50 Shades of Disappointment

This weekend I went to watch the movie that everyone has been dying to see,”50 Shades of Grey”. I was eager to find out whether the movie was as great as everyone says and if everyone’s excitement including my own was worth it . Since BDSM is a topic that is still considered taboo, I had the hope that the movie would challenge the misconceptions. However, I sat at the theater for 2 hours to find myself highly disappointed in the movie. I would like to clarify that I have not read the books and I will only be critiquing the content from the movie. I will not be comparing the movie with the books.

I found a lot of problems within the movie. One of the biggest problems that I found in the very beginning was that Anastasia was portrayed as a vulnerable young woman who did not seem to have much self-esteem. Christian Grey, on the other hand, was portrayed as a wealthy, important, mysterious and intimidating young man who apparently Anastasia was drooling over as soon as she met him. What if Christian Grey was homeless, or living off of social security? Would she still be drooling over him? I highly doubt it. I find it very disappointing that in 2015, movies would portray women in this way. These characteristics of Anastasia and Christian promote the patriarchal and sexist society in which we continue to live in. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the media is one of the most powerful tools that influence people to think a certain way. By showing Anastasia as vulnerable and Christian as powerful, change is not being created and that is very unfortunate.

The second problem that I found with the movie was that Mr. Grey was excessively controlling towards Anastasia. He claimed to not want a romantic relationship but expects to be told where and when she is going place. Seriously? Also, there is a scene where he finds out that Anastasia is going to Georgia to visit her mother he gets very upset and tells her a one point that he “owns her”. How is this showing a positive things about the BDSM community? Even if Mr. Grey and Anastasia were in a relationship, he has no right to tell her that he owns her. No one owns anyone else. This controlling characteristic of Christian Grey promotes violence against women because it sends out the message that it is acceptable to allow someone to control you.

Many argue that consent is shown in the movie and when I saw Mr. Grey hand a contract to Anastasia I was glad.  Anastasia and Christian also meet to negotiate the contract which is also a positive thing shown in the movie. They do give her some power by having her specify what she is willing and not willing to try. However, the contract is never signed by Anastasia at any point of the movie. This is very disappointing because they engage in sexual activities in his play room. This defeats the purpose of the contract!!!!! The point of the contract is so that all parties involved are aware of what each person wants and what is to expect.  The purpose of negotiating a contract is so that all parties negotiate the things that are acceptable and not during the activities. Also, no activity should happen until the contract is signed.  After the negotiation, Anastasia asked for a couple of days so that she could think things through. Christian agrees, but pressures her throughout those days for her to sign the contract by sending her messages saying he was waiting impatiently.

On a  more positive note, there are few things that did somewhat positive sexual health. Condom use is promoted in the movie because Christian Grey is shown opening a condom package before every sex scene. Also, as I mentioned before a contract and negotiation is also shown in the movie. Although, I would have liked to see the contract being signed to show a true side of the procedures that happen before engaging in BDSM. Another somewhat positive part of the movie is that safe words are created and Christian Grey assures Anastasia that she is allowed to use the safe word at any point of the activities. However, at the end of the movie when Anastasia is being spanked by Christian, she is crying in pain and does not use the safe words. Then what is the point of creating them if she is not going to use them?! The movie should have at least shown Anastasia use the safe words. The absence of the safe words promotes violence against women, and it is very disappointing.

“50 Shades of Grey” promotes a lot of violence against women because Christian, the main male character, is portrayed as a professional groomer. For those who might not know what grooming is, it is when a sexual predator aims to establish an emotional connection with the victim as a way to prepare the victim to unwillingly submit to abusive behavior. In the movie, Christian Grey begins to buy Anastasia very expensive gifts, sending out the message that expensive gifts are way more important than feelings to establish an emotional connection with a woman. Also, Christian buys her expensive gifts after making it clear that he was not into romance. His grooming techniques unfortunately worked because Anastasia continues to see him and ultimately engages in sexual/abusive behavior with him.

“50 Shades of Grey” also portrays virginity as a burden. When Anastasia confesses to Christian that she is a virgin, he is automatically shocked! Not only that, he begins to talk to her as if he felt sorry for her. Then, to make things even more degrading, he begins kissing her. Anastasia asks him what he is doing and his answer is that he is going to take care of a situation. I was speechless with disappointment. This sends out the message that virginity is not accepted and that all girls should lose their virginity at a young age. However, no one should feel pressured to have sex just so that they can lose their virginity.

