Tag Archives: Women

The Loud Voices of a Quiet Print

Seniors of the Women and Gender Studies department at San Francisco State University slowly filtered through the door of room 131 in the Humanities building. Most of the tables and chairs were pushed towards the walls of the room, leaving only two tables in the center. The seniors took their seats around the classroom and chatted with each other. As the room filled with more people, the volume grew and the atmosphere transformed from dull to lively.

The last senior walked into the classroom and Julietta Hua, the W.G.S. department chair and the class’ professor, considered it a que for her to take her position in the center of the class. Her outfit—a blue-knit sweater, a black a-line skirt, and thin-framed glasses—and confident stance displayed her authority over the class.

Starting with the student closest to the door, Professor Hua asked each student how their week went. The class only met once a week on Wednesday afternoons, so she decided it was important to start it by checking-in with each person to see if their physical and mental health improved or diminished from the prior meeting. Her goal is to make sure they felt included, a theme that not only ran the class, but also the entire department.  

Although the class is taught around the idea of inclusion, its overall focus is on the creation of a publication that reflects what is taught in the W.G.S. department.

“Early on there is the collective brainstorm of ideas, themes. And then they decide, sort of what they want to contribute, what role they want to play,” shared Professor Hua. She does not contribute anything to the publication, but she acts as the managing editor by making sure students stay on task and create a piece they are proud to publish.

The department chair has taught the class for a couple of years, but the department started the publication long before she was hired in 2006.

 

Throughout the years the publications became a combination of informative and personal pieces that showed how the students dealt with their own experiences and the experiences of the public, whether it was from a political or social perspective.

“It’s a research based article or its more of a conventional news piece or research piece, but the purpose of the collaboration is to reflect together with a group of your graduating classmates and to think about what-what is a feminist intervention,” explained Hua. “What does it look like and what does it look like when you have to think about it with other people, like collectively.”  

Professor Hua continued asking around the room, finally landing on Shonnon Gutierrez. She perked up, pushed her hair behind her ears and shoulders, and recounted how she felt over the previous seven days. Many of the responses Professor Hua received from her students were short or delved into hardships, but Shonnon was more positive. She explained how happy she was because she had the chance to go dancing the night before, something she could easily be caught doing when she was not commuting or doing homework. With all the adversities that the average American could face, she was glad she woke up to see another day.

At forty-seven-years-old, Shonnon is finishing her last semester at SF State. As she grew up in Los Angeles, she never finished high school and started having children in her early twenties, eventually having a total of two sons and one daughter. When 2014 rolled around, her two older children moved out which left her with less responsibilities and more free time. She knew it was her opportunity to start her academic career again, but she was unsure of how difficult enrolling into a community college could be.

“I didn’t have my GED [General Education Development Tests] and I didn’t qualify for a Pell grant due to that,” shared Shonnon. The fear of being academically held back because of past decisions pushed her to work hard for her GED diploma. She received it in May of 2014 then started community college shortly after that.

Her perseverance did not end with the start of community college. She was able to graduate in the spring of 2016 and was even asked to be a commencement speaker.

When she began attending SF State, she knew majoring in women and gender studies was the right choice for her.

“My parents are from Mexico and my mother had to deal with a lot of machismo from my father. My mother divorced my father and got citizenship on her own,” expressed Shonnon. She continued, saying that her mother’s struggle to be successfully independent and finding her identity guided her to the W.G.S. department and helped her choose a topic for her piece going in the publication.  

“On my own, I’m going to do a piece on identity, on claiming identity, and what that means whether it be gender identity, cultural identity. I identify as Chicana and what does that mean by claiming Chicana, what does it mean by claiming an identity,” shared Shonnon. She decided to format her piece as a letter to her daughter that touches on President Trump and America’s current political climate. Shonnon is also collaborating with other students from the class to create a feminist horoscope.  

“I feel like my piece is important for the publication because it gives voice to those that are hidden and are denied the claiming of their identities because of the binary systems, because of the gender norms, because of race,” said Shonnon.

Shonnon is not the only student to decide on personal pieces that surround controversial topics. Twenty-two-year-old Ines Diot graduated from SF State in December with a bachelors in women and gender studies. She contributed a piece to the fall 2017 publication that was written as a creative essay.

“I was sitting in my house one day and started reflecting on myself,” explained Diot. She shared that she wanted her piece to be personal by writing about abusive relationships, but it still touched on some heated subjects, such as the monuments of Confederate soldiers being removed. Her essay followed a theme of “out with the old and in with the new.”

Diot not only wrote a piece for the publication, but she also created a video and helped draw the cover while laying out the cover and everyone else’s work. Every publication has followed the idea of being completely student ran. The only part of the process that the students do not work on is the printing—which costs about $200 in total so each student can receive a couple of copies of the final product.

Diot is glad she has a tangible representation of her work at SF State. “I was really, really happy. I loved how it turned out. I keep looking at it because I’m really proud of the work we did,” exclaimed Diot.

As Professor Hua continues teach the class, she pushes her current students to create a piece and publication that is unique to their personal experiences and opinions.

“I think it’s important that at the end of your degree, you’ve had a chance to really take time and reflect on what that degree has meant or the journey you have taken, right? All the different classes, the things you’ve learned and to think about what you’ve taken away from it,” Hua stated.

 

While the end of Shonnon’s time at SF State draws closer, she plans on going back to school to get a master’s in social work to help survivors of domestic abuse and those that are in need.

She shared some advice for the students taking the senior seminar class next semester. “I would say to really get to enjoy the time with your senior class, seminar class, and make those bonds because I know that a lot of the friendships that I made are going to carry on. But also to take a moment to not only focus on getting work done, but to really enjoy it because this is your last semester and it’s the journey that really counts.”

