Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I can't believe a month of blog posts has already gone by! For my last blog post, I want to reflect on my blog.

I started out this blog with the theme of "What happened today that made me know I am a woman?" My goal was to share my experiences as a woman in the hopes that other people, especially men, would see another side of everyday, seemingly insignificant encounters and experiences. I also hoped that my blog would address some bigger issues, like patriarchy and sexism, in addition to my individual experiences. While I had all these hopes and goals, I wasn't sure how many people I would realistically reach. Who is going to read my feminist rants? Why would anyone click on yet another one of my Facebook posts? What college student has time to read some random girl's blog?

Well. As of right now, my blog has 1369 page views on 9 posts. WHAAAT?! That's way more than I expected. After one of my first posts, I saw that over 150 people had viewed it, and I immediately sent a frantic and overenthusiastic email to my professor. I was definitely surprised to be reaching so many people!

So basically: thank you! My blog could have been something that only my class ever saw, and that would have had to be good enough. But because so many people read, commented on, and otherwise engaged with this blog, I am definitely calling it a success. Of course, I can't account for how this blog impacted others or if it made people rethink encounters in their own lives. But I can say for sure that writing this blog made me more aware. Throughout the month of October, I was constantly making mental notes of my encounters and considering blog post topics. I noticed that even some things I do as a woman that I think of as positive are formed in part by sexism. But my intent was not to bash these things or become angry or sad about them. Instead, I am glad to have simply become more aware and to make changes where I can. I think awareness is a first step to change, and change of any size is meaningful.

In my women's studies class for which I am writing this blog (WMST 350), we have talked a lot about art as a method of activism. Art allows people to engage with an issue by seeing someone else's perspective, yet also taking their own approach to interpreting and acting on that artwork, which can lead to all different types of activism. I definitely consider writing to be a form of art, and I hope that, even if in a small way, this blog has been effective as a form of artistic activism!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Embody Carolina

Tonight I attended the Embody Carolina training, a training about how to be an ally to someone struggling with an eating disorder. I've done other trainings at UNC like One Act (how to intervene in a situation that could lead to sexual violence), HAVEN (how to be an ally to someone who has experienced sexual violence), and Safe Zone (how to be an ally to LGBTQ-identified people). I have really valued these trainings in the past, and felt like it was time that I should be Embody trained as well. (Next on the list is the ReThink Psychiatric Illness training!)

The Embody Carolina training was great - I definitely recommend it to anyone at UNC! I actually wish it had been longer to talk about some issues more comprehensively. I think it would be especially helpful for someone who has very little prior knowledge of eating disorders.

I felt like it is relevant to write about this training here because of the theme of this blog: "what happened today that made me know I am a woman?" In my life, I have had several friends with eating disorders, and most of them have been girls and women. I know that men and boys struggle with eating disorders too, but unfortunately, more women than men experience eating disorders.

From what we learned tonight, Binge Eating Disorder is equally prevalent in men and women, yet Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are more common in women than in men. Since people with AN and BN are feeling pressure to be thinner than they are, it seems to me that the higher prevalence of these two disorders in women comes from social and environmental pressures. I wrote before about pressure on women to be thin and therefore to do cardio rather than to lift weights. But the effects of this pressure on eating disorders is something I take much more seriously than working out in a certain way.

I strongly encourage each of you to make an effort to educate yourself about eating disorders, how to be an ally for someone who is struggling with one, and how to change the conversation we have to valuing people for more than just their looks and weight. These social pressures are dangerous to people, especially women and girls. We all need to do what we can to change that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Have you ever...

Read the following statements and think about if these situations have ever happened to you, and if so, how often they happen.

I have felt unsafe walking alone at night.
I have felt unsafe walking alone during the day.
I have carried keys in my hand when walking alone to protect me.
I have taken a self-defense class to protect me.
I have locked the car when waiting alone in a parking lot.
I have felt unsafe to see a man ahead of me while I am walking alone.
I have felt unsafe walking or running alone in certain places.
I have felt unsafe or uncomfortable from strangers' comments about my looks.
I have felt unsafe wearing form-fitting or revealing clothing.
I have had someone ask if I wanted them to walk me somewhere (especially at night).
I have had someone insist on walking me somewhere.
I have had someone tell me not to go somewhere alone.
I have felt unsafe being alone with a man, especially if he has some kind of authority over me.
I have felt unsafe going on a first date with someone.
I have felt unsafe starting an intimate relationship with someone, or nervous about drawing physical boundaries.
I have felt unsafe about getting a ride from a man.
I have watched my drink at a bar or party to make sure no one puts anything in it.