People may argue that Anastasia did give consent by telling him to show her what he wanted so that she could understand. In some part that is true which is another flaw of the movie that portrays women as being irresponsible. Christian should have been responsible enough to say no and wait to find out if she was going to sign the contract. By not waiting, the movie sends out the message that contracts and negotiation are just a joke in the BDSM community when in fact, they are one of the most important things.

Many may argue that “50 Shades of Grey” brings awareness to a community that is often not spoken of because it continues to be taboo. However, I completely disagree with that argument. The movie falls into the category of movies that are created solely to make money and without the purpose to educate. The movie does not steer away from stereotypes, it actually creates new ones while bringing more shame to the BDSM community. One of the stereotypes that is maintained throughout the movie is that people believe that the submissive person does not enjoy engaging in BDSM. However, that is false. In BDSM, ALL parties involved should be on the same page and should enjoy the activity.

So what affect does “50 Shades of Grey” have on people’s real life? People may argue that it does not have much affect because it is just a movie and movies are not real. I completely disagree. “50 Shades of Grey” does have a huge effect on people. In fact, there have been several reports of men who have been arrested for sexually assaulting women by re-enacting “50 Shades of Grey”. BDSM has nothing to do with sexual assault. On the contrary is has everything to do with consent, negotiation and sexuality.  To read the most recent story of  UIC student who was arrested for sexually assaulting another student by trying to re-enact “50 Shades of Grey” click here. I really hope that this movie is taken off of theaters and never comes out on DVD. I believe it is shaming the BDSM community rather than steering away from stereotypes. To read an amazing article that critiques the “50 Shades of Grey” books, click here.

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The Tragedy at Chapel Hill

I would like to give my condolences to the families and communities that have been affected by the murder of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Although this might not be an issue about gender I feel that this is a very important topic to bring up.

Discrimination and racism has been a long-term problem that our country has faced. Throughout the years a lot of work has been done to combat the issue, of which the cost has been great, including the lives of many. This tragedy in particular makes me feel as if all of everyone’s hard work has been unseen. Especially because of the way the media has been covering the issue. The media continues to doubt whether or not it was a hate crime just because the killer claims that there was a dispute over parking. If that was to be true, having a dispute over parking does not give anyone the right to end the someones life.  What if it was a dispute between the killer and a white man? Would there have been the same outcome?

I really hope that people learn a lesson from this tragedy and to learn that no one has the right to take anyone’s life regardless of the way they dress. However, it is really disappointing that people are truly respected after they die. Why do we have to wait for a tragedy like this to happen so that we begin to talk about how Muslim lives matter? Everyone’s life matters, no matter what!  Due to this murder’s lack of assessing his own behaviour, these three young people were rejected their opportunity to achieve their dreams, to form their families and to make their contributions to society.

Everyone should be able to dress the way they want to without feeling unsafe. I would like to see everyone take some time and reflect about the way in which they treat others.  Learn to accept people for who they are because we might not realize it, but everyone has similar experiences and struggles. So why not work with as a team to combat the struggles. Before saying something to someone, think twice before you say it or do what you want to do. Make sure that your words or actions do not contribute to the discrimination that has cost the lives of so many people.

Women’s Misrepresentation in the Media part 1

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The media is the most useful tool to shape and influence people to believe certain things, purchase certain products, and learn certain facts. However, the media is used in a way that damages our culture by teaching women that appearance is equivalent to what they are worth and it teaches men that they should only pay attention to a woman’s appearance.

As I watched “Miss Representation” which can be accessed on Netflix. I learned about the shocking statistics about the effect that the media has on women and young girls. According to the film, women spend more on beauty products and procedures to make themselves look more beautiful than on their own education. It makes me angry to know that women are taught they beauty is the most important thing,  since they are very young through toys such as Barbie’s and having little girls enter beauty pageants. Seriously, beauty pageants? A child should be able to enjoy their childhood and not have to be pressured to wear tons of makeup to coverup an already flawless face.

Self-objectification has become a national issue in this country and according to the film, self-objectification has severe consequences. These severe consequences include; depression, eating disorders, lower confidence, lower ambition, lower cognitive functions, and lower GPA’s. So now, let’s take a moment and analyze this information. Women are unable to reach high leadership positions because high self-objectifying women have low confidence, and low ambition which results in nothing pushing them to attempting to achieve higher goals. Instead of the media encouraging women to get an education, set and reach goals, and create change for women, it is doing the complete opposite.  Women who are high self-objectifiers have this mindset that their voices are not heard and since their confidence is lowered they do not believe that education can get them anywhere which results in their low GPA’s.  So, how can we expect for young women to become the next leaders of our country, if they are being raised to believe that they are not good enough?