Previous publications from the class can be found online or in the Women and Gender Studies department. The spring 2018 publication will be available in the fall.

Don’t Call Yola An Angry Black Woman: Black Suicide

By Fayola Perry

W.E.B. DuBois, author and black revolutionary, once asked, “how does it feel to be a problem?” It is a question anyone must consider when studying or discussing blackness, or the state of being black in the African Diaspora. It is an important to keep in mind when trying to understand why black men are depressed and contemplating suicide. Not only are black men being killed by police and by each other, but also by themselves.

There are several factors that lead to black men being depressed. There are several factors preventing them from healing and there are several factors that stop society at large from discussing the fact that black men are dying of unnatural causes.

The media does an amazing job of assassinating the black man’s character. The common narrative we are presented with is that black men are big brutes: unmotivated and lazy with a propensity for violence. The other popular narrative is the successful black male celebrity who is usually an athlete or an entertainer who is seen as inherently cool because he’s black, but still feared because at the end of the day he is still black. These ideals are not only unbalanced, but they place tremendous pressure on black men to maintain a certain level of composure or cool while trying to combat and make sense of the ‘indignities, inequities and and injuries’ that come with being black in America. This phenomenon ‘cool pose’ is explored in Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson’s book Cool Pose: The Dilemma of Black Manhood in America.

Not only does does the negative, one-sided depiction of black male masculinity directly affect how black men feel about themselves, but it affects how the outside world perceives and interacts with black men, which can take a toll on their psyche. News programs disproportionately cover stories where black men are seen as uneducated and violent, when in reality black a male bodies are being used by law enforcement for target practice. An example of that can be seen with what happened to Oscar Grant. A lot of news coverage focused on his criminal past as a way of justifying his death at the hands of the police. The same was seen with Trayvon Martin. The image of him brandishing his middle fingers to the camera were heavily circulated but not many people saw the images of him at space camp and that idea that black boys are inherently volatile is perpetuated through scenarios like theirs. Society takes these images and deems black men inferior. This is all apart of the racist agenda of America at large.

SFSU Africana Studies professor Serie McDougal, an expert on black male development breaks down how problematic it is to depict black men in only one or two ways can be detrimental. He explores what it is like when your blackness is only seen as a problem and not as a source of strength.

“This idea of blackness as a burden, blackness is painted as something like a scar, or something to overcome, when actually blackness is a source of validity.When someone looks at blackness as the problem and allow that idea to be internalized, we must reverse that and socialize blackness as something to embrace,” McDougal said.

The stereotypes of the black males plays a large part in how black males form their identity and create their own ideologies about what masculinity looks like, what blackness looks like and most specifically, what black masculinity looks like.

Geoffrey Malveaux is a mixed race black male. He attends SF State and is active in the theatre arts on campus. He has dealt with depression and has thought about committing suicide. He has even attempted it. He admits that from age nine to 12, he had thoughts about harming himself and grappled with depression throughout high school. He questioned himself because his black male identity did not align with the media’s portrayal of black masculinity nor his peer group’s definition of being young, black and male.

“The bullying factor really played on both a mental an emotional part of my life. I couldn’t cope with it. With me being biracial, I always had the racial identity struggle,” Malveaux said.

Malveaux, like so many others, felt like he had no allies. He felt like in admitting that he felt differently than his peer group seemed to make him feel inadequate. Part of the reason that he felt that way is because of the stigma attached to mental illness and depression coupled with the misconceptions of what it means to be a black man. When the stigma surrounding mental illness is coupled with the stigma of blackness, black men feel almost obligated to keep their feelings internalized and appear to be unaffected.

“Eventually it piles up, everybody has a breaking point, when we reach that breaking point, we as black men are seen as animalistic, but we’re just human like everyone else,” Malveaux said.

According to scholars like McDougal, that perception of masculinity, while commonly accepted is problematic.

“The mainstream notions of masculinity, which is that you are supposed to be able to deal with everything that the world throws at you and without making a big deal out of it. When it comes to mental health, you have to some degree, acknowledge that you’ve been affected or are being affected,” McDougal said. “Sometimes there is a real and a perceived threat that you’ll be labeled inadequate if you can’t handle it.”

This notion that being male means never allowing yourself to be emotional or to admit that you have been hurt by something or are experiencing trauma, leads to social isolation and dangerous behaviors which can lead to depression and suicide. Africana studies professor Shawn Ginwright has a background in black youth development and has written about black male development. In his research he has concluded that not being able to share your experiences can lead to a fatalistic approach to life, especially when you see other men that look like you being killed on a daily basis in the media.

“If we understand that the media is telling young black men that their humanity doesn’t matter, it leads to what Dr. Poussaint calls slow suicide. Young black men engage in dangerous behaviors because they have internalized the idea that no matter what ‘I’m going to die before I reach a certain age,’” Ginwright said. “In doing so it’s almost like they confirm to society that indeed the black male is a violent problem and I think understanding that is important because it has currency’s not understanding young people’s behavior.”

Ginwright references Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint and Amy Alexander’s book Lay My Burden Down: Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis among African Americans. McDougal adds to that idea by explaining how these factors work together to convince young black men that regardless of their actions, they will still die, so why not kill myself before anyone or anything else can.

Slow suicide is another branch on the tree of internalized fatalism or the idea that regardless of what is said or achieved, a person’s blackness dictates their self-worth.

“That fatalism as it comes to black men is a part of American culture. If you find out for a black person, for them to get shot by the police doesn’t have anything to do with whether they broke the law. Their college degree won’t prevent them from getting killed. They’re being taught fatalism,” McDougal explained.

