Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Wage Gap and Women's Choices

Some thoughts on the wage gap, women's chocies, and Clay Shirky's A Rant About Women, courtesy of my Feminist Jurisprudence class.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sex Robots

Two days ago while browsing Reddit, I ran across a really looooong thread dealing with.... sex robots.  Not Real Dolls, but robots that are actually.. active participants.  And then a short while later on one of the women's interest subforums... another thread, asking what women think about sex robots.

You want to know what I think?  I think they're creepy.  Effing creepy.  And I think they can't come soon enough.  Seriously.  Just because something creeps me out (in this case... it's like a person!  But not!  And it doesn't have emotions or feelings, but it pretends to!  And it probably doesn't feel/look/act like a real person!  And what happens when the robots take over, figure out how to make themselves look like YOU and then steal your identity?  Huh, what then?) doesn't mean I don't think it is perfectly fine for other people.

Just think about it:

Guys/gals who can't get laid for whatever reason?  Sex robot!
Guys/gals who really like variety?  Sex robot!
Guys/gals who think women/men are only good for sex?  Sex robot!

Come on now-- how awesome would it be?  The people who really are good partners would most likely still keep dating and being good partners-- after all, a sex robot is a SEX robot.  Not a love robot, not a cuddle robot, not a talk about your favorite fantasy series till 2AM then jump around making animal noises robot.  It's a sex robot.  But a lot of people on the thread seemed to think that it would be a terrible threat to women.

I get the threat, but I just don't agree.  I don't think it's there.  I also get the worry that sex robots will lead to more men thinking women are only good for sex, but I don't think that's true either.  I do think it will reinforce the guys that are already misogynistic jerks but-- like porn-- I think it's only going to amplify what's already there, not make it from whole cloth.

I do get that sex toys that look just like women reinforce the idea that a woman's worth is in sex.  I do.  But I do think it's healthier to keep guys who think like that away from real women.  There is the danger, of course, of how sex bots would be used by people in relationships-- if they'd be used by men as tools to make women jealous and control them, or ways to diminish a partner's sense of his or her own value.  After all, sexual attraction isn't everything in a relationship, but it is pretty damn important to most people.  A partner who says "I love you and you're attractive, but this robot is so much hotter and more fun to fuck" is going to be REALLY BAD for the other person's self esteem, and for the relationship itself.  Sex robots would be completely different from vibrators in this way-- vibrators are generally not used as an alternative to sex, but a way to enhance sex, or a way to get off when sex isn't an option.  Sure, there are likely a few people out there who prefer using a vibrator to doing their partner, but... for most, I think the real, actual, human contact wins out.

Another upside to sex bots?  They can provide youths of all genders a way to explore sexuality without risk or STDs or pregnancy.  They can allow individuals to explore kinks that their partner isn't into.  They can allow someone who is in a long term relationship a more satisfying masturbatory experience.  But the bottom line to me remains that they would give sexually frustrated jerks an outlet without harming any real people-- including prostitutes, who always face the risk that a client might decide to take things too far and leave her with lasting harm.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Skirt Challenge!

So.  There you go.  Six more days of me wearing skirts.  I did it!  I wore skirts or dresses for a total of seven days straight!  I couldn't manage to gt blogger to put them in the proper order, but you can get an idea of the shifts in weather by the shifts in clothing-- from stifling heat the day I wore the mini skirt, to fifty degree weather the days I wore the sweaters.  I do like wearing skirts and dresses.  I used to wear them more often than pants, but jeans are more durable, and I somehow have just ended up with less skirts, and less shirts that go with my skirts.  Wearing skirts doesn't really impact my day to day life-- I spend most of my time sitting down, studying.  It does make me automatically feel more "put together", though I do think that some outfits with jeans are more flattering than some of my outfits with skirts.  It also sort of helps trick me into studying more when I'm in the more "professional" looking clothing.  Skirts definately aren't appropriate for everything though-- hiking or the gym?  I'd get all tangled up, and be uncomfortable.  But for everyday life, well... I'm going to make a conscious effort to wear them more often.  I might wait until it gets warmer again though, because right now?  it is COLD and I hate stockings.  They just aren't comfortable, and comfort is a high priority to me during exams.

Amusingly, the days it was warm it seemed like nearly everyone else was wearing skirts too.  But it's been a ridiculously cold spring.  I'm also likely to keep taking pictures of my outfits, and posting them at my flickr account.  So.... outfits behind the jump!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Challenge: skirts and dresses!

I love a good challenge.  And so when I saw a challenge to wear skirts or dresses for a week, and post the pictures as proof... well, I couldn't pass it up.  Spring has finally, finally come to Boston!  Unfortunately, today has not been amazing for me... what you see to the right is me, in glasses, a shapeless dress, having showered with Boston's aquapocalyse dirty water and gone back to bed, ill, till after 1:00.  So, not really at my best.  Plus, it's an iPhone pic.  But still.

The challenge for this came from a site I don't actually frequent, from a blog I do read-- if you follow the links, you'll notice I'm pretty far, politically, from them.  So... why am I (sort of, ok, my skirts are probably not quite as long as they'd like) taking part in their challenge?  Well, it seems like a fun idea.  It isn't intending to prove any point.  And I like fun ideas, regardless of who comes up with them-- we should judge all ideas on their merits, instead of based on whether or not we agree with the speaker.

Also, I think it's really interesting to read about people who aren't like me-- who have different values, different beliefs, and different lives.  It's one of the things that makes blogs and the interent kind of awesome, really-- especially when people who disagree can actually talk civilly about things.

Plus?  I just love streotypicaly "girly" and "feminine" stuff.  I'm a feminist, but I understand that that has nothing to do with whether I enjoy wearing skirts and cooking.  I remember in college, one of my sorority sisters asked me one day if I ever wore anything but skirts.  But here in Boston... well, it's just so much easier to wear jeans every day!  But I'm not going to.  One week.  We'll see if it sticks.