The media is composed of mostly all stereotypes which is what we unfortunately teaching the younger generations.  The men are always the tough ones who rescue women from their troubles that apparently they got themselves into. The women are usually super upset because they are trying to find the love of their lives and till now they have not found them. Also, often times two women are fighting over the love of a man. If a woman is given what is considered a powerful role such as policewoman, FBI agent, or CEO, she always has a bitchy personality and often dressed in a provocative way. By showing these images we are teaching younger generations what women are “supposed” to look like working in these positions.

Studies have been conducted to determine how women are represented in the media in different countries around the globe. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media conducted a study that examines gender bias in 11 countries around the globe. The study’s results indicated that only 30.9% of  speaking characters are female, and that sexualization is the standard for female characters. Also, teen females and young adult females are just as likely to be sexualized. Female characters make up only  22.5% of the global film workforce, while male characters make up  77.5%.  The study had several other results and can be accessed by clicking here.  Overall, through these results we can see the large gender gap that there is between men and women in the media. Women who are involved in the media are sexualized while men hold  positions of power that mantain them with the image of being better and superior. It makes me feel very disappointed to learn that women continue to be treated this way after all of the years of feminist activism. However, now that we have learned this information, it is time to take a moment and think about ways in which we can challenge this inequality.

Stay tuned for Women’s Misrepresentation in the Media Part 2

The African American Women Activists I Had Not Learned About

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I recently attended an event called “Ain’t I a Woman” at NEIU and realized how women are not recognized for their contributions to society. At the event I watched one woman acting out the lives of four African American women who worked very hard to be successful and create social change. However,  I don’t remember ever learning about Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Clementine Hunter in school. This is because African American women are not recognized for their work, compared to men.

When we learn about African American history month we mostly learn in class and in our textbook about Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Booker T. Washington. Textbooks only include a very small portion on Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman but nothing else on other women who have contributed to American History.  I know that Rosa Parks was not the only one. The problem is that we are not taught about these women. Of course, this has to do with the fact that our society is so male dominated and it is only them who are highly recognized for their work.

The fact that these incredible African American women are not as recognized for their work as African American men is not just a gender issue but a  a racial issue as well. In this society, just by being a woman you are seen as less than a man. So now, in this society a woman of color is seen as less than a white woman. In school, I remember learning about women who fought in other movements such as Jane Addams, Alice Paul, and Susan B. Anthony and these are all white women.

During the event that I  attended I was confused because I had never heard the names of any of the women who she was acting out which made me feel like maybe I had not paid enough attention in my classes. But it is not my fault, it is the institution of education that does not provide a diverse amount of information. It is shameful that our own educational system contributes to this sexist society. School is where children are socialized and where they spend most of their time learning. If schools continue to follow the norm, it will be much more difficult for children to learn about a diverse group of people who contribute to our society.

Since it is African American history month, I encourage everyone to do some research on African American women and learn about their contirbutions to the movements and our society. Women were also a big part of this too and it is our duty to learn on our own and share our knowledge with others so that they can also learn about the great things African American women have done. Also, on your free time you should all go out and attend events that celebrate the lives of African American women activists. To learn more about women who have and continue to contribute to American History click here.

A World Where Gender Doesn’t Exist

          I remember when I was younger, my parents would be upset with me for playing with my brother’s toys and my brothers were  never allowed to play with my toys either. I always wondered what the big deal was but after learning about what gender roles and learning gender, I realized where this all comes from.           

