt” this year containing a video produced by Mode.com from their My Life series, with this video titled, My Life: We’re A Trans Couple. In said video, we are introduced to Clair Farley (a trans woman) and James Howley (a trans man), who are a married couple living in San Francisco. Right from the get go, it’s easy to tell why Clair and James were selected, to be the public face of the trans community and represent what a trans couple looks like. They’re white, straight, middle to upper class and professional, monogamous and married, adhere to traditional gender expressions of manhood and womanhood, and want to have children. They’re practically the picture perfect American couple, complete with heteronormativity, with the only thing setting them apart from the American ideal is their failure to adhere to cisnormativity. I call this: transnormativity. They even want to recreate the cookie cutter nuclear family! How respectable and wholesome they must be! You think the editors at the Daily Mail should have titled the article “Trans People: They’re Just Like Us!” or “Trans People Can Assimilate Too!”.

And while this is but one couple’s story and narrative, it fits within a larger scheme of very similar representations being regurgitated to straight, cisgender audiences in hopes that these similarity politics will help cishets be a little less horrible to their fellow non-cis human beings. And while I wish these couples the best and feel no ill will toward them, I’m sick of the role that respectability politics and palatability plays into this broader narrative that erases the existence of trans couples who aren’t straight, who aren’t white, who aren’t rich, or who don’t want children, just to make cishets feel more comfortable. This type of thinking is along the lines of, “Well, if you can’t be cisnormative, then you can AT LEAST be heteronormative! Being a decent and open minded human being is hard, so let’s not add too much queerness or complexity in the mix so that it’s an easier pill for cishets to swallow! Let us get used to you one identity at a time! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”

And while I understand the neoliberal politics behind presenting the most respectable and ”normal” faces of trans couples, my radical and punk leniencies let me know that this form of slow, incremental change is hog wash, and it’s not enough to achieve trans and queer liberation. I want to see trans lesbians, trans gay men, trans bisexuals and pansexuals, trans people of color, poor and working class trans folks, polyamorous trans folks, non-binary people and genderqueers; basically trans couples of varying intersecting identities and marginalizations instead of almost the exact same story recycled over and over again until it cannot be recycled any more. Not all of our love looks exactly the same; and a lot of times it’s super fucking queer, and cishets need to get over the misconception that the dynamics of all forms of romantic love must perfectly model their own or it’s somehow invalid, strange, or illegitimate. I’m here to tell you that our love is diverse, unique, and sacred, despite the fact that we almost never get to see our romantic realities reflected in mainstream and corporate media. It takes place all around you, despite the fact that some would rather have us be invisible. We’re too creative and imaginative to follow society’s scripts, so we write our own. We know it makes a lot of people scared and uncomfortable, but they’ll just have to learn to accept it.

 

Sources/Points of Reference:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3618450/Trans-not-make-great-parents-Married-couple-transgender-share-dream-starting-family-desperately-search-child-adopt.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/meet-bowsers-transgender-parents-raising-sons/story?id=28228493

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/transgender-teenage-couple-arin-andrews-katie-hill_n_3639220.html

Photo:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3618450/Trans-not-make-great-parents-Married-couple-transgender-share-dream-starting-family-desperately-search-child-adopt.html

 

 

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil May is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film studies. Ruth is a transfeminine, non-binary person from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

The Invisible Queer

Someone I know recently looked at me in surprise when I mentioned that I have decided to start using the word queer to describe my identity.  “But you aren’t a lesbian,” she said, “why would you want to identify as one?”  I can certainly understand her confusion.  After all, my partner is a man, and my pronouns are she/her; to the world I look like a cis-gender, straight, white, 42-year-old.  I am an invisible queer person.

I was 20 years old when I acknowledged that I was attracted to women, and I came out as bisexual.  Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a person who isn’t afraid to share her beliefs in loud and boisterous ways; some people even call me (gasp) confrontational.  I immediately came out to my friends and family, without really thinking about any of the consequences that could come with this revelation.  Surprisingly, (at the time) most people ignored it.  I thought I was being accepted for my bisexuality.  It took me a long time to realize that it was something completely different.

Bi-erasure has been a part of my life for the last twenty-two years.  And it isn’t just from straight people, even those in the LGBT community have looked at me and told me that I can’t be bisexual.  This is super confusing to me, since the B stands for BI-SEXUAL!  For some reason, the idea that I am attracted to people on any part of the spectrum seems to be scary to just about everyone.

In twenty-two years, I have heard every stereotypical response to bisexuality, and they always make me feel angry and hurt.  When I discovered the LGBT community in Minneapolis, I thought that I was finding the community that I belonged to, and instead there were many times when I didn’t feel as though I belonged in any community.  I’m in no way saying that every experience I’ve had with LGBT folks has yielded this pain, but there have been enough of them that it’s made an impression on me.