Also?  The shoes aren't pictured because I've been barefoot most of the day.  Being sick will do that!
The beer is Abita Turbodog.  I figure, if I'm showing off my wardrobe, I might as well show off what I drink, too.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Choice After Death?

A large part of feminism is about the importance of choices-- the importance of making them freely, and the importance of trusting women to make them.  The political discourse usually centers around the choices about what to do regarding a pregnancy-- but really, the relevant choices extend into every aspect of life, and feminism is about letting women have agency and not making important choices for them.

So where do those choices stop?

I saw something today about the idea of opt-out organ donorship rather than opt-in, and some of the reactions were a little surprising to me-- but honestly, they were fairly in line with the ideal of choice. Though I see a dead body as simply a body, some of the Feministe commenters worried that less well off individuals would receive worse treatment under an opt-out policy, and some felt that bodily integrity and choice, even after death, ought to be paramount.

I do see the issues.  There is a large chance that if there is improper behavior it would impact the poor gar more severely than others.  There is also the fact that, if it is an opt out system, people without licenses or state ids would unwittingly be taking part and consenting, merely by existing.

The thing is, to me at least, that once we are dead-- well, choice no longer matters so much.  Or at least, our choice.  After all, we're dead.  Maybe it still matters to our living loved ones, the people we've left behind, but I highly doubt that nay higher power will hold the actions of others against us after we die.  And if my organs or body can do someone else good-- through a transplant, research, or study-- well, that's a hell of a lot better than letting my organic remains be preserved and stuck in the ground.  And I am admittedly biased, in that I have opted in to organ donation, and in that I would like my body to have use after my death-- but this is one case in which I think making people opt out is not that large of a harm.  We're all part of a complex system of living things, and our preserving corpses in the ground is, to me, a strange denial of that fact.  I think that once the consciousness leaves, the body itself becomes just an empty shell-- and as such, if it can give someone else life or promote research-- well, thats a definite positive.

Compulsory Heterosexuality

One of the most simultaneously interesting and annoying concepts I learned about this semester in feminist jurisprudence was the idea of compulsory heterosexuality*.  At first, I was pissed off-- I don't like being told that my feelings are the result of some societally programmed false consciousness-- but at the same time, I do know that socialization has a huge effect on who we become as people-- nature creates a map, but nurture provides the force to guide us around that map.

So I ended up thinking more about compulsory heterosexuality, and how it might apply to me and to other women I know.

The idea of compulsory heterosexuality is fairly simple-- it's based on the idea that we are always presented being straight as a default and as inevitable.  And culturally, that's really true-- or at least, it has been in the past.  The end of every fairy tale is a heterosexual union, many people grew up never knowing any out queer* individuals, and it was assumed when everyone entered middle school that you had to have some sort of male heartthrob to crush on.  Some of this is changing-- there are definitely more out queer individuals and gay couples, and there exists a growing number of kid's books that lack the traditional heterosexual pairing.  It might be that the toddlers of today reach their consciousness in a world in which being straight is no longer the default assumption-- but in today's society, many people treat others as straight until proven not.

So, for someone of my age-- how much has compulsory heterosexuality affected me?  I don't think it has, all that much.  There definitely has been social pressure to be straight rather than gay-- both from family and from the peers I grew up with-- but I also grew up with social pressure not to date outside my race, and I certainly managed to do that in college.  I'm also given to a little too much introspection-- over-analyzing all my feelings, towards everyone.  Plus, I grew up with the idea that while being gay might not be socially acceptable, it certainly wasn't something bad-- yay fantasy novels?  Books were definitely my first introduction to the world of non-straightness, as they were to many other ideas and concepts.  I have dated men exclusively, and will be marrying a man.  I do not, however, feel as if I have entered into this relationship with no choice.  Instead, I have evaluated my life and my relationship choices.  I have made choices along the way regarding who to date, and I have always chosen to date men, though I have certainly not chosen to date all the men who were available to me for dating.

There's another side to the compulsory heterosexuality theory though, and that side suggests that women ought to give up relationships with men to invest more deeply in relationships with other women, including sexual relationships.  In this regard it lines up pretty well with the concept of political lesbianism.  I am pretty much the opposite of a fan of this aspect.  I find it to be completely ungenuine, and to be asking individuals to behave in a way that is unnatural for them-- just as a society that pressures everyone to act straight is asking some individuals to live in a way that is unnatural for them.  I am completely in favor of investing more in same sex friendships, but I think trying to force a sexual relationship out of a friend-bond is problematic and unfair to both partners.  Instead, I think it would be healthier if we could somehow remove the expectations of what gender someone should date, and encourage people to examine their emotional and sexual feelings on a case by case basis.

I do think that examining our views on sexuality is important.  It is important to know what shaped us, what expectations ourselves and others have had for us, and what desires we might have that we don't consciously know.  I do not think that heterosexuality is always a result of false consciousness though, and I think that both straight and non-straight sexual experiences can be equally fulfilling-- but that they are not likely to be equally fulfilling for any given individual.  Just like there is nothing wrong with not being straight, being straight ought not have any judgement associated with it.  And with a continually changing landscape, maturing individuals have a great opportunity to come to age more aware of themselves and their options than ever before.

What do you think about the idea of compulsory heterosexuality?  How have expectations shaped your romantic experiences?

*Compulsory heterosexuality, as a term, was originated by Adrienne Rich in her essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.
*Why do I use the term queer?  Because it's a broader and more encompassing term than "gay or lesbian".  Queer includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, those who are flexible, and those who feel no label fits, among others.  Queer can also include people who are genderqueer.