“Just like anybody else black males evaluate themselves, based on their own expectations, their family expectations, peer group and the at large the community and the larger society itself and their perceptions of them so, everyone has challenges when dealing with negative perceptions of them but in a lot of cases black males have the added burden because of people’s perception of them, racist perceptions of them with racial expectations of them,” McDougal concluded.

Dialogue about this unnatural cause of death of young black males is rarely had. In recent years, television shows like “Being Mary Jane” have discussed how even successful black men who have seemingly defied the odds are committing suicide.They too are often fearful of confirming anything negative about the black experience. They are conditioned to believe that admitting that I am dealing with some type of trauma confirms the notion that black men are inferior. Even with their success, black men are still fearful in showing any signs of weakness. Some examples of this can be found in the stories of people like rapper Capital STEEZ, producer and music mogul Shakir Stewart and actors Lee Thompson Young and Sam Sarpong who all committed suicide despite seeming to have it all.

“Sometimes, with black men, success can lead to social isolation and poor relationships and that is another factor that can lead to depression and eventually suicide,” McDougal said.

One of the reasons that this needs to be discussed more is because bringing light to an issue is one of the first steps to combatting the issue. Discussing the issue gives black men an opportunity to share their experiences and use the anecdotes as a common thread.

Dr. Frederick Phillips uses and Afrocentric approach to healing the issue that black men face regarding masculinity and identity. HIs approach uses the principles used in Kwanzaa paired with anecdotes as a way for black men to start sharing their stories. Another School of thought on healing uses key pieces of literature and scholarly text from black authors as a tool for black men to find themselves and identify with other men who have historically faced soe of the same challenges.

W.E.B. DuBois question still remains and these conversations about black men and depression and suicide serve as an answer. It doesn’t feel good to be viewed as a problem. Now that that has been answered the larger issue at hand, racism can begin to be combatted, the question how black men and black people started being viewed as a problem can begin being answered as well as how that idea negatively affects humanity overall.

A Slice of Sports with Liz Carranza: Women in Sports Journalism

Photo by Martin Bustamante

 

By Liz Carranza

Back in March I visited New York for the Society for Collegiate Journalists Conference, where journalism programs from around the nation gathered for workshops varying in investigative reporting, sports and photography contests. I met students from some of the top universities in the nation, such as the University of Alabama, the University of Florida and the University of Connecticut. While it was an experience I will cherish dearly, I left the conference with disappointment.

It was disappointing to see the lack of diversity within the sports seminars, and the conference as a whole. Sports journalism – and sports in general – is male-dominated. It is rare to see women in these fields receive the adequate recognition and respect. There is a misconception that women in sports journalism have no knowledge about sports and are just a pretty face.

I remember stepping into the first sports seminar on the first day of the conference; I felt the entire room stare me down as I took a seat in the front row. At first, I thought people were staring at me because I was dressed in all black with my gold septum jewelry shining from my nose, but I was wrong. I slowly turned around to a sea of people, and realized I was the only person of color. To top it all off, I was one of three women in the room. I immediately felt uncomfortable.

I shrugged off the uncomfortable stares and continued to stay positive that the next sports seminars would bring more people of color. Again, I was wrong. Every time I stepped into any of the sports seminars, eyes were glued on me.

I’ve had a few individuals tell me that the only reason why I chose to become a sports journalist was so I could interview “attractive men” and be the “pretty face in front of the camera.” I can’t help but laugh at their comments. I chose this career because I love writing about sports. I have a very personal connection to it because of my family. If you read my first column piece, you’ll remember that sports have always been an important part of my life. Family bonding in my childhood revolved around attending sporting events or watching the events from home.

I love finding out new things about athletes that you normally would not discover from them on the field. It’s the little moments in sports that make me love writing about them. It’s when you interview an athlete and they tell you the obstacles they overcame to get to where they are.

Back in early June, thanks to one of my journalism professors, I had the opportunity to attend the Oakland Raiders’ Organized Team Activities. When I saw Raiders’ kicker Sebastian Janikowski standing 10 feet away from me, I just wanted to burst out in excitement. Of course I kept my cool and wrote down notes in my black moleskin notepad. Then I saw one of my favorite Raiders’ player, Charles Woodson, run down the dashes next to me as he started firing up the rookie squad with encouragement. As I prepared to enter the conference room, I felt nervous and my stomach turned into knots. I was in a room filled with sports journalists, and I was the only woman of color. It was at that moment I knew I chose a career I love. It was also at that moment that I realized that I have the power to make a change.

Yes, there’s been positives in the sports world involving female athletes. We saw the U.S. Women’s National Team defeat Japan in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup to become the first national women’s team to win the Cup three times. Yes, we have Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey dominating their sport, but what about women in the sports media? What are they receiving? Nothing really.

Returning from New York and attending the Raiders’ Organized Team Activities really motivated me to continue with sports journalism, especially with the lack of women of color in the field. I want to make an impact in the field and demonstrate that women do know about sports, and that we do have knowledge about stats, sports history and athletes.

Women of color – and really all women – bring something new to sports journalism. In a platform that is dominated by men, I believe women have the ability and knowledge to tell sports stories. We bring different opinions and ideas to the table, just like men in sports media do. I think sports newsrooms need more women, especially more women of color, into their platforms, so the stereotype of “just a pretty face behind the camera” can end.

Interview: Amber Gordon, founder of Femsplain

Image courtesy of Femsplain

Femsplain is a online platform where women and anyone female-identified can tell their stories. Launched in 2014 by Amber Gordon, the site has become a safe space and community for women to share their thoughts.

Each month the website publishes a variety of articles that range from personal essays, illustrations, interviews, and poems. Since its launch, it’s garnered the attention of celebrities like Lena Dunham and YouTube personality Tyler Oakley.

Gordon spoke with Xpress about the challenges behind keeping the Internet troll-free and the importance of having diverse voices in media.