In 2014, even the LGBT Task Force made a mistake when the leadership program director wrote about saying “bye-bye to the word bisexuality.”   And, she made the statement on Bisexual Awareness Day.  The organization later apologized, but that statement shows that there is a real problem when it comes to the idea of bisexuality within the context of the LGBT community.

what-contributes-to-bi-erasure-bham

It’s as though, because I can “appear” to be straight I really don’t exist as a queer person.  But my queerness shouldn’t be tied to outward appearance.  I read a great blog once that talked about Queer Theory which said queerness is freedom from norms.  It used to be that “normal” was described as heterosexual.  Through the years homonormativity has become a way for the LGBT community to move into some of the laws that have given rights to an entire community, and I am definitely thankful for that.  But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t problematic and we shouldn’t look at it.

I definitely have some privilege that I have to take a hard look at because of this invisibility.  I don’t have to currently worry that someone is going to be negative towards me if I hold hands with, or kiss, my partner in public.  I don’t try to be, but I can be someone who can walk around with all of the privilege of heterosexual people.  But on the other hand, I have experienced all of the negative effects of heterosexism in my life.  That is the reason that I chose to identify as queer; I felt the need to step away from both heterosexuality and even homosexuality. After all, I am neither of those things, and I’m both of them.

 

Photos:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/bi-erasure-hurts/   

http://www.glaad.org/blog/dear-prudence-telling-bi-people-stay-closet-bad-advice 

 

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center.  Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy! 

Battle of the Bodies: Learning to Accept Ourselves

Why is it okay to call me skinny (generally accompanied by a disgusted face) and it’s inappropriate for me to call a heavier woman fat? Both comments are equally hurtful (depending on the individuals’ insecurities). And of course, this incessant debate stems from the current expectation that women should be thin and not weighed down by extra weight. But why is extra weight deemed unattractive today? Why is being thin shameful and envied? Why can’t both be mutually accepted and admired?

What people tend to forget is that no one has the same body structure or metabolism. We all come from couples that have unique body chemistries and even our siblings have different characteristics than us. For instance, I have three siblings and each of us have dissimilar body types than one another. Body diversity is a beautiful thing and it’s time that we all embrace it because no one’s body will ever be the same and fit into the mold society has set out before us. It’s not fair or rational to be upset with someone because they effortlessly (or with effort) embody the current fad of what makes women sexy and appealing today.

The ideal female body is a myth that continually changes in society with each time period. You will notice that during the Renaissance, curvier women were highly coveted; other cultures have marveled at women with mustaches (of all things), and Victorians admired pale women because they symbolized a sense of delicateness. Of course, this list can go on, and in other cultures and nations women are renowned for assets that Americans find odd. Even today when we look at the past few decades, there are startling differences in desired body shapes and beauty. So this trend with thin women will change and (especially with the many movements and campaigns created to promote women of all sizes) society’s tastes are expanding to accommodate curvier women, and those new groups of thin women not fitting the ideal figure will yet again be alienated by society. And all of this has been perpetuated by the media, beauty industry, and archaic ideas of fitness and health.

When we pull out our phones, laptops, etc., we are immediately confronted with impeccably beautiful women. These women tend to have slender physiques and flawless skin. We idolize these women because they look perfect and allow our minds to desire looking like them. It’s obvious the women in these pictures and commercials are re-touched to appear more attractive than they are naturally; we revere them because they are what’s expected of us. It’s a never ending cycle of realizing models are caked with makeup and/or re-touched and vowing to remember this, but it is our inherent need to fit into the mold the male gaze (coined by Laura Mulvey) has designed for us that keeps us at the will of society’s presumptions.

I personally find curvier women sexy even though it’s not my body type; this expectation that only slender individuals are sought-after by men and women is absurd and disproved in many ways.The expectations of sexiness stem from our patriarchal society and I find it surprising that being slender is in right now considering the high adoration put on hourglass figures. Contrary to this, we are lead to believe that women with smaller breasts, a narrower frame, and a definite thigh gap are attractive due to the media and how celebrities (who have personal trainers, chefs, and nannies) look. However, as the media is streaming these ideas into us, we are being brainwashed with flawlessly airbrushed pictures and videos designed to target our insecurities and make us buy makeup to cover our imperfect and un-like model skin, purchase diet systems/foods, buy workout equipment and videos, and so on. Society preys on our existing insecurities and creates new ones in order to fill a capitol need and maintain control through objectification.