          We live in a gendered society where we live by rules and codes that are gender appropriate. Everything is in categories of boys, girls, men and women. When we walk in to a children’s clothing store, it is divided in two sections, boys and girls. The boys section is filled with clothes that are blue, black, and grey and often have characters such as Spider man, Superman, or cars as a symbol that they are for boys. The same applies to the girls section because it is filled with pink clothing with glitter and flowers. While reading “Capitalism Hates A Hand-Me-Down” by Molly Westerman I realized how humans learn gender even before they are born.  When a woman is pregnant the first thing she is asked is, “Are you having a boy or a girl?”. Since our society is gendered people have the urge to know if the baby is going to be a boy or a girl. Also, when the baby is born all of its clothes, shoes and toys represent its gender and as the child grows up it is exposed to toys, activities, and clothing that is “appropriate” for its gender. Although dressing up a girl in cute pink princess dresses and buying it tea sets, make up sets, and Barbie dolls may look cute, it creates bigger problems. Without knowing it, we are contributing to this sexist society. Children are being taught that they should only engage in activities and learn things that are “appropriate” for their gender. I have noticed that many parents shame their daughters for playing with a toy car or they shame their son for playing with a tea set. I recently read the story of Baby X by Louis Gould.  As I was read the story, I realized how parents contribute to teaching their children gender. Parents buy toys, clothes, and accessories that are “appropriate” for the child’s gender.  As the child grows up, it is only exposed to games, school subjects and activities that are gender appropriate. However, Baby X was exposed to everything and as a result it was good at everything. I was fascinated by the way in which he rest of the children wanted to just like X because it looked like it was having twice the fun (Gould,3).  I feel that by teaching children about gender they are being limited to the variety of activities they can engage in and the experience they can gain. The story demonstrates that girls do not naturally want to be feminine and boys naturally want to be masculine. It is all learned and X learned to do everything. Learning gender is one of the root causes to why we have such a sexist society. By teaching our children that girls like to be princesses and boys like to destroy things we are teaching them what girls are “suppose” to like and not to like. The issue extends further. When children grow up and go to  college, boys are encouraged to major in engineering and computer science, while girls are encouraged to choose majors that do not involve a lot of math and science. This furthers the issue because this contributes to the low number of women in congress and the low number of women in math and science fields. However, society tends to blame women for that and say that women aren’t smart enough to succeed in these fields.  It is time for you to reflect on how you are contributing to this sexist society. Whether it is shaming boys for playing with a Barbie doll or girls for playing with toy cars. It is time for you to reflect and change those behaviors so that you can begin teaching children that they can engage and like whatever they want. Teaching children less gender will allow them to feel free to explore many other options and will enable them to gain a larger variety of experiences just like Baby X.

Febraury is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

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                   Many of us might not realize but adult women are not the only ones who experience dating violence, teenagers do to. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month and we all need to collaborate to raise awareness by educating ourselves and children because this is something that can happen to anyone.

             Since we live a society that is male dominated, men are expected to be tough and authoritarian while women are expected to be submissive and vulnerable. People tend to think that it is a natural thing but it all learned behavior. It is very important for parents to speak with their children about teen dating violence even before they begin dating. According to the statistics, teenage girls are much more likely to experience dating violence and the younger you speak to them about it, the more possibility their is of preventing it. However, parents should talk to both their boys and girls because society tends to socialize young boys into thinking that women are less than men.

              It is always good to be aware of what type of relationship we are in and to know of where or who we can call in case we find ourselves in a similar situation. I encourage everyone to take the “Healthy Relationship Quiz” so that you can know what type of relationship you are currently in. Also, we should all educate ourselves on how we can help a friend just in case they are ever in an unhealthy relationship.

                  Parents most definitely should educate themselves so that they can provide information for their young children. Surveys have shown that many parents do not believe that teen dating violence exists. If parents continue to lack awareness of this issue, then how are children going to be aware?  Parents are a crucial part in their child’s education and the more they are involved and provide them with resources and accurate information the risk of teen dating violence lowers. Parents need to be aware and make their children aware about the warning signs of an abusive relationships. Children should begin to be educated about healthy relationships around the age of 10 because surveys have shown that abusive relationships begin around the age of 11. It is best to prepare your children instead of waiting until your child comes to you, because 2 out of 3 children don’t report their abusive relationships which means they might not ever tell you.  If you are a parent and are unsure of how to help your child click here.

            So now, I would like everyone to collaborate this month and do something to raise awareness about teen dating violence. Whether it is at school, work, church, or your own family members and children in your life, talk to them and make them aware that this can happen to anyone. In order to create change we all need to chip in and just by talking to your family and if they pass it on, is a start.

The Multiple Meanings of Feminism

Feminism to me signifies women obtaining their human rights and equality for all. However, that is only my view on feminism. Feminism means different things to different people. The following photos are of NEIU students and faculty and they demonstrate what feminism means to them. I want to give special thanks to everyone who participated and got their picture taken for this post. So now tell us what feminism means to you!

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To see more photos check out our gallery!