 

Amber Gordon, founder of Femsplain.
Amber Gordon, founder of Femsplain.

1. So what inspired you to found the site, and what’s it been like to see it develop?

Femsplain was inspired by a very long conversation myself and three friends had one night. We wanted to take the idea of talking to your friends in a group chat, writing in your diary and having a support group, and bring it to life on the Internet.

It’s been incredible. Ever since I was young I’ve always wanted to build something of my own, and to see Femsplain grow bigger and bigger each month is so amazing.

 

2. There are other feminists sites, but what makes Femsplain different?

We focus primarily on personal and relatable experiences. I think that because we’re offering a platform to anyone who identifies as a woman, we are opening the door to women who might not feel welcome on these other sites. We also offer offline events and workshops so that we can build our community in real life and do awesome things with awesome people.

 

3. Based on my experiences and others’, it sometimes feels like women aren’t welcome on the Internet. They’re threatened and harassed online in all forms of social media. Femsplain’s overall message seems to be about fostering a safe community and space for anyone female-identified. How do you go about maintaining that safe space? Are there any challenges?

Since we launched, our mission was to create a safe space so that these personal stories could live comfortably. I’ve experienced harassment both online and offline, so going in I knew what we had to do to make sure this didn’t happen to our community and contributors. We moderate all the comments that people leave on posts. Even though it’s time-consuming and manual, it’s important that we set the tone for the discussions that happen on our site.

 

4. What’s been the overall response from the community since Femsplain launched?

It’s been overwhelmingly positive! Honestly I never thought Femsplain would become what it is today, so every time someone messages me about how much they love it, or I see a comment on social media, my heart just skips so many beats. People have been expressing how they love the positive interactions and discussions happening in the comments. In the comments!!!

 

5. The site’s content is built around monthly themes. How do you go about choosing those themes?

Initially we chose themes that were aligned with what was happening in our lives at the moment.
“Firsts” made sense for our first theme, “secrets and secrecy” was our second, in which I chose to come out to my friends and family. Now we’re experimenting with suggestions from our contributors. We don’t want to limit ourselves to one certain category or style, so we try to make them as broad as possible so that everyone can participate.

 

6. How do you decide what gets published? What’s your process? What makes a Femsplain piece?

Our founding editor Gabriela Barkho handles the entire editorial process from beginning of the month to end. We open our submission period on the first of every month when we announce the theme and then accept pitches for a few days or until we fill up our slots. We usually have anywhere from 50-60 slots, which get filled up rather quickly. Gabi selects pitches that she feels tell unique and personal stories. We won’t publish anything that’s directly attacking someone and we always make sure that claims have sources to back them up. Although most of our content is made up of written work, we also accept art, music, etc.

 

7. Did you look to other writers or publications for inspiration when starting the site?

Yes! I’ve always enjoyed anything I’ve read on The Hairpin, as well as the amazing community Rookie has managed to build.

 

8. Given the current state of the media, how important is it to build more driven and diverse stories?

So important. The media is drowning by the same voices, and by continuing to ignore diverse voices we’re missing out on the important stories that are honestly more interesting.

 

9. Has your idea of feminism changed at all since starting Femsplain?

Absolutely. Every day what it means to be a “feminist” is evolving. Of course feminism means equality, but that’s not really where mainstream feminism is right now. Each day I’m learning through these stories about the struggles women less privileged face and I’m making sure that when I talk about Femsplain, I talk about them, but more importantly let them talk for themselves.

10. Lastly, what advice would you give to female writers trying to find their voice?

Trust in yourself, believe that your voice matters and know that your words are good enough.

What is more obscene, violence or a female nipple?

FreetheNipple1

Before an American child turns eighteen, they see over two hundred thousand acts of violence and forty-thousand murders on TV but not one female nipple. So what is more obscene?

You would think, even hope, that the answer would be more discernible, but the truth is that it is not. Now, people are trying to answer this question with the Free the Nipple campaign. Free the Nipple is aiming to achieve equality and empower women all over the world. It all started with a film, ‘Free the Nipple’, directed by director, actress, producer, and activist Lina Esco. Inspired by true events, it follows groups of topless young women around New York City to protest censorship of women, which started this powerful dialogue that sparked a viral campaign. Now, #freethenipple is a popular hashtag amongst the social media world and is even grabbing the attention of female celebrities like Liv Tyler, Rihanna, Lena Dunham, and more. The campaign went even further this year when the IRS granted it its 501c3, charity status, allowing the donations made to GoTopless to be 100% tax deductible.

“I’m trying to start a conversation really,” says Esco in an interview with Huffpost Live. “Because it’s an equality issue. If men can be topless, women should be able to be topless. I can’t even go to the beach without a top on… that’s really where it all begins.”

But it is unclear what this campaign really represents in the minds of those retweeting, re-posting, and re-hashtagging it. Do people really understand the intention of the campaign when they come across those words or is it merely just this notion that women want to be topless for the sake of being topless?

Miley Cyrus is another of the many celebrities in support of the campaign and sharing it through social media. “It’s not about getting your titties out. It’s about equality,” Cyrus says.

Sam Rosen is a student at SF State majoring in photography. His instagram receives a few controversial discussions about his #freethenipple photos.

“In my photography, I show nude women occasionally and I’m tired of people getting offended by a little ol’ nipple,” says Rosen. “I think the Free the Nipple campaign is about the policing of women’s bodies and the standard society has set for women that says their breasts are sexual, inappropriate, and vulgar. While men are allowed to walk around in public and post photos to social media with their nipples visible without it being an issue when they are essentially the same body part. Women’s breasts aren’t sexual organs.”