So before you shame your body, remember that it’s unique. Although most of the women you see in the media are thin, remember that they’re not the entire female population; they were picked out of thousands of women just like you to maintain the female body stereotype and in almost every case, their appearance is not natural. Before you see a thinner woman and think, “She’s so skinny. I bet she never eats,” remember that that woman may have a health issue preventing her from gaining weight or maybe she’s struggling emotionally and needs support. And before you see a heavier woman and think, “She’s so fat. She needs to lose weight,” remember that she may have a health issue making her gain weight or is struggling emotionally and needs help. It’s paramount that we don’t judge because we don’t understand what other women are going through and it’s not our job to evaluate how well they fit in society’s frame of the ideal woman.

When it comes to our bodies, let’s look inward at ourselves and dig for our redeeming qualities; this’s not always easy, but essential in building our confidence and having the strength to appreciate the various appearances of others too. Let’s not compare ourselves to others, but appreciate and accept that we’re all unalike and that’s okay.

 

Photo: http://xonecole.com/beyondbeauty-11-images-that-celebrates-body-diversity-self-love-within-women/

 

mara-martinsonMara Martinson is a freelance editor, creative writer, and graduate student. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from UW-Superior and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing at SCSU. She teaches ENGL 191 and in her free time, enjoys writing, reading, knitting, crafting, and spending time with her partner and family. Her creative work has appeared in journals including The Nemadji Review, Kaleidoscope, and The Upper Mississippi Harvest. Mara describes her work for Collective Feminism as feminist, capturing the occasional brutality of life and the emotional struggles we all face. 

Five Reasons Masturbating is an Orgasmic Idea

What better way could there be to “Learn to Love Ourselves” than by learning about masturbation? We have some great subthemes for this month’s topic, but there wasn’t one that called to me as much as this one. I feel like healthy sexuality is something that we miss out on in our society. After all, schools are woefully lacking in the idea of promoting sexuality education that teaches students anything about healthiness. I understand that sex is a complicated topic, but youth are actually left at risk when we look at our current sex education system. The only things I ever learned about sexuality (outside of romance books, but that’s a whole different problem for another day) was that sex was bad, I shouldn’t do it, and I would either end up pregnant or with an STD. Had I known more about my own sexuality, not just the “sins” of sex, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have taken so long in life to accept myself. There are certainly more factors at play, but if we accept our sexuality better, we will accept ourselves with a little more love and compassion.

So drop your stigmas and celebrate your sexuality!

  1. Masturbation, because of orgasms, has some great health benefits. Stress relief and being able to fall asleep better are just two of the health benefits that an orgasm can give you. Whether you are masturbating alone, or with a partner, just remember that it’s for your health!
  2. Practicing a little self-love can make you feel happier. It’s really the orgasm that is giving you happy feelings with the release of dopamine and oxytocin in the body. These two hormones are well known as happiness creators in the human body.
  3. Masturbating can help relieve menstrual cramps. While this isn’t 100% proven, some people are saying that when you climax, blood flow to the uterus increases, which can help relieve cramps. Did you also know that it’s possible to prevent vaginal infections by masturbating?
  4. Women who masturbate tend to be more confident. Sound crazy? Well, according to Dr. Kat Van Kirk, “research suggests that women and men who learn to masturbate early have higher self-esteem, and higher satisfaction when it comes to their sex lives later on.”
  5. Lastly, masturbation is a great way to know what turns you on. Because each of us are completely different, it makes perfect sense that each of us is turned on in completely different ways. If you know what turns you on, you can also help out your sexual partner(s) by telling them!

It’s sad to think that so many women are missing out on the amazing benefits that masturbation can provide us. Studies show that while most women over 18 have masturbated, very few of them practice it on a regular basis, especially compared to the number of men that do.

So sit back, grab your favorite toy, and learn to love yourself, literally.

 

Photo credit: Huffington Post

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy. 

Starved for Skin

In flickering eyes

Is the glow of a smoldering fire
They are sizing us up

My body transforms, a whirlwind
A temple for worship
To a stage for performance

All eyes are on me
Shadows flickering on the walls
Whispers scattering
Hurried footsteps down the hall

Their lips glisten in the dark
A shred of light
Despite the darkness trapped inside

Grumbling stomachs
Resonating like heart beats
Growling for me

They are starved
For my skin
Ravenous

For to them
I am nothing more
Than meat

 

grace-espinozas-blog-pictureGrace Espinoza is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, majoring in Social Work. Grace works at the Women’s Center and the American Indian Center on campus. Grace is a straight, Mexican Portuguese/white woman with a passion for social justice, feminism, and poetry. She has been a published poet several times beginning in the seventh grade and is honored to contribute to Collective Feminism.