Now consider your gender.

These are all things I have experienced, some more often than others, and some regularly. I attribute most of them to being a woman. I'm sure people of all genders feel unsafe in certain situations. But many women I've talked to have also experienced these things, and they seems to be closely tied to gender. Several men have expressed frustration and guilt that women so often feel unsafe when they, as men, don't. They wish it didn't feel this way for us, and I greatly appreciate that!

I was thinking about this last night as I was running after dark. I had no cell phone, and I had music playing loudly from my iPod as I ran into Carrboro, past the bustling downtown area and onto a lonely, dark street (sorry, Mom!)When I saw a hooded man walking slowly on the sidewalk in the shadows, I was definitely a bit frightened. Of course, I know that being randomly attacked is pretty unlikely. According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, about 73% of sexual assaults are committed by a non-stranger, like a friend or a date. Looking back, the man I saw was probably one of my classmates on the phone with his mom. But I was still a bit scared for an instant there! Honestly, what scared me the most on my run were the two deer ran out in front of me in the dark. Woah!

I'm sure a lot of my fear of running alone, especially in the dark, near a stranger, came from the hubbub that surrounds women walking alone at night. "Don't walk home alone." "Call me when you get there." "I'll walk you home. No, really, I'll walk you home." I've heard a thousand times that I should always have an escort at night. (I still hardly ever follow this. Woops!) Also, I bet my involvement in sexual violence prevention makes me hyperaware of potentially threatening situations. But even women who aren't involved in those efforts have expressed fears like the ones mentioned above, so it's definitely not just me.

Why do we focus so much on the dangers of being attacked by someone random - when about 3/4 of the time the person who commits a sexual assault is known to the victim? That means we should be putting more effort into spreading awareness about and preventing assaults by friends or dates. I'm not denying that random attacks occur. Of course, the other 27% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim does not know - so it does happen. Just not the majority of the time.

I am really interested to hearing people's responses to this post. Have you experienced any of these situations? Do you think your gender had something to do with it? What are other situations that you've felt unsafe that I didn't mention? Men, especially, am I wrong in assuming that most of these don't happen to you, at least not on a regular basis? And what can we do to switch the conversation from assaults by a stranger to the more common scenario of a friend, acquaintance, or partner taking advantage?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Let's Talk About Hair

In the past 24 hours, I have:

- Put my hair up to go on a run
- Washed my hair twice
- Blow-dried my hair twice (about 10 minutes each)
- Put on mascara twice
- Plucked my eyebrows
- Shaved my legs
- Shaved my underarms
- Brushed my hair about million times 

Likely, if you are a woman, you have also done some, if not all, of these things. If you are a man, well, you maybe washed your hair. You maybe also shaved your face, which is incredibly intimidating to me, and I'm glad I'll never have to do that. But do I, or does any woman (or anyone of any gender, for that matter) really have to do any of the things mentioned above? No. So... why do we?!

Hair is a really funny thing in our society. On women, it's sexy and feminine. But only in the right places, amounts, and colors. Leg hair? Nope. Underarm hair? Oh hell no. Eyebrow hair? Yes, but keep it in line. Eyelashes? Better be long and dark. Regular old hair on your head? Style it how you want (kind of), but it has to look good.

Phew! How do people keep up with all that?!

One way: spend a LOT of time, money, and energy on it. I recently tried using a cheaper brand of shampoo and conditioner. My hair did NOT like it. Back to my $8 bottles. Women use all kinds of crazy things on their hair. There's shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, heat protectant, mousse, and dyes. There are curling irons, straighteners, and hair dryers. And then there are razors, wax, tweezers, threading, laser hair removal, and Nair. That #$%! takes time!

Something that has always confused me about women's hair: the eyebrow/eyelash double standard. I fight a constant battle with my eyebrows, as do many women. We pluck and tweeze and wax and do all these things to keep our eyebrows tamed and ensure not one hair is out of place. But our eyelashes, the hair only like one inch below our eyebrows, we enhance by darkening, curling, and lengthening. What is the big difference between eyebrows and eyelashes?! I still don't get it.

So I know not all people or all women do all the things I've mentioned to keep up with their hair (I don't either). But it seems like there is more for women to do to control, tame, enhance, etc. their hair than there is for men. If I don't shave my legs, it seems like a statement, or it seems just plain gross. If a guy doesn't shave his face, it's his style and he looks sexy. Umm... not fair.