FreetheNipple9

Even though social media can be a platform for campaigns like Free the Nipple to be shared and go viral, in that same way, social media can be the campaign’s very challenger. While the hashtag #freethenipple is used frequently on Instagram for people to learn about the campaign, this is exactly how Instagram filters content that is against their community guidelines and takes it down with the message, “We removed your post because it doesn’t follow our Community Guidelines. Please read our Community Guidelines to learn what kind of posts are allowed and how you can help keep Instagram safe.”

In other words, to keep Instagram “safe” women need to either be fully clothed or edit the photo to cover up the areola and nipple part of their boobs.

Comedian Chelsea Handler recently fell victim to Instagram’s policy when she posted a racy photo of herself on her Instagram page mocking Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has a photo on his Russian version of Tinder dating profile riding a horse topless. Authentic to the original, Handler was also on horseback completely topless. She shows no more than Putin and no less. Days later, Instagram took the photo down and, in return gave, her their “Community Guidelines” message.

Handler responded to Instagram taking down her photo by re-posting the photo and calling out Instagram’s policy via Twitter by writing, “If Instagram takes this down again, you’re saying Vladimir Putin has more 1st amendment rights than me. Talk to your bosses.”

No surprise, the photo was taken down again.

Handler then posted a snapshot of the message that Instagram sent her when they took it down and captioned it, “If a man posts a photo of his nipples, it’s ok, but not a woman? Are we in 1825?”

While Handler received a lot of support on her Instagram page about the double standards women face when it comes to toplesness and censorship, there were also people that disagreed with her protest.

On a daily gossip blog called “What Would Tyler Durden Do,” which covers big stories of the day in entertainment, celebrity, and media culture, the site responded to Handler’s Instagram feud by saying, “Chelsea Handler is a mediocre comedian, but she’s smart enough to know the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private social media services. Instagram and Facebook can censor whatever the hell they want for whatever reason they want.”

Clearly, we are a nation divided of varying views in censorship.

Esco also mentions that part of her inspiration for the film started when Phoenix Feeley, a friend of hers, was arrested on a beach in New Jersey (a state where it is legal for women to be topless) for sunbathing without a top on. She then went on a hunger strike for nine days while in jail, protesting the reason for her arrest.

I am sure that Feeley’s story would be very confusing to Australians, since in Australia being a topless woman on the beach is not rare at all.

I mean, it wasn’t until 1936 that men in America started showing up to the beach topless. Until then, they wore a very questionable one-piece unitard. That was 80 years ago. But now, of course, it’s not only socially acceptable for a man’s bathing suit to solely be swim shorts, but even on a hot day in the city men can be found shirtless.

Fastforward 56 years to 1992 when it became legal for women to show their bare chests as well- in some states. Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington D.C. currently have ambiguous state laws on women being topless in public. Utah, Indiana, and Tennessee have no tolerance laws.

Although the remaining 31 states that are not mentioned have “top freedom” in effect, some cities in those states have passed unconstitutional ordinances that annul the state’s top free statute. Additionally, even in a state where being topless in public is legal, if somebody complains to the police that it’s indecent exposure, you can get arrested and fined.

Esco’s Free the Nipple film started this whole conversation. The movie was set in New York City, a state that set the precedent in 1992 making it legal for women to be topless in public. However, that does not stop cops from charging topless women anyway. The film also illustrates the cops using excessive force when the women resist being clothed.

Another inspiration for this film came from her best friend, who at 5 months old got kicked out of church with her mother, because her mother was breastfeeding her.

This issue sparks even more dialogue because it is a criminal act for a woman to be topless while breastfeeding in five of those intolerant top freedom states. That is where we are in 2014 – women have to fight for the right to feed their baby in public.

Bare skin through the ages has been a constant struggle for acceptable interpretation. If history is any indication, our country has a long tradition of correcting draconian laws to better fit our modern times.

That is what this campaign is really shooting to accomplish: influencing legislation that will abolish these unequal societal standards.

Another theme that the film addresses is the hypocritical contradictions of our media-dominated society. It questions censorship by the Federal Communications Committee and the Motion Picture Association of America, which regulates all television shows and movies in the United States, and their decisions in what is acceptable versus what is not. Esco asks the FCC to explain the ethical and legal decisions for why it is okay for a child to watch violence on cable television, but when Janet Jackson’s nipple accidentally slips out during her Super Bowl performance, the FCC fines CBS for $550,000.

Esco also aims to understand why when the campaign started, Facebook and Instagram banned the photos of topless women quicker than people could start liking them. But when public beheadings from Saudi Arabia are posted, they remain. What exactly is the rationale here?

Free the Nipple is not about wanting to expose bare chests because women are sexual beings who want to be naked. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It is aiming to give females a basic right – the right to be topless on a beach and the right to breastfeed their baby in public. This is a basic right that American women never really had. The female body is not to be criminalized or sexualized, nor should it be dictated by legislation drafted by males.

It is time to start questioning the policies of censorship. Women should feel empowered by their bodies, not ashamed. Like Chelsea Handler said in her photo, “Anything a man can do, a woman has the right to do better.”

Lammily, the most prepubescent doll you’ve ever seen

The Lammily doll. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.
The Lammily doll. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.

Finally, there is a doll available to consumers that will display the exact proportions of a 19-year-old girl, according to CDC data. What a concept, having girls play with and look up to something realistic rather than something unattainable.

In just eight months, visual artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm has raised $501,384 to get the doll out to the public. The Barbie-look-alike called Lammily is now available online just in time for the holiday season.

The doll is shorter and thicker than the real Barbie, has a shorter neck, smaller breasts, and feet that are not constantly resting in invisible high heels. She has little to no makeup on and more mobile limbs to make her seem more like a real person.

Lamm’s hope is that this doll will “promote the beauty of reality.” He explained in his blog earlier this summer that we all have different bodies and that we should not aspire to an idealized standard. Having one doll does not accomplish that fully, but he intends to have dolls of various ethnic backgrounds and healthy body shapes.

Lammily is striving to take the good from its competitors and combine all those things into one doll. It will have the customization of an American girl doll, the pricing of a Barbie doll, and the empowerment of a GoldieBlox toy.

The Lammily doll comes with a variety of stickers that mimic things such as acne, bruises, cellulite, tattoos, stitches, freckles, and stretch marks. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.
The Lammily doll comes with a variety of stickers: acne, bruises, cellulite, tattoos, stitches, freckles, and stretch marks. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.

The Kickstarter for the doll raised well over its $95,000 goal. Lamm used the extra money on nicer packaging and even created stickers to accessorize and personalize the Lammily doll.

Lammily’s stickers are not your traditional Barbie accessories. There are no rainbows, money, jewelry, or anything fancy like that. Instead, the stickers mimic things such as acne, bruises, cellulite, tattoos, stitches, freckles, stretch marks, moles, and much more.

When the traditional Barbie was released, in 1959, the doll represented a woman that was not of that time. A woman who had her own house, her own car, her own belongings. Barbie revolutionized the ideals that young women could strive for. With Barbie by their side, they could be independent, bold, and beautiful. The only problem was that society took Barbie’s look and lifestyle so literally that the doll was constructed with impossible measurements.

This new “Barbie” is redefining beauty standards for many young girls. The hope is that they will no longer look into the mirror to see acne on their face and be ashamed. Instead, they may say, “Oh, Lammily has those bumps on her face so it must be normal!”

A second grade class in Pittsburgh, PA. was filmed while reacting to the new doll and asked questions about it. Overall, the students were in approval of the doll and tried to articulate the fact that it was more realistic than the Barbie doll they were also shown. The YouTube video was filmed and put together by Lammily creator so watch with a grain of salt but the students’ reactions seem genuine enough for me.

Lammily is available online only and priced at $25.00. The stickers will be available in January for $5.99. With the holidays coming up, Lammily will make a splash in consumerism.

Major League Sexism

Chelena Goldman, who reports on the San Jose Sharks for the Bay Area Sports Guy, scans through her notes at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 1. (Annastashia Goolsby/ Xpress Magazine)
Chelena Goldman, who reports on the San Jose Sharks for the Bay Area Sports Guy, scans through her notes at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 1. (Annastashia Goolsby/ Xpress Magazine)

In the history of sports journalism, there has never been more women reporting on televised American sports then there are today, according to the Women’s Media Center. Erin Andrews hosts Fox College Football for Fox Sports and here in the Bay Area, Amy Gutierrez is a sideline reporter for Comcast Sports Network (CSN) Bay Area, reports on the San Francisco Giants, Chelena Goldman covers the San Jose Sharks for Bay Area Sports Guy, and Susan Slusser former As’ beat reporter for the Chronicle and former top ranking baseball writer as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

“I loved it every time I did it,” says Melissa Ludtke, former Sports Illustrated reporter and researcher, about her time reporting on baseball and being in the locker room. “In the tunnel I began to see beams of lights and green, and every time you came out it was like a mosaic, beautiful. It never seemed old.”

When it comes to sports and journalism, women are on it. From reporting on-the-field, to doing in-depth reporting, even being anchors, female reporters are more prevalent than ever. Look at Jeannie Morris, who was the first female winner of a Ring Lardner Award for excellence in sports journalism; however with every step forward, we have two steps back. Ludtke, who has been in the business for four decades, sued Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1977, when she was banned access to either locker room during the World Series, after MLB announced that no women reporters would be allowed to report from inside either team’s locker room. Ludtke won her case with the court ruling that women sports reporters are at a severe disadvantage.

But why are women still not taken seriously as sports journalists? Female sports journalists are winning awards, just like the men, and they are out on the field reporting, interviewing the players, and bringing the stories to their fans. Why are women not at the “roundtable of experts” giving their two cents about a professional game, but instead being bullied? In 2005, while covering the Saint Louis Cardinals, Paola Boivin was approached by a player and asked if she was there to cover sports or to stare at a bunch of naked penises. The bullying continued when a sweaty jock strap hurled into the air, hitting Boivin in the head. Stunned, she ran out of the locker room. That incident alone almost made her end her career in sports journalism.

Goldman says she would love to do a radio spot before a game or a pre-game talk on a television, using different outlets to report on the sports she loves but to also continue writing.

“The same thing happen to women in science and video games,” says Ludkte. “It’s invading a territory that belongs to a man. And when that happens, they turn women into sex objects, it’s an automatic reflex.”

In 2012, 90 percent of sports journalists were white males, according to the Women’s Media Center. One-hundred and fifty sports newspapers and websites received a failing grade for their hiring practices because did not hire enough women as editors, columnists, copy editors, or designers. Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) is one of the few news organizations increasing the number of women, and racial minorities, in their industry, according to the Women’s Media Center. Without their statistics, only 4.6 percent of the sports media industry would be made up of women.

“I actually haven’t had many instances where I was judged for being a woman in sports journalism,” says Maggie Pilloton, co-editor at Golden Gate Sports. “There was one time where I felt that my presence on a blog’s staff allowed the site to brag about having a female sports writer on staff. I generally find though that if you know what you’re talking about, you do your research, you work hard, and you’re confident and consistent, that people will give you the respect you deserve.”

Pilloton also adds that there are always going to be people criticizing you, but you cannot take it personally. She says that you have to believe in yourself, your talent, and your work ethic.