In my women's studies class, The Social Construction of Women's Bodies, we read about Sandra Lee Bartky's theory of disciplinary practices targeted towards women. Bartky argues that these practices, such as women decorating themselves by styling their hair, are located both nowhere and everywhere. I completely agree with this. No one tells me I have to shave my legs or dry my hair or put on mascara. I do these things because I want to, and I feel prettier and cleaner when I do. I shave my legs because I like how it feels. But I bet if I were a guy, I bet I would like how shaved legs feel too, and I still wouldn't shave my legs...

I am not upset about any of these things. I realize that maintaining my hair takes up more time than it does for other people (especially men), and I realize I could change that if I wanted to. Mostly, I just find it amazing that there are so many forces, especially in advertising and other media, that tell us that women should look a certain way and men should look a certain way, and that there are products and stores and entire companies for making that happen. And so many of us just follow along, sometimes without questioning it at all. 

I just want to encourage us all to question disciplinary practices I mentioned above, even if we do continue following along. I also want to encourage everyone not to judge people who don't follow these rules. If you see a woman who doesn't shave her legs, it might be surprising at first, but don't let that surprise turn into judgment. You get to decide what you does with your body, and so does she!

Monday, October 13, 2014

ALL the love in NC

On Friday, same-sex marriage passed in North Carolina. Finally! This historical, momentous stride makes me so happy!

I am especially happy for all the couples who can finally get married, adopt children, sign papers together, and do all the things they deserve to be able to do. Congratulations!

I am also happy that ALL the people I have met at UNC will be able to get married to whomever they want if they choose to get married in North Carolina. If I can marry whomever I want, why shouldn't anyone and everyone else be able to do the same?

I am also happy for LGBTQ children and adolescents in North Carolina, who can now feel free to stay in their home state and truly feel at home when they get married.

This milestone made me think of a unit on homophobia from my Women's Studies class last semester. The class was on violence prevention, and in this unit we learned about how homophobia is related to sexism. A patriarchal system oppresses men who are not masculine because they do not support typical gender roles. When people do not follow gender roles, they are at risk of violence, name-calling, and stigmatization. Homophobia works to keep men and women in rigid gender roles. The acceptance of same-sex relationships as equal to heterosexual relationships breaks these gender roles, allows everyone to be free to be themselves, and puts everyone at lower risk for violence. Gay rights are rights for everyone!

So basically I am happy for everyone.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Don't hold the door

Yesterday as I was walking out of the library, a guy held the door for me. Not that uncommon, especially in the South. But this was one of the times I just didn't get it. 

Some door-holding is common courtesy. We all do it, we all know the drill: you open the door, quickly look back to see if someone is there, and if they are within a reasonable distance (right behind you), you pass it off to them. If the person is too far away, sorry, you're on your own. But that last step is where it gets iffy.

This guy who held the library door had to wait a good five seconds for me. How inconvenient for him! Doesn't he have somewhere to be? Would he have held it if I were a guy?

Has anyone (likely a woman) ever had someone (likely a man) do the ultimate door-hold? This is my (least) favorite. You're walking towards a door, and a guy suddenly comes through the door from the opposite direction. You expect that he'll pass the door to you, or maybe hold it open while you pass through. But no - instead, he does this maneuver: he stands in the doorway, stretches one arm out to keep the door open, and nods or gestures to you to walk past him through the door. You (cringe, then) squeeze/shimmy past him, not touching the door at all.

What just happened?

In case anyone is wondering, I am perfectly capable of opening doors all by myself - and I think I can speak for every other able-bodied woman and girl over the age of, like, two: WE CAN DO IT.

Door-holding is something I hadn't thought much about before I came to North Carolina. In the North, it's just not a big deal. Now, when I go home, I notice that guys sometimes hold doors for me, but not nearly as much as here. I remember my sister saying after a semester at school in South Carolina that she hadn't opened a door for herself in months. Crazy!

From what I have heard since coming here, it is pretty common in the South for boys to be taught from a young age that it is very impolite to not open a door for a girl, and that they should act like "gentlemen" by opening doors, pulling out chairs, carrying bags, and jumping through hoops. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a liiittle, but you get my point.

Another thing I have noticed, after talking about door-holding with people born and raised in North Carolina, especially in more traditional households, is that some guys and girls can get a bit defensive about it! I can see how it would be frustrating for someone to tell you that the way your parents and society taught you to do something as insignificant as holding open a door is wrong. And honestly, I really do think that a lot of people who were taught this see door-holding simply as a favor, and mean no harm at all.