Sports journalist Amy Gutierrez, known on Twitter as @AmyGGiants, likes to report the “emotional, non-technical side of the game” to attract more viewership. Gutierrez has her own webcast on Comcast Sports Network (CSN) called Amy G.’s Giants Xclusive, where she interviews Giants players and produces short webcasts including Buster Knows Squat. The show features one of the Giants most popular players, Buster Posey, and incorporates the athlete’s funny side with the professional side of sports.

“A couple months ago, I did a story on a day in the life of Amy G.,” says Pilloton. “I was able to shadow her for a Giants game to see what a normal day was like for her.” “That was an unforgettable experience, and I feel so grateful that I got the opportunity to do that. I love being able to interview someone or attend an event, for example, and find the storyline. Writing human interest stories like that are so fun for me, especially since I got the chance to interview a role model of mine, Amy G.”

Pilloton went on to say that Guiterrez was an extremely hard working person, and humble and professional. It is clear that she loves her job and her family. Pilloton says that she learned so much from Guiterrez and loved being able to connect with her on a personal level, as they are both alumni from University of California, Davis.

“A normal day can be pretty busy and hectic for Amy, as she has to balance being a mom and wife with being the in-game reporter for the Giants,” says Pilloton.

“Her day is full of planning the hits she will deliver on the in-game broadcast, staying up to date on all Giants news, speaking with Giants players and coaches, interacting with fans, taking notes during the game, etc. She handles her busy schedule with incredible grace, humility, and patience.”

Amy Gutierrez is not as loved by the Giants fans on Twitter as one might think. Instead, Twitter is filled with hate and people tweeting that they want her off their television because they cannot stand her voice or the way she reports. Some fans have even adopted the hashtag #muteamy, while others call her names like “horseface.” Rene Godoy, @feenixgavredux on Twitter, a die-hard Giants fan, is one of the many people on Twitter who harasses Gutierrez and her work. Godoy says that in his eyes, her reports have no relevance to the teams’ progress and he would rather just listen to [Giants broadcasters] Kruk and Kuip talk.

A collection of mean-spirited tweets hashtagged #MuteAmyG, in response to Amy Gutierrez’s coverage of the Giants.
A collection of mean-spirited tweets hashtagged #MuteAmyG, in response to Amy Gutierrez’s coverage of the Giants.

Gutierrez takes her insults well though, replying to tweets saying “that’s nice! Thanks, lol!” or even joking that she needs to do a Jimmy Kimmel-like segment called “Amy G. reads mean tweets,” adding that she would crush it.

“It’s a little too much for the male comfort zone,” says Ludtke. “They turn it into hate. It doesn’t just happen in sports; it is challenging, difficult, and sad. It’s unbelievable that in four decades, this is still happening.”

In July, Erin Andrews was called a “gutless bitch” by Boston radio host Kirk Minihane, after asking Saint Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright if he was “throwing easy pitches” to Derek Jeter. Minihane apologized for his language but then bashed Andrews again, insulting her intelligence and saying “Fox only hired her because she was good looking; if she weighed fifteen more pounds she would be a waitress at Perkins.” Instead of Minihane apologizing and leaving it at that, he personally attacked Andrews again.

Chelena Goldman, who reports for Bay Area Sports Guy, describes herself as very girly for someone who likes sports; she has her own uniform for games — dresses and tights. Goldman says no one has personally attacked her because she is a woman. She has had a scout or two talk down to her, though. Goldman added that the Bay Area has a lot of women in sports journalism.

“I love what I do, it is my dream job,” says Goldman. “This is what I went to school to do and I am lucky and happy to be doing it. It is cool to sit and watch a game.”

Women still have a long way to go in the male-dominated field of sports journalism, but they are bridging the gender gap and it does not look like they will be stopping anytime soon. Although there are only about 5 percent of women covering sports in this country, they are still kicking ass doing it.

Feminism is for men too

Men and women are posting photos showing their support for #HeForShe campaign, an initiative to promote gender equality.
Men and women are posting photos showing their support for #HeForShe campaign, an initiative to promote gender equality. (Dani Hutton/ Xpress Magazine)

For a long period of time, the only people who spoke out about the cause of equality for women through the establishment and defending of equal political, cultural, economical, and social rights for women were feminists and activists.

In the past decade, however, female celebrities like Beyonce, Shailene Woodley, Lena Dunham, Emma Watson, and Ellen Page have bravely declared themselves “feminists”—influencing a whole new wave of young adults.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That definition is quite different from the image of “man-haters and anti-men activists” that feminists have generally been depicted as. Feminist and social activist Bell Hooks, born Gloria Jean Watkins, argues that without the liberation of men, as well as women, equality of the sexes cannot be reached.

“It is not the word [feminism] that is important, it’s the idea and the ambition behind it,” says British actress Emma Watson. Watson is one of the latest Hollywood stars to call herself a feminist. Last month, the young actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador made headlines when she spoke at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, inviting men to take part in the #HeForShe campaign.

The essence of Watson’s speech was not just to reach the number of women in the world who declare themselves “anti-feminists,” but to also reach all the men who think that this issue is irrelevant to them and their lives.

“I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves,” says Watson.

Male celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Legend, and Ryan Gosling have all made declarations toward the empowerment for women through equal rights.

“All men should be feminists,” says Legend in an interview at his Chime for Change event back in 2013. “If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered— it leads to a better society.”

Other stars like Gosling have started Tumblr pages to share feminists phrases and motivational quotes through their celebrity. Gordon-Levitt used his popular YouTube page HITRECORD to create and share an inspirational and informative video regarding feminism.

“How can we accept change in the world if only half of it is invited, or feels welcome to participate,” Watson explains about the impartial role of men in this social movement.

It is naive to think of women’s rights as an irrelevant issue, especially with the fact that women still earn less than men. In 2012, the  U.S. Census Bureau found that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterpart. This is one of many inferiorities that women face.

With many women, the target of the campaign, being “against” the word “feminism,” it is as if this issue is even more crucial now then it was when it began in the 1800s, when the movement started. Modern day women are thought by some to be equal or even superior to some men because of the improvement in the work force and in powerful positions, but a few exceptions do not erase the bigger issue of gender inequality.

The birth of the #HeforShe campaign brings new hope for the public view and stigma currently surrounding feminism. Men and women can make the declaration to help the equalization of sexes by pledging for the U.N. campaign. If the campaign passes, can we see if anything will change.

Happy Safe Sex-ing, SF State

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Photo under Creative Commons by Nate Grigg

“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.”

 

Coach Carr instilling fear in the teenagers of America in 2004’s Mean Girls is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a sex education class. But SF State’s Minor in Sexuality Studies takes a different approach when teaching students about intimate relationships, reproduction, and the moral contexts of sex and love.

Megan Stoeckel, a senior at SF State enrolled in a sexuality course to fulfill her segment three requirement. She also learned about various methods of birth control. Before taking sex education classes, she says she pretty much only knew about the pill and condoms as effective methods of birth control; now, she is educated in over twenty different methods to combat unwanted pregnancy.

“Ivy Chen is the best teacher I’ve ever had; You learn and write about things that are applicable to your own sex life,” says Stoeckel about her Contemporary Sexuality course.

When thinking about what the best methods of birth control, it is important to remember that one size does not fill all.

This article will be covering just a few methods to combat unwanted pregnancy.

 

Contraceptive Sponge

The greatest thing about the sponge is that you can buy a pack of three at your local Wal-Mart for only $9.96. The foam sponge is small, soft, and shaped like Trish’s Mini Donuts from Fisherman’s Wharf. It is inserted straight into the vagina along the back wall against the cervix, acting as a barrier to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. This method will only work against pregnancy for twenty four hours and must be left inside of the vagina for at least six hours after intercourse. There is a chance that the sponge may tear during use, leading to a messy clean up as you fish all the pieces out. Anywhere from 9 percent to 24 percent of woman using this method alone will become pregnant each year.

Pullout Method

A craze seemingly-perfect for college students who are pinching pennies, this method is absolutely free. If you are worried about pre-ejaculation leading to an unwanted pregnancy, the most recent study found that about one-third of the pre-cum samples collected from men contained live sperm. So, if it is a risk you are willing to take, I suggest using apps like Glow and Clue to track you, or your partner’s, menstrual cycle, which will notify you when you, or your partner, are most fertile. Using a condom during these dates can help reduce possible pregnancies when relying on the pullout method.

Vasaigel – Male Birth Control (coming soon)

If human trials run smoothly, a reversible form of male birth control may be here by 2017. Vasaigel will enter the male body through an injection straight into the vas deferences, the tube transfers sperm in anticipation of ejaculation, thus blocking sperm from flowing freely through the urethra. So far, this method has been tested on three baboons and had a whopping success rate; after six months of frequent action with ten to fifteen female baboons, none of them have gotten pregnant. Cameron Shubb, an SF State senior says about the male birth control, “I would certainly use it after it was approved. I feel male birth control takes pressure off women, God knows you all go through a lot, I just try to avoid needles unless I really need them.”

Female Condom

The first time I saw a female condom was three years ago, freshman year, when I got my first brown paper bag full of goodies from the SF State Health Center. In the midst of multi-colored condoms and lubricant was an oversized white package with a hot pink Venus symbol stamped on the front. Confused, I opened up the package and found a large plastic pouch with two rings at each end. To use a female condom, one end is to be inserted into the vagina while the other ring remains outside. Sure it may look unattractive, but unlike many of the other methods, female condoms work against preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Male Condom

Male condoms are one of the few ways that not only prevent unwanted pregnancy but also work against dangerous sexually transmitted diseases. The list goes on and on from working against gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. Free condoms, both latex and non-latex, can be found in the Educational & Referral Organization of Sexuality Center in Cesar Chavez and at the SF State Health Center. If you are up for a treat, a variety of condoms can be found at San Francisco’s Good Vibrations, a sex based shop that carries vegan, studded and glow in the dark condoms. Prices vary from $0.30 to $2.50 per condom.

The Pill 

The pill is a hormone based oral contraceptive that alters your body’s ability to get pregnant. This is done by attacking your body with extra hormones which in turn keeps the female eggs from leaving the ovaries and also by thickening the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from traveling through freely. One of the major problems with this method is remembering to take it daily, which can be a struggle for the busy college student. The myPill app, available in the Apple App Store, promises to make sure you will never miss a pill ever again by sending reminders.

 

There are a wide variety of contraceptive options out there and it is safe to say there is an option for everyone, even if it takes some experimenting. And the best part – there are plenty of places on campus to help you find what suits you best.

 

The SF State Health Center offers a drop-in birth control clinic where you can quickly refill your prescription on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The center offers along with various informational sessions throughout the year.

By joining Family PACT students can also receive free testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Joining the government program is free for Californians and all birth control options, both for men and woman, are provided at no cost. Their offices at located in side the SF State Student Health Center.

The EROS center, located in the Cesar Chavez Student Center M-109, offers safe sex materials including: condoms, dental dams, lubricants and latex gloves. EROS also offers educational events throughout the year. Their next sex education event, P Spot, will highlight how pleasurable prostate stimulation can be. Charlie Glickman, author of The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure will be speaking at the event. It will be held on October 8th in the Rosa Parks A-C Student Center at 2:30 p.m.

If all else fails, it is good to know that SF State has an early care and education center where you can drop off your infant while you continue to pursue your education.

Take this survey so we can find out the most popular birth control methods at SF State!