If a guy sees door-holding as a favor, though, it is implied that the girl owes him something. It can also imply that she shouldn't have to do any strenuous lifting or work. This concept only further perpetuates the strong man/delicate woman dichotomy, and gives both physical power and social authority to men.

One study by psychology researchers at Purdue found that, when men have the door held open for them by another man, they report feeling lower self-esteem and lower self-efficacy, while women do not report a change. Simply having the door open makes men feel emasculated: less effective, less confident, less manly. This very statement equates women with ineffectiveness and uncertainty. It is this idea that makes me uncomfortable with the "chivalrous" act of door-holding. Not any one act or any one man in particular, but the act as a whole.

We all try to be polite - and there's nothing wrong with not slamming the door in someone's face. But even if you're just trying to be polite by opening the door, think about the social implications. Does this act give any power to one person over another, even if implicitly? If so, it might be better to just pass the  door back.

Plus, you don't want to get yourself into this trap:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Speak Out!

If I've seen you in the last few weeks, or if you're friends with me on Facebook (which you probably are - I assume that's how you got here!), you have likely heard me talk or seen me post about Speak Out! Against Interpersonal Violence, one of Project Dinah's events. I have been involved with Project Dinah since my first year at Carolina, and Speak Out! is definitely my favorite event. Project Dinah held Speak Out! this past Thursday night, and it was even more incredible than usual.

Before I tell you about this year's Speak Out!, let me explain a bit more about the event. Project Dinah has a permanent blog, on which we invite survivors of sexual, interpersonal, and identity-based violence, secondary survivors, or allies to anonymously share their stories. On the evening of Speak Out!, we gather in the Pit to read the testimonials and light a candle for each one. We also hear performances from a cappella and spoken word groups, and have an open mic where people can share their stories. The night is somber and emotional, but very powerful. Since we hold Speak Out! in the middle of campus, anyone walking by can hear the stories and stop to listen throughout the course of the night.

Speak Out! was the first Project Dinah event I attended at Carolina. This was the fourth, and last time I will attend this event - so sad! I was proud, though, that more people than ever before attended this year's event. We read eighteen testimonials that have been posted since last year's event, and one especially empowering testimonial that we have read in several previous years. We lit a candle for each testimonial, and displayed fourteen stars to represent the fourteen sexual assaults reported in 2013 at UNC.

On Thursday night, I was overflowing with pride at all the people who attended, everyone who read testimonials, and everyone who shared their stories on our blog. For me, the first time I attended Speak Out! was especially emotional. I know that the night can be very difficult and even triggering for many people. Even as an ally, seeing so many people there gave me an incredible sense of solidarity with the Carolina community, and I am sure that survivors felt very supported by the attendance and the event. Here is a photo of my reading a testimonial.

So all that is to say: everyone who shared their story or came to Speak Out!, even if you just passed by for a minute, is wonderful. And thank you to the Achordants, EROT, Cadence, and the Rejects, who performed this year. Thank you all so much for helping us make this night a huge success!

So why am I posting about this event on my blog? You are probably tired of being bombarded with Facebook updates from me about Speak Out! (#sorrynotsorry). I wanted to write about this event one more time, though, because I think it actually fits in really well with this blog.

I'm not sure I've written it specifically, but the theme of this blog is "What happened today that made me know I am a woman?" And while I have not experienced sexual violence, I stand in support of people who have. At Speak Out! this year, most of the stories were written by women, although at least one was written by a man. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 1 in 5 women and about 1 in 71 men experience rape at some point during their lives. This type of violence is unfortunately common, especially for women, and Speak Out! is a time when we gather in solidarity to recognize that.

One in five women is too many. So is one in seventy-one men. Think about five women you know. Your mom, your sister, your cousin, your friend, your girlfriend. That's five right there. One in five is just too many.

This culture of violence is something we all can work together to change. Some actions, like believing and listening to someone who tells you their story of sexual or interpersonal violence, or simply asking your friends not to make jokes about rape, violence, or women, can make a huge difference in changing the culture, especially on a college campus. Our university is at the forefront of this issue right now - and everyone (men and women!) can make a difference. And there are lots more ways to get involved at UNC, if you want to!

Also, if you didn't get a chance to attend Speak Out! or look at our blog, I invite you to read some of the stories, and share your own if you wish. Please keep in mind that some stories can be triggering.